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Product Review: Henty Wingman Suit Bag

So a while ago we were contacted by yet another small Australian company (yep the Cycle Cuffs are made by some Australian guys too… what is with all these new bike-related things coming out of Australia anyway??). Right, so as I was saying we were contacted by these guys asking if we would review the Henty Wingman commuter/carry-on suit bag (not to be confused with the Airborne Wingman, which is a dirt jump bike). We of course said yes, and I’ve been in possession of this nifty bag for some time.

What sets the Wingman apart from other bags? Well, for starters it’s meant to carry a suit without messing it up (which very few bags do). However, the thing that’s truly unique is that this suit bag doesn’t fold – it rolls up, preventing the suit from ever having to bend enough to get creased (verified, though I did not get a picture of me in a suit, sorry). It also has a smaller bag (more the size of a small gym bag) that clips inside this roll, and some pockets on the outside for things you might want access to (lock, laptop, etc.). At $179 (Australian, currently equivalent to $187 U.S.) this isn’t a particularly cheap option, but it falls very much in line with pricing on other serious commuter bags, and you do get good value for the price – I was impressed with the overall construction and quality of materials.

So what’s the verdict? Well, in a nutshell – if you need to go any distance and you want to bring a suit with you, you should probably get this! If there’s a better way to transport a suit – whether across town, on a train, or through an airport – I haven’t heard of it. The suit pocket itself is easy to get a suit in (and comes with a pretty nice folding suit hanger). The inner bag – while lacking in the structure/separation you’d normally find in commuter bags – clips into place nicely and stays there (it also has its own strap for easy carrying by itself). I originally was worried that it would sway back and forth too much, but that was not the case. The outside pocket – while not terribly roomy – has enough space for the essentials. The Wingman also comes with a rain cover, which packs nicely into its own little pocket for quick access.

That said, it isn’t perfect – I did find a few things I think could use improvement. First, the strap arrangement is a little weird – the shoulder strap buckles in the middle of the chest instead of at the hip (or not splitting at all like many bags), which can be inconvenient. The side strap works fine, but has a loop over the shoulder strap, which can easily slip off when taking the bag on or off. The length of the side strap is also harder to adjust once the bag is on, as the adjustment point is where the strap buckles to the bag. Overall, I found I was messing with all the straps fairly often to try to get everything in the right place. If a version 2 of this bag comes along, some change in this area would be my top priority.

Also – like a couple other bags I’ve tested lately – the bag interfered with my over-the-shoulder vision, especially when on a road bike and leaning further forward. Now I will be a little forgiving here, since this is after all made in Australia and they drive on the wrong side of the road there – if I had to look over my right shoulder instead of my left it wouldn’t be an issue at all! Still, if this is going to be your normal on-bike bag a mirror would be a nice thing to have, as otherwise you’ll probably injure your neck trying to see what’s behind you.

Finally, I did get to try the rain cover (thanks to Hurricane Sandy for providing some serious rainfall to test in) and while after about 45 minutes my clothes were all still dry, there was some moisture that got in and got some of the exterior of the bag damp. Again not a deal-breaker, but it’s good to note that if you’re going to be in a serious downpour for a long time, you might want to investigate other options.

No those are not bike-specific clothes

Product Review: Cycle Cuffs

For those of us who don’t live in SoCal or other similarly moderate climates, riding in longer pants is somewhat inevitable. If we want to keep those pants clean and not tangled in the chain, there are a couple options. One is a chain guard – and if you’ve got one you pretty much can skip this article! However, those don’t come on most bikes made in the U.S. so most of us make do with rubber bands or the slightly-more-advanced reflective velcro bands found in many bike shops. The problem is that while those keep your pants cuff out from getting caught in the chain, they generally don’t keep your pants leg clean. What to do? Well, the guys at Cycle Cuffs think they’ve got a solution to that problem for you!

The Cycle Cuffs generally come in pairs (though you can order a single if you really want). There are now several options available in terms of color (I reviewed the “future classic,” which is a basic black ripstop polyester fabric). They all come with velcro attachment, reflective stripes at top and bottom, and a large ring in the middle. The ring is so that they can be threaded onto a lock (U-lock or cable) and they stay with the bike. I was initially skeptical of this feature (and wasn’t sure about the styling), but ended up routinely locking the Cycle Cuffs up with my bike as that was the best way to not accidentally leave them at my desk!

So how did these do on the bike? Very well actually! They were easy to attach (loosely, so they don’t crease pant legs), stayed on without a problem, and kept my pants legs grease-free and crease-free. Over the past couple months they’ve become part of my normal bike-to-work gear, and overall I highly recommend them to keep your pants cuffs/legs clean and out of the way of the chain. Yes, they’re a bit more expensive than a basic reflective strap (and run about the same per cuff as the Leg Shield I tested earlier this year), but I think they’re more effective than either, and I plan to continue using mine until they wear out (unlikely to be soon, they seem quite tough!).

Will the Cycle Cuffs revolutionize your cycling experience? Probably not… but they don’t need to, because what they’re meant to do they do really darn well, and sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference.

Bike to Vote (and Vote to Bike)!

As pretty much everyone in the U.S. who doesn’t live under a rock in the middle of the desert knows, tomorrow (Tuesday November 6th) is election day. While I’m sure our readers have a variety of opinions on who to vote for in the presidential election, we here at BikeCommuters.com would like to remind everyone that this isn’t the only thing on the ballot! In many cases, voters will not only elect members of Congress (who by the way can have a lot of influence over bike-related legislation and funds), but also vote on a variety of other issues including bonds. Some of these – such as the one in my district regarding funds for parkland and park administration (including trails) – directly affect those of us who ride. Please look up your ballots before you vote tomorrow, and do a little research on the other items! Some may be important to you and your fellow bike commuters!


Perhaps just as importantly, we’d like to remind everyone that filling in a circle or stabbing at a computer screen isn’t the only way to make an impact on election day. If at all possible, ride your bike to the polls!

Seeing voting-age adults biking to vote can affect others’ impressions of biking as a valid transportation option – and it will show any local candidates or staff that the ability to bike everywhere is on your priority list! Also, many polling places are at schools – so if for some reason you cannot bike to your polling place and it’s in a school, it could be an opportunity to bring up to your local elected officials funds available through Safe Routes to School and other programs to improve access to the schools.

Let’s show those around us that we’re responsible citizens and we have a voice!

Interbike 2012-It’s coming up!

If you didn’t know, America’s largest bicycle trade show is in less than 2 weeks. Last year I had the pleasure of providing the good looking readers of BikeCommuters.com media coverage of the show.

This year we’ve partnered up with our super awesome friends at Planet Bike so we can host our very first (cue the echo sound effects) BikeCommuters.com Interbike SWAG Giveaway Contest, brought to you by the handsome folks of Planet Bike!

So here’s how it’s going to work: Our Media Crew, yours truly and Hermes, will be working hard at Outdoor Demo and Interbike, collecting swag stuff from various vendors to accompany the GRAND PRIZE that Planet Bike has generously provided. What’s in the Planet Bike Grand Prize? Dunno, sexy Chris F. of PB said he’d surprise us, but whatever it is, it should be really good!
IMG_1849

We’ll provide more contest details as we approach closer to the show date.

Friday Fun: Crazy Commuting Accessories!

We’ve all seen them: bike accessories that make you go hmm… whoa!… huh??!…weird…I wonder who came up with that??

Granted, quite a few of these show up on our friend Matt C.‘s blog Bikehacks… but some of them actually make it out into the world as retail options!

Some of these things aren’t necessarily bad – many fulfill their intended function, at least to some extent – but they either look silly, make you feel ridiculous, or just plain ARE ridiculous simply by existing! With that, here are a few of our picks…

1. Bike Umbrellas.

Drybike!

Yes, this technically might work (especially if you’re riding a Dutch bike in the Netherlands, though even then I’m skeptical). However, it looks kind of ridiculous… and I know on my commutes rain often is not falling straight down!
You could also, of course, just protect your head:

The Nubrella

2. Leather handles to carry your bike. Some may call it brilliant… we call it kinda silly!

Walnut Studiolo's bike carry handle

3. If handles to carry your bike are silly, then we don’t even have words for this (image courtesy Gizmodo):
All I can say is that the makers of this have clearly never had the bottom of a six pack fall out… and also need reminders about things like “panniers” and “backpacks.”

4. Sideways safety flags. Granted, these appear to work at keeping cars a little further away from you… so if that’s a problem, you just may be a candidate for one of these (though the one we reviewed apparently is no longer available). But… they look just a little bit too much like you forgot to remove something after a parade.

Flagging

5. Huge pants-cuff-savers. Do they work? For the most part, yes. Do they make you look like you’re riding against doctor’s orders? Also yes.

But I have a note!



6. Skinny jeans for cyclists. Umm, yeah. Maybe people who only walk next to their bikes can fit into these, but for the most part the guys and gals here can’t… and it’s not because of our rear ends! We have calves and quads, people!

7. This next one’s not technically an accessory… but it deserves inclusion. It is… the Fliz. All the disadvantages of biking combined with all the disadvantages of walking… plus you get to stick your head in the middle of the frame! What could POSSIBLY go wrong??

We’re sure there are other crazy commuting accessories out there – what gems do you have to share??

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.

Product Review: WTB Freedom Aon Saddle

Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB for short) is a respected brand among mountain bikers – particularly in the realm of tires and saddles (aka seats). They’re now bringing that experience to bear on commuter-oriented products: WTB’s Freedom line of products is geared at bikes commuters are more likely to ride and aims to provide comfortable, functional gear at a reasonable price point. I’ve been testing their Aon saddle on my (newly resurrected!) road singlespeed, and it’s time to share some impressions.


As mentioned, one of the key components is value. At $39.99, the Aon (which is available in both men’s and women’s versions) certainly does that – it’s more comfortable than many more expensive saddles I’ve tested out. It is labeled as being for road bikes, and that’s precisely how it should be used – it is more comfortable when leaning forward than it is when sitting up straighter. I don’t have to be in the drops for it to be comfortable, but I wouldn’t want it on a cruiser! For bikes with a more upright position, Freedom offers several other saddles – if they’re as comfortable as the Aon, they may be worth checking out as well. Although we don’t have any more saddles on test, WTB provided us several products in this lineup for review, so look for more commentary on some Freedom grips and tires in the future!

Product Review: BTB Sunglasses

I’ve been testing the BTB 500 sunglasses out for our sister site, MtnBikeRiders.com, but have ended up using them for commuting even more than mountain biking, so I’m giving them a shout out here as well! I started out only wearing them off-road, but as time progressed I found myself reaching for them when commuting, walking, running, and even driving (even though they’re not polarized!). I liked them so much that I even returned the last pair of (more expensive) sunglasses I bought.

For more info, check out the full review!

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.