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Tag Archive: commuting

Product Review: Electra Townie 7D

As I mentioned in a post a few months back, my wife Adrienne and I have been looking for a bike that would match up a little better with her around-town needs and with our Yepp mini kid-carrying seat.

Well, I think we’ve found it… and it looks like the Electra Townie 7D.

Two words come to mind with the Electra Townie: fun and relaxing! The laid-back position immediately makes everything seem less urgent, and it’s just a comfortable bike to sit on. That feel is a result of what’s called the “pedal forward” position – instead of being located at the junction of the downtube and seat tube, the bottom bracket (the thing your pedals and crankset attaches to) is located a few inches forward of that position. This relaxed position means a rider can put both feet down on the ground while still sitting on the seat – making it very stable at stops (and easy to stop suddenly). It also means that with the Yepp seat mounted, there’s very little issue with knee clearance on the seat (a big issue we had with the Trek hybrid Adrienne had before).

Both feet on the ground!

Electra makes a whole series of pedal forward bikes, from single-speed cruisers to multi-speed “Townie” bikes that can come with internal hub shifting or derailleur shifting. While the idea of an internally geared hub was attractive, the derailleur 7-speed version fit our budget better.

The Townie series of bikes comes in two versions: “men’s” and “women’s.” Really, there are only two differences between these: the overall size (men’s is a little bigger) and the shape of the frame: on the women’s bike the frame has very easy stepover, while the men’s has a more classic design. I actually like the women’s version just fine – size-wise I think you have to be pretty tall before it feels too small, as the angle of the seat tube means that as the seat goes up, your position on the bike goes back, so it adjusts to fit pretty nicely. I also like the step-through frame for riding with the Yepp on the bike – it’s a lot easier to get on and off. Without the front-mounted seat it probably wouldn’t matter – but with it, it’s an attractive feature.

Disadvantages? Well, we’ve only found a couple so far. One is that it’s hard to make this bike move quickly – the pedaling position really doesn’t lend itself to cranking hard, and standing up to pedal is a little more awkward than on most bikes. This also means that when towing a bike trailer (which we’ll do on occasion with this bike), the overall pace is slower and the trailer feels heavier. The other big disadvantage is that it won’t fit on a regular bike rack without some sort of adapter (which we haven’t yet tried) – to get it home we had to put it on our bike rack upside down and at a pretty ridiculous angle! For what we need to do these are livable negatives, but I wouldn’t get this bike with the intention of riding long distances at all quickly or if we weren’t riding directly it from our home.

Other advantages? The balloon-style 26″ tires absorb bumps pretty well, and the seat – although it looks huge for a normal bike – fits this style of bike and is comfortable. The only thing we’ve swapped out from the original configuration is a set of ergonomic grips, which made a big difference (the original grips had fancy stitching on them which was uncomfortable). And again – the bike is just plain fun!

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

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.

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.

Product Review: Leg Shield

A couple months back, the brains behind the Leg Shield contacted us to see if we’d do a review. Never one to say no to anything, RL promptly agreed and a few days later, the Leg Shield arrived at my door.

SO… what is this thing FOR? I’m so glad you asked! The design intention is to keep grit, grime, bugs, small children, and anything else that may come in contact with your lower leg (most often by way of your chain or chainring) from getting your snazzy work clothes all dirty. With the exception of the small children (they can get anything dirty no matter what you do), it works exactly as intended – over several commutes and rides around town, my pants didn’t get a single smudge on them. So far so good!

Unfortunately, however, the Leg Shield doesn’t do so well in other categories, like comfort and (personal opinion here) not looking like you’ve been recently injured and are riding a bike against doctor’s orders. The photos will make my case (or not) on the style, so I’ll talk about comfort.

The Inner View

First thing you need to know: this is made of neoprene – the same stuff used for wetsuits, laptop sleeves, and those fancy bags to carry wine around in. One of the properties of neoprene is that it is insulating: it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. In the case of someone riding a bike, this means that on cold days the lower half of your right leg will LOVE the Leg Shield – it’s nice and toasty (your left leg may be jealous, but that’s not the right leg’s problem!). On warm days (which I’ve through trial and error determined to mean “over 60 degrees”) it will cause your leg to sweat, which in turn means your pants leg will get damp, which will make it wrinkled… which kinda defeats the purpose of protecting your pants, since instead of looking grimy they now look like you forgot to wash them. Depending on your pants material, this could happen even without sweating, since of necessity you have to bundle the pants leg under the Leg Shield.

So… in the end, I can’t really recommend the Leg Shield for everyday use – particularly in warmer climates. Does it keep grease off? Absolutely. However, I kept finding myself thinking wistfully of either a simple velcro strap (like this) or a chaincase. Failing that, I’d at least like a material option of something vaguely breathable.