birthday bicycle goodies (Yakkay, PoCampo & Ortlieb)
I just turned 49. So I bought myself a party hat.
Really, one of the geekiest, least-appealing (to me, anyway) aspects of bicycle commuting is the wearing of the bike helmet. As I’ve written about before, I AM a believer; I won’t ride without a helmet, but it doesn’t mean I love how I look in them.
Last year I read about a new helmet design by Yakkay – a street-inspired helmet design with interchangeable covers (hats). I loved the idea, loved the pictures I saw, and I knew I really wanted one. Sadly, they were not yet available in the US. As this winter started kicking into gear, colder temperatures on the way, I re-visited the idea of purchasing a Yakkay, and hooked up with a wonderful gal, Lavinia, from LondonCycleChic. With her help and a few clicks of the mouse, I got my beautiful new “birthday” hat, complete with removable fleecy ear covers and snappy tweed cover. Even better news, the LondonCycleChic folks tell me that they are working on “opening a little US antenna in March 2010” … which I figure will be just in time for me to order a sweet summer cover. 😀
Anyway, they were great people to do business with, and I really look forward to them expanding stateside. You can also follow one of their peeps on Twitter (@CazCyclechic), and they have a terrific LondonCycleChic blog, full of great London cycle fashion photos and articles.
Another great birthday gift came from my Dad and his wife – nifty little Po Campo handlebar bag. Po Campo is a Chicago-based company (my “home town”), and my Dad was kind enough to send me a gift certificate which I used to pick out this great little black and white bag.
Although it’s not very big, it’s just enough to carry a wallet, phone, and a few small essentials for quick commute to an appointment or other errand when I don’t need to carry much. I also like the front pocket – perfect for easy access to my phone. (Not while riding, of course). Mostly, I love that it is on the front of the bike – rather than on the back or over my shoulder – easy to see and easy to access.
The final piece of commuting gear I have finally acquired – and really, more essential than the rest – are a set of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic waterproof panniers. I cannot count how many times I have been out – at the Y, around town, errand-running – and I have gotten caught in an unexpected rain shower. Stuff gets soaked – wallet, phone, extra clothes, camera, books, etc. I can tuck this into a side-loader on the Xtracycle, or I can put it on the rear rack of my commuter bike or the eBike. And everything stays dry – no matter what I encounter or find I have to ride through.
Aside from the waterproof-ness, things I especially like (putting it way ahead of other panniers we’ve owned):
- Great easy-access top opening – no zippers or flaps to mess with. Simply roll down the top (constructed much like a typical dry-bag, with plastic strip on edge), and clip the strap over the top.
- Slim profile, multi-pocket inner organizer – perfect to stash a wallet or phone, doesn’t take away from the main large storage space.
- Superior rack attachment system – the top hooks can be customized with inserts, to fit a variety of different diameter rack rails. They don’t just “hang” on the rack rails, they actually close around the rail (see photo below). The 2 top hooks can be adjusted (spacing between the two hooks), and the bottom QL2 hook is fully adjustable/rotatable as well – invaluable features I’ve not found on other panniers.
- Two large reflective “spots” on both side panels of the bags, making them interchangeable on either side of the rack. I’ve also found that I can easily attach a Blinky to the top of the shoulder strap when the bag is mounted on the rack – perfect positioning.
- And did I mention they are fully waterproof?
I love the ease of access to the main compartment when it’s mounted on the bike. Nice wide opening, quick and easy to access and load. I don’t know the exact specs on the capacity, but they can hold a lot. And the bag is a breeze to take on and off of the rack. You simply pull up on the top handle-strap (which is attached to the quick-release tabs on the top hooks), and pull straight up.
Finally, a nice shoulder strap (that is secured to the front of the bag when not in use), makes it great to carry in and out of your destination – from the office to a quick stop at the store.
And did I mention they are fully waterproof?!
Out of everything next to the Xtracycle, I don’t know how I managed without these for so long. Indespensible, in my opinion – because you never know when wet weather might hit. Design-wise, I don’t think I will ever buy another brand of pannier – these are just so well-designed from every angle.
So that’s it. I’m older now. But also a tiny bit more stylish (I think) when I’m out on the bike!