Review: Arkel Metropolitan Handlebar Bag

The Metropolitan Handlebar Bag (HBB) is a companion to the Metropolitan Pannier that I reviewed a few weeks ago (see here). Both are new from Arkel for 2009 and are part of their “Urban” series of bags designed specifically for commuters. Together they make a nice set, though either can be used individually without issue.

At 425 cu. in., the Metro HBB is a relatively small handlebar bag with slightly less capacity than Arkel’s popular Small Bar Bag. The construction is simple, with a single main compartment, a small pouch for a wallet, and a key clip. The bag is plenty large for carrying a lunch, wallet, phone, and small windbreaker. It would also make a nice home for a compact DSLR with a short zoom such as a Canon XSi with kit lens. The sides are relatively stiff and the bag holds its shape, even when empty.

Features include a small Velcroed pocket in the lid with a see-through window specifically designed to accept an iPhone or Blackberry; a single external slip pocket for papers or a train ticket; a lightweight shoulder strap; an integrated rain cover; an internal liner than can be zipped out for cleaning; and alloy quick-release mounts.

The alloy mounts are totally rigid and showed no signs of bouncing or slipping, even with a full load. (The arms make metal-to-metal contact with the handlebars, so you’ll want to lay down a layer of tape or thin rubber before attaching the mounts to keep from scratching your handlebars.) The bag separates from the arms via a pair of quick releases at the rear of the bag. The arms stay permanently attached to the handlebars to reduce carrying weight and bulk off of the bike. A roll-down flap protects clothing from the quick release mounts while carrying the bag.

The Arkel Metropolitan HBB is a near-perfect handlebar bag for daily commuting to the office. It’s not too big and it carries nicely on the shoulder. It detaches from the bike in just a few seconds and looks professional and nondescript. And like the Metropolitan Pannier, only the best materials were used throughout including heavy-duty Cordura nylon and YYK zippers. Arkel’s bags aren’t cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for; I use their bags everyday and they are 100% reliable and an important component of my car-lite lifestyle.

Capacity: 425 cu. in.
Dimensions: 8.5″x10″x 6″
Weight: 1.8 lbs.
Color: Charcoal w/Black
Price: $129.00


Onion Run

Sometimes I wonder if we subconsciously “forget” items on our grocery list just so we have a reason to ride back to the store in the evening to catch the sunset. Tonight’s excuse was an onion for tomorrow morning’s tofu scramble. You know what? Forget the onion (and the excuses), a beautiful sunset is always worth a trip!

Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now

It’s inevitable that my mileage ramps up dramatically this time of year. Surely it’s the mild spring weather that draws me out and onto the bike more than is absolutely necessary; I mean, who’s going to take a joyride when it’s 40°F and pouring rain?

Afterall, as much as I love bicycles and bicycling, it’s mostly about staying out of the car and reducing my footprint (you know, the other kind).

Most people track their mileage for training purposes (or bragging rights) and what they’re shooting for is a high number. In my case, I have to keep an eye out to avoid riding too much. Last year at this time, an overuse injury kept me off the the bike for most of the summer, so I’ve been hyper-diligent to work in appropriate rest days and put a reasonable cap on my weekly mileage.

On those days when I take a break, I don’t just jump back in the car; mostly I just end up doing more walking. Interestingly, I’ve found that I can be sore and tired from riding, but I can continue to walk with no ill effects (as long as I’m wearing good shoes). If I was an athlete, I suppose this would be considered “cross-training”.

I used to get quite irritated when my body told me to take a break from the bike (as a matter of fact, I used to ignore the signals, hence the injuries). Now, I’m just glad I can continue to walk while giving my knees a break from riding for a day or two. Afterall, as much as I love bicycles and bicycling, it’s mostly about staying out of the car and reducing my footprint (you know, the other kind).

Byrne on Mapes’ Pedaling Revolution

I’ve been planning on picking up a copy of Jeff Mapes’ Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities, so I was pleased to see that David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) reviewed the book for the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review. Here’s an excerpt:

“Pedaling Revolution” is not all facts and figures. Mapes, a journalist who covers politics for The Oregonian, describes how he gained weight and started feeling a bit down when he was forced to exchange his 10-mile daily bike commute in Portland for a “super-sized, 50-mile” drive to the Legislature in Salem. He argues that cycling promotion can raise society’s level of general fitness, since people exercise more when it seems less like exercise and more like something mostly enjoyable that also performs a function, like getting to work. “Bike and walking advocates,” he writes, “have been rebranding their cause as ‘active transportation,’ which manages to come off as nonthreatening to your average couch-bound American while carrying a nice touch of gravitas as well.”

It looks like a good read for anyone interested in bicycling for transportation.

Read the full review in the NYT
Pedaling Revolution @ Amazon

Violet Crown Launch Party

Ma Ferguson

From Violet Crown Cycles:

You’re Invited: Violet Crown Cycles Launch Party This Sunday. Check out samples of our new Pa and Ma Ferguson City Bikes

Here’s your chance to check out models of the Fergusons, our line of custom city bikes.

Sunday, May 31, 4—6pm
(with a short social ride at 6pm)
Mother Egan’s Irish Pub
715 West 6th St
Austin, TX

In addition to sample bikes, we’ll have food and good looking door prizes, plus a free raffle for some other cool bike stuff. There’ll be a social ride around downtown Austin and the Capitol afterwards at 6pm.

Click here to RSVP on Facebook or RSVP with a direct e-mail to us. We hope to see you there!

Can’t make it Sunday but still want to see the Ferguson? No problem. Violet Crown Cycles is at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market (Tony Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd) every Saturday from 9am—1pm with sample bikes, tube colors, and staff available to answer any questions.

Violet Crown Cycles

The Iron Horse

Got Lights On Bikes

We were pleasantly surprised (actually, “shocked” is more like it) to learn that one of our photos was awarded “Best Overall” in Princeton Tec’s “Got Lights On Bikes” photo contest. Here’s a little background from PT:

OK, we all know how to ride a bike, use bike lights and work a camera. Here’s your chance to take all three, do something creative and win free gear and maybe even a new singlespeed bike. All you have to do is enter.

Starting on March 1, Princeton Tec’s “Got Lights On Bikes” photo contest gives you -the amateur bike-loving photog – the opportunity to put your skills to work. The catch: send us your best digital shots of anything involving lights on bikes. On the pavement, in traffic, on the trail, near the creek, outside the bagel shop, on the train, in the rain, near the beach … it doesn’t matter, you choose the medium – just make sure there are lights on the rig!

The contest attracted over 300 entries and the result is a very interesting collection of nighttime bike photos from around the world. You can view the entries here.

The SE Lager — A “Cool” Bike

Funny related story… One of our daughters was quite a bike rider when she was younger—she even considered racing at one point—but now that she’s a teenager, bikes are no longer on her radar. I think it probably has something to do with boys and looking cool (teenagers!). What I found out though, is that not all bikes are uncool. When I showed her a photo of the SE Lager single speed bike we won in the contest, her eyes lit up and she dropped a hint that it’s a bike she might consider being seen on. Apparently it’s only our geeky ultility bikes that don’t make the cut… LOL.

Got Lights On Bikes Flickr Pool
Contest Winners
SE Bikes
Princeton Tec

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