Category: Back Packs

It’s springtime and time for new product lines… Our friends over at Detours sent me a couple new bags to review and I will be putting them to the test over the coming fine weather months.

I’ve already had the opportunity to take the new Ballard Market Pannier on a very bumpy maiden voyage commute last Friday am sharing my first impressions. Still to come will be my first impressions and review of the waterproof Coffee Bag which is designed to keep some smaller items dry and secure.

The Detours site provides the following description of the Ballard Market Pannier:

Seattleites flock to the Ballard neighborhood every Sunday for one of the best farmers market in the Northwest. If you’re rolling up on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hide-able padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack when browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your bike rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable raincover protects your goods when the skies open up. Interior organization and a laptop sleeve makes this a great option for a casual office commuting as well! Distinctive prints make this bag just as beautiful as the fresh produce you’ll haul home.

Available in Black, Red or our exclusive Herman Yu Dahlia print.

Best uses: Around town, commuting
Volume: 920 cubic inches
Dimensions: 11 x 5.5 x 15 inches
Average Weight: 2 pounds
Price: $69.00

I rode with this Ballard Market Pannier on a long commute last Friday.

Ballard Market Pannier attached to my bike

It fit more than everything I needed for work and for my bike, and it felt so much less clunky than the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier that I’ve been using (that RL also reviewed a while back).

A peak inside the Ballard Market Pannier

Part of it could be that it’s because I finally packed only what I really need. My bags tend to accumulate “baggage” over time and I end up with quite a hefty load after a while.

My commute followed a lot of bumpy roads and the pannier remained securely in place on my Blackburn rear bike rack.

Ballard Market Pannier clips securely to bike rack

If I ever chose, I could also wear this bag as a backpack via nicely padded straps that easily pull out to make backpack straps.

The Ballard Market Pannier becomes a backpack

No more need to decide between a backpack or a pannier!

I also received a few compliments on the bag – bonus! :-)
Being chic on a bike goes a long way towards making this my new “go to” bag.

Stay tuned for the full review after I’ve put in a few more commutes with this bag.

Well, well, well… the weekend is just around the corner, just in time for FRIDAY MUSINGS!  Or… just in time for you to get your Fandango tickets to the Hunger Shames.  Before the spring time blooms assault your sinuses with a full-on allergy attack, I wanted to get all sentimental and mushy-gushy over Bike Commuting like the leftover V-day chocos I found in my desk drawer at work.

Bike Commuting in Spring – Bring on the Sunshine!

We have posted a bajillion reviews on Bike Commuters accessories, gear, and products that range from frivolous to frugal over the past many moons.  The “basic needs” of each cycle monster for an enjoyable commute vary according to the rider and the location.  I’m the first to admit I have an emotional (let’s hope it’s not physical) attachment to my bikes – giving them names, identities, and custom makeovers… So that made me wonder, what about accessories?  If you could only take three items with you on your commute each day, what would you choose!?  (And your bike is a given….!  We could go on and on about what makes the perfect commuter bike, but I that’s a whole ‘nother love affair.)

Here’s my top three Must-Have Bike Commuting Accessories to get us started:

RL loves the Whitey Von, but any backpack will do!

1)  Any kind of backpack – I used to be all about the rack, but have switched back to the backpack in the past few years!  I love backpack.


So low-tech, but it WORKS!

2)  Watch face taped to my handlebars – So unimpressive and borderline ghetto, this watch is a must for me because it’s easy to read in the morning to determine how much time I have left to get to the office.  I taped it to the mount where I used to keep my wireless Cateye from the days of trying to be “fast” – clockin’ 12 mph baby!


I love BLINKY LIGHTS more than helmets, pants, or chalupas.

3)  Blinky Lights: One rear and one headlight, these are a must for me, I have several kinds around the house and will grab one red and one white everyday.  A must-have for me as I am a blinky addict.

So cycle ladies and gents, do you have any top three accessories that you can’t commute without?  Share with us, and in the spirit of Effie Trinket, “Happy Bike Commuting! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”

Enjoy your weekend, bike commuters!

True love, Wall-E and Eva say happy V-day!

Hi everybody!  Anyone out there considering a commuter backpack?  Long time no review…  The PR peeps reppin booq hooked it up back in October of 2011 with this Eva look-alike, the Mamba Shift L.  Although it isn’t a bike commuter-specific backpack, my Trek one-strap messenger bag was in tatters and hardly capable of holding anything expensive like a laptop.  I decided to give it a shot, considering the Mamba Shift’s sleek and seemingly sturdy exterior.  Here are some fat stats about this futuristic laptop backpack:

booq: Mamba shift L

Lightweight, extremely functional backpack uses a clean and compact exterior design to conceal a plush and roomy interior

  • 1680 denier ballistic nylon exterior with water-repellant coating and interior water repellent ripstop lining
  • Diagonally overlapping interior accessory pockets, provide easy access to all your gear
  • Separate accessory zipper pouch to carry cables, external hard drive, etc.
  • Elastic pop-out iPhone pockets integrated into shoulder straps
  • Airmesh back padding increases comfort and allows heat to escape
  • Equipped with Terralinq service, helps reunite you with your lost bag (author note: I never registered my bag, but consider it a lost and found registration service!)

Available at: and various retailers

Price: $149.95 (13″-17″ Mac or PC)


The booq website actually has some detailed photo spreads showcasing the intricately designed layers of pockets, flaps, hook-and-loops, and zippers in this space-inspired design.  Eva came with me on our jaunt around Europe and is a great transitional bag from bike to plane to bike.  Let’s do a photo-battle throughout this review: mine vs. my Dad vs. theirs!

Mir.I.Am fotog skillllls:


Typical contents of Eva the Mamba Shift on a commute to work. Lock and cable are left at work M-F.

LIKES:  I love the pockets in this backpack!  Orange interiors make it easy to find things (no blending into the black hole material like standard bags) and different sized layers make it easy to separate and store pens, computer stuff, takeout lunch, clothes, and baby pandas.  The key clip is detachable and near the top of the bag so you can easily find your bike lock key or key fob to your apartment (I heart this feature, hard).  I clipped my flat-pack water pouch onto it, antibacterial goop, USB keys, etc.  Also, the Mamba Shift backpack is slim at the bottom and carries most of the weight at the top, relieving some strain off your lower back while on the bike.  The profile is streamlined enough that is doesn’t interfere with looking over your shoulder while changing lanes for us mirrorless bike commuters.  The booq Mamba Shift has sturdy construction and can hold a half-size drawing set, a big plus for snarchitects like myself.  The laptop compartment is velvety smooth like the finest bathrobes you’d steal from a Singapore hotel!  You can store a full-size U-lock and cable for proper lockups in either the laptop compartment (without the laptop, duh) or in the main compartment, easily.  Lastly, the Eva-esque shape and color make it stand out from typical laptop bags and backpacks; the herringbone/tweed pattern of the material received several compliments from architects, bike commuters at stop lights, friends, and family.

Retired Asian Dad “skills”:


Sand over black sweater: better than nothing for night riders. (identity of bike commuter has been obscured out of embarassment of Dad’s butt shots)

COULD BE BETTER:  Granted, the Mamba Shift is not a commuter-specific bag; this bag is NOT waterproof!  Water-resistant, maybe.  Waterproof enough for me, sure!  Reserve this bag for clear-weather commutes or days with puddles but no downpours.  The thick material did keep interiors dry on all but two days of extreme rain-pain on my commute (you can read about one of those days here).  Although a great protector of your laptop with ample padding all around the back, it can also get a bit warm like most backpacks do during a high-intensity bike ride!  My only major/minor gripe about this bag, was that if you like to carry bike water bottles on the side of your bag, or have more accessible pockets during your ride, no luck with the Mamba Shift: as the side pockets fit only flat objects.  (I did manage to shove a baguette in each side once, when the main compartment was rather empty – take note, Frenchies.)  And to wrap it up, this backpack takes a little breaking in, as it can be stiff like a TMNT half shell when you first get it, turtle power.

The pros at booq:


Not a bad fotog, of the awesome layers of orange pockets with Mac obsessed gear to boot!

WRAP IT UP!  Ok, to be nice to my Dad (wink) let’s call the photography contest a three-way tie.  My overall sentiments of the Mamba Shift after a four-month review: a compact bag with max protection for your laptop, an almost all-weather commuter companion, with space-age style, and a neatly organized space-age interiors.  If you’ve got a 150 bones to spare for maximum protection of your techie-gear and fair weathered commutes, the Mamba Shift a.k.a. Eva is right up your alley!

P.S. – booq, Vanya, Xootr Apparently I’ve been relegated to weird-named cyclicious product reviews!

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

I was given an opportunity to review the CODi Apex Backpack Review a while back, 11 months ago to be exact. I had been using the backpack in various ways such as carrying my clothes to and from work, laptop backpack, audio video equipment for Sea Otter and Interbike as well as the occasional grocery store trip.


Here’s the specs and description:

Hit the pavement with the ultimate commuter backpack. Designed as a cyclist pack, the slim body-hugging design is ideal for urban commutes. Features like adjustable sternum and waist straps keep the backpack secure while navigating busy streets. The top-load center laptop compartment keeps the laptop weight directly against the back for proper weight distribution. A host of internal and external pockets keep accessories in close reach.

* Adjustable, removable sternum strap
* Side strap pockets conceal a waist strap
* Four easily accessible pockets of varying sizes on the case exterior
* Breathable padded back and shoulder straps
* Triple compartment interior with padded laptop sleeve and zippered accessory compartment
* Comfortably fits most 17” models

MSRP: $134

The key words used to describe the Apex Backpack is “Urban Commutes.” With this in mind, I decided to see how much of my commuting gear/clothing can the bag carry.

codi backpack

What you see below is how I normally pack my bags when bike commuting to and from work. Pair of pants, shirt, toiletries, my lunch, wallet, phone, keys and a few tools. The current configuration works. But if I needed to put a pair of shoes or even my laptop, then the bag would be too small.

The Apex has many pockets to store your goods.

One of the things I didn’t like about the Apex was its back padding. It lacks air channels to help keep you cool while wearing it. But the shoulder straps are very comfortable if that’s any consolation. The shoulder straps also offer plastic D-rings to clip your keys on to as well as a sternum and waist strap to help keep the bag from moving around when you’re sprinting on your bike.

A feature that I actually liked about the Apex was it’s shape. It almost has a tear drop form to it. This is helpful when you’re riding against some headwind, it keeps the wind drag down. Other backpacks I’ve tested or owned are large on the back, so when riding into the wind, it acts like a sail. Overall, I thought the backpack worked great, never had any craftsmanship issues with the straps, clips or materials. Everything seems to be built well. As good as those things sound, I just couldn’t get over the price of the bag, CODi sell it for $134, granted it’s really more of a laptop bag, but still, its a bit over priced for me.

Our review disclaimer.

For several weeks I got to test Chicago’s very own Po Campo Rack Tote during the perfect time of the year to be heading out around town on a bike.

My set-up with the Po Campo
po campo rack tote

Versus my usual voluminous pannier set-up

First order of business was to empty my current “gender-neutral” pannier and repack this rack tote for my daily bike commute. The founders of Po Campo say that their bike products “bring Functional Freedom to women who bike.”

I was skeptical that such a bag could possibly suit my needs and carry all the odds and ends I often find myself toting around, so I packed and unpacked it on a day I met a friend for a picnic lunch to test if this stylish bag could indeed be functional:

To my amazement, this tote held all my needs – spare tubes/tools, mini pump, hat, cosmetic bag, random papers, camera, rain jacket, snacks, wallet, keys and cell phone – plus a Neat Sheet for laying out our picnic lunch. It’s a real “Mary Poppins” bag. If I needed to carry an extra pair of shoes, I’m sure I could fit those in the bag, too, though I may suggest adding a separate shoe/large item compartment that would help keep the grime of shoes off the rest of the bag’s items.

Unlike the awkward handles that can make carrying my pannier unwieldy, this tote’s adjustable shoulder strap tucks neatly away while riding and allows for ease of carrying off the bike.
po campo off the bike

This bag comes with reflective striping on the velcro straps along the front and back – that also serve to stabilize the bag on the bike rack as needed and can be a useful place to attach a rear light. These straps will not work quite as well to stabilize the bag on a rack with a solid platform since there is no place to loop the straps in the center. Perhaps straps that loop around at each corner of the rack (like a typical trunk bag) could offer more stability. I also would prefer additional reflective striping along the side of the bag – maybe added to the adjustable straps that loop around the bottom of the rack – so as to increase side visibility. With the solid gold vinyl tote I tested, however, the fabric provided some of its own reflectiveness. In fact, this rack tote/purse got noticed quite a bit during my rides with it and I received plenty of compliments and questions from both guys and gals.

reflection at night

The fabrics Po Campo uses are water and fade resistant; it seemed the gold vinyl may have been a bit more water resistant – and the couple times I did get caught in a rain shower, no water got into the bag. Even without waterproof zippers, I had the shoulder strap tucked in along the top of the bag and it rested over the top zipper to sufficiently keep the rain out.

On the bike commuting days that I knew I might need more cargo space – like for that grocery trip after work – the rack tote fit nicely on the rack with my pannier. My pannier does not rise above the level of the rack, so it did not interfere with the tote resting on the rack; if you are using it with a pannier that will not allow the bag to site flush on the top of the rack, the bag may tilt to one side.
Sitting flush:
rack tote with pannier

Slight tilt:
rack tote tilt

This bike rack tote comes with ample interior space – not so cavernous that your items will get lost or buried but not limiting. This gold tote came with a flashy purple lining and and a single zippered interior pocket which was good for holding a slim wallet , pen or other small incidentals.
interior lining/pocket

The external pocket is also flush against the bag so as not to catch on your clothes when you carry it off the bike. For me, it held my keys and cell phone which I wanted to keep readily accessible. A few extra conveniently accessible pockets / compartments would have been useful for quickly stowing my bike light and computer when I would park my bike.
exterior pocket

The ladies (Emily and Maria) behind Po Campo continue to update their products and add new styles to their bag and accessories line-up. Having tested this bag, I can say they know their audience and have developed bags that will not disappoint.
emily and maria

I enjoyed bike commuting all around Chicago with this sleek Po Campo rack tote.
po campo in motion

A bit of trivia – do you know where the name Po Campo comes from?

If you guessed the character in Lonesome Dove, you’re right!
Just like the character, this Po Campo dances to the beat of its own drum , developing a bike business geared at female cyclists and keeping its production running locally in Chicago.

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