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Flowfold Optimist Limited Mini Backpack review

Hello Bike Commuters! Happy “Bike to work month-week-day”! So to celebrate we have a review of a neat little backpack from Flowfold. This backpack is designed for people who do not have to carry an entire storage unit worth of stuff and it caught my interest because I like doing errands on my folding bike and short hikes.

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Let’s start with the features of the Optimimist Limited Mini Backpack:

-Made in USA
-Water resistant mini backpack
-Durable and lightweight outdoor materials
-Lifetime Warranty
-10L capacity
-Different colors

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Although the backpack seems small, I was always able to fit everything I needed for my hikes and errands. I easily carried 2 water bottles, an extra shirt, phone, wallet and energy bars. The mini backpack was very comfortable to carry around and it was very practical.

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We also tested its water resistance; my daughter used it on a rare rainy day when we headed to Downtown LA’s famous Santee Alleys. Although it was not a downpour, all the contents inside the backpack remained dry.

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The backpack is also perfect to run errands; I usually go to the post office every weekend to retrieve my mail and it works as intended. I also ride to the local market to get small stuff such as bread or “cold drinks” which fit perfectly.

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We absolutely love this mini backpack, and I mean “we” as my daughter, wife and myself use it very often. I think that $79 is a good price for a high quality American made product, I totally recommend it.

To see the other colors or purchase the bag; visit Flowfold’s site at www.flowfold.com

BikeCommuters.com 2016 Holiday gift guide part 1

It seems like everyone is so excited about Christmas that stores were already flooded with trees, ornament and sales…. lots of Christmas Sales… Whatever happened to Thanksgiving? Oh, yeah, it is now called “Black Friday Eve”.

We have decided to bring back our holiday gift guide this year to help you write your yearly list to Santa Claus. Here is part one:

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Jerseys: We actually liked jerseys that were not commuter specific such as Tek Gear’s DryTek jerseys which could be found at department stores for less than $12. If you are looking for a bike commuter specific jersey, we liked CHCB wool jerseys which sell for about $30 at Performance Bike or Amazon.

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Shorts: My new favorite shorts are the Showers Pass Gravel shorts; not too baggy, not too tight, cool reflective accents. We also liked the Serfas Decline shorts and if you must use roadie shorts; we recommend Sugoi Men’s Evolution Shorts

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Shoes: It is no secret that DZR shoes have been our favorite bicycle commuting shoes. We got to review the DZR Minna shoes this year and they did not disappoint. Before the DZR shoes arrived, I was wearing Pearl Izumi Men’s X-ALP Seek VI BL Cycling Shoes. The X-alp are stiffer but they didn’t quite fit with my office attire.

Jackets/Vests: I usually ride with vests and arm warmers on cool days; the Solo Equipe Cycling Gilet vest is my choice of vest. The material is thick and it has plenty of reflective material for those night rides. I don’t really ride in the rain, but I have heard good things about the Showers Pass Hi-Vis Torch Jacket, this thing has lights!

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Gadgets: You know I love my gadgets and the Garmin vívoactive watch tops my list. The watch is a pedometer, cyclocomputer and a smart watch which met all of my cycling needs and more. I you don’t want to spend over $100, we recommend the Moov Now 3D.

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If you are one of those riders who like your smartphone in front of you and on your handlebars, we really liked the Quad Lock mounting system. The mount is very versatile and secure, your phone will not go out flying unless you eat it hard.

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Panniers/Backpacks: I like riding with panniers because backpacks will make my back sweat. But there are times that you need to ride with a backpack, like the time I was riding offroad on my Spicer Cycles Cyclocross bike. Our friends at 2 wheel gear came out with a brilliant product: the Pannier Backpack convertible. This pannier converts into a backpack in seconds and vice-versa, perfect for train-bike commuting. 2 Wheel Gear also sells the garment pannier which is big enough to carry your suit and ties without having the need to iron your stuff when you get to work. An honorable mention goes to the North St. Morrison Backpack pannier, we have not tried this bag but it is proudly made in the USA.

We will be posting part 2 on Wednesday (Black Friday Eve’s eve), stay tuned for part 2!

The Bike Geek: Two Wheel Gear pannier backpack convertible review

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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!

The Bike Geek: Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible

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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!

Review: Detours all-weather bags for your bike

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.