Saturday, 30 March 2013

30 Days of Biking

I have several reviews in the pipeline, and an article or two about bike fit.

In the meantime, though, 30 Days of Biking is about to kick off on Monday 1st April and I've signed up!

My goals are to (1) ride a bike every day, (2) take a photo while out on my bike, and (3) post that photo here on the blog before that day ends.

The result will be a pictorial calendar for the month... while getting out on my bike every day.

Several local friends are doing it... as are several of the fellow bloggers in the Blog List on the right.

Join us?  Click the link above to sign up. 



Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Discovery

There are people out there even more obsessed with bags than I am.

I suspected (indeed hoped) it was true.

Now I know.

http://www.carryology.com/category/bags/messengers-bags/

These guys are professional bag obsessers.

OMG, look away... look away now...


http://www.homeofmillican.com/shoulder-bags/mark-the-field-bag.html

http://bedouinfoundry.com/styles/barbarossa/

http://www.defybags.com/recon-small/


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Allure of the Night Ride

When I mention night-riding to people who haven't done it (cyclists and non-cyclists alike), almost invariably the response is "Why?!" accompanied by a facial expression of either bewilderment or distaste.

I suppose it is a good question. Why do I do this?

At first, doing a night ride was just a weird kind of challenge I set myself. I'd try it once and tick it off my list. I had little in the way of expectations. Beforehand, I was a little nervous, as one always is when trying something different for the first time. My key 'worry' had to do with the distance (120 miles) when I'd not really ridden more than 45 miles in one go before. But the relative flatness of the route and the forecast for balmy weather counter-balanced that 'fear'.  I was also a little nervous about seeing my path in the dark. My commuter lights didn't cast much light! I wondered whether I'd have to go a lot more slowly than I could in the daytime.

All of those pre-ride fears and worries turned out to be real but entirely manageable. I (and my bike) made it smoothly -- if slowly -- through the night and into the morning and onto the beach before the pre-booked transport left for the return to London. And I slept 15 hours straight afterwards.

What I did not expect was the sheer elation I felt afterwards. I was euphoric for days!  A great deal of that was of course relief and a sense of accomplishment. I did it!  120 miles overnight from London to the Suffolk coast!  Way to go, me! 

But there was something else there too.... memories....

...pedalling through villages and tiny hamlets whose streets are full of cyclists getting that last pint in before the pubs close (!)...

...leaving the last street lights behind...

...all those stars....


...the sense of being in a calm little bubble, pedalling through the night...

...incredible peace and tranquillity...

...the rustle of small creatures in the hedgerows...

...watching a ribbon of blinking red lights snaking for miles ahead of me through the darkness...

...birdsong before dawn...

...the sight of the very first faint pink streaks on the undersides of the clouds as the night lifted...

...unexpected sights and sounds... windmills and castles... owls and frogs...

...the incredible peace and tranquillity of the countryside before the world "wakes up"

...surreal half conversations and laughter with strangers whose faces you never see...

...feeling a bit woozy and getting the unspoken moral boost of hooking onto the back of a group who are going just that little bit faster than you... whose riders seem to know where they're going (thank you Team Slow!)

...this strange juxtaposition of deep contemplation and blessed aloneness, with spontaneous and unhibited socialising with everyone you meet on the road

This doesn't begin to cover it.  The night, the sense the world is peacefully asleep, indeed the sense that you are one with that world and perhaps, just a little, watching over it as it slumbers...

It's magical.

And addictive. So much so, a cycling club has grown up in London that does little else.

After a break through the winter months, I am counting down the hours til we depart Hyde Park Corner Thursday night at the stroke of midnight...

... 60 hours and 30 minutes...



Sunday, 24 March 2013

CYCLING LOG: 18-24 March 2013. (Thbbft. As Bill the Cat would say.)

Fri, Mar 22, 2013
 
10.00 km in 00:35:00 hours at 17.14 km/h on Puch Princess mixte.

To Harpenden. (No computer yet.)



Saturday, 23 March 2013

Somewhere it's spring... but not here

We have snow. Again. It started about 5am, stopped about 9am and has now (2pm) started up again, quite as if it means to carry on for a while. We're going into town to see a movie later - hope the buses are still running!

Meanwhile, we've had a quiet Saturday... starting with a nice lie in (just what the doctor ordered after the week I've had)... followed by what is fast becoming the traditional Saturday omelette... enjoying the cats' antics... then a bit of bike fettling...  Thanks to ebay, Lorelei now has very shiny MKS Touring pedals with Christophe clips and straps. :)


It's Not The Weather, It's Your Gear... Road Cycling Edition

I prepared this post yesterday. Then it snowed again last night. And there has been further fettling and test rides on the mixte - all of which warrant another post which will be up shortly. 

*************************************

Further to my January post on clothing and kit to keep you warm and dry for winter commuting, here is a photo of a my typical winter road cycling gear.

The key differences in what's important when commuting versus getting out on the road and putting some long miles in are (a) temperature and moisture management and (b) wind chill, as you're expending more effort (= more sweat!) at higher speed (= may feel colder, especially when you stop!)

So I don't usually wear my waterproof overtrousers out on the road. I may get a little damp in the rain, but most winter tights are water resistant enough and I'd rather layer up with breathable fabrics to keep warm, than "boil-in-a-bag" yet shivery inside waterproofs.

Also, on my road bike I wear cycling boots for clipless pedals. 

This photo was taken a few weeks ago. The temperature was around freezing (0-1C) and we had some light snow flurries. I cycled to Harpenden for my Pilates class and the monthly farmers market - a round trip of 13 miles which is mostly downhill outbound, mostly uphill homebound.


From head to foot, skin to outer, I wore: 
  • Trek Windstopper headband  
  • Smartwool merino beanie  
  • Merino Buff  
  • Endura crewneck longsleeve merino baselayer 
  • dhb Ladies Vaeon Zero Padded Bib Tight  
  • Smartwool longsleeve full-zip merino jersey   
  • Gore Bike Wear Windstopper jacket  
  • Gore Bike Wear Power SO Lady Gloves  
  • Stretchy tube skirt (from Primark)    
  • DeFeet Wooleater ankle socks  
  • Shimano MW81 boots

Friday, 22 March 2013

Snowy debut

No pics because we had no time to stop, but this morning Lorelei took me to Harpenden for physio.  In steady falling snow and strong veering winds. Two enforced stops early on -- first to raise saddle (more) and then again to tighten up bolt to keep the saddle's nose from dipping! 

The 'front end' of the bike feels quite strange... partly from not being able to rest hands right over hoods, mostly using suicide levers to brake (meaning hands are closer together at slow speeds and stops -- affects balance more than I expected!). I have no problem with stem-mounted shifters as that hasn't changed, and I quite like friction shifting.

The bike feels quite lively, which confirms what I suspected from the beginning:  the geometry is more "road" than relaxed.  (I can't seem to create a hyperlink for the explanation on this, so here's the URL: http://lovelybike.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/buying-vintage-mixte-what-to-look-for.html).

Pity I needed a saddlebag loaded with clothes and two heavy locks.

Proper outing tomorrow. With photos. Else it didn't happen - right?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Oh for a quiet life!


As some readers know, I am enrolled with the Open University after a 5 year gap, to finish my law degree. On top of working full-time! Although it's a short-term job and is thankfully due to finish 3rd April. My first written assignment was due at midnight last night. I don't know how well I did on it... although I must say I did a sterling job of stressing out in the days leading up to it.  (Trying to re-establish good study habits is tricky now, being part of a family rather than living as a hermit!) So I spend some quality time in bed yesterday afternoon with a migraine and a dose of Imigran. And then got up and finished the assignment. And got it submitted online. With an hour to spare.

I did steal a moment Tuesday morning -- and boy did it feel like 'stealing' when I had to own up to Adam that I hadn't in fact spent the ENTIRE day with my nose in the books! -- to hasten Lorelei's transformation.


Rear rack and kickstand removed. Small things but it made me happy.

And Adam has since finished the brakes.

Our Friday overnight ride from Birmingham to the Rollright Stones looks likely to be cancelled due to forecasts for heavy snow. 

So.... Lorelei may get her new road debut on Saturday morning! :)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

CYCLING LOG: 11-17 March 2013


Sat, 16 Mar 2013
20.06 km in 01:18:21 hours at 15.36 km/h on Surly Pacer.

To Harpenden and back in heavy rain - sleet at times - plus strong winds up to 20mph. Headwind going down -- with effort required to pedal downhill -- and something of a tailwind on the uphills -- and nerve-wracking crosswinds on the Woodside - Slip End - Peppercorn zigzag each way. end odo 2059.8
Tags: road
Wed, Mar 13, 2013 - 28.82 km [Cycling]
28.82 km in 01:41:26 hours at 17.05 km/h on Surly Pacer.

To Harpenden and back; then to Dunstable Travel Hub. end odo 2039.7
Tags: road
Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 7.30 km [Cycling]
 
7.30 km on Brompton S1L.

home to Luton station, then City Thameslink station to Old Broad Street and then to Farringdon.
Tags: commute


NOTES:

While significantly more miles than last week (in only 3 outings), this is a bit of a disappointment as my diary indicated I could get three round trips to Harpenden in this week, instead of just the usual one.

However, Saturday's ride was in some of the very toughest conditions I've ever experienced. So when I heard the wind lashing the rain against the windows again Sunday morning, well.... I wimped out.

A few notes about Saturday though -

Temperature 5C.  Winds up to 20mph from S/SW. Rain turning to sleet as I rode through Slip End, then rain again. Strong crosswinds on bridge over M1 and its approaches - a bit hair-raising, so I took care to keep well off the kerb!

Wet weather kit worked well, better than I was braced for, frankly.
  • The Gore jacket in particular, I have to rate 10/10. I can't think of a single thing this jacket could have done better. I'd worn it in drizzle before and in light winds, but never heavy rain (and sleet) combined with strong winds. No water got in anywhere yet it was sufficiently breathable.  My jersey and base layer were only very slightly damp when I got to my destination but this was clearly from my perspiration as the inside of the jacket was bone dry.
  • The Craft over-trousers have been brilliant while commuting but, again, hadn't been tested out on the road in this kind of weather. I'll give them 7/10. Weather-wise, the weak spot was the lack of windproofing - my shins got pretty cold. The fit is sufficiently tailored to be comfortable on a road bike, yet not too restrictive. As noted before, the fabric used on the seat is a bit of a problem with my Brooks Swallow:  it's slippery in dry condition but behaves like Velcro in the wet! The outer surface got quite waterlogged and heavy, especially on the fronts of the thighs, but inside things were almost completely dry. 
  • My new Shimano MW81 boots:  9/10. There seemed to be a little dampness creeping in but I'm not sure of source.
  • Gore Windstopper gloves - coped well first 5-6 miles even in driving frontal winds. Then from one moment to the next, went very damp.
  • Smartwool beanie - I never expected or intended for this to keep my head dry, but it turned out to be warm enough, especially round the ears, which is my main aim.
  • Merino Buff - as with beanie. Got so waterlogged that when I took it off in Harpenden, I couldn't bring myself to put it back on again for the return journey. But it did keep my neck warm and kept the wind from coming down the collar of my jacket. If I hadn't taken it off, I could have happily worn it much much longer.
The fact that I had to take all this kit off when I got to Harpenden (for physiotherapy) and thenput it all back on again to go home gave me a fantastic opportunity to check what was really wet -- and where. Usually, I get home, peel off wet stuff without inspecting, and if the outside is really wet, I have perhaps in the past assumed there was more dampness on the inside as well than in truth there may have been. Putting clothes back on that are dripping on the outside gives you a chance to find out if they're truly wet on the inside -- and if so, how wet and where. 

The only real discomfort I suffered due to the weather came from my eyes getting hit by sleet. My left eye in particular really ached for a while afterwards.  I recently purchased some clear safety goggles in preparation for exactly this situation - must remember to take them next time!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Lorelei goes back to her roots

My 1978 Puch Princess mixte has served me well the past 3 years. I bought her before I got into riding road bikes. But I was aware that she originally had been a road bike - like this:

Puch Princess owned by Kate aka 'darksquid'.
Interestingly, Kate made over her mixte in a similar fashion
as I did with Lorelei - see http://www.flickr.com/photos/darksquid/3963611482/in/faves-10938860@N03/.


When I bought Lorelei off ebay in May 2010, she'd lost her drop bars and looked like this:


With some TLC from Brixton Cycles, she was transformed into this, her current incarnation. We did our daily commute every day the summer of 2010 and then did the 120-mile Dunwich Dynamo with the same set-up... and then our first two Friday Night Rides to the Coast.


But she has been telling me since the day we met that she wants to fly like the wind, so I've been dreaming of returning her to her road touring roots.

Today we fitted retro-shaped drop bars and brake levers (including the top "suicide" levers) and a lovely black Brooks Swallow.

Makeover started - March 2013.

We're not quite road ready -- just need to get and fit the correct size barrel adjusters. At some point I will wrap the bars with black leather and fit the new-old-stock, entirely original, Bluemels Sprint Veloce mudguards -- but I am literally itching to get back on this lovely steed and hit the roads again.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Review: TIMBUK2 CLASSIC MESSENGER XS (Custom)


This is Timbuk2's Classic Messenger Bag.

Firstly, you're probably eyeing this and thinking "no way is that colour scheme in the shops".

And you'd be right.

You may recall my initial frustration (okay, 'rant') that, prior to buying my first messenger bag, I was curious about how useful and comfortable they really are, but was really put off by the limited colour choices and, let's face it, masculine aesthetics (all too often that dark, gritty, 'urban road warrior' look). 

Looking around, a few Timbuk2 messenger bags looked promising in terms of function (and positive feedback by my fellow lady blogger Cycling In Heels intrigued me further) but again... ugh! what uninspiring colours!

But I had only been looking at websites of UK-based online retailers, like Wiggle. When I visited Timbuk2's own website, I discovered.... the Custom Bag option! 

What a revelation!  While the bag itself can't be altered much in terms of basic design (size, pockets, etc), you can -
  • choose the colour (even fabrics) for each of the three panels that are an integral part of the Classic Messenger's signature look;
  • choose the colour of the binding/trim;
  • choose the colour of the interior lining;
  • choose the colour of the Timbuk2 logo on the front (make it as subtle as you like!);
  • specific whether you wear your bag over your left shoulder or your right;
  • add a larger reflector tab at the end of the straps that close the bag;
  • add a compression strap on the bottom of the bag; and
  • add on (at extra cost)
    - a shoulder strap pad (customised if you wish to match the colour/fabric of your bag);
    - a pocket at the back of the interior;
    - a grab handle on top of the bag;
    - other various accessories as part of your order (each of which are also available for sale separately).
So I thought:  if there's a chance I'm going to like this bag (and the odds look good), then I'm going to get something I not only love for its function but love for its looks.   So here it is.

My order specification was:


Secondly -- and if you've been reading my other messenger bag reviews, you'll know how crucial this is --this is the "XS" size of the Classic Messenger.  It measures 22.5 cm in height; the width is 32.5 cm at the top but tapers down to 26.5 cm at the bottom; and the depth is 13 cm. This is very comparable to the Michaux Club Tan Commuter bag (23 cm high x 33 cm wide x 9 cm deep), which I totally love.  [Just for context, the Large Classic Messenger is 30 cm high, 57 cm tapering to 41 cm wide and 23 cm deep!]

Features

This is the front, with the bag closed -


And the rear -


Single strips of fabric are used right over the front and back of the bag -


I think this is a nice touch, producing fewer seams that can rub/wear. And if you've chosen a patterned fabric in the Custom Bag option, the pattern will be continuous. The one downside is that pattern matching is not carried across over all the panels -- it would have been nice if the pattern in the two side panels of my bag had matched up or, even better, mirrored each other. But that would have added a lot of time and cost to what is probably a fairly automated manufacturing process.

Moving on, there is a strap on the front (below the flap) to mount a rear light -


If you go the Custom Bag route, you can opt for reflective trim. 
(And as you'll see a few photos further along, this same trim is used throughout, even on the interior!)


The bag closes with two methods:  straps with buckles over the outside of the bag, and also Velcro(R) strips underneath the flap.  Both methods work well. In fact, either on its own would be good enough.  With both, there is no way to avoid using the Velcro, regardless of whether or not you then leave the buckles undone.  If I could choose just one, I'd have the straps and buckles. I find that sometimes in a hurry, I close the bag and then find that the seams of the panels in the flap don't line up with the seams of the panels on the bag.  The straps are more forgiving in this regard (if the Velcro weren't there).  The Velcro strips are also incredibly loud, when opening the bag.  Timbuk2 do sell, separately, "Silencer Strips" that you can fix over the Velcro to put them out of commission -- if you don't like the mess, or the noise, or both. Removing the strips re-instates the Velcro function whenever you wish.

Having said that, there is perhaps one minor downside to relying on just the straps and buckles, and that is the material of the straps. It is a little on the slippery or silky side. I have found a few times that they loosen a bit on their own.  (So maybe that Velcro is good insurance after all.)

Under the flap is an organisation area on the front of the main body of the bag. This comprises a zip pocket (which has Timbuk2's signature red ribbon key tether inside), with a slip pocket above that. I think Timbuk2 has this configuration of pockets pre-made as a kind of pouch, ready to sew onto the bag as a unit. I understand pocket unit for the larger size messenger bags has more pockets - with the key tether inside the main body of the bag. (Can anyone confirm?)


Looking inside, you'll see a large main area, with a full-width slip pocket at the back of the bag. The divider used to create this pocket is lightly padded. (See the reflective lining!)


The slip pocket is not quite wide enough to fit A4 (or letter) sized papers inside, but the main bag is... just.


The lining is a type of vinyl or PVC - easy to clean by simply wiping it with a damp cloth. I chose a pale colour for contrast -- makes it easier to find the little things that inevitably settle at the bottom of your bag.

There is also a small zipped "Napoleon" pocket at the side of the organisation unit. This is designed for entry from the side, even while on the move.  [I will try and add a photo of this later.]

Moving on to the straps...

The shoulder strap is about 5 cm wide and made of nylon webbing of the sort used for car seatbelts. It is fixed at one end -- although there is also a ring sewn in just below where the strap is attached.  At the other end, the strap feeds through what I believe is called a Cam fastener. It has a looped section that lifts up to loosen the strap and then presses down again to secure the strap at the length you've chosen.  The Cam doesn't have a definite click-down feel to it, so I wonder how secure it really is but so far I haven't had the strap slip on me - so far so good. 

Meanwhile, I like how the Cam is shaped -- curvy with no hard edges (unlike the Knog Big Dog -- you could hurt yourself with that one!)



It may not be 100% clear from the photos above what happens to the excess length of shoulder strap. The bag was delivered with that end of the strap looped through a buckle that is fixed to the end of the bag below the Cam.  I re-threaded it through the buckle in such a way that I could loop the excess length round and round inside itself. This produces a smaller 'package' at the side of the bag and means there is no loose end to flap around.

And now for one of my  favourite features of messenger bags...  uh oh, it's not there!

I'm talking about the anti-swing strap. Timbuk2 say "XS bag does not include and is not compatible with the cross strap."  "Not compatible?" I say, "Rubbish!". 

I've examined how the cross strap is attached to the size S version of this same bag and see no reason why the same can't be done with the XS. And guess what - I had no difficulty attaching the anti-swing strap from my Michaux Club bag (of very similar size). It works just fine.



Timbuk2 could easily offer this as an optional extra -- at a charge as with the grab handle, if they wish.  Meanwhile, they do sell these straps separately. I suspect they're intended for purchase to use with the larger bags, but I'm tempted to get one and try it with the XS. (At US$5, why not?)

Meanwhile, another bag manufacturer (in Glasgow - much closer to home) that I'm interested in makes an XS size messenger bag that also doesn't come with an anti-swing strap. But.... they'll make one for it, on request and on payment of a surcharge for extra material and labour.

Performance

The basic bag has to be fit for purpose and do what it's supposed to. 
The Classic Messenger comes up trumps.   I think a few photos tell the tale.





The stock version will certainly perform just as well. So do you need to get a custom version?

     If you're left handed or for some other reason want the strap to go over your right shoulder...

     If you really need a grab handle on the top of the bag...

     ...then, yes, you'll need to go custom to get those things.

Otherwise, it comes down to personal taste and priorities. I did not want to buy a well-designed bag, really like the way it performed but have to resign myself with living with ugly colours.  I don't need a 'designer' look. To be honest, I'd have been perfectly happy to find a stock bag in solid red... or red and white... or dark pink and white. But red only comes in combination with grey (which makes the whole thing look grubby). And there is no pink in the stock inventory.

So, yes, I've paid a premium for little more than style. When I saw the opportunity to do that, I decided to make this bag as individual and unique as I could.  On the one hand, that means this was a bit of a vanity project. On the other hand, without the option to create my own custom bag, I would not have purchased from Timbuk2 at all.  I guess that's what we call a win-win.

VERDICT

Cycling-specific design features: 9 / 10

Usefulness e.g. accessibility and comfort: 9 / 10 
   [My only slight reservation whether water can get into the top of the bag. I find the Velcro a bit annoying. But that can be resolved.]

Durability:  8 / 10
   [Time will tell how stain resistant these fabrics are, and how easy the bag is to clean. Otherwise, the bag is sturdy and looks well made. Used examples on Ebay seem to hold up well.]

Attractiveness:  9 / 10 
   [Hard to score low, when you can have so much control over this!]

Value for money: 9/ 10 
   [Standard bags are available for under £60 if you look. That is extremely competitive in this market. Used bags seem to hold their value on Ebay as well.]





Overall:  44 / 50


*************************

My reviews of other messenger bags can be found: 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Local Real-Life Cycle Forum

My partner Adam has been attending meetings of the Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum over the past year or so.

As a newcomer to the neighbourhood, I've found it difficult to define what this group does!  It seems the activities have, to date, mostly been for people with cycling interests to... well.... meet up and talk. The people who attend are drawn from a wide range of influential (whether anti- or pro-cycling!) organisations e.g. both the Luton and Central Bedfordshire councils and Sustrans.  There seems to be huge potential to contribute to transport and planning processes and to influence the results so that cycling provision both improves (quality) and increases (quantity).

To date, the meetings have been an opportunity to meet up and compare notes on what is going on in the various attendees' 'home' organisations.  Meetings have been every other month.  There have not been any outward-facing events, like rides or having stands at local fairs and events.

But this is about to change.

At the last meeting, it was agreed to draw up a Mission Statement that is clear, focused and much more ambitious.  Adam was asked to set up a Facebook group (which went live about a week ago and already has 3 members - besides Adam and myself!). Adam has put a lot of time into gathering information that should prove useful to new cyclists, and has been posting collections of photographs and links to websites with further information/assistance e.g. FillThatHole and the like. 

A commitment has been made to organise and lead local rides for beginners as we (hopefully) see the weather head towards Spring. We will also get more involved in various events at the TravelHub in Dunstable (whether solo or jointly with Sustrans remains to be seen - either way, it's a positive step!)  While these ambitions will require more manpower and profile-building, we're seeing more people step forward offering their services, so momentum seems to be building. 

The group's AGM is next Wednesday evening.  I'm looking forward to meeting the other members face to face for the first time. I hope we'll agree a positive and feasible list of action points and will come out energised to achieve great things.

I learned how cycling campaign works and witnessed firsthand the dividends it pays, from working with one of the country's most successful cycling campaign groups - Southwark Cyclists. I will have the wisdom and experience of many London colleagues to draw on and am really looking forward to doing my part to make a difference here, to make cycling more popular and viable as a safe and effective means of transport in both towns and in the corridor in between and to getting cycling firmly onto the agenda of the two councils' planning and transport committees. 

"Ask your council not what it can do for cycling, but what cycling can do for your council." 
- Ann Warren

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A look at the KNOG BIG DOG

Up next in my series of messenger bag reviews:  the Knog Big Dog


I must not be understanding the dimensions given on websites very well, as yet again here is a bag that is just so much bigger than I had visualised, so much so that I struggle to get my head round it.

(For what it's worth, I think the colour here is "stone".)

Here's what the manufacturer says about the Big Dog... and what I found for myself.
"Fat and roomy". In other words, HUGE. Alarm bells should have been ringing at the outset.



The strap is described as "extra wide".
Indeed it is TOO wide. Too wide to manage with my size hands, at least. Too wide, too thick, too heavy to adjust easily (much less on the go). Which makes it unfit for purpose. And very uncomfortable. 



And then there's the "waist strap".

Somehow, in my world, this should have translated to "anti-swing" (or stability) - in practice if not by description. Instead, there is something that does indeed (or is intended to) "go round one's middle" but it'll hit your waist only if you're King Kong.  I can't even call this "going round my hips". Which means it is totally useless.


The bag also apparently has "easy access pockets".  From all my 'window shopping', I believe this is supposed to mean that you can get (in)to it while you're cyling, i.e. while moving. Tell me how you're supposed to get into the top one here.  And I can't find the side ones with my hands, with the bag on my bag either. In fact, I'm not sure they aren't total figments of a marketeer's imagination.




To flesh out the picture, here are close-ups of various features, illustrating, at the very least, that the bag is robustly made.

The velcro and "locks" fastening the outer flap down are strong. The downside is, while you can close/secure it in a hurry, getting it open is a big pain. Impossible while on the move.


The inside of the bag is largely un-reconstructed, with for a laptop sleeve at the back, a full-length slip pocket in front of it, and then two half-length slip pockets in front of that. The rest is open space.








This bag retails at $125 on Knog's own website. I've found it in the UK at £53.38 to £79.88. Some retailers indicate that the Big Dog bag has been discontinued (in this mutation at least) in the UK market but I haven't been able to find 'officially' confirmation of this.


VERDICT

Cycling-specific design features: 6 / 10
   [I'm awarding points more for thought/effort than anything - see next point!]
Usefulness e.g. accessibility and comfort: 2 / 10 
   [Even worse than the Ortlieb Zip City S that I reviewed here!]
Durability:  8 / 10
Attractiveness:  7 / 10 
   [Assuming this is your cup of tea. That pale colour will get filthy quickly.]
Value for money: 8 / 10 
   {Assuming you're otherwise happy e.g. with size etc.]


Overall:  31 / 50


Meanwhile, I'm still gobsmacked that the way manufacturers describe their product do not give potential buyers the information they need to formulate reasonable expectations before purchase.

*************************

My reviews of other messenger bags can be found: 
  • Michaux Commuter here
  • Ortlieb Zip City S here and here
  • Timbuk2 Classic Messenger XS (custom) here

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