Tag Archive: commuter accessories

The Bike Geek: My favorite safety accessories

Yes, we all hate Mondays but “The Man” wanted me to try to posting on Mondays instead of the weekend. Something to do with SEO, PPC, blah, blah, blah, best day to post, blah, blah.

Stick It To The Man

So now that I have my train schedule, my route figured out, got my commuter bike, it is almost time to “Ride the talk”. One thing that always concerns me about riding my bike to work is careless drivers. The “ride as if you are invisible” is always on my mind when I ride on the streets, so to make myself more visible and ride defensively and I carry a few safety accessories:

1. Bright ass blinkies and a horn.

My new personal favorite rear blinkie is the NiteRider Sentinel that we reviewed a little while ago and I’ve been using the Orp light/horn (the jury is still out on this one, more on that later)

2. Mirrors


The Chuck Harris helmet mirror that I used to ride with back in 2008 was awesome, unfortunately I lost it and Chuck Harris passed away in 2012. However, I found a company that not only do they make Chuck Harris style mirrors, they are able to make them with your logo! Check out my brand spanking new helmet mirror:



I also ride with a handlebar mirror, but those can be tricky to adjust.

3. Hi-Viz clothing.


As I walk into the office, I’m always told that I can be seen a mile away. Good I say, now you have no excuse to run my ass over!

4. Helmet.


I do not understand why people refuse to ride with no helmet, I rather be uncool than a freaking vegetable in case of a crash.

5. “Personal Protection”

Yes, I do carry pepper spray with me, thankfully I’ve never had to use it. I carry it because people suck.


I love this bracelet, all your information that you choose is there in case you are incapacitated and someone needs to call your emergency contacts.

7.Inexpensive Action Sports Camera

This maybe a little over the top, but when motorists do not care about you and see you as a nuisance, better to have it on video. Oh, and because people suck.

You maybe thinking, WTF, why does he carry all this crap with him? Again, I want to get home safe to my family and unfortunately I live in a region where the car is king and pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders are just a “bump in the road”.

Next Week: Time to “ride the talk”!

Do you need your accessories to match?

I’ve always been a fan of matching accessories on a bicycle. Take this photo for example. Fenders, racks, pedals, and chain guard pretty much match everything else on the bike.
commuter bike
But when I see this, I immediately think that I might worry too much about leaving a beautiful machine at a bike rack at the office where I can’t see it for hours at a time.
My old Redline commuter bike was unassuming, it had a grey/black color scheme and I even uglified it just to deter thieves from trying to take it. So I’m curious to know what are you thoughts, do you dress up your bike to look as good as this specimen, or do you dumb it down to detract attention from it. Or perhaps you have a bike like this and you consider it your “going out” bike. Something you use when you’re out getting coffee or grabbing a bite to eat at the local sandwich shop where you could still keep your eyes on it.

Review: Kaufmann Mercantile’s Canvas Saddlebag

We had a chance to spend a few weeks with a review sample of Kaufmann Mercantile‘s new waxed-canvas saddlebag…the folks there only gave us a short time to test it out before it had to go back to them, but I got a good feel for the bag and wanted to share some thoughts and photos with you.

Here’s some of the basic bag information straight from Kaufmann Mercantile’s website:

–Waxed canvas
–American tanned leather
–Brass buckles and rivets

–Water resistant
–Bridle leather strap for lashing larger objects on the outside of the pack
–2 leather and brass buckle straps (secure and easy to remove from bike)
–Inside pocket
–Inside flaps with grommets
–Adjustable closure

–Height: 8.5 inches
–Top width: 10.5 inches
–Bottom width: 3.5 inches

Handmade in Duluth, Minnesota

The bag is made for Kaufmann Mercantile by Frost River Softgoods.

The bag is nearly ten inches at the mouth, and tapers gently down to the foot. The overall length of the bag is about nine inches. It fit nicely between saddle and rack as shown in the pictures below. The leather straps are supple and are adequately supplied with holes to get everything snug (additional holes are easily punched with a leather awl if needed). Solid brass hardware in the rivets and buckles means this thing is going to last for years. And hey, it looks classy as hell!

This is a water-resistant bag…the waxed canvas shrugs off light rain and snow, but won’t stop the contents from getting wet in a downpour (mostly because of the seams and the loose opening at the top of the bag). It’s weatherproof enough for year-round use, though, and sensitive items such as electronics should always travel in plastic bags even if your own bag is rated as “waterproof”.

Inside the bag, there’s a sleeve at the base to store pointy tools or small items that need additional protection from the rest of the contents. Otherwise, it’s just a gaping maw, waiting to swallow your spare tubes, your lunch, your phone and your rainjacket.

And, unlike most “minimalist” saddlebags, this one takes all that load without any wrestling or Tetris-like stacking. If you do happen to run out of room inside the bag, there is a stiff leather band riveted to the top of the bag. Simply lash items onto the top and be on your way. You ARE carrying spare toestraps, aren’t you? They’re handy for any impromptu gear wrangling you may face on your journeys.

Once loaded and hitched down tight, the bag does not sway…I rode with this bag stuffed with items in a brutal 30 MPH headwind and fierce crosswinds, and the bag never budged despite my “out of the saddle” efforts.

The overall quality of the bag is fantastic…the seams are tight, the materials are top-notch and the overall look is, as I mentioned earlier, classy. It’s a pricey bag at $95.00, but this is an “heirloom” type item, expected to last years and years. And there IS a market for such bags, what with Carradice and Ostrich, Berthoud and Brooks. These kinds of bags are for folks who want something handmade, who care about the materials used and the places where they’re made. It’s tough, sometimes, to have to pay a premium to get a handmade-in-the-U.S. item, but I think this one is worth it. Still, it’s a bit steep for us frugal commuters.

This is the only bike-specific item Kaufmann Mercantile carries, but there are other items in their online store that may appeal to you. Really, there’s a LOT of cool handmade tools and other useful gadgets there, so you should swing on over for a visit.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Wonder what all those planes are doing in the background? I am lucky to live right up the street from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and their outdoor static aircraft display area makes a fun backdrop. You’ll probably see a lot more of this in future articles…I love that museum and the grounds are spectacular.

Guest Review: Bontrager Interchange Nebula Fenders

Editor’s note: We got the following product review from longtime reader/commenter Raiyn Storm. He has graciously allowed us to post his thoughts and photos here for you. As he purchased the fenders for his own use, we’re going to forgo that pesky FTC disclaimer that normally appears at the end of our reviews here on And, as far as we can tell, the following is the first online review of this particular fender set…so enjoy!

I recently purchased a set of Bontrager Interchange Nebula fenders to use on my Town bike. I chose these fenders specifically because I wanted the protection that only full coverage fenders can provide with the ability to remove or re-attach them at a moment’s notice. While there are other “quick release fenders on the market I found their coverage to be insufficient for my needs. I tend to use my bike as a jack of all trades so being able to remove the fenders quickly and without tools is a plus in my book.

Below is the description of the fenders from Bontrager’s website:


* After initial installation, the Interchange system allows subsequent removal and application in seconds
without tools
* Lightweight polycarbonate fenders are weather and impact resistant
* Adjustable, oversized aluminum stays ensure a custom and secure fit
* Rear frame mounted fenders fit under racks, out of the way of trunk bags and panniers
* Includes integrated mudflaps designed for maximum water dispersion
* Can be fully disassembled for easy recycling

Basic installation is fairly straightforward and requires a 4mm Allen wrench, 8 mm open end wrench and a #2 Phillips screwdriver.

The Interchange Nebulas are attached by means of a quick release bracket in the front and tensioned chain and seatstay bridge mounts and clips. In addition, the fender stays are attached to a corresponding bolt-on “mushroom” (bolted to the fender eyelet) by means of a snap-on socket. Installation is a little more involved than regular fenders because the socket mount is threaded to adjust in and out of the fender stay and will need to be adjusted for your setup. Once adjusted, the socket is secured by a jam nut.

Even though the included directions seemed less helpful than something you’d get from IKEA, I have confidence that most people will be able to pull off the basic installation with minimal problems. I, on the other hand, had a few minor changes to make.
Knowing that I had a suspension corrected fork, I needed a way to get the fender close enough to the tire to function properly and still look right. I had initially planned an elaborate kludge involving P-clamps and plenty of extra hardware, but it proved to be overkill due to the relatively short axle to crown measurement of my Surly 1×1 fork. I ended up following what I feel to be a cliché by adding a (thankfully) small piece of metal to drop it to the correct height for my fork / tire combination. Another modification to the basic install was forced due to the seat stay bolt hole pointing down instead of being a horizontal hole. Because of this I decided to bolt it to my brake booster instead which still allowed it to follow the correct arc while potentially adding support due to it’s more centralized location on the fender arc.

I was able to try the fenders out recently in some mildly rainy conditions in the area and I’d say that the coverage provided by the front fender is better than one would expect from a typical set of detachable fenders, rivaling that of some of the best names in the business. Perhaps aesthetically I wasn’t as happy with the projection ahead of the front fork as I could have been but the coverage from the business end of the front fender and mudflap drops well below the bottom bracket making up for what I feel is a fairly stubby front projection when compared to more traditional fenders. I felt that the rear behaved as a normal bolt-on fender would in that you wouldn’t notice any real difference between it and the easily removed Nebula.

The Interchange Nebula’s are priced around $50 - $55 depending on the shop. The price is fairly in line with the better bolt-on fenders on the planet but offers the versatility of super quick removal for sunny days or for just putting your bike in the trunk after a late night at work.