Bum bags. Fanny packs. Enduro fashion. Call it what you want, but a hip pack is actually a pretty useful piece of kit. What goes around comes around, and now that it’s safe to be seen in public with one again, options are flooding the market.
Seagull has been sewing its bags by hand in Columbus, Ohio, since 2003, and they sent us their new Trail Buddy to try, and so so far I’ve been using it on all kinds of rides. I’ll do anything to get a backpack off my back and not content with the sweat mess it leaves behind. The Trail Buddy holds the basics for short rides or keeps the essentials close at hand while touring.
Built from 1000d Cordura, it’s super thick and tough. I have no doubt this thing will outlive the cockroaches at the Apocalypse. While not 100-percent waterproof, the YKK zippers are water resistant and it kept the contents clean through a generous dousing of mud. The zipper pulls are huge and easy to grab with gloves on. The main pocket has a double zipper to make it easier to get into.
There is a U-lock sleeve in the back, but I actually preferred attaching it to the daisy chain loops on the front so it wasn’t touching my back. There is a secondary exterior pocket behind them with room for small items like keys or a phone.
The main compartment is big enough for a thin jacket, bike tools, a book, a beer (or two), or whatever you need to keep within reach. It can also attach to your handlebars with two Velcro straps, but there’s no way to tuck the waist strap in so it kind of gets in the way.
The waist strap is thickly padded and has cinch straps at either end that can help keep the bag snug against your hips even when it’s not full. The main buckle is BIG, but luckily it is adjustable on both sides, and I found it most comfortable wearing it slightly off-center.
There really aren’t any downsides to this pack except there were a few times I wish it were a tiny bit bigger. It won’t fit my Amazon Kindle, for example, or an external water bottle.
The Trail Buddy is available in black, olive, rust (pictured), plus two more Spring 2016 special colorways.
Measurements: 11.75 inches wide, 5.5 inches high and 2.75 inches deep.
More info: seagullbags.com
What’s your take? Do you ride with a hip pack? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.
Let’s get the initial reaction out of the way:
Holy Toledo, $125 is a lotta cash for a taillight!!! OMG, LOL, SMH, etc.
OK, now shake off the bad attitude and read on. Or don’t. I know I was curious what a $125 taillight offers.
The most interesting feature of this light is an accelerometer activated “brake light”. The light senses rapid deceleration and ups the brightness, much like the brake lights on your car or your 1983 RZ350. I’m pretty curious what drivers thought about the brake light feature, if anything at all. I didn’t notice a difference in drivers’ behavior, but without a real scientific study, it would be pretty hard to make a definitive statement about this. I can say with some authority that I don’t think the brake light makes me any less safe, and my gut feeling it that it is a great feature and one we’ll see on more taillights in the future. I rarely ride in groups, but can image this feature being a nice safety feature for those dudes (it is always dudes) who hop, uninvited, into your draft for a free pull down the bike path.
The Rotlight also has an ambient light sensor. As the night gets darker, the light drops its brightness down a few notches, but cranks it back up when it senses brighter lights, such as headlights. Pretty slick, and a good way to conserve battery life on long rides while keeping the safety factor high.
There are four modes to chose from: steady, flash, pulse, and steady-pulse. Steady and flash are self explanatory. Pulse is a less abrupt flash mode and steady-pulse adds the pulse (not flash) mode to a steady beam of light. I’ve quickly become a fan of the steady-pulse mode. It seems to be a great middle ground between the calmer steady mode and the attention-getting (and blood pressure-raising) flash modes of most lights.
And finally, the light can be adjusted to one of four brightness settings in each mode. At the brightest 2 watt mode you get 160 lumens of red light, the lowest 0.1 watts is 10 lumens. Run times are below. Changing all these setting with a single button interface isn’t the most intuitive thing. Day-to-day operation is fine, but digging deeper to adjust brightness or turn the light sensor or brake light features on and off requires the owners manual nearby. I just kept the pdf saved in my phone for reference.
Mode Steady Blink Pulse Wave+Pulse
0.1W 30h 60h — 25h
0.25W 12h 24h 24h 10h
0.5W 6h 12h 12h 5h
1W 3h 6h 6h 2:30h
2W 1:30h 3h 3h —
The light includes rubber straps in two lengths for any tube between 22 and 55 mm. The back of the light is angled to keep it straight on most common seat tube angles, but it isn’t adjustable for alternate mounting locations like seat stays. Lupine sent along a seat rail mount for the light as well, a $20 option. There are also options for blue or red light bodies, or a red lens instead of the stock clear.
I’ve been lucky enough to review quite a few Lupine products and each time I’ve come away impressed. For riders that are shopping for sturdy but feature-laden lights, Lupine is perhaps the best place to start looking. If price is the number one shopping concern, obviously there are plenty of less expensive options out there. Once set up as I wanted, the Rotlicht was no harder to operate than anything else on the market, but offers a level of customization second to none.
Lupine continues to release class-leading lights to the market, and the Rotlicht is no different. If you love riding with the latest technology, the Rotlicht is your huckleberry.
Photos by Justin Steiner
Rival sits above SRAM’s entry level Apex group and below the better-known Force and Red groups. After a painful recall of the first generation hydraulic disc groups, SRAM is back on track and has expanded the hydraulic disc option (and the 11 speeds) to Rival level.
Rival is all about options. Cranks come in 165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, 175 and 177.5 mm lengths, making this a great way to fine tune fit at an affordable price. Chainring options are 52/36, 50/34 and 46/36. Pair those up with a cassette in 11-26, 11-28 or 11-32 for plenty of range, though I was hoping for a 46/34 option for a more off-road oriented adventure bike.
I suppose the 34 be could paired with the 46, but shifting may suffer. The crank is a basic forged design and is far from svelte compared to the hollow-forged or carbon cranks from Force and Red. The cassettes carry the largest three cogs on an aluminum carrier; the rest are individual and may bite into softer aluminum cassette bodies.
The Yaw front derailleur has a built-in chain keeper to prevent derailment to the inside. Yaw derailleurs move at an angle in relation to the chainrings, eliminating the need to trim and giving you access to all 22 gear combos. Once set up properly the front shifting was acceptable, but took awhile to tune out a tendency to shift past the big ring. The rear derailleur is a workhorse, setting up easily and firing off shifts without complaint.
The integrated shift and brake levers are chunky, but comfortable. There are small reach adjust bolts for the brake and shift levers; care must be taken to adjust both properly or the shift lever can hang up on the brake lever. I’ve adapted to SRAM’s DoubleTap single lever shifting, but still find Shimano’s two levers to be more intuitive. While the shifting performs well, the tactile feel at the levers isn’t as precise as I’d like, with a feel of plastic and bushings rather than metal and bearings.
The real stars of the show are the brakes. Much like SRAM’s newly released Guide mountain bike brakes, the Rival discs have an stellar feel at the lever, with excellent modulation building up to very controllable power. The caliper mounting surfaces are nicely machined and the brakes set up easily on the two bikes used for testing. Other than an odd vibration on the rear of one bike that I was never able to track down, the brakes were quiet and fade free, even after some sketchy and fast fire road descents under a bikepacking load.
While electronic shifting gets all the attention lately, personally I think hydro discs are a bigger upgrade to performance than adding batteries and servo motors to shifting. The Rival group is hugely versatile, with enough options to keep everyone except fully-loaded touring cyclists happy with the gear range and fit options. With performance that rivals (HA!) more expensive groups, particularly the brakes, Rival parts are a less expensive replacement option for the high-end groups. For rough and tumble adventure bikes, the Rival group is right at home, particularly for riders used to the power and control of modern mountain bike brakes.
- Hydraulic brakeset and shifters: $384 per wheel
- Front derailleur: $38
- Rear derailleur: $72
- Crankset: $218 BB30/$192 GXP
- Cassette: $69-$76
- Chain: $29
- Centerline rotors: $44-$55
Photos by Justin Steiner
Ritte is an interesting company. With marketing that seems to drift between sarcastic, ironic, off-color, and bro-tastic, it continues to be polarizing. But even if one doesn’t care for the brand, its style is iconic and distinctive.
It might be easy to dismiss the Crossberg as just another aluminum cyclocross bike, and in a lot of ways it is somewhat cookie cutter. But it fits in with its intended purpose as a race bike. A true cyclocross race bike gets beaten down over the course of a season: mud, pressure washing, getting jammed into the back of cars with another two or four race bikes. All these things take their toll, a toll that can beat down a carbon bike.
Every time I rode the Crossberg I wanted to go fast, and that is what a race bike is all about. Other than a pair of water bottle mounts this bike doesn’t make any overtures to practicality. It isn’t for riding to work on Monday and racing on Sunday. You can’t install a rack and go for a short tour. But really, after riding it for a spell, I don’t want to. I just want to find a cross course and turn the screws on some fellow riders.
I selected a size large based on top tube length, which run short across the board. The seat tube is tall as well, which makes it easier to shoulder during a race course run up, or up the stairs to your fourth floor walk up. It took me a while to embrace stem lengths beyond 100 mm again, as my preferences have followed the short stem trends in mountain biking. But once I got over my bad attitude, the 120 mm stem I settled on got me out over the front wheel, helping it to bite in flat, loose corners and made for an excellent position for out of the saddle climbs and sprints.
Handling is solidly racy. Get on the gas, brake late for the corner, square it off, start pedaling directly after the apex, repeat, win races. This isn’t a bike that has the edge taken off for riding to the bar to compare mustache waxing styles, so be prepared to pay attention at high speeds, as letting your mind wander can lead to scary moments. Bombing dirt and gravel roads is certainly possible and still a ton of fun on this bike, but something lower, slacker and longer is a better choice if that is the majority of your riding and racing.
I was glad to see all the cables are externally routed on the Crossberg as it eases maintenance, something that is a regular occurrence on a race bike. Ritte says this aluminum model is a step in the development of a new carbon race bike, but I hope the carbon bike keeps the external cables, which is becoming a rarity in this day of internal routing.
One of Ritte’s marketing lines is: “We make competition-focused bikes for unusual people,” and I think that is a very accurate way to sum up the company. The Crossberg Disc is an excellent race bike, and a viable option to the more mainstream brands. While it might not attract as much attention as more expensive models, like a Mazda Miata setup for track use only, it is more than capable of embarrassing carbon wonder bikes under the right rider. If something more road oriented is your style, Ritte just released a disc road bike, the Snob, made from domestically produced stainless steel.
- Price: $1,250 (frame, fork, headset)
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L (Tested), XL, XXL
I thought I knew the bike industry pretty well, but I had never heard of Satechi when I got wind of this new light. Turns out it’s more of a general interest consumer electronics brand that makes gadgets like USB hubs, rechargeable batteries and Bluetooth speakers.
The RideMate light uses a single LED pumping out a claimed 500 lumens. I can’t offer any sort of independent verification of that number, but I’d say it’s in the ballpark. It’s certainly bright enough that it will light your way just fine at speed in the dark and I feel more than comfortable operating it in the lowest of its three settings as a “be-seen” light around town. It also has a flashing mode for daytime use. (For daytime only, people!)
It operates a bit differently than other lights in that it has an on/off button that controls the whole thing, including charging out, and then a separate button that controls the light.
The RideMate is a bit bulky compared to the sleek competition, but the aluminum body is sturdy and looks good. The diffuser in front also wraps around the side body offering a bit of light to enhance your peripheral vision and make you more visible from the side.
The killer feature of the RideMate is that it not only charges with a micro USB, it offers a USB out port so you can charge your phone or other items from its 2,500 mAh battery. Yes it will drain the runtime from your light but if you get caught with a dead battery in your phone it can certainly come in handy.
The included mount is a fixed type that bolts to your handlebars and has a quick release for the light unit. It can swivel a few degrees each way if you have swept back bars. I would like to see a second, rubber strap for easier swapping from bike to bike, but at the price it’s hard to ask for more.
In all I’ve been quite impressed with the RideMate and its features for the price.
- Price: $50 ($35 on amazon.com)
- Weight: 149 grams
- Output: 500 lumens
- Claimed runtimes: High – 2 hours, Medium – 4 hours, Low – 8 hours.
The Slot from Traitor Cycles was born from the idea of a bike that could get you to the trailhead, carve some singletrack, then stop on the way home for groceries. Of course there’s the old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none,” so I am interested how well this bike will fulfill all its varied roles.
Built from steel, the Slot is fully rigid 29er and features mounts for racks and fenders fore and aft, and of course a couple of bottle cages. There’s a mix of Shimano and SRAM drivetrain components, Avid BB5s and an attractive leather touring saddle from Gyes all riding atop a set of Kenda 2.1-inch Small Block Eight tires. Those tires would need to be swapped out for 45 mm tires if fenders are installed though. Overall a pretty respectable build for a moderately priced rig.
My first ride on the Slot included as many surfaces as I could find and the bike performed well. I have always been impressed with how well the Small Block Eight tires handled a wide range of terrains. Once again, they didn’t disappoint. The tread pattern works well on gravel and smoother surface roads , but also hold up decently on dirt… as long as it’s not too wet.
I’m looking forward to throwing some weight on the bike and taking it out on some longer mixed surface excursions. Watch out for a full write up in Bicycle Times Issue #37 and find out how well one bike can do it all. It will be hitting subscribers’ mailboxes and digital devices around September 10th and showing up on the newsstands a few weeks later.
- Price: $1,399
- Weight: 29.78 lbs.
- Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
Editor’s note: Here at Bicycle Times we are as mindful of price as you are. So we gathered together a group of six very diverse bikes to showcase what you can find right now at the $1,000 price point. See our introduction here.
Way back in issue #2, I reviewed the Raleigh Clubman (with rim brakes). I said “The Clubman departs from the go-fast focus with some well thought out details intended for users with practical leanings.” For 2015 Raleigh takes the Clubman to the next level with disc brakes.
In our group of $1,000 bikes, The Clubman Disc stands out with a steel frame, classic looks, and the excellent 10 speed Shimano Tiagra group, a mid-level drivetrain that continues to impress me.
The steel frame uses a modern sloping top tube and hooded dropouts. These “Wright” or “Breezer” style dropouts minimize the amount of flat metal plate at the highly stressed axle clamping zones, and maximize the strong, stiff and light tubing. This is a good things for frame stiffness, strength and longevity, at least that’s what Joe Breeze told me a few years ago, and I think Joe Breeze is a trustworthy place to get my frame building technology knowledge.
The saddle pictured is not the stock seat. That is actually the fourth saddle that has been on this bike; the stock microsuede saddle, a WTB Vigo, a Selle Anatomica, and this Fyxation leather saddle. The WTB didn’t match the aesthetic at all, but it was a wise choice for my break in ride. That ride started at 11 P.M., ended the next evening around 8 P.M., and included about 175 miles of rain, dark, sleet, muddy rail trail, brand new pavement and gastrointestinal issues. It was quite an introduction.
A ride like that is a solid way to get a feel for a bike, and so far, the Clubman could be best described and friendly, competent and quiet. The micro-knobby Kenda Karvs were ideal for the mix of pavement and crushed limestone, and the steel frame and upright position kept me rolling along through bad weather and rough roads.
Stay tuned for the full review in our next issue, Bicycle Times #33, due in early February. Subscribe now to get it delivered to your mailbox or favorite electronic device.