Tag Archive: accessory

Product Review: Cycle Cuffs

For those of us who don’t live in SoCal or other similarly moderate climates, riding in longer pants is somewhat inevitable. If we want to keep those pants clean and not tangled in the chain, there are a couple options. One is a chain guard – and if you’ve got one you pretty much can skip this article! However, those don’t come on most bikes made in the U.S. so most of us make do with rubber bands or the slightly-more-advanced reflective velcro bands found in many bike shops. The problem is that while those keep your pants cuff out from getting caught in the chain, they generally don’t keep your pants leg clean. What to do? Well, the guys at Cycle Cuffs think they’ve got a solution to that problem for you!

The Cycle Cuffs generally come in pairs (though you can order a single if you really want). There are now several options available in terms of color (I reviewed the “future classic,” which is a basic black ripstop polyester fabric). They all come with velcro attachment, reflective stripes at top and bottom, and a large ring in the middle. The ring is so that they can be threaded onto a lock (U-lock or cable) and they stay with the bike. I was initially skeptical of this feature (and wasn’t sure about the styling), but ended up routinely locking the Cycle Cuffs up with my bike as that was the best way to not accidentally leave them at my desk!

So how did these do on the bike? Very well actually! They were easy to attach (loosely, so they don’t crease pant legs), stayed on without a problem, and kept my pants legs grease-free and crease-free. Over the past couple months they’ve become part of my normal bike-to-work gear, and overall I highly recommend them to keep your pants cuffs/legs clean and out of the way of the chain. Yes, they’re a bit more expensive than a basic reflective strap (and run about the same per cuff as the Leg Shield I tested earlier this year), but I think they’re more effective than either, and I plan to continue using mine until they wear out (unlikely to be soon, they seem quite tough!).

Will the Cycle Cuffs revolutionize your cycling experience? Probably not… but they don’t need to, because what they’re meant to do they do really darn well, and sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference.

Review: Po Campo Rack Tote

For several weeks I got to test Chicago’s very own Po Campo Rack Tote during the perfect time of the year to be heading out around town on a bike.

My set-up with the Po Campo
po campo rack tote

Versus my usual voluminous pannier set-up

First order of business was to empty my current “gender-neutral” pannier and repack this rack tote for my daily bike commute. The founders of Po Campo say that their bike products “bring Functional Freedom to women who bike.”

I was skeptical that such a bag could possibly suit my needs and carry all the odds and ends I often find myself toting around, so I packed and unpacked it on a day I met a friend for a picnic lunch to test if this stylish bag could indeed be functional:

To my amazement, this tote held all my needs – spare tubes/tools, mini pump, hat, cosmetic bag, random papers, camera, rain jacket, snacks, wallet, keys and cell phone – plus a Neat Sheet for laying out our picnic lunch. It’s a real “Mary Poppins” bag. If I needed to carry an extra pair of shoes, I’m sure I could fit those in the bag, too, though I may suggest adding a separate shoe/large item compartment that would help keep the grime of shoes off the rest of the bag’s items.

Unlike the awkward handles that can make carrying my pannier unwieldy, this tote’s adjustable shoulder strap tucks neatly away while riding and allows for ease of carrying off the bike.
po campo off the bike

This bag comes with reflective striping on the velcro straps along the front and back – that also serve to stabilize the bag on the bike rack as needed and can be a useful place to attach a rear light. These straps will not work quite as well to stabilize the bag on a rack with a solid platform since there is no place to loop the straps in the center. Perhaps straps that loop around at each corner of the rack (like a typical trunk bag) could offer more stability. I also would prefer additional reflective striping along the side of the bag – maybe added to the adjustable straps that loop around the bottom of the rack – so as to increase side visibility. With the solid gold vinyl tote I tested, however, the fabric provided some of its own reflectiveness. In fact, this rack tote/purse got noticed quite a bit during my rides with it and I received plenty of compliments and questions from both guys and gals.

reflection at night

The fabrics Po Campo uses are water and fade resistant; it seemed the gold vinyl may have been a bit more water resistant – and the couple times I did get caught in a rain shower, no water got into the bag. Even without waterproof zippers, I had the shoulder strap tucked in along the top of the bag and it rested over the top zipper to sufficiently keep the rain out.

On the bike commuting days that I knew I might need more cargo space – like for that grocery trip after work – the rack tote fit nicely on the rack with my pannier. My pannier does not rise above the level of the rack, so it did not interfere with the tote resting on the rack; if you are using it with a pannier that will not allow the bag to site flush on the top of the rack, the bag may tilt to one side.
Sitting flush:
rack tote with pannier

Slight tilt:
rack tote tilt

This bike rack tote comes with ample interior space – not so cavernous that your items will get lost or buried but not limiting. This gold tote came with a flashy purple lining and and a single zippered interior pocket which was good for holding a slim wallet , pen or other small incidentals.
interior lining/pocket

The external pocket is also flush against the bag so as not to catch on your clothes when you carry it off the bike. For me, it held my keys and cell phone which I wanted to keep readily accessible. A few extra conveniently accessible pockets / compartments would have been useful for quickly stowing my bike light and computer when I would park my bike.
exterior pocket

The ladies (Emily and Maria) behind Po Campo continue to update their products and add new styles to their bag and accessories line-up. Having tested this bag, I can say they know their audience and have developed bags that will not disappoint.
emily and maria

I enjoyed bike commuting all around Chicago with this sleek Po Campo rack tote.
po campo in motion

A bit of trivia – do you know where the name Po Campo comes from?

If you guessed the character in Lonesome Dove, you’re right!
Just like the character, this Po Campo dances to the beat of its own drum , developing a bike business geared at female cyclists and keeping its production running locally in Chicago.

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

Review: SKS Chainboard

Last fall the folks at SKS sent me a new Chainboard to review. For years I’ve been carefully cuffing my right pant leg but was still getting grease on the cuff — not very stylish and certainly not practical especially in the colder months.

sks chainboard

Before the Chainboard, my bike was a lot like most bikes with an exposed chain.
before chainboard

Finally in the winter, I got the Chainboard installed on my commuter and really put it to the test for the winter commutes – and it performed!
after chainboard

On my former commuter I had installed the SKS fenders, so I had high expectations for durability and quality from this aftermarket chainguard system. As SKS says, this part is made of a combination of shock-resistant plastic elements and SKS-Chromoplastics-Technology to give it advantages of being both extremely lightweight with higher stability. It’s also designed to fit most bikes and accommodate both front and rear derailleurs. I’d been seeking some chainguard system comparable to the ones I’d seen on urban Dutch bikes, but was having trouble since I needed it to fit my commuter with its 5-speed cassette.

Now that it’s nearly summer, I have logged quite a few commutes with this Chainboard and it’s still going strong doing what it’s supposed to do – transforming my old Schwinn Worldsport (with 5-speeds) into a bike I can take anywhere without the muss and fuss of pant cuffing. For me, though, old habits die hard and I still often find myself cuffing so as to keep the pant leg from flapping mindlessly in the Chicago wind.

Luckily my friend Alfredo who works as a mechanic assisted with the installation of this accessory. (Disclaimer: While I do not consider myself a star bike mechanic, I do like to think that I could do certain repairs and maintenance when necessary. I do usually default to my local bike shop for their added expertise and efficiency, though.) To properly install the Chainboard, you will need the right tools and have some good bike maintenance knowledge – or simply visit your local bike shop.

When Alfredo first tried to install the Chainboard, he faced a few challenges. I had received a detailed set of installation instructions which clearly state to check the specs of your crank to verify its compatibility with the Chainboard. For my bike, the problem came when trying to install the Chainboard between the bottom bracket shell and the bottom bracket itself and the resulting impact on the spacing for it to fit properly with crankset, and it affected the chain-line. For installation on my particular bike, he simply changed the position of the chainring to align it better and so it wouldn’t brush against the Chainboard. He also had to cut it to at the end to fit the geometry of my bike; the Chainboard comes rather long so that it can adjust to fit nearly any size bike.

From start to finish, the installation is a somewhat laborious process, but well worth it in the end. However, purchasers may want to factor installation costs/time into the cost of this product. My local bike shop would have charged about $35 for the total labor involved: removing the crankset and bottom bracket, replacing them and adjusting the chain-line and finally cutting the piece to fit … plus any adjustment of a front derailleur (which my bike does not have).

Once installed, however, the Chainboard does usually allow for easy access to make adjustments to the chain or derailleurs and keep all components clean. My only difficulty came in the Spring when my stretched out and gritty chain skipped and fell off the chainring; the chain had fallen between the Chainboard and the chainring and just required a bit more patience on my part to get the chain back in place.
up close
My mechanic friend Alfredo’s assessment reaffirms my own – that this Chainboard, despite being plastic, holds up well, does not add much weight, comes in a variety of sizes to fit most chainrings and adapts to nearly any bike; the only drawbacks may be the installation costs and the slightly added difficulty to reach chain if a problem occurs when on the road.

This SKS Chainboard does come in several sizes to fit nearly any bike setup. I got the largest size – 199 mm, 46 – 48 teeth – since my front chainring is a 46.

Now – I have read and heard from others that this Chainboard is ugly and not stylish. Well, my commuter El Toro is black and the all black Chainboard sleekly blends and hides the grease from the chain and the front chainring.
sleek chainboard on bike

So, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and I think El Toro looks just fine – and me arriving without greasy clothes or legs is even finer.
riding with chainboard

Review Disclaimer