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Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack Review

Product Tested: Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack

As described on the site.

COMMUTER BACKPACK (waterproof) – Messenger bags are great, but with two straps to distribute the load, a backpack is often a more comfortable option for longer rides or heavier loads. Unfortunately your options have either been student backpacks that leak like a sieve, sit up too high, or cost a fortune. We designed our backpack with a full welded waterproof liner that is removable and replaceable if it is punctured.

* Medium – 1500 Cubic inches / 17″Tall x 12″ Wide x 8″ deep
* Waterproof 2-layer design: outer ballistic nylon layer wears like iron; replaceable waterproof liner keeps contents dry in a downpour (will not keep water out if submerged, in case underwater-riding is your hobby).
* Wide padded straps distribute load more evenly than messenger bags
* Sits lower on the back than standard backpacks to reduce blind spots while riding
* Chest strap and removable waist strap for stability
* Large reflective stripes and tab for safety light
* Quick-access side pocket fits mini-U lock
* In-Stock
* MSRP: $79.99

The Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack is a pretty strong and reliable bag. I’ve been using this baby for a many months and it hasn’t failed me yet.

The bag has a few highlights that I really like such as the side pocket in which is big enough to carry a u-lock. Though they said it was more designed for a small u-lock, my normal sized piece fit just fine. I also like the zippered storage and of course the little blinkie hanger on the lower section of the bag.

The back pack is a bit more comfy than a traditional student bag. The padded shoulders and padded back helped ease the strain of carrying a bag full clothes and gear to work.

Ok now here’s my MOST favorite part of the bag….the reflective “racing stripes? on the back. I mean talk about killing two birds with one stone! Not only did they make this back pack more safe, but its even cool looking with the reflective stripes. Don’t worry, those stripes do work at night. They’re kinda like the reflective arm/ankle bands you can get at the bike shop.

I talked about how comfy this thing is right, well when you have way too much things to bring with you, the back pack doesn’t disappoint. Just check out the things I had to carry on a recent liquor run. All that was pretty darn heavy, almost felt like I was carrying a ruck sack for an army of drinkers…Banjo says that the back has something like 1500 cubic inches of storage….1500 sounds allot! It’s actually way more than I really had to use. Even after our little trip to the liquor store, the bag still felt fine. I didn’t feel it cutting into my massive body builder like shoulders, not did it tear or rip at the seams. In fact, the bag is so well made that not even a thread came undone in the months that I’ve had this. Now that’s quality if you ask me. I’ve had other bags…one even a hand made customized hydration pack that started fraying on me after a few months of use. But the Banjo factory seems to know what they are doing.

The bag has a white water proof liner that protects all your goods from getting wet. I like how it’s white, makes it easier to find things that are in the bottom of the bag. You can actually remove the lining from the bag. But I never did, I like the fact that it was there constantly protecting my skivvies and work clothes due to wetness from my sweaty back.

One of the claims that Banjo Brothers says this bag is capable of or has the ability to be is…?WATER PROOF?. Since it hardly rains in sunny Southern California, and it is September right now, I enlisted the help of my kids to see how “WATER PROOF? this bag really is. So if you check out the video you’ll see that the bag pass our test. Now I’d imagine if you’re someplace that rains allot, this might be a significant factor in your choice of buying a bag. Now I’m not so sure if our water test will impress you folks up in Seattle or Portland, but as you will see, it did really well.

Bottom line, I really dig this bag. For the folks that don’t like to ride with a messenger bag or panniers, I’d tell them to get a Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack. It’s a great deal, waaaay cheaper than any other messenger bag out there, more comfortable…and I know what I’m about to say next will get some smack, but it LOOKS WAAAAAY COOLER THAN A PANNIER COULD BE. So if you’ve got a strong back and Ginormous shoulders like I do, and you think you can huck around your stuff in a back pack, then get this bag. Like I said, its cool, not just cool, its UBER cool!

D-Tour Bicycle Safety Flag — First Impression

D-Tour Safety Flag package

Recently, Glenn Hanson of GlennAir, L.L.C. sent Bikecommuters.com a couple of their D-Tour Bicycle Safety Flags to test in California and Florida. I installed mine today and shot some photos of the very simple process.

First, a bit about the safety flag: the flag itself is made of highly reflective nylon — fluorescent yellow-green for the body and silver for the stripes and trim. The flag “arm” appears to be made of stainless steel, and the attachment bracket is machined aluminum with plastic frame clamps. The flag comes with two pairs of two different sizes of Cateye plastic frame clamps and very clear and concise instructions for mounting the assembly. Once assembled and deployed, the flag device sticks out about 24″ to the side of the bike. It then folds straight back when not in use.

The heart of the system is this finely machined hunk of aluminum — the flag bracket:
flag bracket

Installation is a breeze…if you have thin seatstays. Initially, I wanted to install this device on my dedicated MTB-framed commuter bike — it fits the “safety theme” of this bike (ugly photo here). However, the seatstays were far too fat to fit the larger of the two provided clamps, there is a brazed-on brakeline guide in the way, and the pannier interfered with placement. I tried mounting the clamps upside-down with a longer attachment screw, but I would have had to drill extra holes in the aluminum flag bracket and it still wouldn’t be quite right.

Not enough room on this bike:
This isn't gonna work!

So, I pulled my Astra road bike out of the shed and slapped this device on in about 5 minutes…all that is needed for installation is a flathead screwdriver. Voila — success!
bracket mounted

After that, the wire “arm” of the flag clips into the bracket. The orientation of the flag can be adjusted from straight out to the side, straight forward or back or at angles between these positions. Here’s how it looks deployed straight out from the side of the bike:

Deployed!

And here’s how it looks folded straight back:
Straight back

I didn’t get to test-ride it today, but I am eager to see how this device will affect the distance motorists pass me with. I get “buzzed” all the time — Tampa-area drivers are not used to seeing bikes on the roadways. When Florida passed their “3 Foot Rule” last year, my friends and I joked about bolting a brightly-painted yardstick (or a sword blade) to our bikes as a visual guide to motorists. I think this D-Tour flag device is a far more elegant and practical way to go about things, don’t you?

Stay tuned for our experiences running this device — it should be interesting!

To contact Glenn about purchasing this flag, please email him at GHansonLtd(at)aol(dot)com.

UPDATE:

Here are some pictures from the folks from California. Moe installed the D-Tour Flag on his DiamondBack Transporter, we look forward to his experiences as well.


Side View

Rear View

Seattle Sports “Fast Pack” Pannier — First Impression

Seattle Sports Waterproof Pannier

Seattle Sports recently sent us one of their waterproof “Fast Pack” pannier bags to test in the harsh summer rains of west-central Florida. Any company based in Seattle will surely know a thing or two about wet weather, and Seattle Sports is well-known for their excellent gear that is built to handle extreme wetness!

Here’s a bit about the bag, directly from the manufacturer’s website:

-10″ w, 14″ h, 5″ deep
-750 cu. in. per single bag
-18 oz.
-sold individually
-AVAILABLE IN GREY
-Price: $59.95

The bag is a simple three-roll-closure bag with nylon buckles, much like traditional dry bags for kayak and canoe applications. It is made of a radio-frequency welded nylon and rubberized fabric. It features a side compression strap for keeping loads from swaying, a smallish reflective patch on the back of the bag and a small zippered interior pocket.

The interior of the bag is lined in soft nylon. Even though the bag only holds 750 cubic inches, a lot can hide down in there, and the interior is DARK. A lighter-colored liner would help a user locate small items hiding down in the bottom. The zippered interior pocket is located on the outer wall of the inside.

Inside the bag:
Inside the bag

The rack attachment system is the real showcase of this bag. Comprised of two upper rigid clips with spring-loaded locking keepers and a sliding, rotating lower “toggle” that clamps around the bottom of the rack stays, this system is absolutely bulletproof. You will not shake this bag loose, even with a heavy load!! This attachment system is well-designed and is perhaps the best I’ve had the pleasure of using.

The bag's attachment system

Here’s a closeup of the upper clips. The keepers are on the inside — no real springs in there, but these keepers pop up and press back to release the bag from the upper rail of a rack:
The upper clips w/ keepers

I’ve only ridden with this bag once so far…and only with a light load (a pair of dress shoes). In the coming weeks, I will put this bag through its paces, including some serious wet-weather testing to check the waterproofness of this bag.

So far, my only real gripe is the reflective patch on the back of the bag. There’s room on the back for a much more substantial reflector…something I’d like to see on this bag, since so many other pannier manufacturers put loads of reflective tape and patches on their bags.

The tiny reflective patch:
Tiny reflective patch

Stay tuned for more as I torture this bag!!! I’ve got to say, though, that this bag really looks like it can handle some serious punishment. We’ll see if I’m right, won’t we?

Visit Seattle Sports’ cycling products page for more details about their waterproof bags.

Bicycle Fixation Wool Knickers Review

The great folks from Bicycle Fixation sent us their Wool Knickers to review.

Here are the quick details:

Our elegant, bicycle-friendly knickers are made in Los Angeles in a fair-wage factory from 100% wool gabardine, and will be the most comfortable clothes you own. They have been tested in temperatures from close to 20°F to over 95°F, in rush hour, over mountain passes, on Critical Mass, in the office, and at restaurants and malls, and they have proven themselves every time. Using local materials and labor when they are available reduces transport impacts on the planet.

Although the fabric feels light, our testers in Minnesota and Illinois have reported that they are comfortable in temperatures down to just over 20°F, and we have ourselves tested them in heat up to nearly 100°F. The wool transpires sweat better than synthetic so-called “wicking” materials, rarely (so far, for us, never) shows sweat-spotting, and does not hold body odors–you can wear these for several days of riding before you need to clean them.

Retail Price: $99.00

Overview:
Let me being by saying the Knickers are not my style, I prefer to ride with Hoss MTB shorts to work. I rode with the knickers on cool mornings and on hot afternoons. The knickers were most comfortable during the mornings, I really liked that my knees were shielded from the cool air. On the afternoons, well, I did get hot. However, I did find that the fabric absorbed my sweat and it was somewhat breathable.

Thumbs Up:The quality of the fabric and the workmanship is top notch. The knickers are also super comfortable, there was no itching, and the knickers didn’t ride up my butt. The price of the knickers is very competitive as well.

Thumbs Down: I personally didn’t care for the burgundy satin cut out on the bottom of the legs.

Bottom Line: If wool knickers are your style, check out Bicycle Fixation’s wool knickers, you won’t be disappointed.

For more information, go to www.bicyclefixation.com