Giro Surface

Giro Surface

Giro recently sent me their new Surface helmet to try out. It’s a smooth, skate-style helmet with an adjustable internal fit-system that provides a better fit than most skate helmets. Stylistically it falls somewhere between the Nutcase and the Bern. I like the fact that it’s adjustable over a wide range, it’s smooth on the outside, it provides full coverage in the back and on the sides, and it’s aesthetically clean and understated. It’s a clear step up in comfort from my ancient Bell Metro, and the fit is nice and snug without pinching. So far I like everything about it, though we’ll have to see how the minimal vents work when spring/summer rolls around. Giro

Giro Surface
Giro Surface

Rixen & Kaul KLICKfix Cargo

Rixen Kaul

Grocery Panniers
We’ve mentioned before that we’re big fans of “grocery” style panniers. These ubiquitous bags for utility bicyclists are designed to carry one large grocery bag, then fold flat when not in use. They also make excellent catch-alls for those times when you’re headed from here-to-there and you unexpectedly end up needing to carry something. We almost always keep one on our errand bikes. Most are quite simple, with a single, open compartment that folds flat when not in use, though a few companies make deluxe models with extra pockets, robust mounting systems, shoulder straps, and zippered tops. The Rixen & Kaul Cargo fits into the latter category.

Rixen Kaul

Rixen & Kaul
Rixen & Kaul are well-known for their excellent KLICKfix series of quick-release mounts and adapters; many of you will be familiar with their mounts as supplied on Carradice and Gilles Berthoud bags. What a lot of people don’t know is that they also make some really nice bags and baskets. Some of their bags are integrated into their quick release system, and others (like the Cargo featured in this review) are designed for use on standard touring racks.

The Cargo
The Cargo inhabits a place somewhere between a simple grocery pannier and a full-fledged urban briefcase such as those we’ve reviewed from Arkel and Ortlieb. It meets the basic requirements of a grocery pannier (flat bottom, square sides, folds flat), but it also features internal and external pockets, interior liner, zippered top, alloy carrying handle and internal frame, collapsible stiffener panels, rain fly, shoulder strap, and the excellent KLICKfix mounting hardware.

Rixen Kaul

The Cargo is constructed of heavy duty nylon. The stitching is clean and straight and the edges are neatly finished. The inside of the bag is fully lined and water-resistant. The hardware and supports are made of aluminum and injection-molded nylon. The internal, foldable frame is made of tubular aluminum. Internal stiffeners are sown into the bag on three sides and the bottom. The overall impression is of a refined bag, finished to high standards.

The Cargo features two external pockets on the front; a larger internal pocket for a wallet, keys, bus pass, etc.; and a small, cell-phone-specific internal pocket. There are two internal stiffeners that snap into place when the bag is unfolded. The “Modul-rail” mounting hardware is easy to use, and unlike the simple clips and straps found on less expensive bags, it securely locks the bag onto the rack, allowing no possibility of bouncing off. The mounts can be adjusted fore-and-aft to provide just the right amount of heel clearance on your particular bike/rack combination. The top is zippered, and the bottom has four feet to prevent scuffing. A clip-on shoulder strap and rain fly are included.

Rixen Kaul

The Cargo is perhaps the ultimate hybrid grocery pannier/bike briefcase if you have the need for something more than a basic grocery pannier, but you still want to be able to carry a standard bag of groceries in the same bag. It works well as an everyday carry-all, but it can also be successfully used for multi-modal commuting and even light touring. It’s a well-made, versatile bag, that should provide many years of use for the full- or part-time utility bicyclist.

Size: 14.9″W x 11.8″H x 6.3″D
Weight: 3.5 lbs.
Capacity: 18 liters
Maximum load: 22 lbs.
Price: $146
Made in Germany

Disclaimer: Velofred supplied the bag used in this review.

Rixen & Kaul

Rickshaw Performance Tweed™ ZERO Messenger Bag

We’ve been using a Cordura nylon Rickshaw ZERO Messenger bag for over a year now and it’s become our favorite all-purpose messenger bag. It’s perfect for quick trips to the library or coffee shop when we need a bag for a wallet and phone, maybe a book or three, or even a small laptop and a snack. The best thing about the ZERO is that it’s manufactured using a “zero waste” process:

Our new ZERO messenger bag is the result of a “less is more” product development initiative that combines minimalist design, monopolymer construction, localized sourcing and wasteless manufacturing — a holistic approach that simultaneously unites form, function and footprint.
The ZERO is specially designed to optimize fabric cutting and eliminate manufacturing waste. The bag is made from scratch in Rickshaw’s San Francisco factory from domestically sourced materials, thereby shortening the raw material supply chain and reducing its ecological footprint. To facilitate recycling, the bag is made entirely of nylon. The result is elegantly simple and functional.

Now Rickshaw has kicked it up a notch with their new Rickshaw Performance Tweed™ fabric made exclusively for them from 100% recycled polyester:

We’re delighted to introduce our very own Rickshaw Performance Tweed™. Inspired by the famous woolen textiles of Scotland and Ireland, favored by British royalty, sportsmen and a famous Scotland Yard detective. Refashioned for modern mobility in upholstery-grade, 100% recycled polyester, with a high-tech, eco-friendly, stain-resistant coating. Rickshaw Performance Tweed™ is woven exclusively for Rickshaw in the USA.

We recently added a ZERO Messenger in Performance Tweed™ to our bag collection. This is an absolutely sumptuous bag that belies the fact that it’s made from 100% post consumer plastic. The outer fabric is beautifully detailed with a soft touch, not at all unlike a wool or cotton twill. The inside of the bag is lined with Cordura nylon for toughness. Around the base, the cloth is folded in-and-around itself, the technique being a part of the zero waste manufacturing design. The look is reminiscent of a piece of origami, a subtle (perhaps unintended) reference to the company’s moniker — pretty cool!

The ZERO Messenger is a simple bag with one main pocket and two smaller pockets under the flap for small items such as keys, cell phones, etc. The flap is held closed with a single Velcro strip. The strap is just the right width and includes a simple, but effective, quick-release buckle and two d-rings for the optional cross-strap (we haven’t found a need for the cross-strap).

The market is flooded with messenger bags in every size and material imaginable. Those that are designed for use by real messengers tend to be overkill for the average bike commuter or utility bicyclist. Others are overloaded with features that drive up the price and complicate something that should be simple. And while there are a number of companies touting the use of recycled materials and green manufacturing methods, none are producing bags that look and feel so finely finished and decidedly not-recycled as the Rickshaw Performance Tweed™ ZERO Messenger. Highly recommended.

Dimensions: 11″ H x 19″ W x 6″ D
MSRP: $80


Disclosure: Rickshaw provided the bag for this review.

Paul Chain Keeper

The Paul Chain Keeper is a chain retention device for 1X single ring drivetrains. It’s available in models to either clamp on a seat tube in place of a derailleur (shown here), or mount on an external bottom bracket. The seat tube version is available in three sizes to fit 28.6mm, 31.8mm, and 35.0mm seat tubes. The external bottom bracket model is intended for full suspension frames, carbon fiber frames, frames with eccentric bottom brackets, and frames with non-standard tubing.

Not all 1X set-ups require a chain keeper. If you’re doing a conversion, my advice is to give it a try sans keeper for a week or two to see if chain derailment is going to be an issue. Drivetrains set-up with good alignment and high tension may never throw a chain, particularly if the shifters are indexed and the bike is only used on relatively smooth, paved roads. But, if you plan on riding your bike on dirt trails, or if you’re an aggressive rider who hops curbs and so forth, a chain keeper of some sort is definitely in order. I decided to install the Paul Chain Keeper on my bike because I occasionally ride dirt trails, and I sometimes hop curbs when transitioning from bike lanes to off-street paths.

The Paul Chain Keeper works as advertised; with this unit installed, your chain will not derail, period. The fit and finish are excellent, and like all Paul components, the Chain Keeper is manufactured right here in Chico, CA, USA.

I purchased my Paul Chain Keeper at The Bicycle Business in Sacramento, CA (thanks, guys!). They can also be ordered directly from Paul in Chico.

The Bicycle Business
Paul Component Engineering

Note: The Bicycle Business is a sponsor of this website.

SoulRun Bike Tool Roll

SoulRun is a little two-person shop run by Laura and Joe. They make-to-order a variety of really nice bike tool rolls and jersey pocket pouches. The bike tool rolls are available in four sizes and can be ordered in either cotton duck, cotton ripstop, or nylon ripstop. They sent us their dual-strap 2-ply Waterproof Bike Tool Roll to try out.

Our sample tool roll is constructed from 2-ply Ultrex waterproof fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. It has a large pocket for an innertube, a medium pocket for tools and tire levers, and a small pocket for a patch kit. The roll is held tight by a pair of 3/4″ straps with quick release closures.

This is a nice little product that works as advertised. The construction is clean, the fit is perfect, and we love the fact that it’s handmade here in the U.S. by nice people. Good stuff.

Sold through Etsy

A Bar Fight

As I mentioned in a prior post, Civia recently sent me a box of handlebars to play around with and evaluate. They sent 5 total in various shapes and sizes.

Upon opening the box, the 50 degree Aldrich immediately caught my eye. You can’t see it very well in the above photo, but it has a backward sweep and zero rise that reminds me somewhat of the handlebars you see on old French city bikes (but with a little less sweep).

Getting set up for this bit of experimentation required ditching my cork grips and replacing them with clamp-on ODIs for easy installation and removal. None of the Civia bars take bar-end shifters, so I also had to order up a set of Paul Thumbies which are currently making the long trip from Chico in a brown truck (hence the drooping shifters in the photo). And finally, since most of these bars have less rise than the North Roads I’ve been running the past two years, I swapped the Brooks B67 saddle for a narrower Selle An-Atomica Titanico.

I plan on trying each of the bars for at least a few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them displace my old favorite North Roads (I’ll let you know how it turns out).

Planet Bike K.O.K.O. Rack

Planet Bike recently sent me a copy of their K.O.K.O. (Keep On Keepin’ On) rack to try out. The K.O.K.O. is a heavy-duty cargo rack designed for touring and utility use. It’s constructed from tubular 6061 aluminum, with a maximum capacity of 55 lbs. and a retail price of $39.95. It comes supplied with stainless steel mounting hardware and a second set of struts for use on small frames.

I tested the K.O.K.O. with all of my regular commuting and utility loads. I found the rack to be perfectly stiff and solid for loads up to 40 lbs. (I only tested up to 40 lbs.). It’s a beefy rack that I’m sure will handle loads up to and beyond the stated maximum capacity without issue.

The pannier mounting points on the K.O.K.O. are well-placed and I was able to attach a wide range of bags from various manufacturers.

The tail light mounting plate accepts Euro-style lights as well as the Planet Bike light bracket for mounting the popular Superflash tail light.

It’s only natural to compare the K.O.K.O. to the Tubus Cargo since it appears the K.O.K.O. drew inspiration from that industry-standard carrier. I’ve been running the Cargo for a number of years on various bikes, so I’m quite familiar with its characteristics. The K.O.K.O. feels nearly as stiff, though the Tubus, being made from tubular steel, has a higher maximum capacity of 88 lbs. Unlike the Cargo, the K.O.K.O. tapers in at the front; this keeps the weight closer to the center of the bike, but it may also cause clearance issues on bikes with cantilever brakes. The K.O.K.O. also carries the load slightly further forward, which contributes to its solid feel, but heel strike may be an issue with some bag/bike combinations. If you can, check these clearance points when purchasing this rack.

The K.O.K.O. is the most well-constructed rack I’ve seen at its price point. It’s unlikely to have the extreme long-term durability of a much more expensive steel rack like the Tubus, but at $39.95 it’s a great value and should serve most people very well for a number of years.

Planet Bike

Disclaimer: Planet Bike is a sponsor of this site.

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