Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Po Campo Wristlet

I had been looking for a small bag for my Brompton for a while, to carry a phone, wallet, maybe a small set of tools when I didn't plan on carrying a larger bag. I checked out the mini O bag, but the price was too steep for the anticipated use. I also considered a canvas roll to use as a saddle bag, but I couldn't find one to see in person, and they have a tweedy aesthetic that isn't really my style. 

Enter the Po Campo wristlet, which I remember seeing online, but hadn't really considered. I was actually at the bike shop to check out some other bags, but they had just received these so they were featured up front:

I wasn't actually in the market for a handlebar bag given the Brompton's non-standard handlebar shape and fold, and I'd grown used to an underseat bag on my Globe, but the wristlet looked promising. I clipped it onto my bike and, lo and behold, it fit and it didn't interfere with the fold!

So I bought it on the spot and rode home with it. I hung the bag facing me, so that I could fold my bike without having to remove the bag. It was actually quite handy because I was mostly winging it on the streets, and had to pull out my phone every now and then to check where I was.

Of course, I hadn't completely given up on the idea of an underseat bag. The clip system on the wristlet could easily attach to the rails of my seat, but I thought the bag would cover my rear light. Then I realized that I could clip my light to the strap and position it in a way to make it visible, so now I can alternate bag placement.

I've had this bag for more than a month now, and it's mostly lived up to my expectations. I do have a few notes on my experience:
  • The zipper can be difficult to work around the corner of the bag, though on the plus side this means the contents are secure, even when the bag is upside-down on my folded handlebars.
  • When the bag is on my handlebars and loaded down, the metal clips rub against the brushed metal on the handlebars, marking them up. This is mostly a cosmetic issue, perhaps easily remedied by adjusting the bag position or not filling it up so much.
  • Placing the bag under my seat works well, but I haven't ridden around enough at night to assess if my rear light is functionally visible. I'll have to ask D to follow me and check it out. For now, I can rely on my helmet's rear light if need be. 
Overall, I'm happy with this wristlet, especially since I had not initially considered it when looking for a small Brompton bag. It's also cute and looks great on my bike, and that's almost as important as its functionality, no?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brompton brake cable wear issue

Although my Brompton is lighter than most, it's still too heavy to carry through the length of my office building or the Metro station. As such, I usually roll it around in the folded "shopping cart" position, with my bag clipped in place. This way, the bike rolls around on its two EZ wheels and the wheel on the fender.

As I did this I noticed that, with the weight of my bag, my bike would sometimes lean in such a way that the bag was rolling on the front wheel in fold position, an EZ wheel, and the fender wheel. The bike actually rolls pretty well this way, allowing for the weight to shift back and forth, so I thought this may have been intentional on Brompton's part.

I had been doing this for about two months when D noticed that one section of brake cable housing was worn away. At first we couldn't figure out what happened because the damage was at the front by the fender, on the side facing out. So we folded the bike and soon realized that the cable was rubbing against the front wheel, and the housing must have worn down as I was rolling my bike in shopping cart position. Lucky for me I was due to take my Brompton in for tune-up, so I was able to get the housing replaced right away. 

guess a folded Brompton isn't meant to roll on the front wheel after all...

Monday, August 12, 2013

One Year Later: Cargo Options Revisited

Last summer I invested in various cargo options for my bike, based on my anticipated use for each. I've had a year of experience with these items now, so I thought I'd do a comparative evaluation. Here's my assessment from most used to least, though my riding has changed since I moved to DC so the list is likely to re-shuffle by next year:

Detours Ballard Market Pannier 
Because the predominant use of my bike for the first half-year was for commuting to work, my pannier became cargo option that I used most. I'll leave a full review to others, but suffice it to say it was an excellent bag for my needs: I could carry gym clothes and shoes, as well as lunch, the standard contents of a purse, and sometimes papers and a laptop without any issues. The side and front pockets were also handy, deep enough that I felt comfortable putting my wallet or keys in them, for easy access during my ride. The pannier was secure on my rack with all of these things inside, even as I went over some extremely bumpy terrain (there was a minor issue with the rack clip attachment, but there was an easy fix demonstrated on the website). The rubber bottom is another nice feature, great for when I would set my pannier down as I was locking up my bike--it would keep the bag upright, and protect the contents (and pannier itself) from the grime.  And after constant use for months on end, it still looks almost new.

Pannier on rear rack

These days I don't commute with my Globe so I don't commute with this pannier, and it's sadly underused. It would be a serviceable shopping bag, but I usually use my crate or basket, plus the pannier requires more careful loading of things into it compared to just using a regular grocery sack and sticking into a crate or rear basket. I still plan on keeping the pannier around though, and it does come in handy on occasion.

This remains by go-to grocery shopping and general errand-running cargo option. It is the most secure, and gives me the most capacity. It requires a little more set up than the others, and is also a little more weight, but for serious shopping it's worth it. I've loaded the crate up and my ride remains stable. Also, I can leave it on my bike while I go into the store or wander around a market. As an added bonus, it increases by rear visibility considerably since I attached a huge swath of reflective tape to the crate, and a mounting bracket for my rear light.

Crate with reflective tape and rear light

I used to do one big loop and hit up all my stops, so by the end of my loop I need a cargo net to keep everything in the crate. After my move, I could break my trips into smaller segments and drop stuff off at home, so I don't always need to use this option, and try to alternate with the bottle basket. It's still preferred for the heavy duty grocery shopping though.

Surprisingly, I used this basket the least of all my rear cargo options. It's well-made and beautiful, but for the way I was using my bike, its functionality was superseded by the milk crate. Post-move  I have smaller rides, and the things that used to be a hindrance now work to the bottle basket's advantage. For example, the farmers' market I go to now is a tiny neighborhood one, and when I know I'll be gone the next weekend, I don't buy as much. I can take this basket and drop it onto my rack, and either bring it around with me at the market or leave it on the bike since I'm never more than 25 feet away. I used to secure it with a bungee, but the arms are long enough that it's not really necessary, and the ride isn't that long anyway. I pair this basket with a Baggu shopping bag, which is roomy and has handles that I can tie up to prevent anything from jumping out.

Bottle basket on rear rack

Wald 137 Front Basket
I made this purchase in the early fall, because I thought it would be nice to have a light carrying option for when I wanted to use a bag that wasn't a pannier, but didn't want to take something as large as my crate or even my basket. I also thought it would be good to have the extra space to carry things home when my pannier was fully loaded (which it often was). However, for a while I was ambivalent about this basket, and went back and forth on leaving it as a fixture on my bike. For one thing it made the bike harder to carry down the stairs, which I did on an almost daily basis. For another, it interfered with my front light, although D (true to form) came up with a DIY solution that is not ideal but still pretty functional. I was also worried about it getting wet and rusting.

Now that I have secure bike parking in my building (also, there's no way I can keep my bike in my apartment) I've started keeping the basket on the bike. People sing the praises of Wald baskets, and I agree it's both well made and affordable. It's a fairly shallow basket so I've permanently attached a cargo net to the front so things don't go flying out. I use it as anticipated, plus it's been pretty handy to have in combination with the rear options, and its wide bottom is great when I want to keep something laying flat.

Milk crate and front basket

Anyway, it was helpful being able to choose between these different options as I was figuring out how I like to ride my bike. I've appreciated the flexibility even more post-move as my riding habits have shifted.