BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: commuter bags

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!

Commuter Profile: Danny Abalos

Howdy Bike Commuters… We put out a call to arms for Commuter Profiles back in the day, and we had some lukewarm responses.  Since none of the velo monsters who initially emailed us have responded with a completed questionnaire, I have decided to cajole my friend Danny from NYC into submitting his Commuter Profile!  We hope the photos inspire you to share your commuter profile story too.  Get ready for more silly sarcasm and major hipster points… without further ado, Danny Abalos’ 15 minutes of Bike Commuter Internet fame:

Danny Abalos and his red single speed Schwinn in a white spaceship (a.k.a. his office)

Name: Danny Abalos


How long have you been a bike commuter?

5 years since college + 5 years at college before that. So, 10 years!

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I hail from California, but I hate driving and traffic, so I got a job in NYC which is super bike friendly and it’s totally extra hipster points when you ride your bike everywhere. The subway is cool too, but bikes rule. My ride to work is a pretty easy 3 or 4 miles of  the beautiful bike lane-lined Brooklyn waterfront.  It only takes about 20 minutes, allowing me to get to work only 20 minutes late every day!

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

I already mentioned the extra hipster points right? So you can assume that I have five hundred friends on facebook because I ride a bike.  Also I never buy an unlimited metro card because they are lame, so I save about a hundred dollars per month to spend on things like… not gas.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I work at an Architecture firm in New York City.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I have a lovely minimal shiny red single speed Schwinn with an awesome “ratio” that I know nothing about.  Editor’s side bar: one time Danny g-chatted me telling me the story of how some guys were admiring his bike on the way to work, and they kept asking him what his ratio was.  I told him they meant his GEAR ratio, but that I also did not know an easy way to answer the question! HA.

The red single-speed Shwinn with street cred and something about "ratios"

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

Sure, but it’s more of a photo thing. I see lots of public art (or maybe it’s wannabe graffiti) during my commute that is pretty cool!  Plus, check out the dope view of the city I get twice a day over the Pulanski Bridge as I ride from Long Island City to Brooklyn to and from work.

Clever stencil...

Does this count as public art?

Along the bike path.

More art on the bike path.

Scenic Waterfront views.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Nobody is phased, come on this is Brooklyn!  Honestly though, I’m just a regular guy like everybody else.

How about bicycling advocacy?  Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

I try to get my friends to bike everywhere by saying that we are in a bike gang, but I still don’t have a name for it yet.  Editor’s side bar: this is actually true and not sarcasm.  Our other friend, Justin, was bummed that he doesn’t have a bike yet so he can’t join the unnamed architecture bike gang.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Sure, check out my ghetto fender I made out of an aluminum foil box today cuz the roads were a little moist in the pictures over there.

Danny's bike on the way into town- check out the killer view (I'm obviously talking about the view of his Aluminum foil box "fender"!)

Thanks for sharing, Danny… All the readers out there must be jealous of your separated bike path and green painted bike lanes – I know I AM!  So, if there are any other Cycle Ladies and Gents interested in submitting their commuter profiles, please email us at info{at}bikecommuters{dot}com.  It’s so easy and fun, even Danny can do it.

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!

Preview: Bontrager Funk Trunk – Party in a rack top bag!

Cooler and Tunes on the go!

Exciting news, me Bike Commuters!  Trek’s Bontrager Funk Trunk is in our line-up for product reviews.  To give you a preview here are some photos.  Looks like a fun bag for a picnic, trip to the beach, or mini-flash mobs and impromptu dance parties.  A cooler with a built-in speaker connection, this looks like it should be a fun one.  We’ll test this funky trunk out and get you the review just in time for the nice commuting Spring/Summer season.  Check out the pics:

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Lookin' good, with mini speakers!

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Just waiting for the good weather and a photo op at the beach!

Hang on to your bikes, weekend fun is just around the corner…  Catch you later, cycle gators.

Eva! Review: booq Mamba Laptop backpack

True love, Wall-E and Eva say happy V-day!

Hi everybody!  Anyone out there considering a commuter backpack?  Long time no review…  The PR peeps reppin booq hooked it up back in October of 2011 with this Eva look-alike, the Mamba Shift L.  Although it isn’t a bike commuter-specific backpack, my Trek one-strap messenger bag was in tatters and hardly capable of holding anything expensive like a laptop.  I decided to give it a shot, considering the Mamba Shift’s sleek and seemingly sturdy exterior.  Here are some fat stats about this futuristic laptop backpack:

booq: Mamba shift L

Lightweight, extremely functional backpack uses a clean and compact exterior design to conceal a plush and roomy interior

  • 1680 denier ballistic nylon exterior with water-repellant coating and interior water repellent ripstop lining
  • Diagonally overlapping interior accessory pockets, provide easy access to all your gear
  • Separate accessory zipper pouch to carry cables, external hard drive, etc.
  • Elastic pop-out iPhone pockets integrated into shoulder straps
  • Airmesh back padding increases comfort and allows heat to escape
  • Equipped with Terralinq service, helps reunite you with your lost bag (author note: I never registered my bag, but consider it a lost and found registration service!)

Available at: BooqBags.com and various retailers Stores.Booq.com

Price: $149.95 (13″-17″ Mac or PC)

Website: www.booqbags.com

The booq website actually has some detailed photo spreads showcasing the intricately designed layers of pockets, flaps, hook-and-loops, and zippers in this space-inspired design.  Eva came with me on our jaunt around Europe and is a great transitional bag from bike to plane to bike.  Let’s do a photo-battle throughout this review: mine vs. my Dad vs. theirs!

Mir.I.Am fotog skillllls:

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Typical contents of Eva the Mamba Shift on a commute to work. Lock and cable are left at work M-F.

LIKES:  I love the pockets in this backpack!  Orange interiors make it easy to find things (no blending into the black hole material like standard bags) and different sized layers make it easy to separate and store pens, computer stuff, takeout lunch, clothes, and baby pandas.  The key clip is detachable and near the top of the bag so you can easily find your bike lock key or key fob to your apartment (I heart this feature, hard).  I clipped my flat-pack water pouch onto it, antibacterial goop, USB keys, etc.  Also, the Mamba Shift backpack is slim at the bottom and carries most of the weight at the top, relieving some strain off your lower back while on the bike.  The profile is streamlined enough that is doesn’t interfere with looking over your shoulder while changing lanes for us mirrorless bike commuters.  The booq Mamba Shift has sturdy construction and can hold a half-size drawing set, a big plus for snarchitects like myself.  The laptop compartment is velvety smooth like the finest bathrobes you’d steal from a Singapore hotel!  You can store a full-size U-lock and cable for proper lockups in either the laptop compartment (without the laptop, duh) or in the main compartment, easily.  Lastly, the Eva-esque shape and color make it stand out from typical laptop bags and backpacks; the herringbone/tweed pattern of the material received several compliments from architects, bike commuters at stop lights, friends, and family.

Retired Asian Dad “skills”:

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Sand over black sweater: better than nothing for night riders. (identity of bike commuter has been obscured out of embarassment of Dad’s butt shots)

COULD BE BETTER:  Granted, the Mamba Shift is not a commuter-specific bag; this bag is NOT waterproof!  Water-resistant, maybe.  Waterproof enough for me, sure!  Reserve this bag for clear-weather commutes or days with puddles but no downpours.  The thick material did keep interiors dry on all but two days of extreme rain-pain on my commute (you can read about one of those days here).  Although a great protector of your laptop with ample padding all around the back, it can also get a bit warm like most backpacks do during a high-intensity bike ride!  My only major/minor gripe about this bag, was that if you like to carry bike water bottles on the side of your bag, or have more accessible pockets during your ride, no luck with the Mamba Shift: as the side pockets fit only flat objects.  (I did manage to shove a baguette in each side once, when the main compartment was rather empty – take note, Frenchies.)  And to wrap it up, this backpack takes a little breaking in, as it can be stiff like a TMNT half shell when you first get it, turtle power.

The pros at booq:

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Not a bad fotog, of the awesome layers of orange pockets with Mac obsessed gear to boot!

WRAP IT UP!  Ok, to be nice to my Dad (wink) let’s call the photography contest a three-way tie.  My overall sentiments of the Mamba Shift after a four-month review: a compact bag with max protection for your laptop, an almost all-weather commuter companion, with space-age style, and a neatly organized space-age interiors.  If you’ve got a 150 bones to spare for maximum protection of your techie-gear and fair weathered commutes, the Mamba Shift a.k.a. Eva is right up your alley!

P.S. – booq, Vanya, Xootr Apparently I’ve been relegated to weird-named cyclicious product reviews!

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