Multi-Modal Gear: the Arkel Switchback 2.0

Here’s a bag that I’ve been using a lot. It’s the Arkel Switchback 2.0. This handy bag converts from a pannier to a backpack in seconds.

Underneath the hook-and-loop-secured flaps are comfortable, sturdy straps.

The cam-lock system at the top securely attaches to the bike’s rear rack, but doesn’t get caught in your clothes when using it as a backpack.

The three compartments hold a lot of stuff. On a normal workday, I have several notebooks, a paperback book, a lunch tote, a wallet, a cell phone, keys, and when going to work, a U-lock and cable. This bag can carry all of this. And today, I managed to fit my first CSA share into the bag, with some finagling.

It doesn’t have room to fit a helmet inside, as its cousin, the Arkel Bug, can. But I’m willing to sacrifice this for the Switchback’s slimmer profile.

It seems like a tough, well made bag. I like being able to take the weight off my back while riding my bike, and being able to carry it on my back when I’m walking. I’m really happy with the Switchback so far.

New Gear

I’m always on the lookout for gear that makes my bike riding easier!

Based on the recommendations of MG and Mike W., I got the Camelbak Aurora to help keep me hydrated throughout my ride.

This Camelbak holds 2 liters (~70 ounces) of water. It also has two zippered pouches in which I put my wallet and keys. I was a little concerned about the weight on my back, but I hardly even notice that it’s there, even when it’s filled to capacity. I think it has something to do with the fact that I typically carry ten times the weight with my backpack when I do my short commute!
Continue reading

Making Adjustments

I’m not the only one who’s changing my look around here.

My Tricross bike has gotten some new gear as well.* I’ve added Civia Brownie fenders and changed my tires to 700 x 28s. I’m also borrowing J’s Brooks B17 S saddle.

It all looks great, but these adjustments have drawbacks to them. I don’t know how well the fenders work, as it hasn’t yet rained when I’ve been commuting. I can tell you that what was a slight toe overlap issue has become more problematic. I’m more cautious when making slower turns, but it’s a little jarring when I hit the front fender.

More disappointing has been the saddle. I read enough posts on forums and blogs to know that Brooks’s leather saddle has a long break-in time. The problem for me is not the material– my tough old butt can deal with hard surfaces just fine, apparently– my problem is with the shape. No matter how I adjust it, the saddle rubs against my tender lady parts really badly. The short rails underneath don’t give me enough leeway to move the saddle laterally. I was in so much pain last week that I went to a shop and asked them what I needed to do to make it more comfortable for me, and I think the upshot of it was that the short women’s touring style of the B17 S doesn’t suit how I sit. If I were to buy my own Brooks saddle, I would try the men’s styles– but I’m going to look at other brands as well.

The one thing that has worked out well have been the narrower tires. My ride has gotten smoother and lighter because of them, and I’m happy about that.

I’m starting to get the nagging feeling that this bike really isn’t quite right for me. I’m still working on more adjustments, and hoping I’m wrong.

*Not new, but snazzy looking is the Timbuk2 handlebar bag that is mounted to the rack. And it’s a little hard to tell from this photo, but that’s a limited edition TFTS button attached to it. yeah!


Lack of fashion sense aside, I’ve been mildly obsessed with finding casual clothing that is comfortable to wear on the bike. Here’s one thing I’ve found: Vanya knickers from Chrome. I like the cut of the legs so that it doesn’t get caught in the gears. The light padding and seamless crotch minimize chafing. For me, the sizes ran large; I ended up with an extra-small.

I find I agree with this article about looking for fit, style, and functionality in biking clothing. While I own the requisite spandex shorts and tights for recreational rides, I’d like to wear more casual clothing while commuting to work, without sacrificing comfort. Ladies, have you found any to recommend?