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!

An anonymous reader sent the following question:

“Is it OK to wear spandex to work? I usually ride a road bike, but occasionally ride my MTB to work.?

My feeling is to wear whatever you like that makes you comfortable — whether it is spandex jerseys and shorts or tight leather pants and a puffy pirate shirt . Spandex cycling wear wicks moisture and feels pretty comfortable…which is why so many “serious? cyclists and racers swear by it.

However, there are certain conditions where spandex cycling gear does not fit the bill. First, wearing a full team kit is pretentious, loud and annoying. You should only wear team gear such as Liquigas, CSC or Discovery Channel IF YOU ARE ON THE TEAM! Similarly, wearing a Cervelo jersey while riding a Trek is a big no-no. If we see you, we’ll report you to The Bike Snob. Stick to the brand of bike you own if you absolutely must wear a team jersey and shorts. For everyone else, cycling-specific clothing comes in bright solid colors, too.

Another exception is wearing spandex clothing on a one-speed beach cruiser, Kmart special or any bike that even vaguely resembles the bike ridden by the “40 Year Old Virgin“. You’re not fooling anyone into believing that you are some badass fitness freak or serious racer…mostly, you just look overprepared (and a bit silly) to go fast on a bike that is physically incapable of going fast.

Finally, leave the spandex alone if, after putting it on, you look ANYTHING like this guy:

(Picture “borrowed? from How To Avoid the Bummer Life)

Seriously, no one should have to look at that!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

D-Tour Safety Flag package

Recently, Glenn Hanson of GlennAir, L.L.C. sent 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:


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.


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

If you’re a bicycle commuter in the Tampa Bay area, things can feel pretty lonely at times. There’s only about 6 daily commuters in our area (just joking!), and there isn’t much in the way of moral support around these parts.

But wait, there’s hope!
Tampa BayCycle homepage

Tampa BayCycle is a joint effort between the New North Transportation Alliance (Julie Bond, the executive director, is one of our featured commuters) and the Tampa Downtown Partnership, as well as a host of other corporate sponsors. This organization has provided the Bay Area commuter a wonderful resource for advocacy, communication and information exchange, and recently wrapped up their first year’s “Commuter Challenge”, where riders were encouraged to recruit fellow bike commuters or newbies in exchange for the chance to win prizes. They even had a kickass party to celebrate their first Bike To Work Month, where activists were invited to enjoy pizza, billiards, bowling and prize raffles (my wife and I both won light sets for our bikes and I won a Cateye wireless computer — very cool).

In June, Tampa BayCycle rolled out their very own blog, which is geared towards providing the Tampa area commuter another way to communicate amongst themselves and to spotlight local news, commuter profiles and other information of interest to bicyclists. It’s a great resource, and you should check it out and add comments…let’s get some traffic headed their way (after all, they did put a permalink to on their blog site)!!

Tampa BayCycle Blog homepage

A father’s proudest moment

This doesn’t have anything to do with bike commuting or Fixed Gear Friday, but I still want to share it with you.

My 6 yr old is finally riding a bike without training wheels!