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Tag Archive: waterproof backpack

Review: Detours all-weather bags for your bike

Detour Bags_Stallion2

I almost felt bad testing out these bags in San Francisco. Detours bags are made to handle the constant drizzle, mud and muck of a Pacific Northwest commute—which makes sense, since the company hails from delightfully drizzly Seattle, WA—the misty fog of the Bay just doesn’t seem like enough of a challenge for the tough, all-weather gear. I said “almost,” because the truth is, these bags are awesome regardless of the weather.

Detour Bags_labeled

Fair warning, there are going to be a lot of photos in this post. The Detours gear is just too stylie to not show off. I had a chance to try a small selection of bags of various styles, sizes and uses. I’ll start from smallest bag and work my way up to the magical three-in-one pannier bag.

Roadie Stem Bag

iphone holder collage 2

I have been on the hunt for a contraption to hold my phone so I don’t have to dig into my backpack to consult the route before getting hopelessly lost. The Roadie definitely does the trick. A simple ratcheted attachment allows you to securely affix the bag to the stem of your bike (my bike, Stallion, who finally gets to be featured in a post, does not have room for Roadie on the stem, but plenty of other spots work great as well).

The clear, water-repellant phone pocket is touchscreen friendly making it easy to access information or refer to your phone as needed. The phone pocket is really more of a flap with a magnetized closure to the main utility pocket. The zip pocket has plenty of room for minor necessities. I fit my patch kit, allen wrench, levers, keys, and ID in there, no problem. The Roadie also comes in gray with a bright green interior (pictured here) and in red with a grey interior. The Roadie retails for $32.

Coffee Dry Bag

coffee bean bag

Yes, you can definitely put your coffee grounds in here and keep them safe and dry. But that’s not the only use for the super versatile Coffee dry bag. Throw in your mid-ride snacks, any electronics you want to keep safe (besides your phone since it’ll be in the Roadie), or maybe protect your other belongings from damp, sweaty bike spandex? The adjustable straps make it easy to secure the Coffee dry bag wherever needed. However, while the top strap is a quick release buckle, the bottom strap must be undone completely, which can be a bit of a hassle.

Detours offers the Coffee dry bag in several different state designs:

• The Evergreen Blend: ride through the forests and around Mount Rainier in our home state of Washington.
• The Mile High Blend: ride through the alpine wonderland of Colorado.
• The Highway 1 Blend: ride down the Pacific Coast Highway in California (pictured here).
• The 10,000 Lakes Blend: ride through the 10,000 lakes and Twin Cities in Minnesota.
• The Lighthouse Blend: ride along the rocky coast in Maine.

The Coffee Bag retails for $20. Or $80 for the set of five. 

Rainier Handlebar Duffel

Rainier Handlebar Duffel Collage

The Rainier Duffel has two adjustable straps to secure the bag to your handlebars and, when you reach your destination, it can transition seamlessly into a cross-body bag thanks to a built in shoulder strap. Plus, the clever folks at Detours designed the duffel with a little side pocket just to hold the shoulder strap so it doesn’t flop around when attached to the handlebars. Attention to detail—I love that. Speaking of detail, the flap of the duffel, which like the Roadie has a magnetic closure, features a sparkly banana design (you can see a better photo here). I think this is a great touch. The zipped interior compartment also contains a smaller zip pouch and two slip-in pockets. The Rainier Handlebar Duffel also comes in black and “Golden Gardens,” a cheery floral pattern. Retail price is $50.

The Ballard Market Pannier

Stallion Kitted Out

Ok, I might have saved the best for last. The Ballard Market Pannier is the most versatile bag of the bunch with three different carrying options (Elizabeth reviewed and loved this pannier back in 2012). First and foremost, it is a pannier bag, which attaches with two simple, yet secure rack clips. The bottom is a heavy-duty waterproof material to reduce wear-and-tear and keep belongings safe. The interior space has a small zip pocket, key hook, and a laptop compartment, making it an ideal commuter bag.

Ballard Panier

As promised, the Ballard Market Pannier is not just a pannier! The bag also has padded straps to carry as a shoulder tote. And the tote straps convert into backpack straps for heavy loads! So clever.

bag to backpack

Overall, the Ballard Market Pannier is a large enough (11”W x 15”H x 5.5”D) to easily accommodate commuter gear—for me, that includes my 15″ laptop, running shoes & clothes, notebook, wallet, and a few other essentials. Plus, this nifty 3-in-1 setup comes in black (pictured here) and two colorful patterns. The Ballard Market Pannier retails for $80.

The bags I review here are only a small portion of the overall variety that Detours offers—from ultra-tough touring rack trunks to playful, more petite seat post bags. I’m confident that riders will find a bag to suit his or her need whether for trips to the farmer’s market, daily commute or more rigorous rides.

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

Interbike 2013: Banjo Brothers

We met up with our pals Mike and Eric from Banjo Brothers in Las Vegas. They were gracious enough to spend a good chunk of their time shooting the breeze with us and telling us about some of their new products.

But first, the costumes. As you may remember in years past, Mike and Eric often had the very best costumes on the show floor…from tracksuits to loungewear. This year, they went with what I am referring to as “hayseed chic”:

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Their most exciting new product is this convertible backpack-to-pannier:

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The top flap swings both ways, serving to cover the pannier hooks on one side, and the backpack straps on the other. Presto changeo!

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This bag will retail for around $89, if my memory serves.

Banjo Brothers also had a couple of very chic dry-waxed-canvas bags…urban style and lots of functionality in a sleek package:

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Let’s not forget their Minnehaha Bags line, too — classic styling in waxed canvas and leather:

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It was great to talk to Mike and Eric — they’re good guys who are passionate about what they do, and they are always SO nice to us! Check out their full lineup by visiting their website.


Interbike 2013 Coverage Proudly Sponsored by Black Tiger Jerky
Black Tiger Jerky

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.

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!