Sunday, March 23, 2014

Would-be Errandonnee

Although the official Errandonnee ended earlier this week, today was such a beautiful day that I went out and did a lot of random errands on both my bikes. Three different trips below:
  • Ace Hardware, Whole Foods (3.3 miles) - I ride to Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, and come home with a plant
  • Neighborhood Bikeway Recon, Pete's Apizza (aborted) (2.5 miles) - I ride along DDOT's planned bikeways for 2014, 41st St. NW and Jennifer St. NW
  • Bethesda via Little Falls Park Trail (5 miles) - I check out a potential route for my commute, and convince my cousins I can ride home in the dark
Post shopping trip
Trips were broken up by returns home; observations are included for each.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Brompton cargo options: O Bag with DIY extenders, and Folding BikeBasket

D calls me a pack mule, and a quick glance at what's on this blog is consistent with that--I like to find ways to carry things on my bikes. Herewith my two current Brompton cargo options:

Brompton O Bag by Ortlieb
I got the O Bag as part of my bike's package deal, which was great because the impetus for getting the bike was my multi-modal commute. The bag is well made, and though I haven't ridden in any torrential downpours, I'm confident that it's as waterproof as claimed. It's also sizeable, and could easily contain a change of clothes, my toiletries, my lunch and sometimes my breakfast too, and work papers.

O bag on Brompton
The features I found most useful about the bag:
  • Rear roll-top detachable bags: These are handy for carrying items I want immediate access to. The attachment system is secure enough that I put my wallet, keys, and cell phone in these pockets, yet the bags are not difficult to detach. The reflective logo on each is also appreciated.
  • Shoulder strap: Having the strap to the bag (in addition to the top handle) is great for those times when I need to lift my folded Brompton while carrying my bag. The strap as well as the buckles attaching it to the bag are sturdy, so I don't worry about failure given how much the bag can carry. When I'm riding around, I tuck the strap insider the front flap so it doesn't rub the wheels or accidentally catch on anything. As a bonus, you can also use the strap on one of the small detachable bags.
  • Plastic feet on bag bottom: The bag can stand upright on its own, a helpful feature when I'm on a train platform and want to set the bag down. The feet also spare the bottom of the bag itself from some wear.

There are other features that I don't use to full effect, but still appreciate. There's a large padded laptop sleeve inside, with a wide velcro closure. Multiple compartments inside--even individualized pockets for pens--help keep things organized, and the light grey interior make it easy to find things. The orange key strap is also visible and removable. These details would be perfect if I was using this as an office briefcase, and maybe in the future I will.

The only real shortcoming of the bag--at least for amount of stuff I was putting in it--was the length of the front straps for the bag closure. At their original length, even when fully extended, I didn't feel like I was getting all the available volume at the top of the bag. I'm not the first person to notice this problem, or to try to devise a solution. I only needed a couple more inches, and I didn't want to physically alter the bag, so I decided to make little strap extenders (with D's help, naturally):

Strap/buckle extenders for O bag
I bought a couple of replacement stealth buckles from Ortlieb and some black nylon webbing from REI, and attached the male and female part of each buckle using a small length of strap. The extender buckles fit right into the male/female parts of the existing buckles, and it's actually a little easier to open the bag using the extenders since they're not sewn directly onto the bag. The extenders add about 2.75" of length to the strap, which is just enough so that my things don't feel crammed in, but the front flap fold still keeps the elements out.

O bag with strap extenders attached
Overall, the O bag is great for commuting. Aesthetically it's definitely more tech than tweed, but I think it looks great on my white Brompton, and has a professional feel to it.

Brompton Folding Basket
Last weekend I bought the folding basket for the times when I wanted to use the Brompton for small shopping trips. Others have written about how they use the O bag for this purpose, but honestly it feels too heavy duty for such a casual use. And while I have my Globe and all its various ways of carrying things for dedicated grocery trips, sometimes I just like riding around on the Brompton and I wanted the option of spontaneously stopping by somewhere to pick up something. Also, D recently got me a nice digital camera, and I didn't want to carry it around on a shoulder bag, so it can go pretty easily into the folding basket.

Folding basket on Brompton
Although I've only used the basket for two shopping trips, I'm already amazed by how well the Brompton plus basket system works. I can use my bike in shopping cart mode at the two grocery stores I go to, so I just stick my groceries directly in the basket, and get a good sense of how much I can carry--it's more than I had anticipated. Small tip: I use a standard Baggu bag to hold my things, as it fits perfectly inside, and I can tie the handles to keep things from flying out during my bumpy ride home (see below).

Rear view of basket
on carrier block
Baggu bag peeking
from inside
There's also something adorable about Bromptons as cargo bikes. The small wheels with (proportionally) large carrying capacity remind me of "shopper" bikes or a classic butcher's bike, but with a more modern design.

Anyway, as I have more experience with this basket, I'm sure I'll have more to say, including any negatives. For now it's added functionality to my already versatile Brompton, which is as high a praise as I can give for a simple bike basket. =)