Category: Women Bike

Over the summer Vaya Bags sent me one of their most recent bag designs — a Pannier Hybrid Bag — to review. The bag they sent me to review can be both a backpack and a pannier (hence the name “hybrid”) – in turquoise and orange material, with accents of recycled bike tubes.

Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

I first met the women behind Vaya Bags in March at the Women Bike Pop-Up Shop at the Women Mean Business Bike Forum in Washington, D.C.

Over the past couple months riding with this backpack/pannier, I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and fellow cyclists. And I must say that hearing others sing the praises of the bag certainly added to my impression of Vaya Bags.

Vaya Bags describes its Pannier Hybrid Bag as…

A nifty little design that combines the load carrying ability of the pannier with the carry-with-you convenience of a backpack. This bag easily clips onto your bike rack to carry those loads you don’t want on your back. When not on your bike the pannier converts into a backpack for a comfortable way to carry your belongings with you. Even more, we’ve added mega cool new features such as U-lock holder, reflective tape and expandable front pocket.

The quality of this handmade in NY product is evident. The exterior material is durable and water repellent — all Vaya bags are made with canvas that is “recycled and scrap Sunbrella® Fabric from local sailboat factories;” the interior is lined to make this pack fully waterproof.

Vaya pannier/backpack waterproof interior lining – also quite vibrant!

It has a rolltop closure, with velcro and a clip to keep the bag securely closed – whether packed to the max or just minimally packed, ensuring no water seeps into the bag during a downpour. Fortunately I didn’t have to endure many downpour bike commuting conditions during my time with this bag; but I did put it through the paces.

rolltop closure secures with both velcro and clip

An interior laptop pocket or other such divider could have been a nice bonus, but not necessary. On the couple occasions I decided to travel with my laptop or work iPad, I just used a padded sleeve and slipped it right in the bag.

The bag also boasts a small exterior front pocket with velcro closure. That pocket was great for stashing keys and other small items that I might need to access on the fly, but I did find that small items could escape from that pocket if not secured well. I wished that pocket had a zipper or other means of keeping the contents safe. It would have also been nice to have a key strap to secure keys for easy reach.

For a daily commuting bag, this pack is about the right size — small enough to not be too voluminous but large enough to expand to carry those extra groceries you decide to pick up on the way home. It was also a good size for me; as a petite female, I often find that most unisex backpacks are just too big for me and cater to folks with larger/longer torsos. This Vaya bag did not have that issue of being oversized…. could it be that woman’s touch on the design?

I altered between carrying the bag like a backpack and letting my bike haul it as a pannier. I must say that I wished the conversion from backpack to pannier and vice versa was quicker, but I soon got the hang of it. Just a bit of tucking in and clipping straps before mounting the pannier and then untucking and reclipping the backpack straps to use as a backpack. As a backpack, it took me a bit of time to get used to the unpadded seatbelt-material straps; these unpadded straps, however, did allow for ease of tucking the straps away to use the bag as a pannier. I did appreciate the chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and the bag more stable on my back.

Seatbelt-like backpack straps tuck away into pocket when used as a pannier

as a backpack

Riding with a backpack

The reinforced bottom allows this bag to stand on its own when set down on the ground.

reinforced bottom

When I first started using this bag as a backpack, the bottom of the bag hit my lower back at a weird angle when just walking around, but it was fine on the bike; I don’t notice it anymore but just the other day I did wish the back offered a bit of padding.

For use as a pannier, the bag connects to any rear rack with the use of d-rings and small carabiner style clips.

Vaya pannier hybrid on the bike

I was impressed how the bag remained anchored on my bike with just those two attachment points.

carabiner clips and d-rings mount the pannier to the bike’s rack

I fretted that the back of the bag would get dirty when used as a pannier and that it would put a damper on my wanting to use it as a backpack, but I never had that problem (I also didn’t use it as a pannier in much foul weather when crud could have gotten kicked up onto it).

This Vaya pannier-backpack hybrid comes with reflective tape on each side of the bag for great visibility when in use as a pannier hanging off the side of the bike.

Backpack – side view (photo taken with flash to show how the reflective tape adds visibility)

But I wished it had some reflective tape on the front of the bag that would be visible when in use as a backpack (similar to how the Vaya backpacks have reflective tape on the back) and a loop for a rear blinky light.

On the side of this pannier/backpack are a few loops — one velcro and one hanging loop for a u-lock. The velcro strap is just one more way of securing the bag to the bike – which I rarely used (and only figured that feature out after viewing some of Vaya’s product photos online). The hanging loop for a u-lock did not fit my Kryptonite lock. But I usually just clip my lock to my rear rack for transport, so that wasn’t much of an issue…. except on the odd day that I rode a different bike with a rack and found myself searching for the best method to haul the hefty lock.

Overall, I give this bag two thumbs up – especially for design and aesthetics. With a new and improved model on the way, I look forward to seeing just how much niftier this dual bag becomes. I noticed that some of the features I was looking for when I used this bag as a backpack already come standard on the regular Vaya Backpacks; the nice thing about this bag is its ability to morph into a pannier, too.

In a recent correspondence with Vaya Bags, we confirmed that a few improvements (which may also address a few of my concerns) are in the works on the revamped design of this Pannier-Backpack hybrid, including:

– We did update the U lock holder so that it is adjustable and put velcro on it to help stabilize the U lock
– We added reinforcement to the back of the bag to prevent rubbing
– We changed the clip system to a strap system to make it easier to put on and off the bike!

We look forward to the new product, which we will get our hands on within a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the updates to the bag work in comparison to this model.

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

Hey there, fearless female foot-pedaling peoples and all Bike Commuters readers in internet land. This just in from Washington D.C.: the League of American Bicyclists recently released a “first-of-its-kind report showcasing a trend seen on streets nationwide” Apparently, stats are showing that Cycle Ladies are changing the face bicycling (duh), and bicycling is transforming the lives of said lady commuters (double-duh and high fives!)

The press release from the League goes like this:

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“Women on a Roll” — a product of the League’s Women Bike program — compiles more than 100 original and trusted sources of data to showcase the growth and potential of female bicyclists in the United States. It also suggests five key focus areas — the 5 Cs — to increase women’s ridership:

» Comfort
» Convenience
» Consumer Products
» Confidence
» Community

“Increasingly, advocacy groups and industry leaders are recognizing the gender gap as a clear — and critical — limitation to growing the bike movement and the market,” said Carolyn Szczepanski, the League’s Director of Communications and Women Bike. “This report puts hard data behind that imperative — and reveals what’s working in getting more women on bikes and where there is clear opportunity to increase female leadership and participation.”

According to the report:
» 82% of American women have a positive view of bicyclists
» From 2003 to 2012, the number of women and girls who bicycle rose 20%, compared to a .5% decline among men
» Women are the new majority: 60% of bicycle owners aged 17-28 years old are women.
» Women accounted for 37% of the bicycle market in 2011, spending $2.3 billion.
» 45% of local and state bicycle advocacy organization staff are female.
» 89% of bike shop owners are male, but 33% of shops are run by a
husband/wife team.
» Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, including the boards of national industry and advocacy organizations — and their membership.

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Download “Women on a Roll” here and stay engaged as we dig further into the data and concepts in the report with female leaders over the next three months.

Learn more about Women Bike at bikeleague.org/womenbike

Take what you want from it… I’m usually a positive thinker living in a happy bubble world where bikes, ponies, and rollerblades all share the roads with equal representation of male and females alike… But let’s get real here, women are the hot new thing in the Bike Commuting land, and we can’t deny the increasing representation in the market!

So whaddya think? Are you a cycle lady that has changed the face of bicycling? Did all you women on bikes out there need Comfort, Convenience, Consumer Products, Confidence, and Community to transition into the cycling world? If you aren’t a Cycle lady yet, just click here to get some inspiration of why you should become one!
Otherwise, hit us up in the comments to share your opinions.

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Hey *cycle* LADIES! (<— a la Beastie Boys.) Back in June, we were contacted by LUV Footwear to review their funky-colored, lightweight, multifunctional Dream Flats. An unusual suggestion for Bike Commuters product reviews, I know. But, I thought about the cross-section of my activities this summer (teaching, meetings with the City of Asheville, biking, walking, and wading in the river) and agreed immediately to test some kicks.

Here’s a peek at the product specs from their marketing specialist:

LUV Footwear presents the Dream Flat, a revolutionized ballerina flat that fuses artistic expression with anatomical performance.  The versatile Dream Flats deliver a kaleidoscope of colorful, stylish offerings with a comfort experience of athletic, weightless support.  LUV Footwear releases collectable, limited edition Dream Flats seasonally, each with its own fun, cute, and beautiful personality.

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Distinctive Features:

  • Extremely light and flexible
  • Machine washable
  • Waterproof, and they float
  • Anatomically shaped and supportive insole
  • Protective toe cap
  • Collectible, colorful designs released seasonally

Great For:

  • Kids
  • Travel
  • At the beach or park
  • Water sports
  • After running, cycling, or yoga
  • Gardening

Materials: EVA outsole, lycra upper

Retail price: $40 adults, $36 toddlers and youth

LUV Dream Flats come in a buttload of different colors, so many that it wracked my brain on which to choose… Since they rotate their patterns and colors every season, I thought I’d choose a solid, neon, and a patterned pair to try out for summer:

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From top to bottom: Metallic Pewter, Large Lunar Dot Grey, and Neon Blue

If I had to summarize the imdb movie blurb of the LUV Dream Flat, it’d go like this:

 

Dream Flats Movie

Dream Flats: a chickmance starring Julie Bowen and Kristen Wiig. Two friends throw caution to the wind and fulfill their childhood dreams of biking across the continent to open a white-water rafting shop in Costa Rica.

Okay, that was random. But, what I’m trying to say is that these shoes are amphibious, fun, and cuter on my foot than I expected. They’re like a bougie, more socially acceptable version of those Vibram foot-glove things. I could wear them biking (maybe not all the way to Costa Rica) and then jump in the water at my destination.

If I were Roger Ebert, I’d give the Dream Flats two thumbs-up for versatility! One day I biked uphill to work in them during a 15 minute summer rainstorm… and the flats looked better than the rest of my outfit when I arrived at the studio sopping wet! On the Fourth, I wore them to hike to the waterfalls, walk about downtown, and even biked to the bars for a 3 hour dance party.  Cute and comfortable, yet sturdy enough to kick in some good pedal power.

And if I had to throw rotten tomatoes, I’d say the only downfall is that the inner lining becomes loose under the toes after several wears in and out of the river. They do take a bit of breaking in, but no blisters necessary. The 37 was perfect for my size 6.5-7 ducky foot after a good 8 hours in the Dream Flat.

For 40 bucks a pop, these Dream Flats are everything they claim to be. Here’s a Mir.I.Am dorkin’ about town slideshow for those of you who wanna judge for yourself if these look good on your feet:

And if you want some goodies, and you’re the type of cycle lady to cruise the streets despite the summer rains, the LUV Dream Flats can take you from office to kayak with a bit of style. Would you rock flats over clips like Hannah, Karen, or Dottie? Until the end of July 2013, enter the promo code “BikeCommuters” to save 20% off at LUV footwear online.

Wanna get a free pair of chickmance Dream Flats for some summer pedal power? How about a Bike Commuters + LUV giveaway? Just follow these steps:

  1. Leave a comment below describing your favorite pair of kicks for summer bike commuting.
  2. Head over to LUV Footwear’s facebook and sign up for the mailing list.

We will select a winner based on our favorite comment from today’s post and send you a promo code to use for one free pair of LUV Dream Flats! Contest ends at 12:00 Noon EST, July 31, 2013.

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

 

The first cycle lady of the summer to be featured in our ongoing Commuter Profile series is Miss Hannah Decker! A dear friend of mine, Hannah and I met in Buenos Aires through a language exchange meetup. She turned out to be my Palermo neighbor, and we had tons of South American fun on and off the cruiser bikes in B.A. Read on to catch up with Hannah on her commute from her hometown of Boise, Idaho!

MeGettingReadyToCommute

Name: Hannah Decker

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I’ve been commuting since 2007.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute? 

I started commuting while still in school. I would commute to campus and to work. I try to ride my bike as much as I can. In Boise we have a beautiful Greenbelt pedestrian path that winds through the city next to the Boise river. The Greenbelt makes commuting awesome and it’s only a block away from my where I live. Overall, my bike commute averages 5-6 miles roundtrip.

ViewattheStartofCommute

MapofGreenbelt

BoiseRiverRightNextoGreenbelt

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How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

It helps save on gas and it also feels great to be outside and exercising.

 

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I live in Boise, Idaho and I’m doing freelance graphic design and tutoring Spanish. Now that I have my fancy new degrees I’m looking to get a bigger kid job. In true fashion I’ve been bike commuting to my interviews. I also commute daily to coffee shops or wherever I go to get my freelance work done.

MoreBikesDowntown

 

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I commute with my incredibly cool Crescent “Pepita” Racer. It’s a classic Swedish racing bike. My Aunt was the original owner and then it was passed on to my Mom, who was hit by a driver that quickly fled the scene and left my mom unconscious… but don’t worry they both survived relatively unscathed.

GreenbeltBridge

CrescentEmblem

DesignFlawFootHitsFrontTire

So, the insurance company paid for my mom to get a fancy new road bike as I happily took the old Crescent. The frame has some scrapes but overall it’s still in great condition. I’ve been riding my Crescent since I started bike commuting regularly in 2007. I’ve gotten used to some of it’s design quirks… e.g. while making a sharp turn the foot cage ‘overlaps’ with the front wheel. I also have an old American Eagle cruiser made in Japan. The frame was a gift and I rebuilt it. It’s a cute little bike and so fun to ride!

GoingForaJoyRide

MyCruiser

AmericanEagle

 

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

I was riding my road bike to the store once and I hit a cat… How did that happen?! It was like a game of chicken gone horribly wrong! Haha! Not really. What actually happened was this chubby orange cat decided to sprint right in front of my wheel as two horrified kids saw the whole thing unfold. The cat was okay because I braked and slowed down just enough not to actually run him over (I love animals).  Does that count as interesting?

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What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Bike commuting is big in Boise, it’s normal for people to bike commute to work or wherever they’re headed. Usually people respond with “That’s great, I need to start commuting more”. I always get a positive response from people.

 

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How about bicycling advocacy?  Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

I am not currently active in any, but there is a really great bike cooperative called the Boise Bicycle Project. They do awesome stuff for the community. Here’s their link so you can check them out! http://www.boisebicycleproject.org/about.html

Muchisimas Gracias Hannah for hooking it up with your summer bike adventures and sharing some inspiring photos of your bike commute! Any of you other readers want to show us your ride and tell us all about it?  Then send an email and we’ll send you our Commuter Profile questionnaire… easy as pie. Email mir[at]bikecommuters[dot]com for details.

Following the theft of my beloved commuter bike – Toro – last summer, I had the good fortune to test ride some bikes…. and at long last I’m letting you know my thoughts on this Torker bike that I previewed for you.

T300_white

Torker graciously sent me their T300 step thru model to ride for review. (After a bit of a snafu, I was finally up and running on this great new ride!) Quite a snazzy set-up. Almost reminds me of a Dutch-style bike.

I must admit that I was initially a bit skeptical of the sloping step through configuration. While I have always loved the look and comfortable feel of the bike, I never bought one of my own. Both the heft and the awkwardness of carrying such a steed up and down the rear steps to my apartment have led me to prefer a bike with a diamond frame so I could haul the bike up by the top tube.

Now for the specs:

• Stylish alloy twin top tube frame in 2 styles.
• Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.
• Dependable rear coaster brake.
• Includes fenders, chainguard, & rear rack.

Available sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”,
15” step thru, 17 step thru”.

Torker sent me a 15″ step thru to fit my 5’4″ stature. This bike also comes in a more “unisex” style diamond/mixte style frame.

You’ll notice that this bike comes with a rear coaster brake and front hand brake. Since this is a Friday review, I’m including a Friday musing with this review….. “how did I ever ride a bike with a coaster brake?” After many years of riding free wheel bikes with hand brakes, I missed being able to reposition the pedal after I stop so that I can push off again (known as the power pedal position). And I think I’ve forgotten “how” to get started (without some awkward shove off) after I do stop when I ride with coaster brakes. Oops. Is there a trick I’m missing or have forgotten?
Note: I didn’t let this forgetfulness slow me down with my riding and I did adapt.

But this bike is fun and riding it around Chicago made me feel like a lady.

Riding in style (and value)

My friend rides the T300 around the parking lot; the 15″ frame bike accommodates a wide range of heights and even comes in a larger size.

Its upright riding position is suited for city navigating and being able to see around traffic.

the cockpit

View from the saddle (riding along Chicago’s first 2-way protected bike lane)

This bike already comes standard with fenders, rear rack and chain guard, so you could wear your suit or dress to the office without worry. Its plush saddle means you don’t have to worry about needing padded shorts; plus, the rear of the saddle is reflective, which is a great safety factor after dusk. The pedals also nicely work with any shoe – even dress shoes – as they are not made with sharp metal edges that could scuff or damage nice shoes. As an added bonus, the pedals also have reflectors built in, so they’re noticeable in headlights when out pedaling after dark.

plush saddle with reflective material facing rear and pedals with reflectors

The upright position maybe slowed me down from the speeds I’d grown accustomed to attaining on Toro which was more of a road bike. For my usual sub-5 mile bike commuting route there wasn’t a considerable time difference. I did notice the difference when I pedaled to a further work location and it took longer.

With 3 internal speeds this bike is suitable for most conditions, especially in the flatlands of Chicago. But the gearing gaps are sizeable and I sometimes struggled with finding the best gear. In most cases I stayed in the middle gear (the usually “just right” sweet spot).

Internal gearing and rear coaster brake

Front rim brake

For carrying my work necessities, the rear rack accommodated my panniers – and I tested out multiple brand panniers with this bike’s rear rack – without an issue.

The Detours Ballard Bag easily clips to the rear rack

Out of the box, it was such a convenience to not have to worry about equipping the T300 with the necessary commuting accessories of fenders, rack and chain guard, plus reflective accents on the saddle and pedals.

Ready for urban riding right out of the box – with fenders, chain guard and rear rack

At the pricepoint of $439 for this Torker T300, I recommend it to anyone seeking a comfortable entry level urban bike.

While it was challenging at times to haul this bike up and down to my apartment, I did find a manageable way to carry it. By simply grabbing the bottom of the sloping tube with one hand and the handlebars with the other to steady the bike, I could lift it just high enough to carry it down the steps.

Some evenings I was able to haul it back upstairs in the same manner. Other nights (maybe I was too tired) I had to implement the technique I used to use to haul my old Schwinn mixte frame upstairs — by turning the bike around and hauling it upstairs rear wheel first; in this case I would grab the seat tube and the sloping down tube and be lifting the heavier rear end up first.

Bottom line — I have enjoyed riding this Torker T300 bicycle around town, especially for its comfort and style. And that makes this bike a winner for me.