To paraphrase John Wayne, “I see you talk the talk but do ride the ride?”
Bob Caravona is an Urban Planner and an amateur triathlete who not only talks the talk, but also swims the swim, bikes the bike, and runs the run. He strives for local government to follow through with the same conviction.
“You need the right tool for the right job,” my grandfather constantly instructed me.
Not mechanically inclined, this phrase has been lost on me for my 45 years. I thought a prying screwdriver or a solid whack with a hammer typically solved any problem. Likewise, with bike commuting, my sledge hammer equivalent has been a large, rear rack mounted pannier used daily to carry everything — groceries, clothes, workout gear, a wetsuit and, of course, my simple brown bag lunch.
At work and my usual tramping grounds, I fear that I’m viewed as that bike commuter guy lugging a bulging pannier, filled to capacity and always in danger of bumping into people or into an open bottle of beer.
While being prepared like a Boy Scout for any hauling task, in social settings I often found myself burdened with a large, cumbersome pannier. Perhaps, I’m sensitive to infringing other’s space and sense of normalcy? Often in restaurants, I assume people’s sideways glances and facial expressions to say, “Oh, I get it. With your helmet in hand, arduous disrobing and ceremoniously gear stacking, you’re a bike commuter. You think, you’re better than me. Whatever.”
With people’s expressed displeasure, they appeared not to care much for the extra seat, bar stool or table space the pannier occupied. So I began an experiment to find the right tool for the right job.
My search began with a soft-sided, reasonably sized, duffel bag that I used to carry my lunch and athletic gear to work and the gym. Carrying a duffel bag into stores and restaurants appeared socially acceptable; normal.
Instantly apparent, the duffel bag was not specifically designed to be fastened to a bike rack. I experimented with carrying the bag with one hand, then around a shoulder. Finally, I secured the bag to the bike rack with two bungee cords, wrapping the straps of the bag around the seat post. I found the latter approach ingenious, functional and passable. However, the duffel bag was never one-hundred percent secure.
Throughout the ride, the duffel bag would shift, hanging by the straps and obscuring my rear tail light. Or it would fall to the side, becoming entangled in my spokes. More irritating was finding my lunch, a meatball sandwich, badly mauled and smashed into baby food by the bungee cords. The duffel bag was more like a prying screw driver, than a sledge hammer. Sure, the duffel bag got the job done, but was it, the right tool for the right job?
“When reviewing products, I believe, the product should seamlessly fit into my life without compromise,” I retorted to my wife when debating about the approach to product reviews. “I shouldn’t have to adjust to make the product work.”
Enter the Lone Peak, RP-350, Basic Rack-Top Bag! I was first impressed with the compact shape (6 x 5 x 10.5 inches) yet roomy size (500 cubic inch). Foam insulation on the sides, top and bottom protect the contents and maintain its semi-rigid structure. Sturdy, water-resistant canvas covers the exterior. For visibility and safety, a gray reflective strip is sewn around the pack, and the black Lone Peak logo smartly accommodates a flasher light.
For convenience, there are two externally located side, mesh net, pockets (6 x 5 inches), which easily stowed a cable lock, cell phone and anything else small and quickly needed. However, the side mesh pockets are not high enough to carry a u-lock as the combined lock’s weight and bumps in the road caused the U-lock to fall out of the pocket.
But the convenience of the side pockets cannot be underestimated. For example, when starting my cold morning commutes, I wore a hat and gloves but half-way through the commute, while stopped at a traffic light, I simply removed them and without looking, reached back and confidently stuffed them in the pocket.
The zipper top secured my belongings during the ride. An improvement to the design would be to replace the nylon loops at the end of the two zippers with metal loops to secure a lock, similar to those found on luggage. There were times when I wished that I could have locked my helmet and the Lone Peak Basic Rack-Top Bag together with my bike rather than having to bring them inside.
Finally, I was most happy with the simplicity of securely attaching the bag to the bike rack with four Velcro straps that are sewn into the pack. I no longer had to worry about losing an eye to exploding bungee cords. Securing the Basic Rack-Top Bag took only seconds and throughout the ride, the bag remained solid. No slippage or movement was detected.
The Lone Peak RP-350 Basic Rack-Top Bag appears to be the right tool. But what is the right job for it?
Personally, my needs are to carry my lunch and gym gear as well as be easily stowed in the refrigerator at work (lunch), the gym locker (gear) and be inconspicuous at the bar or restaurant. For a comparison of the duffel bag and the RP-350 Basic Rack-Top Bag, I laid out my daily commuting needs and packed both bags. Easily and without planning my packing, the duffel bag accommodated all my gear. Whereas in comparison, the packing the Basic Rack-Top Bag required some planning and leaving my towel at the gym.
On other days, I simply needed to carry my lunch to work where the whole Basic Rack-Top Bag easily fit into the employee’s refrigerator.
Sadly, the Lone Peak RP-350 Basic Rack-Top Bag could not accommodate this meatball sandwich.
The Lone Peak RP-350 Basic Rack-Top Bag sells retail for about $59.00