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Friday Fun: Crazy Commuting Accessories!

We’ve all seen them: bike accessories that make you go hmm… whoa!… huh??!…weird…I wonder who came up with that??

Granted, quite a few of these show up on our friend Matt C.‘s blog Bikehacks… but some of them actually make it out into the world as retail options!

Some of these things aren’t necessarily bad – many fulfill their intended function, at least to some extent – but they either look silly, make you feel ridiculous, or just plain ARE ridiculous simply by existing! With that, here are a few of our picks…

1. Bike Umbrellas.

Drybike!

Yes, this technically might work (especially if you’re riding a Dutch bike in the Netherlands, though even then I’m skeptical). However, it looks kind of ridiculous… and I know on my commutes rain often is not falling straight down!
You could also, of course, just protect your head:

The Nubrella

2. Leather handles to carry your bike. Some may call it brilliant… we call it kinda silly!

Walnut Studiolo's bike carry handle

3. If handles to carry your bike are silly, then we don’t even have words for this (image courtesy Gizmodo):
All I can say is that the makers of this have clearly never had the bottom of a six pack fall out… and also need reminders about things like “panniers” and “backpacks.”

4. Sideways safety flags. Granted, these appear to work at keeping cars a little further away from you… so if that’s a problem, you just may be a candidate for one of these (though the one we reviewed apparently is no longer available). But… they look just a little bit too much like you forgot to remove something after a parade.

Flagging

5. Huge pants-cuff-savers. Do they work? For the most part, yes. Do they make you look like you’re riding against doctor’s orders? Also yes.

But I have a note!



6. Skinny jeans for cyclists. Umm, yeah. Maybe people who only walk next to their bikes can fit into these, but for the most part the guys and gals here can’t… and it’s not because of our rear ends! We have calves and quads, people!

7. This next one’s not technically an accessory… but it deserves inclusion. It is… the Fliz. All the disadvantages of biking combined with all the disadvantages of walking… plus you get to stick your head in the middle of the frame! What could POSSIBLY go wrong??

We’re sure there are other crazy commuting accessories out there – what gems do you have to share??

Velo Transit Metro 20 Pannier

For the past six weeks, I’ve been testing the Velo Transit (VT) Edge 40 backpack, as well as the Metro 20 Pannier. My review of the Edge 40 can be found here.

The Metro Transit is one of VT’s more basic panniers, and retails for $119. However, that doesn’t mean VT didn’t put a lot of thought into this pannier. The mounting hardware – what VT calls “KlickFix” – works extremely well – I tried it on 2 very different racks and didn’t have a problem mounting it to either. Adjustment and attachment are both reliable and intuitive.

Inside, there is one unzippered and one zippered pocket – both mounted to the hard plastic shell that gives the Metro 20 its structure. The rest is all open storage. On the outside, there is one large zip pocket with a vertical zip – however, this is not waterproof, so don’t stick your laptop there on a rainy day!

Like the Edge 40, the waterproof claim is one of the high points of this pannier. Also like the Edge 40, I never got to check it out on my commute during our test period. I did subject the pannier to the same sprinkler test (about half an hour), and it passed with flying colors – no water made it in! I wasn’t surprised though – the top of the Metro 20 is designed very similarly to waterproof bags I’ve used while kayaking and hiking, although it has an extra strap to pull the top back into a nicer shape.

The Metro 20 proved to be a great regular commuting pannier. Although simple, I was able to get everything I normally carry into it – in an organized fashion – without any trouble. The one caveat I’d mention is that it might be on the small side for commuting during colder weather, when I might want to carry bulkier clothing at some point. However, you can always buy 2 (or the smaller Metro 15) if you need extra capacity!

Product Review: Velo Transit Edge 40 Backpack

Velo Transit Edge 40

For the past six weeks, I’ve been testing the Velo Transit (VT) Edge 40 backpack, as well as the Metro 20 Pannier (which I’ll review in my next post). My version of the Edge 40 was the men’s medium (it also comes in a men’s large and women’s small) and also included the add-on water bottle pocket. The pack itself retails for $225 and the bottle carrier is a $20 add-on.

The Edge 40 (the 40 stands for 40 liters, by the way) falls into Velo Transit’s “Urban” category of bags, and while I’m a little puzzled by their distinction of “urban” and “commuter” – to me those terms evoke similar needs – it makes a lot of sense as an everyday pack. It has a cavernous main pocket with a roll top and 4 zippered pockets on the back (front?) – two that bump out a little (VT calls it a “volumetric pocket”) to give some volume, and two flat pockets behind those – one half-length and one full-length. VT’s site says the flat pockets are for things like locks, wallets, computers, etc. and the “volumetric” ones are for tools and a “catch-all.” Unfortunately, I read that description AFTER using the product, so I ended up putting everything in what was apparently the wrong place… but thanks to this experience, I can reassure any hesitant buyers that the tools pocket will carry a wallet, the wallet/valuables pocket will carry tools, and the “catch-all” pocket will carry a lock.

Over all of those pockets goes a zip-down “storm shield” that also happens to be bright yellow and is very good for visibility. It can roll up into a small velcroed pocket at the top, but I generally thought visibility was a good idea and rode with it down – it also gave the pack a sleek look that I liked.

The Edge 40 is a highly adjustable pack – despite being sized – and I was able to get it to fit me very well. It also had enough adjustments to cinch down whatever I wanted to carry so it wasn’t banging around inside the generally larger-than-necessary main pocket. Speaking of which – the Edge 40 is probably larger than necessary for most commuters. I probably had room to bring two sets of clothes and two lunches in this pack with room left over. If I were to buy a pack from Velo Transit, I might go for the Edge 30 – it’s a little smaller but otherwise identical.

While I overall had a very positive experience, I do have a few nitpicks with the Edge 40:
– Because it is a fairly large pack, my visibility when glancing over my shoulder was compromised. I was able to adapt somewhat, but I could not see as well as I can with other packs or bags.
– There are a lot of straps. This is generally good, but the ends flap all over the place, sometimes hitting me in the back of the neck and making me think I had just gotten hit (or bitten) by a bug. Some type of retention would be nice.
– The price is pretty high. To be fair I think Velo Transit is providing high quality for that price, but it is higher than many similar products.

Although the waterproof claim is one of the high points of this pack, I never got to check it out on my commute during our test period (yes, I had to give it back!). In an effort to give full rigor to the test period, I did expose the pack to a prolonged watering period with my sprinkler – much to the amusement of my family and dog!

The slighlty strange pose is because I'm holding my 1-year-old, who wanted in on the fun

Inquisitive Canine

According to my very scientific tests, the Edge 40 main compartment passes the waterproof test after approximately 30 minutes under direct sprinkler. The “storm shield” proved to be slightly less effective – paper I placed directly underneath it still got slightly wet – but the contents of the outer pockets were still dry.

Still dry!

In the end I have to give a lot of credit to Velo Transit for the quality they provide – if you’re looking for a commuting backpack and the price doesn’t dissuade you, the Edge 40 is a very strong contender.

Friday Musings – Anywhere But Here?

Molly over Old Delhi

Commuting conditions in Old Delhi, India

Happy Aloha Friday bike commuters.  This Friday’s Musing is dedicated to any commuters out there who move from city to city, state to state, or country to country more frequently than the rest of us.  As I am traveling on and off for the summer, and prepping for a future uprooting once again, I find myself faced with the challenge of parting with my dear bikes or sending ’em packing along with me.  Then I got thinking…(I know, I know, careful with that thinking cap) if I were to up and move to a new city or place, is there anyplace in the world where I wouldn’t feel comfortable bike commuting?!  Maybe you really have to feel each city or town out for yourself before you can make that decision, but I already left the #1 listed state in Bike-Friendliness (Washington) to move to the lowly ranked #41 listed state on the list (Hawaii) and we still choose pedal power as our mode of transit everyday in Honolulu!  I know that for Boyfriend and I, bikeability plays a big part in where we choose to sign a rental agreement.  What about you guys?  Is there a place you’ve visited, lived, or will soon be living where you’d refuse to commute by bike? And WHY?!  Too dangerous, too hot, too cold, bad roads, or “well, a donkey just makes more sense here”  – whatever your reason may be, what’s your “Anywhere But Here” for bike commuting?  Comments box, please!

Two Girls and Two Bikes in the City of Light!

Salut les Bike Commuters! Mir.I.Am is fresh off the jet from France and ready to report on the lovely life on two wheels from the City of Light – Paris.  I just spent several weeks in France (oui, oui, depending on your point of view, cue a “scowl of disgust” or “sigh of extreme jealousy,” dear readers).  Ever since investigating the bike share options in Paris and Bordeaux last year, I’ve been anxious to see Paris from a bike’s eye view.

From the Bike's Eye View in Paris

Two Girls – one with a Backache. My Parisienne friend was incapable of taking the Metro around the city.  Thanks to a chronic back injury, she was on intense medication with doctor’s orders claiming no standing on her feet for more than two minutes at a time. Walking was out of the question and the Velib bikes near her house were always checked out, since she lives on the top of a hill.  Lucky for us, the two bikes in her garage were the perfect option for two girls touring around the City of Light!  We packed up our locks, bags, and water for the road, and set off for a day of errands and sight-seeing rolled into one!

Marion on her B*Twin step through, with my pink bag in the basket.

Two M’s: Marion & Mir.I.Am. Just like Task Force Chicago, we played follow the leader, with Marion as the leader and me the tourist sheep on two wheels.  It’s so stress free to follow a seasoned local bike commuter when you’re brain is in vacation mode, no need to tape maps to handlebars or plan out routes!  A bike commuting tip from Marion: make sure to loop part of your bag over your handlebars if your bag is in the front basket since bags are easily snatched at red lights or while biking through slow traffic in Paris.

My Parisian ride was the silver "Le Super"

An atypical bike commute for me, I was without helmet (don’t judge), blessed with a slow-leaking back tire, riding a single speed (by default due to broken cables), with a busted built-in generator headlight, but hey – Le Super bike was $free.99 with legit street cred.  I mean, look at the thing!  I climbed aboard with enthusiasm and a smile, as we pedaled through Paris running errands with plenty of scenic architecture along the way like the Paris Opera.

Flowers in your back rack!

Everywhere you look, bikes in the street.

Strangely enough, I noticed that bike lanes and routes were often in the opposite direction of traffic on One-Way streets.  We navigated several roundabouts, green painted bike lanes, bike boxes, sandy paths in parks, and construction zones.  The two girls on two bikes snaked through the city, avoid congested boulevards in favor of smaller back alleys.  Marion explained to me that we give right of way to the traffic coming from the right (at least this is what I think she said in French), and that there were several laws we were breaking but she’s never been caught!  Welp, no time to ask questions, so we ride on and do as the locals do.  Off to run our errands: picking up some new duds for me and maybe some bling bling.

First errand - pick up a new outfit for me, just my size!

Off to the next destination!

Second errand, pick up my necklace from the jewelers...

Two hours of Biking = What an appetite! All smiles and a light sweat later, with errands under way… time for a tasty lunch in a car free zone at Rue Montorgueil!  Merci to Marion for taking me to another great local spot.  There were tons of bikes shackled up against the fences, and the pedestrian quarter was short but sweet.  Sunshine, cigarettes, and salad at a tiny table and chairs at an outdoor cafe was exactly what we needed to recharge.  Bon appetit, mes Bike Commuters.

Getting hungry after a few hours of running errands, off to find FOOD!

The best parking spots - for BIKES only in the pedestrian quarter!

Nom, nom. Salad time.

Two Bikes round up the Sites. We ended our day (a total of 6 hours of girly fun bike time) by taking the scenic route home, through Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  In all my visits to Paris, I had never been to this famous cemetary.  We rolled up to the automobile entry and were halted by the lady at the guardshack.  To our surprise, she told us it was interdit to bring bikes into the cemetary!  We expalined to her that we fully intended to walk our bikes through, as it is pretty steep, bumpy with cobble stones, and I was riding Le Super default single-speed.  But, there was no reasoning with the law, she said we would have to lock our velos outside the cemetery and walk around inside without them.  We left the auto entry and turned the corner, where we decided to sneak in via the pedestrian entry and carry our bikes up the staircase.  I went up first with Le Super to check for a guard, so Marion wouldn’t have to carry the B*Twin up the steps if we were going to get caught.  Lucky for us, a group of 30 middle schoolers were at the top of the staircase, creating a perfect diversion for us to sneak past…  Merveilleuses Marion and Mir.I.Am made it into Pere Lachaise!

Well worth the effort of sneaking in with our bikes!

The cemetery is enormous, like a mini-neighborhood

The Bike’s Eye View is the BEST Eye View of  Paris. So touring about Paris from the saddle of a junky old bike, I decided I liked what I saw.  Two girls playing follow the leader on two bikes in the City of Light was the best way to get around Paris in the summer.  Imagine all the things we would’ve missed in the Metro!  Imagine how sweaty we would be if we had to hoof it around the city instead.  It was so fast to get around by bike that it made the big city feel small.  Enjoy your summer, and enjoy your vacation commutes, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

A little Bike Love from France!