It’s About the Bag(s)

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Read on to see how I turned a $12 tote turned imto a pannier.

There’s always stuff. When you’re on a bike you need to carry stuff. My stuff and your stuff may not be the same sort of stuff but I can guarantee that we both have stuff and it needs to be shleped from point A to B and beyone. Sometimes it amounts to more than a peck and gets closer to a couple bushels especially if you commute to work. Consider that you might need to pack rain gear and by that I mean rain pants. Even if they are packable rainpants they will be about the size of a roll of toilet paper. Wallet related accoutrement and maybe some incidental items like shoes or a jacket are included and then you could have tech stuff like an iPad or a laptop. Don’t get me started on the bike related supplies such as a flat repair kit with a tube and a pump. By the time you add that you might as well just drive.

The Wall of Bags… Still the search continues. No bag is perfect.

Kidding. Commuting is not something to enter into the night before. You should definitely plan for it and prepare your bags with what you really need to make it a go. But that’s a topic for another blog post. I want to talk about the perfert bag. First off, it does not exist. I have been on a quest since the start of my biking life and while there are certainly some that come close there’s almost always something that sours me on one bag and gets me fired up for yet another bag to add to the research project. Our needs change and as a result what we might be hauling with us for a ride to the store is different than the day to day commute.

Pockets, pockets, and more pockets are an essential ingredient to the right bag. However it can’t be just any ol’ pocket. Too small and you’re forever struggling to get the key or wallet or pen out of the pocket. A pocket that’s too big is equally useless because you lose the same stuff and maybe it’s too small for the bigger items.

U-Locks are like the elephant in the bag. No one wants to talk about how much room that take up or how heay they are because they are necessary mitigation to bike theft. I’m not a fan of the U-lock on the bike. It’s like a roof rack on a Porsche. The bike it a beautiful machine and throwing that lock holder is not for me. But that means I need a bag that can accomodate the heft of a U-lock.

I’ve been bothered by this whole perfect bag issue for awhile. I realize that the aethsetic of the bike is important to me. The cuteness of a bike reflect on me and the bike. I want the bag to accessorize the bike. However it also needs to hold all the stuff.

A year ago I found this adorable bag with a sweet bike print and I wished for it to be a pannier. Wishing does not make it so. It’s not a pannier but I thought maybe I could covert it to a bike bag if I could find the right hardware. A few weeks ago I was motivated to try.

The bag has an exterior pocket sleeve for stuff you need quick access to like the garage door opener, phone, keys and snack. Interior pocket is also a sleeve so I don’t have to fuss with a zipper.Then the main compartment is ample and deep but not cavernous like the Ortlieb bucket. I always think about the rain pants first. If those can fit in the bottom then that leaves plenty of room for stashing the other stuff.

The bagrifice.

Truth is the bag has been hanging in the garage for too long. Something had to be done. But I needed hardware which is neither cheap or easy to find. Time to make a sacrifice. A bagrifice. I needed the hardware from another bag to see if I could turn my nonbike bag into a pannier. I chose one that I ruled out of the day-to-day commute because while it cute it fell short in providing what I needed. Also it cheap so I was willing to offer it the the bag muse.

A trip to the hardware store did not prove helpful. I did enjoy the suggestion of velcro, however, that wouldn’t work. I commissioned my husband to see how to get the rivets out of the old hardware to then use the hardware in the tote. He’s very good at listening to my “this thingy should go into this doodad and then there’s these brad deals (rivets) that attach to the rack.”

We opened up the bag and started to work on the rivets.

The hardware was attached with rivets that took about an hour to pound out of the bag. I’ve never done anything like this before so I struggled with how to get under the flat bit and leverage enough to pop it out. Also the hardware is made of plastic and I didn’t want to damage them.

Once the hardware was liberated from the old bag I was free to start considering what we needed to make the “tote-al” conversion. Back to the hardware store to find a rivet gun. The tools necessary amounted to $35. It’s starting to make sense why panniers cost so much. The hardware alone can cost upwards of $35, but then you have to actually attach it to the bag somehow.

Spiked bag. Rivet didn’t break off. Truth is that it needs a little help.

We did several trials with the rivets to be sure it all worked. Using a rivet gun is like holding your breath for 20 seconds and then having someone punch you in the gut. Freaky tool and not a sure thing. Sometimes the shaft of the rivet doesn’t break off and then you’re looking at it like vampire looks at a stake, until it breaks off and then you’re considering opening a bag business because you’re getting pretty good at the whole thing.

That looks good! The five to follow were work times ten.
I’m pretty excited to share my enthusiasm for the perfect bag!

All in all this project was fun. I’d try it again with another bag and if you’re ever in a situation where you think about converting a tote or favorite bag to a pannier I think it would be worth trying out. If it wasn’t for quarantine I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but I’m glad I gave it a go.

Remember Mary Poppins and her carpet bag that she pulls out bottle of perfume, a folding armchair, a packet of lozenges, a large bottle of dark red medicine, seven flannel nightgowns, one pair of boots, a set of dominoes, two bathing caps, one postcard album, one folding camp bedstead, blankets and an quilt? That’s how I approach a bike pannier. It should be able to hold nearly everything you need, still look classy and most of all, compliment the bike.

The TOTE-al makeover. Tote made into a pannier.

That’s a tall order for any bag, but now that I have a rivet gun, well, let’s just say, I feel like it’s all in the bag.

I do have some favorite panniers. I bought a set of Ortleb bags in Germany and I do love them because they say “der Aussteiger” on the side. Also, a great souvenir from a trip.

I also think that Po Campo bags are amazing. They are like the Coach bag of bike bags. Super classy and you want them all. If someone you know loves bags, you should get them a Po Campo. Pretty and practical is always a great combination. I also have a Timbuk2 bag that converts to a backpack and their hardware is indestructable. In the video I show a Timbuk2 tote that converts to a backpack and the hardware is not where the backpack is so kudos on that design. Generally, I’m a fan of a bag that converts to a crossbody or a backpack. The messenger style bag is another favorite however, I’m not big on carrying it, so the two I own I often strap to my front rack. I tend to use the messenger style more in the winter for some reason. Arkel is another spanking good bag brand. Their hardware system is available to purchase too.

The very best bag I ever bought was an Abus bag. I bought it at a bike shop in Potsdam, Germany back in 2009. That bag was about 99% perfect. Pockets in all the right places for me. Not too much of anything and just the right amount of what I need. I wore that bag out. It actually crumbles in my hands. I can’t use it, but I keep it because maybe someday it will be the template for a bag I design.

As long as there is stuff there will be a need to carry it. You have to figure out what works for you. Bags come it all shapes and sizes. Baskets are also an option! Yeah, I have some of those too. Always ask about return policies or start your own bag wall.

I’m happy that I gave this old bag a new life and it’s pretty adorable.

The goal is to ride and making sure you have what you need for each and every mile.

Thanks for reading. What’s in your bag? What are some of your favorite bags? Tell me about them.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Bike Goddess

Roadie Renewal

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2006 Trek Portland (after the overhaul)

As a child, my favorite crayon in the box was copper. It still is. The reddish-orange-brown gleams in the sunlight and shimmers under the moon. You don’t need to coax a sparkle out of copper. There’s a luster to it all the time. My obsession started early with gold and silver too, but copper was my go metal in the crayon box for everything. Yes, I was the kid with the whole color page in copper, silver and gold. When I first saw hammered Honjo mud guards I started scheming. That was over a year ago. They wouldn’t fit one of my other bikes, but I never forgot the copper wink.

But that’s not the whole story. In December I was pining for another bike. I was thinking of doing the Rapha Festive 500 but I didn’t want to use my Cannondale road bike. With rain and snow in the forecast there was little chance of me logging any serious miles on it. If the bike shop had my size in stock, this would be a different post. However it was out of stock and not just for the bike shop, but for the brand. I couldn’t even get a test ride on my size. I was bummed and left to consider some other options.

My old commuter bike, the 2006 Trek Portland, was a great bike. I say was because I relegated it to the basement on the Wahoo trainer I bought about a year ago. That was working out fine, but frankly a waste of a great bike. It had skinny tires and I put the original seat on it. I stripped it down to the essentials and took off the old fenders and rack. I rode it on the trainer only. The back tire was shiny with Zwift miles. It would have been easy to leave it that way, but the thing is that bike is a great bike. It has disc brakes and it can climb with more speed and grace than my carbon fiber. Excellent gearing and overall it was a serious investment back in ’06.  My big mistake with the Trek was when I put skinny tires on it for a century. Also, some of my friends were getting new sleek road bikes and I started to think I needed a new road bike. That means my Trek Portland was sidelined and the new carbon fiber was getting all the attention.

It was right around Christmas that I started to consider what if. What if I brought the Portland out of basement biking and back into the riding fleet. A Strava friend posted a picture of his bike and I was blinded by the copper fenders and I started to get organized.

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This was my “inspiration” bike.

I considered doing the upgrade with the carbon bike, but the Synapse doesn’t have disc brakes and I always feel uncoordinated and tentative on that bike. I kept thinking about the Portland. It has everything I want and with a little love and clever bike mechanics, I can pay for an overhaul and get the bike back on the road where it belongs! That was about two weeks ago. My 2006 Trek Portland looks better than ever and rides like a dream. Again!

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Keep your eyes on the road and try not to be distracted by my amazing not-new bike. My Miss Portlandia is geared up for some touring. First 35 miles completed and another 1000 ahead. Easy!

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Before.

If you’re on the fence about your bike options, my advice it to consider how you can make the most of the bike(s) you have. Again, I can say this because that other bike just wasn’t available, but the whole incident was a challenge and I feel like I handled it well and saved myself some money and got exactly what I wanted.

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After. New Continental Gator tires, bar tape and a total overhaul.

Considering a renovation of an existing bike gives you an opportunity to customize the bike exactly the way you want. I never had major issues with my Trek, I wanted a slightly wider tire and some bling. Plus having bike mechanics overhaul your bike and clear out all the built up gunk is a good thing.

Trekkie Portlandia

The results amaze me. I can’t take my eyes off this bike. I ride past windows trying to get a glimpse. Riding around I saw heads turn and people raise their eyebrows in approval. Some people say it’s just a bike. Just my bike!

Some little birds think I did a great job! I am thrilled with how she looks and most importantly, how she rides! What do you do to update, upgrade and otherwise renew your ride? Leave your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Enjoy the ride!
Bike Goddess

 

#TrekPortland, @BikeGalleryPortland #portlanddesignworks @trekbikes #bikingbliss #bikerides #vancouverwa #bontrager #trekbikes #bikes

 

Best Summer Gear 2017

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Good gear should help you go farther, faster, better. It should enhance, not hinder whatever activity is ahead. We all have opinions about the gear we use. Summer 2017 proved to be a good in the Department of Gear.  I have had this space on my site for sometime, but I always talk myself out of writing about products. Also, it’s important to use a product for more than a few days. Gear needs to be put through the paces of your routine. Something that works for commuting may not be the best for travel.

Here are the items I’d buy again. The five items listed I purchased within the last year. Recently I came home from a big trip and all these products were used. If any of these vendors (TerryBikes, SweetSpotSkirts, GoodOrdering, Moxie, and HydraPak) want to sign me up for some swag or send me a coupon, I’d be happy to accept. Read on.

First up: The Soleil Top by Terry

Admittedly, I was skeptical. Long sleeves in the heat of summer? Hello? How can that possibly be cool? But when you get sick of slathering on the sunscreen and you want to be outside enjoying the day and the rays—this is the best top. I bought mine at REI on an impulse. I was heading to Greece and I thought this top would be easy to pack and one of those perfect tops for traveling. I was 100% spot on. I love it. I paid full price and it’s on sale now on the Terry site. I have noticed them for a few years but again, I thought it would be too hot. I was wrong. What a find! The black and white goes with everything and the sleeves are long enough to protect your wrists. Did any sun get through? None! It’s rated at 50+ and the crew design keeps you covered from your neck to hip. You could also wear it over a bathing suit. It’s weirdly cool even when the temps are high. How high? I’ve worn the top in 100 plus degrees and it’s cool. Cool!

I thought I’d only give it four owls since I kind of wanted a few more colors or designs, but when you have one classic design you don’t need anything else. If you want it loose, order up a size. Three stash pockets in the back are big enough for keys, snacks and even a big phone.

I’m choosing owls for my rating. Five owls is the best.

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#2 Next up: Moxie Cycling 

The T-back tank is a favorite. I bought three at an REI sale last year. One of them had a bad pocket, but the other two have become part of my summer uniform. If the soleil top is to keep  you covered, then the T-back is for tanning while on tour. Add sunscreen of course!

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The T-back top swims well too. I didn’t know that until I found myself at the end of a long ride near a beach and the water was calling my name. This top and I took a plunge in the Perissa Bay. I think when a top does even more than what it was designed to do it deserves five owls. This top really does have moxie! Try eBay for other styles. I’m not sure what’s up with the company. Some of the links weren’t working for ordering new. This is my favorite top of theirs. They also have a t-shirt style, but I wasn’t a fan of the cut. The T-back is flattering and cool and have some built in support (wink).

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 #3 Sweet Spot Skirts 

These skirts are like potato chips. You can’t stop with just one. Note that each one is reversible too, so it’s like getting two skirts. I have too many, but what can I say. I was around when Sweet Spot Skirts was starting up. I know that each one of my purchases has helped support this company and the skirts are cute and versatile. I always travel with one and I wear the skirts throughout the year. Paired with leggings and boots in the winter or cycling shorts in the summer these skirts are great when you want a little more coverage than cycling shorts provide.

It’s hard to choose a pattern because they’re all spectacular. Like I said, the potato chips of skirts. You can wear them with any compression shorts of padded cycle shorts. The possibilities are endless. Check out the site and if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington, go to the store and see for yourself.

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I can stop anytime I want.

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Handmade too! I tend to choose colors that will go great with anything in my closet.

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#4 is the best bag ever. It’s the Market Bag from GoodOrdering.

How do I love thee… Market Bag! Let me count the ways. First it’s lightweight even when you pack it full with everything from a journal to two liters of water. I was astounded by how much I could fit into the bag and still carry it. It’s a backpack and a pannier. How amazing is that? It’s the best travel bag ever! I didn’t take any tech with me except for my iPhone, headphones and Mophie charger. It worked as a beach bag, a book bag, a market bag, a pannier, a carryon! Plus it’s super distinctive and guess what? You can throw it into the washing machine and let it air dry and it’s as pristine as the day you bought it. I love this bag! I bought it at a bike shop because it was orange and had loads of pockets. I hadn’t used it much because I was afraid to get it dirty. I figured it would travel well and I was right. When I read on the GoodOrdering site about machine washing the bag, my love grew. It’s brilliant! They even make great bags for kids.

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#5 The HydraPak..

It was another impulse purchase at REI. One thing about traveling is you have to pack water. Even though in Greece the water was a Euro or less for a liter, it’s nice to have you own bottle. I took this everywhere and when it wasn’t in use, like the airport, then I’d crush it down to take up as little space as possible. The hard water bottles are bulky and take up a bit of space. I love how easy the HydraPak makes is to pack water. If you need  additional water on a ride, this is a good way to do it.

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The most expensive product is GoodOrdering bag at about $90. The Soleil top is $89 but sometimes certain styles go on sale. The Moxie top might be the only one that’s hard to find, but I see REI has them on sale for $30 or so.

That’s a rundown of my favorite products this summer. I’d love to review more products, so if anyone wants feedback on a product, you can let me know and I’ll be happy to try it out. I’m here for you.

Thanks for reading. Tell me about some of your favorite gear. What’s the one bit of gear you couldn’t imagine your summer without?

Get out there and ride!
BG

 

 

 

Hoppy Easter!

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The Easter Bunny brought me this irreverent shirt from TwinSix and I absolutely love it! It’s called “He Has Ridden,” and it’s my new favorite seasonal bike shirt.

Easter in my family of Greeks involves bread baking and an scrumptions spread of traditional village foods.

Yes, there was lamb and green beans, salad and cheese or spinach pies. This year I was in charge of the bread. Tradition dictates that I should make the bread is a braid and red eggs baked into the strands. I tried something different this year. Someone posted something clever on Facebook that showed the dough in a  muffin pan. I think traditions can be updated, so I put half the dough in a loaf and made half in muffins. Same dough, so the flavor is the same. The serving is what’s different. The muffin size was a big hit.

I managed to make time for a bike ride with my dog. He loves his bike rides.

The weather was very cooperative the last two days. Sunny days ahead I hope. So we can all ride our cares away.

About the t-shirt. Twin Six promotes a t-shirt of the month. Their shirts are clever and unique. I’m a pushover for a good pun and I had to share.

Happy trails. Be safe out there and remember to get out there and ride.

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

 

 

Mad About Mass Transit

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I love mass transit. I’m a transit junkie. Figuring out bus and train schedules is like planning a trip to a far away destination but the ticket is infinitely cheaper. I don’t know why I love it, I just do. You become the travel agent. In the mornings I commute by bus and bike and in the afternoon I ride my bike all the way home. It’s what I do and it works for me. Last year I got lazy and didn’t take the bus much opting for my husband’s offer to drive me to work. Then the bus schedules changed this fall. It has been the best change too. At first I was upset since I wasn’t sure how it would work. Now, I love it. My bus goes farther east which means I only have to ride 2 miles in the morning and I’m at school at 6:40 a.m., instead of 6. That extra time has been put to the pillow since I don’t have to get up as early. The bus comes a bit later so I don’t have to wait outside until 5:50. Liberating!

The other amazing upgrade this year is my bus. Not that I had much to do with that change, but what a difference it makes to ride a shiny new eco-friendly bus.  The first day I was on the new rig I was wearing a dress and it felt like a special occasion. What a difference. Quite a boost to morale to be riding is such a posh carriage.

With few other bikes on the bus I feel like I have it all to myself. There are a few other bikers who ride but they get on after me. There was only one day I had to school the guy who was on before me about how to put his bike on the rack closest to the window so others could get their bikes on swiftly. He has since learned his lesson. There was a day last week a young guy got on and he was asking me about my bike. His friend gave him a fixie and he wanted to know where to buy tubes and how to get his new acquisition into shape. I gave him a few tips about patching the tire and taking it to a bike shop to have a mechanic give it a more thorough check up.

Since the bus goes a little further in the morning and I don’t have to ride as far, I tend to wear my work clothes and pack whatever bike related knickers I plan to wear home. That was working great for the month of September, so we’ll see what the rains of October bring. I pack my rain pants and it would be easy enough to change if the weather required it.

There was another upgrade I made this year, but I’ll save that for my next post.

Be safe and seen out there!

Happy riding!

Right after the bus drops me off.