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Tag Archive: Commuter backpack

First look: Ergon BX4 Backpack

A few weeks back, the good folks at Ergon USA sent over their new BX4 backpack after I reminded them of a review we did a few years ago. The BX4 is designed for “bike weekends” and MTB expeditions, with a cavernous cargo capacity and a drool-worthy checklist of features. It also happens to make a pretty fantastic commuting backpack.

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Back when we looked at their BD1 pack in 2008, the only real complaint was the overall size/carrying capacity of the bag. With a rated cargo capacity of 30 Liters, the BX4 offers the commuter plenty of room to carry work items, and then some.

We’ve just started the review process…lots of weighted-down rides with it to see how it shakes out. Since there are so many features, however, we wanted to offer a “first look” to show you what makes the BX4 tick. First, the construction: Ergon borrows a page from the ultralight backpacking craze and specs light materials for the BX4. Lightweight ripstop nylon instead of heavier Cordura for the main bag, airmesh padding on the back panel and shoulder straps, mesh interior pockets and lighter strapping makes this bag, despite its complexity and size, weigh in at just a hair over 2 lbs. That is LIGHT!

The back of the bag is stiffened by a light plastic internal framesheet and supported by two moldable aluminum strips. Both offer great structure to the bag and protect the wearer’s back from pointy objects inside the bag. The aluminum strips further offer the user the ability to bend the bag to follow the contours of the back for a truly custom fit and decent air flow.

Coupled with the stiffening features, the shoulder straps are attached to the bag by means of a nylon-covered plastic sheet (Ergon calls this “Perfect Fit”). This one is adjustable for a user’s torso length by a hook-and-loop strap running up the centerline of the bag. Ergon calls this setup Perfect Fit:

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Ergon’s Adaptive Carrier System consists of the shoulder straps and load compression. The tops of the shoulder straps loop through a pair of green anodized sliders that act as sort of a “living hinge”…giving the shoulder harness and cargo load the ability to float and find its own perfect place on the user’s shoulders. It’s hard to envision, and sounds hokey, but it works like a charm.

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For organization freaks (such as myself), the BX4 offers plenty to soothe the soul. The bag is divided into four major compartments, each with additional pockets. At the back is the hydration bladder sleeve, which just so happens to fit a laptop inside. Ergon claims a 17″ laptop will go in there, but my old fattie wouldn’t. A 15″ model slid in there with room to spare.

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Next up is the full-depth main compartment, with plenty of room for books, lunch, spare clothing or shoes. The main compartment has a couple of mesh organizer pockets sewn into it.

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The third compartment is a sort of “half compartment”, with a depth of about half the bag. It has room for smaller items, tools, and the like. It also has several organizer pockets made from mesh and covered by a nylon flap.

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The last, outermost compartment is the helmet cradle. It is mostly open, with a nylon outer and generous mesh corners. The straps that secure it in place also serve to compress the load in the main bag. There’s even a small zippered stash pocket in there! You can see how the helmet fits up there in the first photo of this article.

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Alright, alright…that is a LOT of detail to sort through. So, in the review (to be published when we get back from Interbike), we’ll talk about how it fits, how it carries a load, and all the other juicy details. For now, the Ergon BX4 shows great promise as a very capable commuter backpack. Stay tuned for that review!

Friday Musings – Top 3 Must-Have Bike Commuting Accessories?

Well, well, well… the weekend is just around the corner, just in time for FRIDAY MUSINGS!  Or… just in time for you to get your Fandango tickets to the Hunger Shames.  Before the spring time blooms assault your sinuses with a full-on allergy attack, I wanted to get all sentimental and mushy-gushy over Bike Commuting like the leftover V-day chocos I found in my desk drawer at work.

Bike Commuting in Spring - Bring on the Sunshine!

We have posted a bajillion reviews on Bike Commuters accessories, gear, and products that range from frivolous to frugal over the past many moons.  The “basic needs” of each cycle monster for an enjoyable commute vary according to the rider and the location.  I’m the first to admit I have an emotional (let’s hope it’s not physical) attachment to my bikes – giving them names, identities, and custom makeovers… So that made me wonder, what about accessories?  If you could only take three items with you on your commute each day, what would you choose!?  (And your bike is a given….!  We could go on and on about what makes the perfect commuter bike, but I that’s a whole ‘nother love affair.)

Here’s my top three Must-Have Bike Commuting Accessories to get us started:

RL loves the Whitey Von, but any backpack will do!

1)  Any kind of backpack – I used to be all about the rack, but have switched back to the backpack in the past few years!  I love backpack.

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So low-tech, but it WORKS!

2)  Watch face taped to my handlebars – So unimpressive and borderline ghetto, this watch is a must for me because it’s easy to read in the morning to determine how much time I have left to get to the office.  I taped it to the mount where I used to keep my wireless Cateye from the days of trying to be “fast” – clockin’ 12 mph baby!

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I love BLINKY LIGHTS more than helmets, pants, or chalupas.

3)  Blinky Lights: One rear and one headlight, these are a must for me, I have several kinds around the house and will grab one red and one white everyday.  A must-have for me as I am a blinky addict.

So cycle ladies and gents, do you have any top three accessories that you can’t commute without?  Share with us, and in the spirit of Effie Trinket, “Happy Bike Commuting! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”

Enjoy your weekend, bike commuters!

Velo Transit Announces New Website and Product Line

Our new friends at Velo Transit just sent us a press release prior to Interbike, and we thought we’d share it:

SEATTLE, WA, 09/14/2010 – The Velo Transit website will focus on American made packs and bags, produced directly by Velo Transit in Seattle WA, as well as other bike commuter and cyclo-oriented items produced by other US manufacturers. The company believes that a collection of products designed, manufactured and sold domestically will be more responsive to the needs and wants of the consumer. Velo Transit offers also a higher quality alternative to the standard Made in China products of the major brands.

The initial product line consists of:
two men’s and two women’s specific laptop backpacks;
one messenger backpack;
one messenger bag in XS-L sizes;
and various accessories for both packs and messenger bags.

The sized men’s and women’s packs will be appreciated by men with longer torsos and women who have had trouble finding packs that fit their shorter torsos and feminine curves. The messenger bags as well as the messenger packs have RF-welded polyurethane coated nylon linings, which make them 100% waterproof.

Located in Seattle WA, Velo Transit believes it has the perfect location to build and refine waterproof Urban cycling gear. Given that bicycle commuters count for 10% of the overall cycling market, this specialty niche has long been overlooked and is eager for products designed specifically for them by fellow commuters right here in the USA.

Contact Information:

Velo Transit
815 Airport Way S., STE B135
Seattle, WA 98134
Tel. (206) 623-1233
Fax (206) 623-1695
www.velotransit.com
sales@velotransit.com

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We’re looking forward to checking out the Velo Transit line in person while we’re at the big show in Las Vegas…and with a little luck, we’ll be able to get a sample or two to put through the ringer.

Seal Line Urban Backpack Review

Seal Line, the makers of dry bags and packs for watersports enthusiasts, have created an “Urban” line of waterproof bags (backpacks and cross-strap shoulder bags) aimed at bicycle commuters, messengers or anyone else needing a rugged way to carry items on a bike.

The Seal Line Urban Backpack

The good folks at Seal Line recently sent me a large backpack to review. I’ve worn it on a few bike rides and have tested it in my backyard laboratory and am quite impressed. Here’s the manufacturer’s quick description:

-Volume: 2270 cu. in./37 liters
-Size: 10 x 14.5 x 23 in./25 x 35.5 x 58 cm
-QuickClip Closure
-Modular Accessory Pocket™ System
-PVC-Free 300D PU-Coated Polyester and Scrim-Reinforced Urethane
-External Pocket and Carry Handle

This bag is pretty cavernous — a large single compartment underneath the roll-down flap closure and a smallish external pocket with a waterproof zipper and rainflap protecting it. There is no internal organizer system…neat-freaks who like to keep their goodies organized need not apply. Here’s a shot of the inside of the bag:
The inside of the bag -- a really large compartment for swallowing up your goodies!

The bag’s shoulder straps and back panel are made of a dense, perforated foam covered in rubberized mesh. Both of these features increase ventilation. In addition to the shoulder straps, there are both waist and sternum straps made of nylon webbing with quick-release buckles. The waist straps tuck away into hidden compartments when not needed. Finally, there is a built-in web carrying handle at the top of the harness.
The harness system -- padded and ventilated

I loaded up this bag with a pair of dress shoes, library books, a couple of large towels and a few other assorted items and took the bag for a couple 8-10 mile rides. I estimated the load weight somewhere around 20 lbs. Overall, the bag was surprisingly comfortable — the harness padding works fine and an internal stiff plastic sheet against the back wall prevents sharp corners from digging into the wearer’s back. The harness system keeps the bag from swaying or shifting as I rode, even under high RPMs. I can’t say that about my current messenger bag, which moves all over the place even with tight cross-straps!
20+ lbs of load handled quite comfortably!

Despite the perforated back padding, you WILL get a sweaty back from riding with this bag — it covers so much of a rider’s back that “SBS” (Sweaty Back Syndrome) is unavoidable. Thank the stars this bag is waterproof, right?

And just how waterproof is this bag? Seal Line rates it as “watertight” — able to withstand quick submersions and able to float if dropped in the water. The bag’s seal is really quite simple. It consists of a stiff plastic lip on one edge of the opening and an elasticized “Quick Clip” closure that holds the bag shut. A rider simply fills the bag, presses out any excess air, rolls the bag’s top two or three times and engages the quick clip to seal it. It is a quick, ingenious and foolproof method of closure, and it will SEAL this bag!!! I filled the backpack with newspapers and proceeded to direct a high-pressure jet of water directly at the rolled seal and other parts of the bag. The bag shrugged off this onslaught, and when I opened it to check the inside, everything was bone-dry. VERY impressive!

Durability over the long haul shouldn’t be a concern. The bag’s material is tough stuff, and the seams are all radio welded over a wide margin. The materials and construction of this bag are top notch: tight, even stitching on the harness system; no odd puckers or sloppy areas anywhere on the bag.

Really, the only negative mark I can give this bag is that it is too big for my personal commuting needs –I just don’t carry enough stuff to justify such a large bag. This bag is probably better suited for high-mileage commuters and bicycle couriers who need a high-capacity bag — folks who have to carry a lot of stuff and be sure that it arrives safe, clean and dry.

Oh, did I mention this bag is B-I-G?
My handsome assistant -- 37 lbs. of love!

Check out Seal Line’s complete lineup…I am sure there’s a bag solution for almost every rider!