Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bags for Bikes

We’re going to talk about bags on this post. There are literally hundreds of types of bags for carrying loads on your bicycle at price points from $20 all the way to $200 plus. A decent bag should be constructed with sturdy materials and strong stitching to last through more than one commuting season. The design of the bag is important to make sure it will stay put and provide access to its contents while keeping them out of the weather. The size or type of the bag will depend if you’re using it for camping, commuting, holding your wallet and keys, or just keeping a few tools at hand. I’ve asked Freewheel for some input as we take a look at some decent all-purpose bags that will work well for commuting but might come in handy on a light tour.

Bags that hang on your handlebars:

These are bags that can work on several handlebar types (like mustache bars) and hold smaller items (less than 5 liters, usually). They strap to your handlebars instead of to a rack.
Freewheels’ Pick: The VO Bag
Baguette Bag, which also works as a saddlebag. It cost $34. However, it holds everything I need to take with me when I'm not hauling anything: tools, spare tubes, wallet, keys, cell. There's even room leftover for small purchases. (Apparently you can also take all that out and carry a baguette around, but I haven't tried that).

Tom’s Pick: My choice is the very similar Rivendell Brand V Bar Bag is a simple tube bag with velcro straps. The V is for Vegan since it contains no leather. The form factor is exactly the same as VO’s Baguette bag.


Other choices:
Acorn has three choices of sturdy made-in-the-USA bags for handlebars A simple nylon bag like this one from REI will work fine for smaller items.
Bags for a front rack or decaleurs: For the drop-bar crowd the popular choices are the boxy bar bags, which mount best on decaleurs, which are bag mounts that are typically attached to a small front rack. Bikes that can handle a front load can holder larger porteur bags. Folders and touring bikes work well with low-mounted front panniers.
Tom’s Pick: The Pelican Porteur Bag from Swift Industries. You can custom order this colorful bag or even order it along with a rack.

Freewheel’s Pick: Ortleib panniers (see more under panniers below).
Other choices: Boxy bar bags constructed of canvas like those at VO and Rivendell.

Nylon quick-release bags like the Banjo Brothers and Rixen & Kaul bags. Alan from EcoVelo recommended the Rixen and Kaul bags to me for my folding bike.
A small bag maker from Philadelphia, PA, Laplander Bags, has started making a very rich-looking porteur bag on the high end of the price range.
Bags for your saddle: These bags are great for keeping on your bike with essential tools, etc. This is one type of bag you can find at your local bike store. You can get larger saddle bags (5-11 liter) but beware they may rub the backs of your legs when you pedal, if that kind of thing annoys you.
Freewheel’s Pick: His trusty VO Baguette Bag, which doubles as a saddle bag complete with a loop for your blinkie.
Tom’s Pick: Minnehaha’s medium saddle bag, made of black canvas. It looks good, holds 8 liters or so, and the prices is right. Banjo Brothers Barrel Bag is a good choice for a smaller bag.

Other Choices:
There are hordes of cyclists out there who will use nothing but traditional touring bags from Carradice and Gilles Berthoud, so you probably can’t go wrong there. You can get less expensive Asian-made copies of these bags by Zimbale and Minnehaha. Origin8 makes traditionally styled bags out of nylon instead of canvas. If you’d like something handmade then take a look at the Towpath Duffle from Laplander. If wool tweed is more your style there plenty of choices over at Rivendell.

Rear Panniers:
Panniers are really the superior way to carry loads down low on your rear rack. They also leave the top of the rack free for carrying children, pizza, firewood or the like.
Tom’s Pick: Dutch Double Saddle Bags like Clarijs, CleverChimp and Basil

  These are large boxy bags (40L total capacity) that straddle your rear rack and made of waterproof tarp-type material. They generally live on your bag and sometimes have cutouts to slide a lock through for good measure. The boxy shape means that you'll have heel-strike issues unless you have long chainstays, so these are not great for typical road bikes. 
Photo: Rob
Freewheel's Pick: Ortlieb. I've been using these for years to haul all kinds of stuff in all types of weather. I've carried laptops through downpours with no worries. They truly are waterproof, and virtually indestructible. They've survived my worst crashes and wipeouts. They are very easy to latch and unlatch to your racks. With four of these (2 front, 2 back), you're in good shape for bike camping and touring.

Photo: REI
Other choices:
Bushwacker, Jadd and Arkel all make heavy-duty nylon panniers in various colors and sizes.

Swift Industries makes very nice panniers at a reasonable price. The folks at Path Less Pedaled used these bags every day for a year if you need a recommendation.

What if you could have only one bag? So this is one of those silly bonus categories, but I had to throw it in. If you have one bag it has to do lots of things pretty well.
Freewheel’s Pick: Ortleib Panniers. They’re tough and keep your gear dry.
Tom’s Pick: Sackville SlickerSack. OK, OK, so this is an odd bag. It’s flat like a suitcase, but rounded enough not to catch a headwind. It can hold a laptop inside or a pizza or sleeping bag on top. It fits on porteur rack or Nitto Platrack. It also looks great and will probably last a long time.

Other types of Bags: We missed a couple types of bike bags like rack-top bags, basket bags, frame bags and bento bags. And there are plenty of bags that you can wear as well. If you have a favorite bag, please add it in the comments!

Photos: Provided by Manufacturer unless noted otherwise

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Civia Halsted

Goodness, I've been asleep too long!

Here Civia offers us this lovely cycle truck, the Halsted. Actually, I don't care for the aesthetics of most of the Civia products, and this one is no exception, so lovely is not the right word. 

FUNCTIONAL and NOT-TOO-EXPENSIVE are more apt, and certainly qualify this as a bike-for-the-rest-of-us.

Noteworthy features:
  • Nine-speed drivetrain. Not enough gears for some folks, but plenty for many. (I've learned not to over-generalize, following several firm scoldings. People! Chill!)
  • Disc brakes up front. Probably a good idea.
  • The big front rack deck is made of recycled HDPE. It comes off easily too, so you can fashion your own out of birdseye maple, or whatever. Recommended load: 50 lbs.
  • The bike in the picture appears to have a double kickstand, though I didn't see it listed on the spec sheet. I will inquire.
  • Tough steel frame. Civia is a division/child of Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), and to my knowledge, they've never done anything poorly.
  • What else do you need?
MSRP: almost $1000
(I know, it's a lot. On the other hand, this is an out-of-the-box cargo hauler. Start yourself a Saturday "I'll get your stuff home from the farmer's market" delivery service this spring and you'll have that $1000 back by the end of the summer (probably sooner), and probably some good looking legs too.)

[Aside: I've stopped short of posting full spec sheets for my BFROU selections, in favor of editorial observations. I hope this is ok with y'all. I will try always to provide a link to the nuts and bolts, so to speak. --d]

UPDATE: Bicycling magazine has a video about the Halsted.

3 Years and 3 Cheers

It’s been 3 years now since I started Bikes For The Rest Of Us as a constructive response to my own somewhat vituperative rant about the state of the bicycle industry. BFROU is still going strong with its own domain name and a knowledgable team of contributors. I’d like to use this occasion to thank a few people.

Let’s start with the team. David, aka The Practical Cyclist , was the first to offer assistance. As I mentioned in the 1-year anniversary post, David brought his interest in cargo bikes to BFROU – certainly an important bike to consider if you want to go car-free or car-lite. His most recent post was about the bikeshare program in Washington, D.C., something that has changed life in this city for better.

Tom joined us at the tail end of 2009. He has highlighted a variety of upright, internal gear hub bicycles on the market. He recently posted about the Kona Africabike. Tom also put BFROU on twitter, where he is our tweeter-in-chief.

Joseph is our newest contributor, and he's shared many ideas for bikes for the rest of us right off the bat. His latest post is about the Batavus Fryslan. Another post by Joseph, about the Raleigh Detour Deluxe , has the distinction of being our most commented upon post (91 comments as of this writing; apparently, a “virtual alleycat” has something to do with that).

So special thanks to David, Tom, and Joseph for keeping BFROU active and interesting.

Of course, the primary reason that BFROU has continued is our readers. BFROU has received nearly 800,000 pageviews, many of which come, interestingly enough, from people googling their own bikes. This works well. The best information you can get about a particular bike is feedback from someone who actually owns it and rides it. Thank you to all of our readers and the googlers who happen upon our site, and a special thank you to the commenters.

Finally, I’d like to thank our first (and only) sponsor, We are grateful for their support. If you would like to sponsor BFROU, please contact us at

Again, thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. Here’s hoping that you've found the right bike for you, and that you’re riding it often.