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Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack-Wet Test

With the recent rains that Southern California had experienced, I wanted to see how well the Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack‘s ability to keep things dry over a long period of wetness exposure.

So I set up the bag in my back patio where it gets pretty wet during the rains. Rather than standing in the rain all night long. I recruited the use of my old ladder and a bungee cord to hold the bag in place.

This is the bag the following morning. I apologize for the fuzzy picture, my camera sucks.

As I opened it up this morning, I expected that the bag would have been flooded inside.

But to my surprise, the items in the bag stayed dry!

First Impression: Sette Elite Carbon Road Shoe

I must have been a good boy this year because, after breaking a strap off of my cycling shoe, Santa Claus surprised me and brought a new pair of road shoes from Pricepoint.com: the Sette Elite Carbon shoe (MSRP: $210, PP.com: $89.98).

Here is what Pricepoint has to say about the shoe:

The new Sette Elite Carbon Road Shoes with their ultrastrong and ultralight carbon fiber sole providing excellent stiffness and torque transfer. Not to mention the four air vents in the toe and midsole combined with a breathable mesh upper to ensure your feet remain cool and comfortable all day. The Elite Carbon Road Shoes feature a premium fit and support that is provided by a molded heel cup and two hook and loop straps combined with a quality metal ratchet closed tab with quick release for easy adjustments.

I am young, and not rich, so this is a pretty fancy pair of shoes for me. My only other pair was bare-bones compared to the Sette Elite Carbon, so it might take me a while to get used to a better shoe.

The Sette Elite Carbon comes with a 2 strap and 1 ratcheting strap design, allowing for a nice, snug fit – as long as you are not in a hurry to get the shoe on as quickly as possible (it’s the triathlete in me…). The buckle is easy to manage with one hand, both for tightening and loosening, making it easy to get on and off. It also seems to be really sturdy and I am confident it would hold up to the stress of use as an everyday commuting shoe.

The shoe is incredibly comfortable – with no pokes or scratches on the inside – and good looking. There is a neoprene (or something like it) tongue that provides a really snug yet comfortable fit to the top of your foot. I bet this material makes the shoe extremely comfortable in the summer when your feet tend to get hot and sweaty. I could not get a feel for how functional the air vents are during my ride today because it was a “room temperature” kind of day: not hot or not cold. I am confident I will get to evaluate their cold-weather comfort in the weeks ahead and will report back with more detail!

The carbon sole provides a nice stiff “backbone” for a cycling shoe, which is good for optimum power transfer. I honestly don’t notice a HUGE difference in pedal-efficiency between my old, non-carbon shoes and the Sette Elite Carbon, but then again I have only used the shoes once on my flat commute. The winds were too strong today for me to have a desire to do a little sprinting or climbing…

Fixed Gear Friday: Swobo Sanchez Frameset Review

I got this Swobo Sanchez Frame set for Father’s day from Banning’s Bikes in Fullerton. I had been riding the Raleigh One Way, but unfortunately the frame was a tad too big for me. I transferred the wheels, crankset, chain and pedals from the One Way to the Sanchez, I installed a shortened MTB flat bar, a carbon fiber post and a Brooks Saddle.

Thumbs up:I really like riding the Sanchez. The frame is comfortable and rides super smooth. The galvanized finish gives it a different look and I don’t have to worry much about scratches. The Swobo comes with no brakes, but the front fork is drilled for one and not wanting to become pavement tortilla, I installed an XTR lever matted to a Powertools brake caliper. Stopping power is awesome.

Thumbs Down:The bike is not drilled for water bottle cages, so I ended up installing one on the handlebars. My commute is 21 miles round trip so I do have a need for hydration.

Do I recommend the Sanchez? In a world full of conversions and Pistas, the Sanchez dares to be different. Although the complete bike is a little trendy for my taste, buying the frameset and building it up to one’s liking is totally recommendable.

Are you looking for the perfect bicycle frame? We have a large inventory to choose from..

Hoss Stallion Shorts Review

Cost: $59.99 from www.hossmtb.com.

From the Hoss website:

Features & Benefits

  • Classic boarder short, may be worn with or without included chamois liner
  • Lightweight and durable microsuede polyester shell for quick drying comfort
  • Detachable Cytech multi-layered chamois constructed from high-density open cell foam with permanent antibacterial protection
  • Adjustable micro-fit waist band via Velcro cinch straps
  • 4 functional pockets with secure closures
  • Front zipper and drawstring closure
  • Overall, I was very pleased with how the Hoss Stallion short performed as my everyday commuter shorts (back before it got too cold). The thing I will praise about this short over and over is the fit and the versatility. First things first…

    the Fit
    This short has what I think is the ideal fit for a cycling short, no matter what type of riding you do. The board-short style is made to sit on your hip bones which provides a fit that will withstand the constant motion of your legs while pedaling a bicycle. A zip fly and a tie-string ensure all the security you need in a pair of shorts. If you wear these shorts where they are meant to be worn, there will be no riding up and no chaffing. The short is also cut so that the back comes a little higher, with a little help from a stretchy mesh segment, which prevents the incredibly unattractive “plumber’s butt” that so many girls and hipsters in tight jeans are subject to. Additionally, as I mentioned in my First Impression, the length of these shorts is great – long enough to reach just beyond my kneecaps when I stand up (and I am 6′ 2″) and long enough to NOT show your whole upper thigh that you never got around to shaving (roadies know what I’m talking about there).

    (thanks for the photo, Lance)

    The short is baggy enough to provide plenty of freedom of movement yet not too baggy that it flaps in the wind as you speed your way to work.

    One final detail that really impressed me with these shorts is the velcro adjustment straps located on the waist. There are two straps that allow you to customize the fit of the short by adjusting how snug they fit around your hips. This shows me that Hoss really thinks about their product and how to fine tune it – something I greatly respect in a company.

    As far as the sizing goes, if you are on the upper limit of a size, I recommend opting for the next size up, because the sizes tend to run a little small.

    the Versatility
    The other thing that impressed me with the Hoss Stallion is how it can be used for more than a cycling short. The baggy chamois liner can be removed from the outer shell. While you would not necessarily want to sport just the baggy liner like you would with any other pair of cycling shorts, this feature is helpful because you can rotate through the cycling short you wear underneath and just wear the Hoss Stallion shell everyday. The liner that comes with the short is plenty comfortable but after one day of riding a guy needs to wash these things. After the first week, I never re-attached the liner, but put it into a rotation of a few pairs of cycling shorts that I would change and wash while I showered after each day, and wore the outer shell everyday. I only had to wash the shell once a week and it never showed signs of being too dirty or smelly.

    When meeting a friend for coffee one afternoon after work, I rode my bike to the coffee shop and went into the restroom to rinse off and put a clean shirt on, but was able to leave my Hoss Stallions on and not even worry about cramping my style – which is impeccable by the way 🙂

    This short comes with 3 zipper-secured front pockets and one rear velcro pocket that are very practical. All pockets are located on the front of the legs, 2 on one side and 1 on the other. The pockets are not big, but extremely functional. They are perfect for dropping your keys, cell phone and a compact digital camera into. On cooler mornings I could actually cram my arm warmers into the larger pocket when I took them off – which kept me from having to unstrap my backpack. The pockets are compact enough that your keys don’t jiggle around or bounce back and forth, which is another nice touch.

    the Technical Stuff
    Hoss advertises that the chamois liner has “permanent antibacterial protection” – whether or not this is true seemed irrelevant to me because as I said, after one ride, it is really a good idea (for you and anyone around you) to clean your bike shorts. Maybe the antibacterial protection keeps the shorts from developing problems in the long term. A simple wash with soap and water while I would shower seemed to do the job every time.

    The outer shell is indeed made of quick-drying fabric. Even if you wanted to rinse the shell off in the evening, it would be sufficiently dry if you hang it up overnight. It impressed me how easy the shorts were to maintain and keep clean, even after I wore them 5 days a week.

    the Drawback(s)
    I really only noticed one flaw with these shorts: they got a bit staticky. As I have said, I would wash the liner by hand after every wear, but I would put both the liner and shell in the washing machine about once a week with the rest of my laundry. I usually hang dry all of my cycling clothing and often times some static would build up when getting dressed in the morning…a very minor flaw in all reality (in fact almost any clothing will do this). There are two very simple solutions for this issue: 1) put them in a dryer with a dryer sheet (even if only for a few minutes) or if you prefer to hang dry your cycling stuff 2) once they have dried, rub the inside of the shorts with a dryer sheet or spray with some sort of anti-static cling product (if you are married, ask your wife, she will have some).

    $60 can seem like a hefty price to pay for a pair of commuting shorts, but I am confident that it would be the only pair of shorts you need to buy. One pair will get you through an entire week – and doesn’t require that you do laundry every night.

    All in all, I was very impressed with the Hoss Stallion short and give them two finger-less-gloved thumbs up for any bike commuter.

    Ergon BD-1 Backpack — First Impression

    Our friends at Ergon Bike Ergonomics recently sent us a backpack to check out. This model is called the BD-1M “Team Edition” backpack, and it is sleek and packed with features.

    Ergon BD-1

    Originally, RL was slated to test this backpack…but with his husky, macho physique, the harness system was a bit too snug. We needed someone willowy and narrow to test this bag, so the duty fell to me. As it turns out, the system is just a hair too BIG for me, but I got the bag’s straps and buckles adjusted to the point that everything worked out in the end. Phew!

    Let’s get something straight right here at the beginning — Ergon does NOT market this bag as a commuter-specific backpack. In fact, it’s intended for the MTB crowd…a bag that can carry a hydration bladder, some tools, snacks and a jacket. At only 12 liters (730 cubic inches or so), it is not designed to carry a huge load. That being said, it does what it is intended to do splendidly!

    Anyhow, on to the bag itself: It’s made of black and pea-green woven nylon, with a very visible hard plastic “exoskeleton” that gives it shape and forms the suspension components of the bag. All of the harness parts (shoulder straps, back pad, hip belt and sternum straps) are attached to the exoskeleton. The back panel adjusts using a simple hex screw and nut to fit a range of backs…I have it set to the “small” setting.

    Here’s a shot of the harness and adjustable back panel:
    Harness and back panel

    Not visible is Ergon’s flexible link or “Flink” — a plastic sphere right behind the adjusting screw of the back panel that separates the bag itself from the harness system. This “Flink” allows the bag to pivot both up and down and side-to-side with the rider, staying balanced between the shoulder blades no matter what the load.

    From the side, the “Flink” is a bit more visible. It’s that green object right between my shoulder blades:
    side view

    The bag hugs the rider’s back, yet lets a surprising amount of air to flow between bag and rider. The padded portions of the hip belt and shoulder straps are lined with mesh to let additional airflow in.

    Did I mention that this bag is packed with features? It’s got a pocket for a hydration bladder inside, slots and hook-and-loop straps to control the bladder’s hose, a zippered outside pocket, a zippered inside pocket and another small open pocket on the inside of the bag. The folks at Ergon went the extra mile and included an ingenious raincover, too! At the inner base of the bag is a little “garage” for the raincover:

    garage

    Tear open the hook-and-loop strip and deploy the raincover — it stretches right over the body of the bag:

    raincover

    Ergon even included a built-in emergency whistle, which is molded into the buckle of the sternum strap. Amazing!

    emergency whistle

    Well, how does this thing ride? I took it on one commuting trip to work — loaded down with two 500ml bottles of soda, a bulky hardcover book (Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War by 3-time Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson), a work shirt and assorted tools, tubes and small items. It was a tight squeeze…and God forbid if you had to get something at the very bottom of the bag. The narrowness of the interior compartment and the overall small volume means that you must unpack everything to get at goodies in the bottom of the bag.

    Even with this load (maybe 15 lbs.?), the bag felt weightless once I got the straps snugged up. The padded hipbelt soaks up the most of the weight, and the shoulder and sternum straps serve to stabilize things. I felt FAST wearing this bag, and I never once worried about the bag shifting while I cornered or got out of the saddle to do some sprinting. Pretty cool so far!

    In the coming weeks, I will test the waterproofness of the raincover, check the durability of this bag and offer further thoughts about the performance and balance of this system. Stay tuned for all of that.