Category: Reviews

A couple months back, we posted our first impressions of the Ergon BD1-M Team Edition backpack. I’ve had a chance to ride with this pack for all the time since (about 300 miles worth) in all weather and carrying a wide variety of loads.

First, a bit about the bag:


Gender • Male / Female specific
Capacity • 12 liter
Main fabric • 420 D Nylon
Hydration Pack • optional

As mentioned in the earlier article, the whole suspension system revolves (pun intended) around the novel “Flink”, or Flexible Link. Basically, this is a plastic half-sphere that allows the bag to move with the wearer, keeping the bag centered and floating without undue sway. After riding with this bag for those 300 miles, I’d say that the Flink really works!

And, as with other load-carrying backpacks, the hip belt is crucial for keeping the weight off a wearer’s shoulders. I subscribe to the Colin Fletcher method of adjustment.

“…hunch your shoulders so that the pack lifts a little, and cinch the hipbelt tight. Really tight. To achieve that end, pull firmly. Then shrug the pack even higher and tighten again. Now take a deep breath and pull even harder. If the belt hurts a little it’s about right.”

— From Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker III, originally published in 1968 and revised in 1984.

This method is a little extreme for the Ergon pack, but let’s just say the tighter the hip belt, the easier the load is on your shoulders. If the hip belt is nice and tight, you absolutely WILL NOT notice any appreciable weight on your shoulders, and that is truly comfortable. The tightness of the hipbelt, along with the sternum strap, the nicely-contoured shoulder straps and the Flink means this backpack stays right where it is supposed to with no wobbling or swaying. Towards the end of my “to work” commute, there is a nice downhill and then a sharp left turn into the edge of downtown Tampa. With this pack fully loaded, I can burn a high-speed turn at a very sharp cornering angle and the Ergon backpack would not shift an inch, even with a heavy load. Now THAT, I like!

high-speed cornering

The same goes with out-of-the-saddle sprints. When I tried either of those with my old messenger bag, I would have to reach back and adjust the location of that bag as it swayed and slipped all over the place. Not so with the Ergon.


As I mentioned in the earlier article, this bag is packed with features. There is one external and one internal zippered pocket, another open internal pocket and a large, spandex-y pocket for a hydration bladder (to go with the hose-routing loops on both faces of the shoulder straps). I emailed Ergon to ask their recommendation for an appropriate hydration bladder that would fit, as I had tried an older 70 oz. Camelbak bladder and it didn’t fit in the pocket so well. I never got a response from them, so I chalk it up to “lost in the mail” or perhaps less-than-stellar customer service. Oh well…that’s not a deal-breaker.

Here’s the internal pocket for the bladder:

water pocket

One serious drawback that kept coming back to me as I tested this bag is the capacity. It just isn’t big enough to rate as a truly serious commuting bag. Granted, Ergon does not market this bag as such — it is designed for extended mountain bike expeditions where a rider might need to bring spare tubes and tools, a rain jacket or extra warmth layers and some snacks. Nevertheless, it is something to consider. If your daily commuting load is only a few items, this bag would be a dream. If you have to carry a laptop, nice clothes or different shoes, this might not be the bag for you. My typical load for this bag was my lunch, a sweater and a hardcover book or two in addition to my mini-pump and a couple small tools. That’s about all this bag will carry without cramming items inside.

I got to test the built-in raincover a couple times, too. While the raincover doesn’t keep the bag totally dry, it does ward off the worst of the wetness. To be extra safe, it might pay to wrap sensitive items in plastic bags if you’re expecting to get caught in a downpour.

Overall, for the bike commuter who can travel light, I give this bag a resounding “YES”. It’s comfortable as can be, it is strong, and most importantly it is stable with a load. But, if you have a lot to carry, you might consider another brand bag that can handle a bulky load.

Check out Ergon’s complete line of bicycling products here.

Read this review in Spanish at here.

Check out these messenger bags and backpacks.

Well, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and get me one of those dashing Walz Caps that everyone raves about.

Moe’s got one.

Jeff’s got one.

Lance has got one.

Russ has at least one…and probably more, since he’s the one who turned us onto them in the first place!

And now I have one:

Walz front view

The one I got is a lightweight cotton model…too warm here for wool. It’s black with a jaunty grey racing stripe down the middle. It fits like most cycling caps — snug without any binding or pressure. I have bone spurs in several neck vertebrae…as strangely as it sounds, baseball hats or most other headwear (except helmets, oddly enough) create tremendous pain, but I can happily say that this Walz Cap sits on my head like a feather, and I don’t feel any pain.

Where Walz has improved the traditional cycling cap is in the bill. All the vintage caps you see folks wearing these days often have a plastic insert to give the bill its shape, and these crack over time. Walz uses double layers of fabric and tight stitching to maintain the bill’s shape, and this is vastly superior. It also makes washing the cap that much easier (and less potentially damaging).

I also like the way that this cap fits under a helmet without me having to adjust my straps — and the cap helps banish “helmet hair”.

With the bill up or down, this cap is understated and stylish:

Bill up

As I wore this cap around and saw pictures of myself wearing it, I started to realize that I have a little bit of a Brad Quartuccio thing going on. Could we have been separated at birth?


Check out Walz Caps…they’ve got a snazzy cap for everyone out there. They’re inexpensive, well-made and individually crafted in the United States.

One of the few drawbacks to being a product tester is that sometimes you’ve got to give whatever you’re testing back to the manufacturer. This is especially the case with bicycles — we’re usually given just a few weeks to run a bike through its paces.

And so it went with the Dynamic Crosstown 7 shaft-driven bicycle that we reviewed a few months ago. I got to ride the bike for about three weeks…and in that time developed enough “feel” to write a credible review of the machine. Sometimes, though, a longer testing period would reveal even more about a product.

Faithful reader and fellow blogger Tim Diller comes to the rescue for this one — he purchased a Crosstown 7 and has ridden it over 1200 miles since he bought it. Check out his review here, and enjoy the rest of his blog — Chubby Grum Grum — as well!

Product: Trek Soho S



Sizes 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5″
Frame Alpha Black Aluminum
Fork Cro-Moly w/lowrider mounts
Wheels Alloy flip flop high flange hubs; alloy rims
Tires Bontrager Race Lite, puncture resistant, 700x28c; 60 tpi
Shifters n/a
Front Derailleur n/a
Rear Derailleur n/a
Crank Bontrager Nebula 44T w/chainguard
Cassette Shimano 17T freewheel/16T cog
Pedals Nylon body w/alloy cage
Saddle Bontrager Select City
Seat Post Bontrager Satellite Nebula
Handlebars Bontrager Crowbar Sport, 25mm rise
Stem Bontrager Soho, 15 degree
Headset Aheadset Slimstak w/semi-cartridge bearings, sealed
Brakeset Alloy dual pivot w/Tektro alloy levers
Extras Chainguard

Sweet chain guard to keep your slacks free of grease.

I really dig the matte/flat/gloss finish. Gives it character and makes it less of an attention whore for thieves.

First Impressions:

The Trek Soho S retails around $549…not bad for this kind of bike. It’s a single speed/fixie with the flip flop hubs. The setup of the Soho S reminds me of how I’ve set up my Redline 925. I’ve never been a fan of drop bars, and flat bar road bikes have always been my favorite because of the geometry and overall riding position that tends to be more comfortable. One of the comforting aspects of this bike is the Bontrager Race Lite tires that are puncture resistant. I HATE getting flats and having these type of tires not only peace of mind, but it will also prevent you from being late to the office because you didn’t have to hassle with a flat tire.

The sidepull Tektro brake and levers provided enough stopping power without any strain on my hands.

One of the other small details that I liked about the bike was the bar ends. Check out how they have a reflective sticker on it. I thought that was pretty cool. Oh and the bell is an added bonus!

The gearing ran at 44/17t on the freewheel and it was easy enough to start at a dead stop and get on cruising speeds within a few seconds. I rode with the fixed gear for a bit, but when I did try it, the lock ring slipped. I quickly fixed that but rather than riding it as a fixed, I opted for the freewheel since my knee has had problems from stopping fixed gear bikes.


I actually liked the Trek Soho S. I rode a 17.5, which made it just right for my height, 5’7″ on a good day. The bike felt comfortable, I didn’t feel that I was leaning over too much or had that aggressive race geometry. But don’t get me wrong, the Trek Soho S can dish out some good speed. Just a few pumps of the pedals, then this baby is hauling.

trek soho s

There was one thing I didn’t particularly care for about this bike, its the pedals. They had these weird open cage design that felt like my foot was falling off. I think a good pair of platform pedals or even clipless pedals(even better) would have solved this issue. Other than that, the bike is fun to ride, it would make a great commuter and is relatively priced low.

Beautifully designed, affordably priced canvas and leather bicycle bags.

I’ve been wearing my Swobo gloves for about a week and thought it was a goodly time to write a review. If you haven’t heard of Swobo (you live under a rock), you’re not alone. I did a quick tour of all the local bike shops in Long Beach, CA and no one carries their gear and when I asked some people if they had heard of Swobo, they thought I was trying to score some wacky tabacky.

In all seriousness, I think their apparel is nicely designed and doesn’t look like the typical photoshop vomit you see on other cycling gear. They’re also big fans of wool which is enjoying a little renaissance with the help of companies like Rivendell, Portland Cyclewear, and EWR (Earth, Wind, Rider). I like to think that wool is the new “high-tech” fabric, it keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, it wicks moisture, it resists odor and it isn’t made from oil. In fact, it’s a renewable resource.

Anyway, back to the gloves.

They’re wool and on the outside of the right hand is a nice square little brown tag with yellow stitching that says Swobo. Understated. Classy. Sweet. Left to a lesser designer and they would have put racing stripes or flames.

On the flip side there are yellow sticky dots and an awesome little design detail, a sticky hand (hanging loose)! How awesome is that?!

Here’s a detail.

The glove fits…well, like a glove. It’s warm and toasty and has been keeping my hands warm on my morning commutes. The thermometer on my computer has been reading upper 40s and low 50s in the morning and these gloves have been keeping my hands warm. Anything in the low 40s and 30s though, I might use these as liners for another pair of gloves.

The sticky dots (and hand) do their job. They grip the Salsa tape on my road bike and the shellacked cork grips on my touring bike with equal fervor.

The nice thing about these gloves are they’re not too “sporty” (although they do have a sense of humor). They wouldn’t be out of place on your hands while you’re hitting the town, unlike some of the funky designs with multiple colored panels and palm implants. These are just great everyday gloves for on and off the bike.

Another great thing about these gloves is that you can wash them without plastic parts getting all weird. I have yet to wash mine, but I do own several articles of clothing that are made from wool. I would suggest washing it with this because it has lanolin which reconditions and softens the wool. Wash it in cool water in the sink and for godsakes don’t wring it! Do a light squeeze to get some excess water out, then wrap it burrito style in a cotton towel and stand on the towel. This will force the water out of the wool and into the more absorbent towel (this technique works for wool shirts and jerseys as well). Then leave it out to dry.

I have been riding with the gloves for a week and love them. The yellow sticky things aren’t so yellow anymore, and no doubt with time they will chip away, but probably not until I’ve gotten good use out of them.

All Swobo products (at least the ones I’ve purchased) have come with this enigmatic tag. On the flip side it says:

We’ve decided that hang tags, in all their dangling glory, are a waste of paper and natural resources. If you’re in need of extra information concerning Swobo products, or do indeed have a hang tag fetish, visit to get product information. Do what you can….when you can. This isn’t hippy banter, this is old school actions applied to real time issues. Thanks for listening.

You got to love a company that’s willing to put that on all their products.

I highly recommend these gloves because it’s a good product coming from a good company. They do what they’re suppose to with style and humor (who knew gloves could be so funny?). A+