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Reviews

Seattle Sports Waterproof Pannier — Update

A few weeks ago, I posted a “first look�? at the Seattle Sports Fast Pack waterproof pannier.

I’ve had a chance to really ride with this bag — and I LOVE it!! The bag has carried some heavy loads (dress shoes, a stack of big library books, groceries) and has remained absolutely waterproof through some brutal late-summer Florida rainstorms.

In my earlier post, I talked about the great attachment system. The combination of rigid clips and a rotating toggle have made this bag impervious to shifting or “jumping�? off the rear rack of my bike, even with a 20 lb. load in it. It doesn’t rattle or sway in any way. Here’s a look at the attachment system for those who missed my earlier article:

I also really enjoy the ease with which I can open and close the bag to fill it and remove items. I was using some cheapie Nashbar-branded panniers before I got this bag to review, and with that one I have to unclip two buckles, flip open a flap and then undo a drawstring to get at my goodies. With the Seattle Sports pannier, I merely unclip the buckle and roll the top twice to open it. Reclosing it is just as simple — two quick rolls with my wrists, clip the buckle and I’m off!

The fabric, besides being completely waterproof, has also proved to be quite durable. It doesn’t show any signs of wear, even after I scraped that side of the bike against a narrow concrete passageway I sometimes pass through on my way to work. Sharp corners of books that I’ve carried haven’t damaged the bag in any way, either.

I still dislike the inky black interior of the bag — I wish the bag was lined with a lighter-colored material to help me find small items in the bottom, but in practice this really hasn’t caused me any problems.

In any case, this Seattle Sports Fast Pack bag appears to be just the ticket if you have stout commuting loads, live in wet areas and are tired of your other panniers flapping and jingling as you ride. For more information and pricing, take a look at Seattle Sports’ bike gear page.

Now, if I could only scrape together enough cash to buy one for the other side!

Nirve Ultraliner Review

I’ve had the Nirve Ultraliner for the past few months. And have used it to commute to work and around town for fun.

The Ultraliner comes in 15? for the ladies, 17? and 21? for the guys.

MSRP: $499.99

Advertised as:

NEW AUTOMATIC SHIFTING TECHNOLOGY
Shifts automatically just like your car to always keep you in the right gear
No more guessing which way to turn the shifter and ending up in the wrong gear
Climbs hills easier. Keep up with your friends with less effort
Lightweight & easy rolling alloy 700C wheels with stainless spokes
SHIMANO 3 speed automatic transmission always chooses the right gear for your riding conditions
Upright Nirve Sports Cruiser handlebars for comfortable cruising
Nirve comfort saddle with springs
Tough impact resistant Polycarbonate fenders
Alloy kick stand

Eye Candy: Whether on my commutes or just for fun, the Ultraliner was always catching some eyes. This bike definitely has more bling than most bikes. The burnished aluminum is a great touch for this bike.

The Ride: The upright position was very comfortable. Even after riding several miles, I did not experience any neck or back pain from slouching over like I would get from other bikes that I’ve had. It’s wide saddle made the ride smooth. Breaking was no problem at all. It’s V brakes worked beautifully.

The Shimano 3 Speed Automatic transmission worked flawlessly. Whether I rode up and down hills, or on rough terrain it shifted at the precise moment I needed it to. It’s shift timing could be easily adjust to shift sooner or later by a dial on the CPU located towards the rear of the bike.

Likes: The ride was smooth, thanks to the 700C wheels. It comes with a full chain guard to keep your legs from getting greasy, and fenders to keep dirt or mud off your back. Extremely low maintenance. The only thing I’ve had to do to this bike is pump the tires. Plus, I love the fact that you don’t have to worry about shifting! I have to mention that this bike totally kicks the Trek Lime’s butt by far. It’s cheaper, and its a bit faster because of the 700c wheels.

Another great thing about the Ultraliner is the Shimano Dynamo Hub not only powers up the CPU for shifting, but it also has enough juice to power up a dynamo light that we added from Planet Bike.

Dislikes: The bike is a bit on the slower side. But then again it’s called a Cruiser for a reason.

Recommendations: This is such a fun bike to commute or ride recreationally. If you like taking leisure rides without having to worry about shifting into the right gear because you’re not sure which is the right gear, then you’ll love the Nirve Ultraliner with its Autoshift technology. This is definitely one of the most pleasurable bikes I’ve had a chance to test out.

OYB Saddle Bag

Since I hate riding with a backpack, I thought of adding a saddle bag to my Swobo Sanchez. Brooks and Carradice offer a few saddle bags, but they are on the pricey side. So I found Jeff from Outyourbackdoor.com. He makes multipurpose bags out of old Military surplus canvas, best of all, this bag is made in the USA.

The saddle bag is compatible with my Brooks saddle and it is big enough to carry my shorts, a T-shirt, wallet and a tube. This saddle pack also has the ability to turn to a pannier bag, handlebar bag, a man purse and a back pack, talk about versatility!

The price? $35 bucks with S/H included, yeah, that’s it! I find it to be a good deal for an excellent USA made product. The material maybe recycled, and a little worn, but that just gives the bag a little more character.

Click here for more information and to purchase the bag.

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