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Some of My Favorite Things

Gore-tex that doesn’t go damp,
Treads that don’t wear flat,
Chains that never skip or squeak,
These are some of my favorite things.
Gloves so good I’ve loved them to death.

When you ride for long enough, you settle into habits and gear. Maybe it’s a brand of socks that don’t bind, or bib shorts that don’t chafe, or gloves that keep your hands from going numb. Sometimes it’s a more expensive piece of gear, like a fine leather saddle or a good Goretex jacket. A good tool allows us to do something without being aware of the tool’s toolness. Think of how conscious we are of a pen’s faultiness of  when it runs dry, or the annoyance of a skipping chain, or the tactile and visual frustration of a cracked screen. In those moments a portion of our awareness is constantly consumed in being aware of the faultiness of that poor tool while we’re using it. A broken tool can be worse than no tool at all. “Don’t think about GORE-TEX products,” the banner ad at GORE-TEX.com proclaims, “Think about achieving your goals.” Sadly, I’m thinking about gore-tex.

My favorite flipback gore-tex gloves are coming to the end of their useful service life, no doubt because I wear them nearly every day. Twice daily I guide clients a dozen at a time down the twelve-mile long White Pass in Skagway, Alaska for Sockeye Cycle Company. I depend upon good gear to allow me to do my job. I bought my flipback gloves the better part of ten years ago from Duluth Trading Company, and they instantly became my favorite wet weather gloves. Whether I was riding swampy trails in the cold and dark with my crazy mountain bike friends in Norfolk, Virginia, delivering freaky fast sandwiches during Nor’easters, or leading bike tours through the clouds in Alaska, I’ve relied on my Duluth Trading hybrid glove/mittens (glittens?). They are big enough for my extra large hands, and cut loosely enough that I can layer full-finger gloves underneath them. The mitts flip over fingerless gloves for warmth and rain protection, but flip back for fine tasks. Uniquely, the thumbs even flip back, too, making it easy to tighten barrel adjusters and seat posts in the rain. They aren’t puffy gloves, filled with lots of insulation. They aren’t made for wearing below freezing. But they’re great for when it’s wet and chilly enough to see your breath, but not cold enough to see snow.

The seams of my gloves are splitting. I’ve worn holes in the leather thumb pads. The gore-tex exposed underneath the holes has grown shiny with dirt and grease. The velcro no longer holds tight. There are more than a couple of rips on the knuckles. And worst of all, my gloves are no longer waterproof. There’s a subtle, insidious and inexorable phenomena when waterproof clothing slowly loses its waterproofness. At first you want to deny that you’re feeling more dampness than before. You try to blame it on the wind blowing rain up your sleeves, or the extra rainniness of the day. But gradually you come to the point where you accept that you’re just as wet wearing your formerly-waterproof gear as you would be without it.

So now I’m faced with the dilemma of replacing something irreplaceable. Duluth Trading no longer makes my favorite gloves, and I find myself wondering what else I can use. I’ve found cheap fleece mittens online that are cut to the same design, but aren’t waterproof. I’ve found expensive snowboarding gloves that are waterproof and (supposedly) compatible with touch-screens, but don’t offer the same flexibility of flip-back thumbs. I’ve found a few gloves that come close, but nothing that matches the utility of my once-favorite tool. Regardless of whether I pay ten bucks or a hundred, I don’t want to spend my money on gloves that aren’t as functional as the ones I have now. Which means that, for now, I’m resigned to wet hands.

“My first couple of seasons I didn’t worry about being wet, I just focused on staying warm,” one of my fellow bike guides said to me. Warmth and wetness don’t go together, though. If I’m wet, sooner or later I’m not going to be warm. But until I can find my perfect pair of gloves, I’ll settle on being warm.

Wesley Cheney leads Klondike bike tours for Sockeye Cycle Co. in Skagway, Alaska. He earned his Eagle Scout Badge with Troop 216 in Springfield, Vermont, biked from London to Rome via the Route Napoleon, sailed with the USS Kearsarge to Equatorial Africa, earned a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy from Old Dominion University, completed the final Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200km Brevet, and most recently delivered freaky fast sandwiches for Jimmy John’s in Norfolk, Virginia. As a professional photographer, he has captured images of Harrier jump jets, Norfolk Southern intermodal trains and mountain bike races. Wesley has built, pedaled, paddled and sailed bamboo bicycles, bamboo kayaks, and bamboo sailboats. In the off-season he sings in the choir of Christ & St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, teaches screen printing at 757 Makerspace. He regularly contributes questions to The Thomas Jefferson Hour, plays the ukulele and the flugelhorn, reads the New Testament in German, and prefers to wear a kilt.

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Review : Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack

Originally posted at our sister site BikeShopGirl.com

Banjo Brothers makes some of the greatest, affordable, commuter packs and bags in the industry.  When they sent me a message about a new WHITE Commuter Backpack I was thrilled to be one of the first to review this product for them.

Banjo Brothers 3/4 View

Information from Banjo Brothers about their Commuter Backpack:

  • Medium – 1500 Cubic inches / 17″Tall x 12″ Wide x 8″ deep
  • Waterproof 2-layer design: outer ballistic nylon layer wears like iron; replaceable waterproof liner keeps contents dry in a downpour (will not keep water out if submerged, in case underwater-riding is your hobby).
  • Wide padded straps distribute load more evenly than messenger bags
  • Sits lower on the back than standard backpacks to reduce blind spots while riding
  • Chest strap and removable waist strap for stability
  • Large reflective stripes and tab for safety light
  • Quick-access side pocket fits mini-U lock
  • Coming January 2010
  • MSRP: $79.99

Initial Thoughts :

As I pulled this bag from the box it came in I was first caught by the fabric.  It feels much like a hard plastic fabric that you would see on a tarp or covering.  Impressing and felt very different to my fingers. It also right off the bat told me “storm proof” or at least appeared that way.

Sizing : The fit on a smaller women, like pictured in these photos, is a bit large.  The shoulder straps are wide, which for heavy loads is a plus.  but for narrow shoulders it can cut in to the neck if you don’t position it well.  There is a chest and waist straps to snug down the bag during riding.

Function: The bag is laid out very functional.  On the front is a few pen holders, a pocket with a flap and a sealed zipper pocket. On the shoulder strap there is a pocket for your phone or camera.

Safety : A reflective stripe down the backside of the bag leads for great visibility, plus the white color really stands out on the road.  A loop towards the bottom of the bag provides a perfect spot for that blinking light that everyone should have on.

The bag thus far is holding up well.  It isn’t my daily bag yet as the heat in Charlotte, NC hasn’t trimmed back too much and this bag can get your back HOT.  I’m looking forward to using this everyday for riding into work. The bag is deep with a lot of room for my thick winter clothes and shoes I carry in the fall/winter. It really seems to be set up by someone that uses their bag daily.

Kudo’s to Banjo Brothers and look for a long term review over at Bike Shop Girl.

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out