Tagged: Chicago

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.

This week Chicago celebrates Bike to Work Week – a month after the National Bike to Work Week. Usually by June Chicago has more favorable weather to attract more folks to get out on bikes.

Friday morning is the Bike To Work Rally at Daley Plaza from 7-9am. The city invites all bike commuters to celebrate the bike as a mode of commuting.

Join thousands of cyclists for live music and FREE continental breakfast provided by 7-Eleven. Also, all cyclists will receive a FREE T-shirt as well as use of the complimentary Kickstart by Mountain Dew Free Bike Valet.

Chicago's 2013 Bike Chicago T-Shirt (front)

Chicago’s 2013 Bike Chicago T-Shirt (front)

IMG_6618

I try to attend this rally every year because each year I find myself reuniting with friends and meeting new bike friends.

At last year (2012)’s Bike to Work Rally with bike friends.

Except for the horrific storms in the Chicagoland area on Wednesday, this week has been a great week (weather-wise) to be on the bike (commuting or riding just for fun).

To conclude the week of events, this Saturday Bike Chicago is hosting a feature event called Make Way For People Bike Tour. The Tour goes from 9:30am-12 noon; meet at Millenium Park. Register here.

May every week be bike to work week for you.

Chicago’s annual Bike the Drive event was yesterday, Sunday, May 26, 2013 – when Lake Shore Drive gets shut down to motor vehicle traffic and opened up to bicycles only for 5 hours of open riding. What great traffic — despite the chilly morning air, 20,000+ bicyclists riding over 30-miles of open roads — thank you, Active Trans.

Look ma! No cars!

Packet pick-up at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago was run like a well-oiled machine… high tech and ready to serve the thousands of riders who registered.

Packet Pick up

They even offered on-site registration … including from this overpass on the south section of Lake Shore Drive.

On-site registration from an overpass

This year I rode southbound first to the Museum of Science and Industry, pausing for a photo opp and people watching before heading back north…. but not before my morning coffee to propel me along the way

Coffee (hot and iced) offered by Chicago’s very own Dark Matter Coffee Roasters

Cheering section as riders enter Lake Shore Drive southbound

elliptigo bikes

Me and my shadow enjoying the ride

Sparkle!

Coming into the rest stop at the Museum of Science and Industry

Rest stop

Even the bikes took a chance to lay down on the grass before heading back north:

Bike nap

Meanwhile, along the lakefront bike path —

razor scooter-ing

All Chicago fans came out

Blackhawk fans

Volunteer smiles

Even the volunteers — at the job since before dawn — are full of smiles mid-morning

Park construction….

I opted not to ride too far north (since I already traverse the northern section of LSD enough and know the road conditions — ahem, potholes — are worse).

The Director of the Active Transportation Alliance takes a Divvy Bike Share bike for a test ride around the post-ride festival. Chicago’s Bike Share (Divvy) debuted at Bike the Drive.

Taking a Divvy bike share bike for a test spin

Divvy’s debut

Divvy bike share bike up close with Chicago’s 4 stars and the “sharrow” graphics

Hello, Divvy

For me the morning concluded under the “Big Top” tent where several advocacy/non-profit bike organizations and clubs had tables. I worked alongside the folks from Chicago’s online bike network – The Chainlink – and the Chicago Cycling Club; I was there with info about the annual Ride of Silence.

Ride of Silence in between The Chainlink and the Chicago Cycling Club

Also under the Big Top:

Working Bikes and folks from Northwest Indiana’s bike network South Shore Trails, plus Climate Cycle, Major Taylor Cycling Club (not in photo)

At the post-ride festival, participants could register to win a folding bike from REI, win prizes or buy a smoothie from Jamba Juice, pick up numerous samples and swag, shop for bike clothing, meet bike clubs and groups, and even climb the rock wall.

REI’s Novara folding bike up for raffle

Win a Jamba Juice smoothie?

samples…

bike gear shopping at a discount

Rock climbing in Grant Park

To be involved with the festival (setting up a table before and taking down after) gives me a greater appreciation for the scope of Bike the Drive… and any city-wide event wherever you may live that brings together so many folks for a like-minded fun activity. It’s a lot of work… and usually a LOT of fun.

This year’s party has packed up…

packing up, clearing out of the park

Hope you enjoy this year of fun bike activities (big or small).

So many cyclists… so many smiles! Please share your cycling smiles with us here or on Facebook.

Today – Wednesday, May 15, 2013, is the 10th Anniversary of the worldwide Ride of Silence (always the third Wednesday in May). What started in Dallas in 2003 as a memorial ride for a fallen cyclist has grown to become a worldwide memorial bike ride to honor all killed and injured cyclists. As of this morning, more than 360 locations have registered a Ride of Silence event, including at least 24 distinct international locations according to the Ride of Silence website.

The Ride of Silence is an opportunity for the global community of cyclists to ride together on the same night and time (locally) in memory of our fellow cyclists who have been injured or killed by distracted, drunk or otherwise impaired, negligent or careless motorists. This ride is our ride to show – in silent procession – that bicyclists are road users too. By riding together we aim to raise awareness of the need for all road users to Share The Road!

10th Anniversary Ride of Silence 2003-2013

10th Anniversary Ride of Silence 2003-2013

If you have lost a loved one due to a cycling crash, please post it as an “in memoriam” on the League of American Bicyclists Every Bicyclist Counts page.

Find a Ride of Silence near you at the Ride of Silence site.

If you’re in Chicago, join us at Daley Plaza beginning at 6pm, for a 6:45pm departure. The Chicago Ride will pass by the sites of several Ghost Bikes, which are bikes painted white and placed at the site of a fatal bike crash.

It’s never too late to show your support for the Ride of Silence via a donation or purchase of a token of the event.

See you at the Ride of Silence! One day. One time. World wide.

As a welcome addition to this year’s expanded Women’s Bicycling Forum, the League of American Bicyclists “put out a call for applications [to women leaders in the bike industry] and were absolutely inspired by the diverse array of vendors who responded and delighted to announce the lineup for our Women Bike Pop-up Shop.”

The idea to include vendors stemmed from the theme of this year’s Forum — Women Mean Business, and the vendors who participated in this pop-up shop served to showcase several of these female leaders in the bike industry.

Nearly 20 women-owned bike shops (and causes) decorated the lobby spaces of the National Women’s Bicycling Forum and provided a welcome opportunity for attendees to meet these talented vendors, learn more about their businesses and products, and snag some great deals on awesome bike accessories.

Forum attendees wander the women’s shops showcasing their unique bike accessories.

Cleverhood displayed their rain cape – with reflective accents woven into the fabric for evening visibility:

the reflective grid pattern in the light

And in normal light:

Cleverhood under normal lighting condition

Bird Industries offered stickers saying “Friends don’t let friends wear spandex”:

For keeping a skirt in place, Bird Industries sells a skirt garter, along with other bike accessories

More bike accessories from Bird Industries

Bling from GiveLoveCycle:

Jewelry bling from GLC

Elly Blue and Ellee Thalheimer each had their publications and stickers available:

Elly Blue alongside author Ellee Thalheimer

Ellee Thalheimer’s books

Elly Blue’s publications

Vespertine‘s eco-chic reflective gear:

Vespertine from NYC – chic reflective vest, jackets, belts and pins

Bicyclette‘s bike-inspired accessories for bike, self and home:

Bicyclette’s bike-inspired items

I was especially happy and proud to see Maria from PoCampo (from Chicago!) at this event:

Chicago-based PoCampo’s bike bags and purses

Bikie Girl Bloomers offered a clever way to bike in a skirt (with a skirt hitch- the “skitch”) and fun spandex for wearing under the skirt:

Bikie Girl Bloomers

Nuu-Muu dresses:

Nuu-Muu dresses make biking in sportswear fashionable and easy

Bandbox Bicycle Helmets with their own helmet covers:

This line of bike helmets offers its own bike covers, so you can cycle in your own “hat” style.

Vaya Bags use recycled canvas and recycled bicycle tubes to make bags, purses, belts, wallets, etc.:

Vaya Bags offer items from recycled canvas and bike tubes… I bought myself a cool belt.

In fact, I may be reviewing the Vaya Bags pannier hybrid bag :

Pannier Hybrid Bag complete with backpack shoulder straps, plus clips to attach to a rear bike rack – so you can carry it multiple ways.

Jacquie Phelan of the Women’s Mountain Bike and Tea Society (WOMBATS) also graced the pop-up show with her tunes:

As listed on the League of American Bicyclists’ site, the complete list of Women Bike Pop-up Shop vendors included:

Bandbox LLC
Bicyclette
Taliah Lempert, Bicycle Paintings
Bikie Girl Bloomers
Bird Industries
Elly Blue, Taking the Lane Media
Cleverhood
Cyclofemme
Georgena Terry, Heart of Steel bicycles
Georgia in Dublin
GiveLoveCycle
Iva Jean
Nutcase
Nuu-Muu
Po Campo
Recycle-A-Bicycle
Eleanor Thalheimer, Cycling Sojourner
Vaya Bags
Verspertine

It took all my restraint to not buy something from every vendor. I did buy myself a few items – that were easily packable in my suitcase – but I admired everything I saw and every woman I met. These women have the creativity to meet the needs of fellow female cyclists.

With all this talent in the bike industry, there truly is something for everyone and women need not feel that the bike world is male-dominated. Just demand that your local bike shop stocks these items.