Category: Back Packs

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Welcome to May also known as Bike to Work month, so to start things up, here’s the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible review.

You may remember a preview of the Pannier-Backpack convertible that we posted about a month ago. I was very impressed with the quality, the space and how easily the pannier converts from backpack to pannier and vice-versa.

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I’ve been doing my train-bike commute with this pannier and its functionality has been a convenience that has made my commute really enjoyable. I board the train in backpack mode and when I’m ready to ride; I simply convert it to a pannier and on my way I go.

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So why not just a pannier? As I stack my bike in the train with other bikes, having just a pannier will be on the way of other bikes and it may get damaged or stolen.

So why not just a backpack? The number one question that I always get as a bike commuter is: Don’t you get sweaty when you ride? And the answer is yes and riding with a backpack makes your back really sweaty so having a pannier allows me to arrive to the office a little “fresher”.

I also envision this pannier-backpack being great for students who ride to school, photographers who use their bike as a mean of transportation and short bicycle getaways such as simple overnight trips.

So let’s recap the main features of this pannier-backpack:

  • 24 Liters of space
  • High Quality Weatherproof materials
  • Compartments galore
  • Easy convertible system
  • Rain cover
  • Reflective accents
  • Comfortable straps
  • Padded laptop/tablet compartment
  • Reasonable price

Here is a little video of how easy the pannier converts to a backpack:

I did not find any ssues or drawbacks with this product, but I do have one suggestion: I would love to see an outside mesh that would hold my helmet when in backpack mode.

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Do I recommend this product? Oh heck yes, I love this pannier-backpack and if your commute is very similar to mine and if you want a more elegant solution than a wire basket and a backpack; it’s a no-brainer.

For more information regarding this product or to purchase it, please visit: twowheelgear.com

Here is the link to our fabulous FTC Disclaimer: FTC Disclaimer

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Next week: The Rosarito-Ensenada fun ride!

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We have received the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack convertible from the land where Americans will leave to if Donald Trump gets elected. Interestingly, my Devinci Caribou is also Canadian so both items will be rightfully immigrated just in case Trump wins the election.

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Disclaimer: The fine fellows from Two Wheel Gear noticed that I was commuting via train and bicycle so they sent us their new Pannier Backpack convertible to put through its paces.

So the big boss at BikeCommuters.com asked me if I wanted to review this thing that is supposed to be a Pannier AND a backpack. I was intrigued and I was also in need of a nice Pannier so I quickly accepted his offer.

Let’s begin with the “convertible” system:

The backpack features two shoulder straps like a regular backpack:

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There are a couple of zippers on top of the bag that if you unzip them, it will reveal the Universal Rixen & Kaul rack attachment:

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Stuff the straps in the bag opening:

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and then fold the flap inwards:

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Then simply mount the pannier to the rear rack:

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Close the bottom straps, and voila, you got yourself a pannier!

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The conversion takes about a minute, this was a huge plus for me on my last train-bike commute. I boarded the train in backpack mode and as soon I got off the train, I simply converted it into a pannier and I was ready to ride the bike to work.

Let’s move on with some of the Features:

24L of space-That is huge! I was able to fit my jeans, shirt, pump, tire levers, tube, hoodie AND lunch. Notice the nice compartments:

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This includes a padded sleeve for a 15″ laptop or a tablet!

High quality weatherproof materials– Includes reflective accents!

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And for those people who ride while it rains:

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A Fluorescent, reflective rain cover!

The guys at Two Wheel gear are geniuses; I was truly blown away with their Pannier/Backpack design. The functionality, the looks and the materials are top notch but we will see how this bag holds up to my train/bike commute. Stay tuned for a full review.

You can purchase this pannier/backpack at TwoWheelGear.com for a very reasonable $119 USD.

Next week on The Bike Geek:

Protect-Your-Nuts!

Detour Bags_Stallion2

I almost felt bad testing out these bags in San Francisco. Detours bags are made to handle the constant drizzle, mud and muck of a Pacific Northwest commute—which makes sense, since the company hails from delightfully drizzly Seattle, WA—the misty fog of the Bay just doesn’t seem like enough of a challenge for the tough, all-weather gear. I said “almost,” because the truth is, these bags are awesome regardless of the weather.

Detour Bags_labeled

Fair warning, there are going to be a lot of photos in this post. The Detours gear is just too stylie to not show off. I had a chance to try a small selection of bags of various styles, sizes and uses. I’ll start from smallest bag and work my way up to the magical three-in-one pannier bag.

Roadie Stem Bag

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I have been on the hunt for a contraption to hold my phone so I don’t have to dig into my backpack to consult the route before getting hopelessly lost. The Roadie definitely does the trick. A simple ratcheted attachment allows you to securely affix the bag to the stem of your bike (my bike, Stallion, who finally gets to be featured in a post, does not have room for Roadie on the stem, but plenty of other spots work great as well).

The clear, water-repellant phone pocket is touchscreen friendly making it easy to access information or refer to your phone as needed. The phone pocket is really more of a flap with a magnetized closure to the main utility pocket. The zip pocket has plenty of room for minor necessities. I fit my patch kit, allen wrench, levers, keys, and ID in there, no problem. The Roadie also comes in gray with a bright green interior (pictured here) and in red with a grey interior. The Roadie retails for $32.

Coffee Dry Bag

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Yes, you can definitely put your coffee grounds in here and keep them safe and dry. But that’s not the only use for the super versatile Coffee dry bag. Throw in your mid-ride snacks, any electronics you want to keep safe (besides your phone since it’ll be in the Roadie), or maybe protect your other belongings from damp, sweaty bike spandex? The adjustable straps make it easy to secure the Coffee dry bag wherever needed. However, while the top strap is a quick release buckle, the bottom strap must be undone completely, which can be a bit of a hassle.

Detours offers the Coffee dry bag in several different state designs:

• The Evergreen Blend: ride through the forests and around Mount Rainier in our home state of Washington.
• The Mile High Blend: ride through the alpine wonderland of Colorado.
• The Highway 1 Blend: ride down the Pacific Coast Highway in California (pictured here).
• The 10,000 Lakes Blend: ride through the 10,000 lakes and Twin Cities in Minnesota.
• The Lighthouse Blend: ride along the rocky coast in Maine.

The Coffee Bag retails for $20. Or $80 for the set of five. 

Rainier Handlebar Duffel

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The Rainier Duffel has two adjustable straps to secure the bag to your handlebars and, when you reach your destination, it can transition seamlessly into a cross-body bag thanks to a built in shoulder strap. Plus, the clever folks at Detours designed the duffel with a little side pocket just to hold the shoulder strap so it doesn’t flop around when attached to the handlebars. Attention to detail—I love that. Speaking of detail, the flap of the duffel, which like the Roadie has a magnetic closure, features a sparkly banana design (you can see a better photo here). I think this is a great touch. The zipped interior compartment also contains a smaller zip pouch and two slip-in pockets. The Rainier Handlebar Duffel also comes in black and “Golden Gardens,” a cheery floral pattern. Retail price is $50.

The Ballard Market Pannier

Stallion Kitted Out

Ok, I might have saved the best for last. The Ballard Market Pannier is the most versatile bag of the bunch with three different carrying options (Elizabeth reviewed and loved this pannier back in 2012). First and foremost, it is a pannier bag, which attaches with two simple, yet secure rack clips. The bottom is a heavy-duty waterproof material to reduce wear-and-tear and keep belongings safe. The interior space has a small zip pocket, key hook, and a laptop compartment, making it an ideal commuter bag.

Ballard Panier

As promised, the Ballard Market Pannier is not just a pannier! The bag also has padded straps to carry as a shoulder tote. And the tote straps convert into backpack straps for heavy loads! So clever.

bag to backpack

Overall, the Ballard Market Pannier is a large enough (11”W x 15”H x 5.5”D) to easily accommodate commuter gear—for me, that includes my 15″ laptop, running shoes & clothes, notebook, wallet, and a few other essentials. Plus, this nifty 3-in-1 setup comes in black (pictured here) and two colorful patterns. The Ballard Market Pannier retails for $80.

The bags I review here are only a small portion of the overall variety that Detours offers—from ultra-tough touring rack trunks to playful, more petite seat post bags. I’m confident that riders will find a bag to suit his or her need whether for trips to the farmer’s market, daily commute or more rigorous rides.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

A few weeks back, the good folks at Ergon USA sent over their new BX4 backpack after I reminded them of a review we did a few years ago. The BX4 is designed for “bike weekends” and MTB expeditions, with a cavernous cargo capacity and a drool-worthy checklist of features. It also happens to make a pretty fantastic commuting backpack.

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Back when we looked at their BD1 pack in 2008, the only real complaint was the overall size/carrying capacity of the bag. With a rated cargo capacity of 30 Liters, the BX4 offers the commuter plenty of room to carry work items, and then some.

We’ve just started the review process…lots of weighted-down rides with it to see how it shakes out. Since there are so many features, however, we wanted to offer a “first look” to show you what makes the BX4 tick. First, the construction: Ergon borrows a page from the ultralight backpacking craze and specs light materials for the BX4. Lightweight ripstop nylon instead of heavier Cordura for the main bag, airmesh padding on the back panel and shoulder straps, mesh interior pockets and lighter strapping makes this bag, despite its complexity and size, weigh in at just a hair over 2 lbs. That is LIGHT!

The back of the bag is stiffened by a light plastic internal framesheet and supported by two moldable aluminum strips. Both offer great structure to the bag and protect the wearer’s back from pointy objects inside the bag. The aluminum strips further offer the user the ability to bend the bag to follow the contours of the back for a truly custom fit and decent air flow.

Coupled with the stiffening features, the shoulder straps are attached to the bag by means of a nylon-covered plastic sheet (Ergon calls this “Perfect Fit”). This one is adjustable for a user’s torso length by a hook-and-loop strap running up the centerline of the bag. Ergon calls this setup Perfect Fit:

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Ergon’s Adaptive Carrier System consists of the shoulder straps and load compression. The tops of the shoulder straps loop through a pair of green anodized sliders that act as sort of a “living hinge”…giving the shoulder harness and cargo load the ability to float and find its own perfect place on the user’s shoulders. It’s hard to envision, and sounds hokey, but it works like a charm.

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For organization freaks (such as myself), the BX4 offers plenty to soothe the soul. The bag is divided into four major compartments, each with additional pockets. At the back is the hydration bladder sleeve, which just so happens to fit a laptop inside. Ergon claims a 17″ laptop will go in there, but my old fattie wouldn’t. A 15″ model slid in there with room to spare.

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Next up is the full-depth main compartment, with plenty of room for books, lunch, spare clothing or shoes. The main compartment has a couple of mesh organizer pockets sewn into it.

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The third compartment is a sort of “half compartment”, with a depth of about half the bag. It has room for smaller items, tools, and the like. It also has several organizer pockets made from mesh and covered by a nylon flap.

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The last, outermost compartment is the helmet cradle. It is mostly open, with a nylon outer and generous mesh corners. The straps that secure it in place also serve to compress the load in the main bag. There’s even a small zippered stash pocket in there! You can see how the helmet fits up there in the first photo of this article.

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Alright, alright…that is a LOT of detail to sort through. So, in the review (to be published when we get back from Interbike), we’ll talk about how it fits, how it carries a load, and all the other juicy details. For now, the Ergon BX4 shows great promise as a very capable commuter backpack. Stay tuned for that review!

Over the summer Vaya Bags sent me one of their most recent bag designs — a Pannier Hybrid Bag — to review. The bag they sent me to review can be both a backpack and a pannier (hence the name “hybrid”) – in turquoise and orange material, with accents of recycled bike tubes.

Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

I first met the women behind Vaya Bags in March at the Women Bike Pop-Up Shop at the Women Mean Business Bike Forum in Washington, D.C.

Over the past couple months riding with this backpack/pannier, I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and fellow cyclists. And I must say that hearing others sing the praises of the bag certainly added to my impression of Vaya Bags.

Vaya Bags describes its Pannier Hybrid Bag as…

A nifty little design that combines the load carrying ability of the pannier with the carry-with-you convenience of a backpack. This bag easily clips onto your bike rack to carry those loads you don’t want on your back. When not on your bike the pannier converts into a backpack for a comfortable way to carry your belongings with you. Even more, we’ve added mega cool new features such as U-lock holder, reflective tape and expandable front pocket.

The quality of this handmade in NY product is evident. The exterior material is durable and water repellent — all Vaya bags are made with canvas that is “recycled and scrap Sunbrella® Fabric from local sailboat factories;” the interior is lined to make this pack fully waterproof.

Vaya pannier/backpack waterproof interior lining – also quite vibrant!

It has a rolltop closure, with velcro and a clip to keep the bag securely closed – whether packed to the max or just minimally packed, ensuring no water seeps into the bag during a downpour. Fortunately I didn’t have to endure many downpour bike commuting conditions during my time with this bag; but I did put it through the paces.

rolltop closure secures with both velcro and clip

An interior laptop pocket or other such divider could have been a nice bonus, but not necessary. On the couple occasions I decided to travel with my laptop or work iPad, I just used a padded sleeve and slipped it right in the bag.

The bag also boasts a small exterior front pocket with velcro closure. That pocket was great for stashing keys and other small items that I might need to access on the fly, but I did find that small items could escape from that pocket if not secured well. I wished that pocket had a zipper or other means of keeping the contents safe. It would have also been nice to have a key strap to secure keys for easy reach.

For a daily commuting bag, this pack is about the right size — small enough to not be too voluminous but large enough to expand to carry those extra groceries you decide to pick up on the way home. It was also a good size for me; as a petite female, I often find that most unisex backpacks are just too big for me and cater to folks with larger/longer torsos. This Vaya bag did not have that issue of being oversized…. could it be that woman’s touch on the design?

I altered between carrying the bag like a backpack and letting my bike haul it as a pannier. I must say that I wished the conversion from backpack to pannier and vice versa was quicker, but I soon got the hang of it. Just a bit of tucking in and clipping straps before mounting the pannier and then untucking and reclipping the backpack straps to use as a backpack. As a backpack, it took me a bit of time to get used to the unpadded seatbelt-material straps; these unpadded straps, however, did allow for ease of tucking the straps away to use the bag as a pannier. I did appreciate the chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and the bag more stable on my back.

Seatbelt-like backpack straps tuck away into pocket when used as a pannier

as a backpack

Riding with a backpack

The reinforced bottom allows this bag to stand on its own when set down on the ground.

reinforced bottom

When I first started using this bag as a backpack, the bottom of the bag hit my lower back at a weird angle when just walking around, but it was fine on the bike; I don’t notice it anymore but just the other day I did wish the back offered a bit of padding.

For use as a pannier, the bag connects to any rear rack with the use of d-rings and small carabiner style clips.

Vaya pannier hybrid on the bike

I was impressed how the bag remained anchored on my bike with just those two attachment points.

carabiner clips and d-rings mount the pannier to the bike’s rack

I fretted that the back of the bag would get dirty when used as a pannier and that it would put a damper on my wanting to use it as a backpack, but I never had that problem (I also didn’t use it as a pannier in much foul weather when crud could have gotten kicked up onto it).

This Vaya pannier-backpack hybrid comes with reflective tape on each side of the bag for great visibility when in use as a pannier hanging off the side of the bike.

Backpack – side view (photo taken with flash to show how the reflective tape adds visibility)

But I wished it had some reflective tape on the front of the bag that would be visible when in use as a backpack (similar to how the Vaya backpacks have reflective tape on the back) and a loop for a rear blinky light.

On the side of this pannier/backpack are a few loops — one velcro and one hanging loop for a u-lock. The velcro strap is just one more way of securing the bag to the bike – which I rarely used (and only figured that feature out after viewing some of Vaya’s product photos online). The hanging loop for a u-lock did not fit my Kryptonite lock. But I usually just clip my lock to my rear rack for transport, so that wasn’t much of an issue…. except on the odd day that I rode a different bike with a rack and found myself searching for the best method to haul the hefty lock.

Overall, I give this bag two thumbs up – especially for design and aesthetics. With a new and improved model on the way, I look forward to seeing just how much niftier this dual bag becomes. I noticed that some of the features I was looking for when I used this bag as a backpack already come standard on the regular Vaya Backpacks; the nice thing about this bag is its ability to morph into a pannier, too.

In a recent correspondence with Vaya Bags, we confirmed that a few improvements (which may also address a few of my concerns) are in the works on the revamped design of this Pannier-Backpack hybrid, including:

– We did update the U lock holder so that it is adjustable and put velcro on it to help stabilize the U lock
– We added reinforcement to the back of the bag to prevent rubbing
– We changed the clip system to a strap system to make it easier to put on and off the bike!

We look forward to the new product, which we will get our hands on within a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the updates to the bag work in comparison to this model.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.