Papa has a brand new bag

Recently, I ordered and received a new Swift Industries Hinterland Randoneur handlebar bag. I added a Nitto decaleur and viola i have a new setup on the bike to carry stuff that is convenient and lightweight. The bag comes in any color you want as long as you like black. For a handlebar bag, it is well thought out; it has elastic straps sewn into the inside of the bag so that you can strap small stuff to the edges and not have that shit roll around and piss you off (not that it would necessarily piss you off but you get what I am saying). It has a decent pocket in the front, slash pockets on the side, and two small pockets that would hold a smallish mobile phone. I have an iPhone 6+ and no way that is fitting in there. I put sun screen, lip balm, Scatch, and chamois cream in these pockets and it works fine for me. The top of the bag has a map pocket with a clear screen for a map — do people still use paper maps? — that allows you to interact with your mobile phone also. The main space — I have the small — holds my TiGr small bike lock, a flask when needed, tools, tube, second set of gloves (Spring is here…), different hat (Spring again), and could easily hold a jacket, a thermal layer, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a bottle of wine with some space to spare. It could hold most of that and a six pack of good beer. It definitely cannot carry the flask, the wine, and the beer but then you should probably just go to a bar eh?

Updates from previous handlebar bags

They redesigned the top ‘latch’ so that you don’t have to try to snake your hands to the clip between the small rear pockets. It is still there but even with my small hands, it is still completely inaccessible. Most bags ‘clip’ there and most are never clipped since no one can actually get in there.

The sewn in elastic is simple and damn brilliant.

You can interact with your phone via the map pocket. Works pretty well with an iPhone. Your experience may vary.

Damn this thing is light.

Fast shipping on ready made stuff. Honestly, they have a great process for made to order stuff also.

Stuff I don’t like

Not a damn thing and I can bitch about almost anything.

The company

I cannot say enough nice things about Swift Industries products. They are well made. They are great people to deal with. I have more of their products than I should admit to. They are made in the USA.

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Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because

1. Work projects involving lots of writing; just didn’t feel like writing more
2. Getting ready for a wedding – mine and John’s!

I’m down to one writing project now and have some time and brainpower for writing about biking.

The wedding took place on September 14th and what a wonderful day it was! We’re honeymooning, with bikes, in Vermont and upstate New York. Our first stop is the lovely Three Mountain Inn, in Jamaica VT.

Yesterday’s ride was just short of 50 miles. The route was beautiful, with 3700 challenging feet of climbing, starting with the first 2 miles out of town. Just under 20 miles were on dirt roads. These were packed firmly enough to ride on but a little bit scary with little potholes and some loose gravel. I should have brought the ANT! My Soma was a little nervous on the rougher terrain, though it’s tires were fine.

The route took us through Londonderry, Grafton, and Townshend. It was one of the toughest – and one of the loveliest- rides I’ve ever done. None of the climbs were particularly steep. Instead, they were long and there were a lot of them. Let’s just say, when John realized we were just .4 miles short of 50, my reaction was “That’s close enough!”

Beforehand we agreed either of us could call a photo-op stop at any time, that we’d stop for lunch and walk around a little. Good decisions. We worked hard on the ride and had a great time. Leaves are just starting to turn, the weather is sunny and cool – perfect for cycling.

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Practice Run

Saturday we loaded up our panniers and headed out for a 30 mile ride. We wanted to see how tour-ready we and our gear are. My new Swift Short Stacks performed well. I did pretty well myself, even hauling the extra weight. In fact, I realized my ANT bike, built for fully self-supported touring, seems to handle best, even a little faster, when loaded. At least it did with the light load I had that day.

The year I got the ANT we went on a self-guided credit card tour. I was so worried about my ability to do the trip, I don’t think I noticed much about the bike’s handling. Since then, I’ve ridden the bike a lot. I’ve commuted on it, ridden for fun, and done two supported tours. It took until this weekend’s ride to appreciate how it’s optimized for touring. Good to know!

The Swift panniers were easy to attach and detach, stayed in place, and in appearance are fun, jaunty and visible. They’re a great design, with one large open pocket with a drawstring closure, a detachable pocket lid and a small zippered side pocket. They hold a lot. There is also an elasticized pouch on each pannier, perfect for carrying a water bottle. That’s an excellent feature if like me you are small and so is your bike. My bike frame can only hold 1 water bottle cage and I am always fussing with ways to carry a second bottle. These panniers take care of that hassle I have yet to find out how the panniers perform in the rain. This test ride was on such a beautiful day. I have a feeling that by the end of the tour I’ll be able to comment on that. Stay tuned.

2012 Bicycle Commuter Gift Recommendations

Finishing up your holiday shopping? Here’s some products we recommend:

Light and Motion Urban 200 Combo

I bought this as two items but both lights are excellent for the cycling commuter on your list. Each light lasts @ 8 hours before recharging. The Urban 200 headlight is a very nice ‘to see’ light. My commute involves some pitch black riding with no street lights and the Urban 200 does a very nice job of lighting the road or trail. [jb]

Light and Motion Vis360

I got this when it was on sale locally this summer. For a small and light set up, it does a great job. It does not weigh much on the helmet — I don’t really notice it at all — and throws a lot of light. Either of these combos would be great for commuting in a decently lit area and the two together are unbelievably great. [jb]

Velo-Orange Grand Cru leather handlebar tape

I use this on my a Nitto Dream drop bars on the Rivendell Atlantis. I love the feel of this tape and I frequently don’t use gloves during the summer and it is very comfortable and never feels slimy. It looks great on the bike too! [jb]

Ibex Arrivee bibs

I am not a huge bib shorts fan. I tend to need to go to the bathroom more frequently than most and bibs suck with that. These fit great and are really quite easy to maneuver for going to the bathroom. I have used these all through the summer and now through December. They are great in the heat and as the weather gets cooler they have been nice and cozy. I have used these on 50+ mile days and they are the most comfortable shorts I own. [jb]

Ibex Momentum Vest

I bought this last spring on a blowout sale. In 2011, Nancy and I had done the Bon Ton Roulet and it rained like four days out of seven. I am not a big fan of the full jacket in the summer time since I end up sweating profusely and still end up drenched. This keeps my core warm and is bright orange with reflective stripe in the rear. It has a small ‘phone’ pocket at chest level and one rear pocket on the right side. It keeps you pretty dry considering that it is a vest and it definitely keeps you warm. It is great when the weather turns cooler since it is warm and blocks the wind too. I use it during my winter commute when I need to be seen and need to block the wind. It is amazingly versatile. [jb]

Big Agnes Bighouse 4 tent

While not biking related directly, I got this for the 2012 Bon Ton Roulet. This tour carries all of your stuff so the the weight and size of this tent was not an issue. Having said that, this tent packs up very small and for its size, it is pretty light. This tent is very spacious for two people. We each had a huge bag and two sleeping bags and there was still a lot of room. If you are under 5’8″ or so, you can stand in the tent. We had two huge storms during the tour with 20–30 mph winds. The tent held up great. It bent but did not break.[jb] And it kept us dry! [nls]

Sealline iPhone case

I bought this after the the 2011 débâcle where I submerged my iPhone during a monsoon. This will keep your phone dry whether from a rain storm or from sweat. You can use this inside the case but I don’t usually. I feel completely comfortable sticking this in a back pocket no matter what the weather and knowing that my iPhone is safe from water. [jb]

Arkel Tail Rider Trunk Sack

After the above-mentioned very rainy Bon Ton Roulet tours, I wanted something that would keep my gear dry. My beautiful waxed canvas trunk sack could not stand up to that much rain.  So far, I’ve used it for commuting and local weekend rides.  I haven’t used it in heavy rain yet so no personsal comments on the its waterproof qualities. However it has water proof zippers and an integrated rain cover. It holds a day’s worth of commuting gear nicely  so long as you’re not carrying a laptop or bulky clothes. Because it attaches with strong velcro straps it works nicely for a multi-modal commute. I keep one pannier on the rack of each the 2 bikes that are part of the commute. The Tail Rider fastens over them with a bit of maneuvering and stays securely attached. [nls]

Ibex Momentum Jacket

This is a comfortable,  nice-looking jacket  well suited for on and off-bike use on cool or drizzly days.I’ve used the hood under my bike helmet. It fit fine, didn’t interfere with vision and added some welcome warmth on colder, rainy days. On those in-between 50ish degree days where you start out chilly but get really warm on uphill stretches I’ve ended up removing it. So far we haven’t had any real winter weather, so I can’t comment on how it is as the temperature dips below the 40s.  I don’t know how it would be in a real downpour; haven’t worn it yet in those conditions. [nls]

Topeak Whitelite DX Headlight

This  bright, rechargeable be-seen light lasts up to 100 hours between charges, which is awesome.  The rubber strap is snug enough for my Brompton handlebars and flexible enough for standard width bars as well. Because it’s so easy to remove and attach, this light is great for city commutes when you don’t want to leave lights on your parked bike. [nls]

And finally…

Timbuk2 Pinch Phone Wallet

What a great idea. A water proof phone holder that lets you use the phone without removing it. It has three slots in the back for carrying money, id or credit cards.  Great for cycling and for off-bike use as well. [nls]

Bringing Brompton to LA

For the next 8 months or so I’ll be travelling pretty regularly to LA for business. This trip I tried out 2 new things: 1) Staying at a B and B that’s in downtown LA, a mile away from the glitter, glitz and glamour part and 2) Bringing my Brompton along.

The Inn at 657

Staying here is like staying at a relative’s comfy old house. There’s a slight musty smell in the sitting room, as if the furnishings have spent time in storage (or maybe a junk shop).  A snack room is outfitted with a fridge and microwave. Upstairs are 5 bedrooms, each with a private bath, complete with tub and shower. My room is clean and smells fresh. The furniture is old and attractive the kind your aunt might have had if she had enough money for quality furniture but not enough for fancy. Extra framed pictures are sitting on the floor , as if that imaginary aunt had more pictures than she knew what to do with and just left them sitting there until she figured it out. After a while she got used to them there and she never did anything more with them.

The B&B comes complete with a chef who fixes a delicious breakfast, made to your preferences. You sit at a dining room table downstairs with any other guests who have chosen the same breakfast time that you selected. Options are 7:30 and 9:30 on weekdays.

Patsy, the owner, accommodates special food requests, and suggested I keep my Brompton and it’s travel case downstairs in the snack room. She also steered me toward some nearby options for neighborhood restaurants, and cautioned me to be careful as LA drivers “aren’t used to cyclists.”

I like this B&B. It is comfortable, quiet, conveniently located and provides individualized service. It’s likely that I will stay here again.

Biking By Brompton in Downtown LA

Travelling

This trip was the first test of my Brompton’s hard sided travel case. I sold the soft B-bag when I found that using it practically dislocated my shoulder. Ok, I am exaggerating. A lot. But it did hurt my shoulder and back.

The hard sided case is more expensive and definitely heavier than the soft bag, two minuses for it.  A third minus: it’s awkward to pick up and has just one handle. Another on one of the sides would be useful. One more to be aware of: it somehow chewed up the back of my Brooks saddle. Lesson: cover the saddle with something protective.  The pluses are 1) it holds the folded bike with a bit of room to spare. You could put clothes or accessories in it; 2) you can roll it comfortably and easily; 3) it meets airline’s checked bag size and weight limits; and 4) I imagine it gives the bike more protection.  So, an equal number of plusses and minuses. For me the most important is the fact its not hurting my shoulder or back.

Knowing I would be commuting on the bike, I used my C-bag as a carry-on. It is surprisingly comfortable to carry and fits well under an airplane seat. I brought lights in case of nighttime riding, which hasn’t happened as I am on Eastern time still and exhausted at night. I didn’t bring a helmet because there was no good way to carry one.

Oh, and I flew Southwest, perhaps the only airline that doesn’t charge when you check a bag. Also the only airline I have flown in recent years that does this astonishingly civilized thing. If your flight is delayed, they hold the connecting flight until you arrive. I ❤ Southwest.

Bicycling

This was my first time to commute by bike while away from home. In a word, it was great. The C-bag easily held what I needed for the day: some papers, a Macbook Air, my small purse, a bottle of water, my phone.  I set out at about 9:15 a.m. for the 2.5 mile ride to the office.  I had chosen not to bring a lock on the trip, reasoning the bike would come inside with me if I stopped anywhere. Had I wanted to pack the lock, it would have fit in the case just fine. I would have padded it carefully to keep it from damaging the bike.

My Brompton got admired twice along the way, once by a woman who walked up to ask me about my “cute little bike” and once by another cyclist who thought my bike was “cool.” I saw all sorts of bikes on my ride but no other folders.

Rush hour was over so traffic was relatively light. At times I had signed bike routes, at others marked lanes just for bikes, or for “Buses only, bikes ok.”  Each of these pieces of bike infrastructure was choppy though and tended to start and stop abruptly.  At the final half mile, my until then flat commute showed some spirit and became quite hilly. Thus I arrived at my destination sweaty and breathing hard.

The ride home at 5 pm was bit harder, as I was in the thick of rush hour. It turned out I couldn’t retrace my route exactly as Figueroa, the street I’d ridden in on was one way in the wrong direction, something I had not even noticed in the morning. Intrepidly I rode to the next street and turned right on it. I have no sense of direction whatsoever and so hoped LA is laid out with its streets perpendicular and parallel. Luckily for me it is, at least in that area. I eventually rejoined Figeuroa, cleverly doing that where the street was most congested. Signed bike route or not, I didn’t feel safe and so for about 1/4 of a mile I rode slowly on the sidewalk.

Later on I walked the short distance (less than half a mile)  to a nearby cafe. Customers had brought their full size bikes inside, so I certainly could have brought the Brompton.

This is a short trip. I return home tomorrow afternoon, and since I depart from the office, I will have to take a cab to transport me and my luggage. It was a bit of hassle to bring the bike, but worth it even for just a little riding. Next time I come I will be here for a day longer and will certainly bring the Brompton along. It was a fun way to commute, and it got me a little exercise as well.

 

 

 

Business Trip with Brompton

I’ve been in Chautauqua County for the past four days on a business trip. This is my first time bring my Brompton on an airplane.  It’s come along for some overnight trips that were in driving distance and that went very easily.  After much thought and some worrying, I had previously bought the Brompton B bag to use for air travel.  While part of me feared that it was not enough protection, another part realized it must be ok. Brompton recommends the B bag for this use, with some additional padding. Surely they wouldn’t recommend it if the bikes got destroyed when packed in it, right? I thought the B bag would be lighter and also easier to deal with when empty than a hard-sided case. For those who would rather have a hard-sided case, while Brompton presently does not have one, NYCE does.  Here’s what it was like using the B-bag:

Packing

Sunday I packed the bike, which involved just folding it normally. I also  removed the clamp that holds the stem together and storing it in the bag’s pocket. A video on the NYCE site advises doing this with all the clamps, as they can get bent. I thought just one of them looked vulnerable. I used a combination of bubble wrap and clothes to provide additional padding for the bike.

There’s a lot of extra room in the bag . My cycling clothes fit easily. I probably could have packed all my clothes in it, but didn’t want to take the chance of getting grease on my work clothes, so I also brought a small carry on.

Packed and Ready

Though the packing process is easy, it is  possible to make a mistake, and I did. The bag is asymmetrical as you can see from the photo. Position the folded bike so the saddle is in the taller side. Naturally I did it the wrong way around the first time.

Traveling

Getting the B-bag in the car was no problem. Dragging it around the airport was awkward though. I can easily enough lift the bike for but it’s heavy  to carry for any length of time. I was disappointed to learn that it is  extremely difficult to pull the bike in the B-bag for even a short distance. The bag has just 2 wheels. To pull it, there is a short strap  with which to tilt the bag back on its wheels and the weight just hangs on your arm.  Using the shoulder strap to carry it slung across your back might work for some; it’s not something I can do though.  Would 4 wheels on the bag help? It seems it could be designed to be truly easy to roll. Perhaps that is where the hardsided case is better; I don’t know.

I flew Southwest and so checked the bike for no extra fee. That part was a breeze. So was retrieving it in Buffalo. There was a  hassle again with dragging it around as I searched for the van to pick up my rental car. The obvious solution is to use a luggage cart which I will do on the return trip.

I  held my breath when unpacking the bike. What if it was damaged? I am happy report that it came out of the bag in fine shape. There was just one small issue. The front wheel was not spinning freely. I flipped the bike over and inspected the brakes, which seemed to be positioned correctly. When I looked further, I saw that the little metal connector bars (sorry I have no idea what they are really called) that hold the fender to the frame were a bit bent and touching the tire. I pulled them gently  away from the tire and, voila, all was well. Whew, a “repair” that even I could do.

Cycling in Chautauqua County

Cycling is quite prevalent here, more so than I had expected. Nice! I read in the local paper about a new bike/pedestrian plan being developed in Jamestown, a new bike lane funded for Dunkirk, and a charity ride to benefit Red Cross. This morning’s paper featured a story on 30 young cyclists who came through town on Wednesday. They ride raised funds for cancer research and was going from Baltimore to Seattle.  Despite all this sharing the road here seems to be an emerging concept. Or perhaps what is accepted as ok is different from what I have gotten used to.  No one drove too close to me but at  4-way stop intersections I was treated as invisible by drivers. I am used to taking my turn to go just as car drivers do. Here, my turn came after the drivers were all done.

My hotel is right on NY Bike Route 517 (Route 5 for cars).  I am not sure how far the route goes. I went just about 5 fairly flat miles on it  (back and forth), after pedalling through town doing some sight-seeing for about half an hour.  My first ride on Tuesday was a beautiful, if short one along Lake Erie.

The small towns here are close together and there are highways with bikeable shoulders connecting them, as well as smaller, lightly travelled roads.   I saw several cyclists along Route 60, and many more doing short rides around town.  Bikes seem to be popular for transportation and recreation in the region.

I’d like to ride the 50 mile route around Lake Chautauqua one day.  I’d have loved to explore more by bike during but I am really here for work, and my free time has been limited. My goal in bringing the bike was to keep up with my miles/week goal and have an opportunity for outdoor exercise. I only got in 2 short rides in the 4 days here. Ideally I would have done more, but two rides are better than none!  I’ve brought the Brompton to 3-4 hotels so far. I have never gotten any objections and the bike has been much admired.

Sunset at Lake Erie

So Was it Worth It?

Yes!