A Tale of Two Trips: SPEZI and SMRR

armadilloIn April I got the chance to fly to Germany and help Laidback Bike Report‘s Gary Solomon cover the spezialradmesse, the “special bikes” show in Germersheim, Germany. In May, I journeyed to Tennessee to attend the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally. Two events that share many things, but differ in several others. I want to tell you about both, and why you might want to consider attending either (or both!) in the future. But first, as they say, a “word from our sponsor”. As many may already know, I got the chance to attend SPEZI because of a GoFundMe campaign. I was surprised by the results of Gary’s public attempt to fund my trip – not all of the expenses were covered, but enough was generously donated so that I could be present at the incredible bike show. I am so grateful to all of you who donated! I will discuss the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally in a moment – and especially the differences between the two events – but right now, let’s take a closer look at SPEZI! Continue reading

Two Bags and a Handle from Vincita

favorite colorI discovered Vincita almost by accident. A few months ago, I decided to take my Brompton P6R to Iowa for RAGBRAI. I wanted to get some sort of protective case to carry it in, and to enable me to keep it in my tent without the chance of any mess caused by dirty tires or chain. There were a few options online, some hard cases that would provide lots of protection, but at a price that I really didn’t want to pay. Further Googling brought me to an alternative: the Vincita B132B “soft transport bag”.

The price was right, so I examined the specs, and everything sounded good. While it wouldn’t save the bike from really crushing accidents, it would more than cover the things I wanted it for. I bought it, and also a plastic bag from Ikea that many online had recommended. See, I had planned on placing my clothing alongside the bike in the bag, to help keep it steady and provide even more protection. This plastic bag would keep my clothing clean.

I wish now I had purchased the accessory B206B garment bag – it looks like a great idea. Maybe that will happen someday. As it is, I am very happy with the B132B – the wheels and handle allow me to pull the bike when I don’t feel like carrying the bag, and built-in carrying straps allow me to do that when I’m where the ground isn’t convenient for pulling.

While riding the bike not only on RAGRBRAI but also locally, I use the Brompton T-Bag. It’s a very good bag, as you might expect. I often think of it as being the most “bang for the buck” bag available. The only problem is, someitmes I do not need to carry much stuff with me, so it’s a bit of overkill. I looked at some other bags that Brompton dealers have on their websites, and I was surprised and disheartened to see significantly smaller bags with price tags that weren’t small enough!

That’s when I remembered Vincita again, and decided to check their website to see what they might have. I stumbled across one of their newer products, the B205MB Messenger Bag. With a capacity of 6.1 liters (as opposed to the 31 liters of the T-Bag), I knew I had found what I needed for daily rides. The price, $94.90, was also very attractive. I ordered it, and have been using it for the past couple of months. How do I like it?

First off, I have been very pleased. It is water resistant – the “tarpaulin fabric” lives up to its name. For those times when you’re caught in a veritable monsoon, they do provide a waterproof rain cover, that also makes you even more visible, with its bright color. In addition, it has features which make it very nice for daily use. A large main pocket is great for hauling around a small camera bag, as well as some spare tubes and other essentials. A zippered pocket runs along the top flap of the bag, and is great for storing your wallet, keys, cell phone, and anything else you might want to get at in a hurry. There’s a removable shoulder strap included, which makes it very handy for carrying when I’m off the bike. Oh, and of course it works with the front bag mount hardware on the Brompton.

Is it perfect? Well, I do wish it had an external pocket of some kind for holding a water bottle. That’s not a deal-breaker, as I have untilized a removeable bottle cage holder – but still, it would be nice if it were on the bag. But, this is a very minor quibble, and as you might guess, I use this bag often.
While checking out what Vincita does have for the Brompton, one other item caught my eye: the A132 Handgrip. I have seen similar items, usually in very nice-looking leather, but the prices were just too high. Have I mentioned that I’m cheap? Seriously, I’m quite capable of lifting and carrying my P6R without using some expensive handle – but this item, at only $29.90, looked like a good idea.

And it is! One thing I don’t like about lifting my bike without it, is the effect that my sweaty hands might be having on the paint. With this, I have no worries. It attaches to the main frame tube via three very sturdy velcro straps. The handle itself is off-center, so you can vary the positions by how you strap it to the bike. Again, is it perfect?

On my bike, not quite. I suspect that if I had a Brompton that wasn’t quite as heavy in the rear, if I didn’t have the fender and rear rack, things would be fine. Instead, the weight is biased further back than what the handle seems to like – not by much, just a couple of inches. I wish the portion that straps to the bike had a slot in it so that I could move the unit a bit more aft. Still, it’s not off by so much that it’s not usable – it’s just not “perfect” for more butt-heavy bike!

As you might have guessed by now, I like these products from Vincita. They work well, sometimes very well, and any flaws are slight and would not deter me from recommending them to any prospective buyers. Toss in the very low prices, and these items are nearly irresistible. If you’re in the market for a bag to carry your Brompton in, or a medium-sized bag to carry your stuff around while you are riding, and a handle to lift your Brompton into and out of your car, give Vincita a close look. I think you’ll enjoy these products as much as I have.

B132B Soft Transport Bag – $109.00
B205MB Messenger Bag – $94.90
A132 Handgrip – $29.90
For More Information: http://www.vincita.co.th/collections/brompton-bags

Let There Be Light! The B&M Lumotec IQ Premium Cyo T Senso Plus and the Toplight View Plus Brake Tec

riding with lightAs many of you may remember, I outfitted the latest ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering) Sprint 26 as the ultimate touring/commuting trike – full suspension, fenders, Rohloff 14-speed hub, and a SON dynamo to power the lights. Only one problem: I did not order the lights at the same time as I ordered the trike! That did give me time to do some research. Along those lines, I contacted Peter White of Peter White Cycles, and together we came to a decision as to what would be the most bang-for-the-buck lights for the new trike. As the long-winded title my indicate, the headlight is the latest Lumotec IQ, while the taillight, also from Busch & Muller, is the Toplight View Plus Brake Tec. So, how has it all turned out? Was it worth the wait? Read on!

I really did benefit from the wait, and the research. Most lights I’ve had have been battery models. I did have a bottle-generator one perhaps two decades ago – and that’s about it! So when it came to picking out units for this dynamo, it was great to be able to talk to someone as knowledgeable as Peter White. We discussed my riding habits, what I was going to be putting these lights on, and came up with these two lights. Let’s take a look at them!

Before we go any further: I do have to apologize for the quality of the photographs of the lights “in action”. Had these been battery-powered, I could have just sat on the trike and taken a nice, long-exposure shot. These lights, though, depend on the trike being in motion, and the result is not anything near crisp. OK?

After using the expertise of “my mechanic”, Walt Smith, I got to see the lights in action. Just the slightest turn of the wheel with the dynamo, and you get light! It doesn’t take much – and don’t do what I did, stare into the light and give the wheel a twirl! Blinding! When evening came, I took the trike out onto the rural road where I live, to see how it illuminated the darkness. I was impressed! In the daytime you have “running lights” that help others see you, but at night the “Senso” detects the darkness and you get the full brightness. I was warned by Peter that the lighting “geometry” is set to be at its best when mounted on or near the handlebars of a typical upright bike, so there might be some lesser performance when mounted lower down, whether it be on the forks of a bike or on a trike. I do have to say that I thought the illumination pattern looked awfully good to me. This is not one of those “see me in the daytime only” lights, but one that I would trust to show me where I’m going in the dark.

Now let’s look at the taillight, the B&M Toplight View Plus Brake Tec – with emphasis on the “Brake” part of the name. As with the headlight, it doesn’t take much motion of that dynamo-equipped wheel to power the light. And, like its partner in front, it is bright! Both of them share a feature, by the way, sometimes referred to as the “stand light”. What tha tmeans is, after riding for a few minutes, both lights have capacitors that store a charge that power the LED “standlight”, so that you’re not sitting there in the darkness. This is not just a handy feature, but a necessity, as far as I’m concerned. But let’s get back to that “Brake” thing again. This taillight senses when you are slowing down, and it glows brighter – like a brake light on a car! The light gets brighter, or “pulses”, when it detects the AC frequency from the dynamo, interprets a lowering to mean the trike is slowing down. This is a very nice feature!

While with Walt’s help (as in, he did all the work), the headlight is mounted perfectly. I can reach the switch easily from my seat, as well as give it a little tug if the light isn’t quite lined up on the road. The taillight, on the other hand, while the mount I selected for it would probably be ideal for most brackets on rear racks, the mounting bolts don’t quite line up with the holes on the rear of the new ICE rear rack. So, right now, while it does work and seems quite secure, it’s done with one of the bolts in a hole, and a zip-tie providing the rest of the anchorage. It’s what some might call “half-assed”, but it’ll do until I get a different mount, perhaps one to go on the neck rest. And yes, this was my handiwork, so don’t blame Walt.

Am I happy with these two lights? Definitely! They provide quite a bit of “hey, look at me!” during the daytime, while providing ample lighting at night. I would recommend them to anyone looking for good lights at a great price to go with a compatible dynamo.

Busch & Muller Lumotec IQ Premium Cyo T Senso Plus headlight and Toplight View Plus Brake Tec taillight
Pros: Very bright (80 lux headlight), standlight, pulsing taillight
Cons: I need a different mount for the taillight
Cost: Headlight: $104 = Taillight: $35
For More Information: I recommend going to Peter White’s website – http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/b&m-hl.asp

Lights for my ICE Sprint!

This will be enhanced, added to, etc. when I get the lights and then it will be moved to BentRiderOnline.com . At this moment, the prime contenders are: for the front, the B&M Lumotec IQ Premium Cyo T Senso Plus, part # B&M1752QTSNDi. For the rear, I am considering both the Toplight View Plus Brake Tec, Part # B&M321ASKV-02 and the Toplight View Plus, Part # B&M321ASK-02. Your advice, suggestions and price will play a large part in which gets put on the Sprint.

In the pictures below, you can see the mount for the front light, at the front of the trike. To attach the light to it, I would think the Schmidt aluminum milled tall mount for handlebars up to 31.8mm, black Part#: SCH75534would be a good choice. For the rear, we have choices again. Attached to the mount for the head rest is a round tail light mount. That might be a good place, but since the seat does come off when folding the trike, then the rear wire would need to have some disconnects in it. That might not be a bad idea, even if the rear light is mounted in the other option, the vertical light mount holes at the rear of the rack. I’ve included two pictures, one showing the measurements in inches, and the other in metric. (I had to include the latter, since I just happen to have a tape measure that’s metric!) And speaking of measurements, included also are pictures of the distance from the dynamo cable to the boom, and from there to the front light mount.

ICE Sprint 26 full suspension – and more!

riding on gravel trail
by Larry Varney
Co-editor

 

Last year at the Recumbent Cycle-Con (http://www.recumbentcyclecon.com/), I got my first chance to ride one of ICE Trikes full-suspension Sprints. Actually, I had ridden (and reviewed) one previously, but it had the 20″ rear wheel. This one had the 26″ rear wheel. After a few laps around the test circuit, I asked the representatives of ICE at their booth: when can I get one to review? The newest version wasn’t going to be ready for a few months, so that gave me time to peruse the information on their web site. That got me to thinking … why not “something different” this time?

You might say, hey, the rear wheel is a different size. But really, is that enough? Would I be satisfied to get essentially the same components as before? Granted, I can see where a returning customer would do just that, as the previous Sprint was very impressive. But the more I looked at the options, the more I thought: I can order what might be the ultimate touring/commuting recumbent trike! I’ll explain just what I did.

In my mind, a commuter and tourer want two things above all: simplicity and reliability. They go hand-in-hand. The first option on the “Build Your Trike” page that I felt fell in ilne with those two criteria was the lighting. Well, let’s call it the basis of a simple and reliable lighting system: the SON dynamo hub (http://www.rohloff.de/en/products/speedhub/). For many people, a light is not a necessity, and a battery-powered lighting system is sufficient. But a serious tourist or commuter, they want to know that their lights will never surprise them with a dead battery. Hence, the first thing I added to my configuration was that SON dynamo.

A little further down on the list, I spotted my second option: a Rohloff 14-speed rear hub. Just think about it: 14 speeds, with evenly-spaced jumps between each. No more having to shift through several cogs on the rear, then make a change on the front, more changes on the rear, etc. What usually happens is that we accept the fact that some of the gear combinations will be essentially dupilcated, and we’ll wind up using far less than the 30 that we seem to have. An internally-geared hub not only gives us 14 honestly-different gears to choose from, they also give us a system with no derailleurs. No fiddling, no swearing, as we can get some of the gears to shift just right, but then there are always a few that the derailleur is off by just a bit, enough to make a noise at best, or at worst render that gear combination not usable. The Rohloff hub eliminates that. This trike has one shifter, not two, and you can simply twist it and go up or down one gear, or more than one, as you wish. Oh, and if you forget to shift down at a stop, no worries: just shift it while you are stopped. One more thing: without a rear derailleur, the trike is minus one thing that might be damaged if you ride off-road. Granted, it’s not perfect for really rough stuff, but it’s great on gravel and dirt roads, as well as grass. Perfect! Well, there is one drawback, and I’ll get to that later. Let’s finish building this trike

Many options on that prior Sprint would find their way onto this one. Folding is something I love. I like the mesh seat for its breathability. The extra padding is a nice touch, too. Commuters and tourers don’t want to endure sweat, just for the supposed benefit of a hard-shell seat. So, same seat. The parking brake is a good idea, too. It’s too easy for a trike to grab a little gust of wind, and behind your back start rolling away. And as you might expect, this touring/commuting trike needs to carry stuff, sometimes lots of it. So, I chose the Radical sidepods – it has neat little plastic clips to attach the rear of it to the back of the seat! – as well as the handy side bag, It’s nice to have some things close at hand, such as a cell phone or camera. If they’re locked away in a bag you have to dig through, chances are you won’t bother. I’ve had these accessories before, and I like them But, I then encountered a bit of a disapointment.

I’m not satisfiied with just those two bag options – as a tourer, I like the idea of a rear rack, too, for panniers and rack bags. I was a bit disappointed to find that this new rear rack, that would accomodate the larger rear wheel with its suspension, would not have a “top” portion – just two sides! Yes, I can carry panniers, but no rack bag! My beloved Arkel Tailrider (http://www.arkel-od.com/en/bike-trunk-bags.html)was not pleased. I exchanged emails with a couple of people from ICE about this topless rear rack, and it was their conclusion that, because of the combination of suspension and large rear wheel, the rack would have to be mounted very high, and put any bag up in the wind – not to mention just looking goofy. I agreed with their conclusions, reluctantly.

Some have asked me why I think that getting a trike with suspension is necessary. It’s not! But if there’s a chance that you’ll be riding long distances, and/or encountering rough pavement, you will be very pleased with your decision to opt for the suspension. Granted, just getting rear suspension might be more than “good enough”, but I wanted this trike to reflect what a serious commuter/tourist would like. So, full suspension it is! And while other manufacturers have included suspension as an option on some of their units, it’s going to be hard to beat ICE’s implementation for simplicity and reliability. You may have heard those two words used already 🙂

At this point, the rest of the options I chose were easy. The rider I was imagining would want fenders, of course, as well as light and computer mounts, And since it was listed as an option, and I had bought one of these myself before, I chose the bottle cage riser (makes it easier to get at the bottle). I clicked off a computer, a pump, neck rest,
and thought: it’s done. The perfect commuter/touring trike is headed my way.

Well, not immediately. I mentioned before that this trike wasn’t quite ready for production, so I had to wait a couple of months. But, I got the order in early enough that if I wasn’t the first American to get this trike, I was pretty close! Since getting it, I’ve put a couple of hundred miles on it. And what are my thoughts? I’ll tell you all about that, but first let’s look at some of the specifications – there are always people who want to know its length, width, weight,etc., and I don’t dare disappoint them!

Overall width 31.5″ (800mm)
Overall height 25.2″ – 27″ (640 – 685mm)
Overall length 77 – 86.5″ (1955 – 2197mm)
Folded width 31.5″ (800mm)
Folded length 41″ – 50.5″ (1041 – 1282mm)
Folded height 24″ (610mm)
Seat height 8″ (200mm)
Seat angle adjust 42 – 49 degrees
Bottom bracket height 12.6″ – 15.6″
Turning circle 19′ (5.8m)
Rider weight limit 275 lbs
Max tyre width 2″ (50mm)
Overall weight 38.9lb (17.6kg) – NOT QUITE! More about that downstream.
Rider size range 35″-50″ (889mm-1207mm)
Track width 29.5″ (750mm)
Wheel base 47″ (1193mm)
Ground clearance (ride height adjusted) 3.2″ (82 mm)

About that weight listed above: sure, that’s about right, if you order the trike with the usual gearing setup and no options. But that Rohloff rear hub – well, let’s just say it may add convenience and great shifting, but at the expense of adding weight, too. And, I suspect that the weight given doesn’t include the accessories I added, either. So, this trike with the sidepods and side bag (empty), the SON dynamo hub, and the Rohloff all found their way into my garage, where I had brought my bathroom scale. I held the trike up, stepped onto the scale, and found that this trike weights just a few ounces more than 50 pounds. And, I expect the rear rack – it should be here in a week or so – might add another pound or two. Is this a fatal flaw? Should you pass on this trike with these options, because of the weight?

Maybe – but I don’t think so. If you agree with me, that the resulting trike is ideal for touring and commuting, then the weight isn’t going to stop you. And, along those lines, let me mention just how that Rohloff does anything but stop you on steep inclines!

The front (and only) chainring on this trike is 34 teeth. You can go larger, but this is the smallest that Rohloff recommends. The internal gear is 16 teeth. The increments when shifting are 13.6%, resulting in evenly-spaced gears, with no two alike, and in this case, a high gear of 81.1 gear-inches,and a granny of 15.4! I’ve got some pretty steep hills where I live, and this trike, even with its weight, was a champ at climbing. Granted, that top gear isn’t going to give you a very high figue if you’re not pedaing much more than 60 rpm – about 15 mph. But you’re a tourist and commuter, not a racer! And you’ll remember how easy it was to get up that steep hill, and smile. Still, if you want, you can opt for a larger chainring, and while losing a bit of that wonderful granny, you’ll get more top speed, if you want.

OK, I’ve told you what I picked out for this ultimate touring/commuting trike, and how it does what I hoped it would,and does it well. At this point you are probably thinking: yeah, but all those options, especially the Rohloff and the SON, they aren’t cheap. Just how big a bite out of my wallet is this thing gong to take? Sit down, OK? If you’re holding a glass, sit it down, too – you don’t want to make a mess. This trike, with almost every option that ICE made available (no ilghts, darn it),and with shipping included, came out to $7,355.45. Yes, you read that right: this trike cost over seven thousand dollars!

Close your mouth and breathe. Look at it this way: the good things in life are seldom cheap. And seriously, I have a couple of friends who have spent even more than that, on a diamond-frame bike! If you want what I consider the ultimate touring/commuting trike, you’ll agree that this price, albeit high, is reasonable. But many of us,even if we agree, just can’t afford to pay that much. For some, money is no object. If that’s the case with you, call me – I want to be your BFF. But for others, perhaps most of us, you might think: what can I knock off that list of options, and still have a trike I can be proud of?

Many things, actually. Will you be needing lights often? No? Then drop that SON and stick with battery head and tail lights. Are you reasonably happy and competent with modern shifting setups, three chainrings and 10 cogs? Then you don’t absolutely need the Rohloff. There are other things you could remove,if money is a problem, such as the fenders and the side bag. You might consider swapping out the Radical sidepods for something smaller but similar from Smoky Mountain Bags http://smokymtnsaddlebags.com/. While the trike would then be out of the “ultimate” category, it would still be an awfully good trike. It’s your decision. I know what mine is.

ICE Sprint 26fs Ultimate Tourer/Commuter
Pros: wonderful granny, simplicity, reliability
Cons: Price and weight
For More Information: http://www.icetrikes.co/explore-our-trikes/sprint#

Brompton P6R

Santa waving from Brompton Those who know me may be a bit confused: aren’t I the Co-Editor of the premiere online recumbent magazine, BentRider Online? And if so, then what am I doing with an upright? It’s a long story, but I’ll try to shorten it a bit for you. As Thoreau warned us, the paths we make in this world will eventually turn into ruts, and I like to explore all the possible avenues ahead of me, and keep my options open. You see, while I am not often seen with anything other than a recumbent bike or trike, I do have other bicycles. In fact, I still have the Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2 I bought in 1976! Along with that classic, I have a Bike Friday Pocket Llama and a Dahon Boardwalk. Those of you who are familiar with those two bikes may see a pattern, one that might explain somewhat why I now have a Brompton P6R. Yes, I like things that fold! So now that you know one of my fetishes, let’s look at some more specifics about how I came to buy this latest addition to my stable.

Last year on a bicycling tour in the Florida Keys (with Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers), I was idly riding down by the docks, looking up in amazement at the sheer size of the cruise ships that were there. Dismounting to take a photograph (those who know me will tell you that I take *lots* of photographs!), I happened to notice a couple sitting nearby on a bench. And then,I saw these two bicycles sitting, in an odd way, close to them: yes, they were Bromptons, with their rear wheels tucked underneath, resting on their rear racks. I quickly forgot about the ships and went over to admire their bikes. They were very friendly and answered my many questions, and even allowed me a brief spin around the area. I was amazed at how nimble and comfortable it felt! I remember thinking, I like this bike, but I don’t really need another one – or do I?

Move the time-spinner ahead a few weeks, to the beginning of my Thanksgiving-to-Christmas Eve stint as Santa. Yes, I enjoy it – and when one of the children asked for something other than an iPhone or iPad or i-anything, but asked for a bicycle instead, that got me to thinking about that Brompton again. And, to consider that Santa deserves a present, too! So, if we want to blame anyone for my getting this bike, blame that kid.

I started doing some research, and found that the Brompton website is great for configuring all the various options. I wasn’t sure just what I needed or wanted, but after a few Google searches, and knowing that I wanted someting set up for touring, I choose the P6R model, with such things as a stiffer suspension block, the multi-hand-position P-style handlebar, a reduction in gearing for my hills, and so on. It was at that point that I thought: just how do I order one of these bikes? Directly from the factory in England? That’s when I noticed that, as luck would have it, there is a Brompton dealer (Jim’s Bicycle Shop) in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio. I like dealing with local shops, if for no other reasons than if there’s a problem, they will be happy to help me out. A question-filled visit later that week, and my order was made. It wasn’t until January that the bike was delivered, but that was OK, since I was pretty much tied down with reindeer, sleighs, etc. until after the holiday!

The weather in January wasn’t exactly perfect for riding, but there were a few decent days, I rode whenever I could, and when things improved, I rode even more! Loving things that fold may be a fetish, but it’s not a blind one. In the beginning, I had trouble remembering just what part got folded first, and second, and … But it didn’t take long before it became almost automatic. This bike folds into an unbelievably small package – and, as you can see in one of the phtographs, I did indeed put it into a plastic bag from Ikea! Granted, I did take the seat off, but had I not purchased the extended seat post, I might not have had to do that. I get lots of inquiries from other bicyclists when they see me lift the folded bike from the back of my car, and within seconds it morphs into an actual bicycle. I’ve often said you can’t be shy and ride a recumbent – and that goes for riding a Brompton, too!

I am sure I will have lots more miles on the bike in just a few months, but others have asked what my feelings are about it at this point. It’s relatively simple: I like it! The small wheels *may* not lead to riding as fast as with larger wheels – and I may use that exccuse for not keeping up with the roadies – but seriously, when I’m riding that P6R, it doesn’t feel tiny, nor at a disadvantage to other bikes. Granted, it’s not a recumbent, and as such cannot be the epitome of comfort as they are, but still, it’s not bad!

The handling can be described as nimble. I have no problems weaving in and out and around barriers and road debris. My gearing, as I mentioned earlier, has been deliberately lowered to make life easier on Kentucky’s hills, so I won’t be able to cruise on the flats as fast as I might like, but again, it’s not really that much slower than I would be going anyway. It really is nice to not have any external derailleurs to fuss with. I’ve got two shifting levers, one on the left and one on the right, giving me a choice of six gears, and so far I’m pleased with that. The internal hubs make for quicker shifts, and less things to get dirty.

The seat that came with the bike is comfortable enough, and I did have thoughts of just leaving it on, but I have come to really limke my Selle Anatomica seat, so it now resides on this new bike. I had given some thought to buying a Brooks saddle, and maybe when they have a sale or some other tempting offer, I may just get one of those, too. As you might be thinking, I do look for “bargains”, and I seldom eat out without having a coupon in hand. This may help to explain why I got the T-type bag for the front of the bike, since it really is overkill for almost anything other than loaded touring – but dollars-per-cubic-inch was much better for that bag than some of the others that are more more sensibly sized.

What else can I say about this bike? I am sure I will have much more to report, as I put even more miles on it. Some of my recumbent friends may be wondering if I’ve gone completely over to the “dark side”, but never fear. When it comes to long-distance touring, or road surfaces that threaten to jar your teeth loose, there’s no substitute for the sheer comfort of riding reclined – especially upon the likes of the ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering) Sprint. Which, by the way, also happens to fold. On the other hand, don’t be surprised when you see me out on the road, riding my LVG Brompton P6R!

Arkel Orca Waterproof Panniers

hintLiving in a part of the world that has seasons, I tend to get tired of Winter long before it’s over,and long for the warmer days of Spring. There’s just one problem with that – we tend to have many days in which it might rain. While I can dress warm and dry, I do worry about things I might be carrying. As you all know, I have not yet mastered the Art of Minimalism; I bring along things that I really don’t want to leave behind, and yet I worry about them getting wet. So, you can imagine how happy I was to read about the latest from Arkel, the Orca panniers. They’re billed as being waterproof – and a glance at them, touching the fabric, certainly gives that impression. But are they? Read on!

The bags certainly feel waterproof – they have “RF welded seams”. I’m not sure just what that means, but I took a really good look at the bags, closed them using their “rolling over” of the top and snapping them, and by the way they felt as solid and air-tight as a basketball, I felt this was a good sign. But how to test them to see if they truly were waterproof? I was about to turn the hose on them, but then nature stepped in.

The weather report was saying we were going to have several days of off-and-on rain, with even more of the wet stuff at night. Being scientifically inclined (I used to be a shop teacher), I came up with a good test: put some newspapers in the bags, close them up, and let them sit outside for a day and a night in the rain. I did that – and the result?

Before we go into that, I do want to mention some of the other features of these bags. They share a mounting system with other panniers in the Arkel lineup, that of a Cam-Lock that has a handle that, when you pull up on it, releases the locks, and engages them when you let go. They can be adjusted to fit your rack quite easily, too, using an allen key. There’s a small zippered pocket on the outside of the bags, along with reflective striping and very handy tabs for mounting tail lights. On the inside, you’ll find a much larger zippered pocket for keeping loose things separate from the bulkier items. I would suggest this would be a good spot for magazines, maps, those sorts of things. There’s also a long pocket that just begs to have a laptop or tablet stuck in it. Altogether , there’s 45 cubic inches of space in the pair (they do make a smaller, 35 c.i. version, too). You can get an optional shoulder strap for carrying the bags while you’re off the bike, too – I think that would be a very good idea.

By now you’re thinking, ok, did it rain on my bags? How much rain? And what was the fate of the newspapers in the experiment? We had a bit of rain this one particular day, perhaps a half-inch. I thought that maybe that was enough of a test, but decided to let the bags spend the night outside. I’m glad I did, as we had a pretty good series of storms pass through. My rain gauge the next morning showed that just a bit over two inches fell. I felt the bags, and they didn’t feel like they had lost any air – these things really do close up very tightly! I unsnapped the straps, unrolled the tops, and looked inside: perfectly dry! The bags passed the test!

I have been looking for some panniers that would ease my mind about things getting wet, and the Arkel Orca bags have now moved to the top of my list. Toss in the internal storage measures, along with the reflective stripes and tabs for lights, and I think I’ve found the bags I’m going to use.

Arke Orca Waterproof Panniers
Pros: waterproof, internal storage pockets,tabs for lights
Cons: shoulder strap is optional
Price: $199.95/pair (35 c.i. version, $184.95)
For More Information: http://www.arkel-od.com/en/waterproof-panniers.html