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Review: Torker T300 for my commute

Following the theft of my beloved commuter bike – Toro – last summer, I had the good fortune to test ride some bikes…. and at long last I’m letting you know my thoughts on this Torker bike that I previewed for you.

T300_white

Torker graciously sent me their T300 step thru model to ride for review. (After a bit of a snafu, I was finally up and running on this great new ride!) Quite a snazzy set-up. Almost reminds me of a Dutch-style bike.

I must admit that I was initially a bit skeptical of the sloping step through configuration. While I have always loved the look and comfortable feel of the bike, I never bought one of my own. Both the heft and the awkwardness of carrying such a steed up and down the rear steps to my apartment have led me to prefer a bike with a diamond frame so I could haul the bike up by the top tube.

Now for the specs:

• Stylish alloy twin top tube frame in 2 styles.
• Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.
• Dependable rear coaster brake.
• Includes fenders, chainguard, & rear rack.

Available sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”,
15” step thru, 17 step thru”.

Torker sent me a 15″ step thru to fit my 5’4″ stature. This bike also comes in a more “unisex” style diamond/mixte style frame.

You’ll notice that this bike comes with a rear coaster brake and front hand brake. Since this is a Friday review, I’m including a Friday musing with this review….. “how did I ever ride a bike with a coaster brake?” After many years of riding free wheel bikes with hand brakes, I missed being able to reposition the pedal after I stop so that I can push off again (known as the power pedal position). And I think I’ve forgotten “how” to get started (without some awkward shove off) after I do stop when I ride with coaster brakes. Oops. Is there a trick I’m missing or have forgotten?
Note: I didn’t let this forgetfulness slow me down with my riding and I did adapt.

But this bike is fun and riding it around Chicago made me feel like a lady.

Riding in style (and value)


My friend rides the T300 around the parking lot; the 15″ frame bike accommodates a wide range of heights and even comes in a larger size.

Its upright riding position is suited for city navigating and being able to see around traffic.

the cockpit


View from the saddle (riding along Chicago’s first 2-way protected bike lane)

This bike already comes standard with fenders, rear rack and chain guard, so you could wear your suit or dress to the office without worry. Its plush saddle means you don’t have to worry about needing padded shorts; plus, the rear of the saddle is reflective, which is a great safety factor after dusk. The pedals also nicely work with any shoe – even dress shoes – as they are not made with sharp metal edges that could scuff or damage nice shoes. As an added bonus, the pedals also have reflectors built in, so they’re noticeable in headlights when out pedaling after dark.

plush saddle with reflective material facing rear and pedals with reflectors

The upright position maybe slowed me down from the speeds I’d grown accustomed to attaining on Toro which was more of a road bike. For my usual sub-5 mile bike commuting route there wasn’t a considerable time difference. I did notice the difference when I pedaled to a further work location and it took longer.

With 3 internal speeds this bike is suitable for most conditions, especially in the flatlands of Chicago. But the gearing gaps are sizeable and I sometimes struggled with finding the best gear. In most cases I stayed in the middle gear (the usually “just right” sweet spot).

Internal gearing and rear coaster brake


Front rim brake

For carrying my work necessities, the rear rack accommodated my panniers – and I tested out multiple brand panniers with this bike’s rear rack – without an issue.

The Detours Ballard Bag easily clips to the rear rack

Out of the box, it was such a convenience to not have to worry about equipping the T300 with the necessary commuting accessories of fenders, rack and chain guard, plus reflective accents on the saddle and pedals.

Ready for urban riding right out of the box – with fenders, chain guard and rear rack

At the pricepoint of $439 for this Torker T300, I recommend it to anyone seeking a comfortable entry level urban bike.

While it was challenging at times to haul this bike up and down to my apartment, I did find a manageable way to carry it. By simply grabbing the bottom of the sloping tube with one hand and the handlebars with the other to steady the bike, I could lift it just high enough to carry it down the steps.

Some evenings I was able to haul it back upstairs in the same manner. Other nights (maybe I was too tired) I had to implement the technique I used to use to haul my old Schwinn mixte frame upstairs — by turning the bike around and hauling it upstairs rear wheel first; in this case I would grab the seat tube and the sloping down tube and be lifting the heavier rear end up first.

Bottom line — I have enjoyed riding this Torker T300 bicycle around town, especially for its comfort and style. And that makes this bike a winner for me.

Orp Smart Horn – soon to be tested here

Orp in red. Also comes in asphalt black, frostbyte white, safety cone orange, wail blue, snot green, and worm white (glorp)

With 5 days to go on this Orp Kickstarter campaign, the Orp Smart Horn is soon to go into production and we’ll be getting one to test!

As a safety conscious cyclist I value that this product attempts to make cyclists both more visible and audible on the roadways.

THE IDEA: Make bikers more visible and /or more “hearable”.
THE SOLUTION: A combination dual tone, high decibel bike horn and front beacon light.
Meet Orp.

As creator Tory Orzeck says on the page:

“Really long story short, we developed this super loud, dual decibel horn. Only after that did we discover the Piezo speaker and its circuitry barely taxed the battery to drive the sound. Sitting right there in front of us, we had everything we needed to add LEDs. So, we ended up combining two products: a beacon light and a horn into one small and (we think) beautiful product.”

This product was thought up in Portland and we’ll certainly put it to the test in Chicago.

Just the other night I was nearly right-hooked by a driver insistent on getting into the right lane to make a turn. He had just passed me and then nearly pulled in front of me. Not even my two front LED blinkies and bell got his attention; my yelling and the screeching of my squealing brakes did get his attention – “WHA…WHOA…LOOK OUT!” (or something to that effect)


Orp’s Horn has 2 modes: soft and WAY loud

The Wail Tail is the ergonomic and intuitive switch controlling the horn.

When you need to alert other cyclists or pedestrians, a small displacement {up or down} of Orp’s Wail Tail produces a friendly chirp at 76 decibels.

When you’re in traffic, and you need to let cars know where you are, then just push a little harder {up or down} and Orp’s “HERE I AM!” sound emits an ear blistering 96 decibels. This is FAR louder than the most popular bike bells.

I could use a horn!

Preview: Torker for my commute

Look what arrived at my doorstep Friday morning!

Can you guess what I’ll be riding around town in the coming weeks… and what I’ll be assembling?

In the aftermath of the theft of my beloved Toro, I really have been without a good around-town bike – complete with fenders and rack – and one that is built for the rigors of getting around the urban jungle of Chicago on two wheels. So, to keep me rolling, I’m now on the job reviewing a bike for our friends at Torker. (Thank you, Torker!)

Stay tuned to see how she looks once unwrapped and in motion. Brownie points to readers who guesses which Torker model I’ll be riding.

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.

Preview: Detours Tobe Handlebar Purse

Just in time for spring and being out more (socially) on my bike, I received in the mail a new purse designed specifically for cyclists:
mail-tobe purse

I’ll be reviewing this Detours Tobe handlebar purse and letting you know just how well it handles itself both on and off the bike.
detours tobe - in hand

You can see that as packaged it fits in my hand, so it will lend itself to my “go lite” bike trips.

Stay tuned for the complete review.
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