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Tag Archive: Pannier

Review: Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

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.

Interbike 2012 Salsa Fargo Mini-Review

“Got any commuter bikes?”

“No.”

This is what my interaction was like when I walked up to the Salsa Bicycles booth to test-ride one of their bikes. Awkward, kind of, but I can see why the booth employee said no. The company labels their bikes to be “Adventure Bikes” and not before long, I found out why. I chose the “Fargo” bike as it looked cool and reminded me of a cross between a Randonneur bike and a Cyclocross bike.

Salsa Fargo Sram Apex

Another reason why I chose the Fargo was because it had a really cool-looking handlebar. I ride mostly road bike or singlespeeds so I wasn’t quite used to the “rad” styling of the handlebar at first. I rode on the top. I rode on the drops and even tried to ride with my hands on the brake hoods. All three positions were uncomfortable at first but as I kept on riding, it became more comfortable–I no longer noticed my discomfort.

Salsa Woodchipper 2/Salsa Gel Tape

Perhaps I stopped noticing because of the heavy foot traffic at Interbike that I had to feverishly avoid or perhaps it was because I became more focused on finding hydration booths to keep myself from getting dehydrated. Either way, I eventually fell in love with the handlebar. I know it’s impractical to swap out my road handlebar with the obviously less aerodynamic handlebar on the Fargo because I can’t go as fast. But I know that most of the time when I’m riding, I just cruise and this handlebar was perfect for it! This is something I know most commuters can appreciate.

I love steel frames. It’s technology that hasn’t really needed to be advanced and can most of the time combine the stiffness of an aluminum frame but has damping qualities closer to a carbon frame. I ride a Reynolds Steel-framed road bike and this Cro-Moly frame rode very comfortably.

Salsa Fargo Main Triangle

I know that I’ve got to factor in the “Thudbuster” seat post that naturally damps the vibrations of the road/path and the thicker tires but I gotta be honest…the Fargo rides very smoothly compared to my road bike with 700×23 slicks installed.

Thudbuster

Another plus about the frame is that it had plenty of eyelets, as demonstrated by the front fork, to use for front racks. (The rear also has eyelets for a rear rack but not as many as the front)

Four!

While I was riding the bike on different terrains like gravel, dirt, pavement and mud, I found the gearing to be very wide and sufficient for all applications.

Wide Range of Gears

I didn’t get to go on a steep dirt climb but when I did take it up a steep street, it rode more like a hybrid and a lot less like a mountain bike. I even took it down a long and windy bike path where I’m sure I easily hit 20 mph. When I did go off-road, the bike maintained its smooth ride–I went over rocks, potholes in the dirt and it was not a shocking, vibrating experience. In other words, no matter what terrain I put the bike in, the ride was very smooth.

Lastly, I didn’t really get to test the brakes all that well. I mean, they were disc brakes so they stopped on a dime but I mainly focused on the ride quality and whether it would be a bike that commuters should consider. As I said before, I mainly commute on road bikes but I would definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a commuting bike, especially those that commute over a combination of dirt and street.

Company Link: Salsa Fargo

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!

Preview: Detours Ballard Market Pannier/Backpack

It’s springtime and time for new product lines… Our friends over at Detours sent me a couple new bags to review and I will be putting them to the test over the coming fine weather months.

I’ve already had the opportunity to take the new Ballard Market Pannier on a very bumpy maiden voyage commute last Friday am sharing my first impressions. Still to come will be my first impressions and review of the waterproof Coffee Bag which is designed to keep some smaller items dry and secure.

The Detours site provides the following description of the Ballard Market Pannier:

Seattleites flock to the Ballard neighborhood every Sunday for one of the best farmers market in the Northwest. If you’re rolling up on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hide-able padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack when browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your bike rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable raincover protects your goods when the skies open up. Interior organization and a laptop sleeve makes this a great option for a casual office commuting as well! Distinctive prints make this bag just as beautiful as the fresh produce you’ll haul home.

Available in Black, Red or our exclusive Herman Yu Dahlia print.

Best uses: Around town, commuting
Volume: 920 cubic inches
Dimensions: 11 x 5.5 x 15 inches
Average Weight: 2 pounds
Price: $69.00

I rode with this Ballard Market Pannier on a long commute last Friday.

Ballard Market Pannier attached to my bike


It fit more than everything I needed for work and for my bike, and it felt so much less clunky than the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier that I’ve been using (that RL also reviewed a while back).

A peak inside the Ballard Market Pannier

Part of it could be that it’s because I finally packed only what I really need. My bags tend to accumulate “baggage” over time and I end up with quite a hefty load after a while.

My commute followed a lot of bumpy roads and the pannier remained securely in place on my Blackburn rear bike rack.

Ballard Market Pannier clips securely to bike rack

If I ever chose, I could also wear this bag as a backpack via nicely padded straps that easily pull out to make backpack straps.

The Ballard Market Pannier becomes a backpack


No more need to decide between a backpack or a pannier!

I also received a few compliments on the bag – bonus! 🙂
Being chic on a bike goes a long way towards making this my new “go to” bag.

Stay tuned for the full review after I’ve put in a few more commutes with this bag.

Friday Musings: Back to the Backpack?

Not too long ago, I gave up commuting with a backpack in favor of letting my bike haul my stuff in panniers. I had just discovered the Banjo Brothers waterproof pannier and have commuted with a pannier ever since – never looking back. In the meantime, my neck and shoulders have enjoyed the added relief of being unburdened.

But today’s morning bike commute got me reconsidering the backpack. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking about getting another bike commuter specific backpack for a while now. It was seeing that bike commuter this morning sporting a hot pink Chrome rolltop bag that reignited the spark and interest in a backpack. Talk about hi-vis! I could see this hot pink pack from a block away and it actually brightened my mood on this otherwise gray Friday! (sorry I missed the photo op)

Also, just yesterday another biking friend emailed me about his collision with a pothole last August that resulted in him fracturing many ribs and a having a collapsed lung. The staff at the trauma center told him that if he had not been wearing his small backpack he would have been paralyzed. Saved by the backpack?

So – my meandering commute this morning not only took me in a less than direct path to work, but also has me looking back into backpacks again. What goes around comes around, right? This time around I think the options in commuter backpacks have come a long way.

If you commute with a backpack, what’s your preference? (Note: finding a pack that isn’t too big is an issue for me = is there one that’s “just right” for me?) I’ll be trying to figure that out.