Review - Arkel Signature BB Waterproof Handlebar Bag

With each additional long distance bike tour, my bikepacking kit list shortens and lightens. On returning from each trip I can usually par back my equipment based on 'use versus weight' calculations. The Arkel Bags Signature BB Handlebar Bag could well be the minimalist lightweight handlebar bag that I have been searching for to use on future bicycle touring trips.

Handlebar bags are great for stashing valuables in that you do not want to lose in the cavernous depths of your panniers. On my last few tours, such as the #CoastsandCols, #7Countries7Passes, and #RoadsFromRome, I used traditional rigid style handlebar bags or large roll-bag bikepacking handlebar bags; from brands like Arkel, Thule and Restrap. These bags were great, but they were also quite cumbersome and restricted your view of the front wheel.

The reality was that on these past bikepacking trips I used to fill my handlebar bag with everything from jars of peanut butter to rolls of toilet paper (some would say t…

Book Review - Mountains by Michael Blann

I have always had a love of mountains. I grew up by the coast, but take me into the majestic land of peaks and valleys, and I suddenly feel at home. 'Mountains' by Michael Blann is the only book I have discovered that seems to be able to articulate this deep-seated emotional connection through print; it is a literal and pictographic window into the hidden beauty of the mountains of Europe.

When I have toured across Europe on journeys like the #7Countries7Passes and #RoadsFromRome, I have felt an undeniable bond with the mountains. I would ride across the plains of Germany or fields of Northern Italy and feel very much alone—isolated in a foreign land. Yet, as soon as the road turned skywards and the snow-capped peaks appeared on the horizon; then, I would feel calm and at peace—as if this was a sheltered home.

Of course, the mountains are not a sheltering landscape at all. Quite the opposite. Their unique weather systems are a game of roulette, and their slopes are perilous a…

Review - Chrome Industries Folsom 2.0 Shorts

Spring is here. Summer is soon on the horizon. Shorts are the way forward, and the new Folsom Short 2.0 from Chrome Industries has become one of my go-to options for casual wear and casual riding.

On a recent trip to Berlin—the city that oozes urban cool—I spotted a definite trend… Chrome.

Chrome Industries messenger bags adorned more shoulders that I could count, and if a guy or girl riding a flat bar fixie pulled up alongside the tram, then it could be almost guaranteed that they were rocking some piece of apparel or luggage from the distinctive American brand.

One of the brand's straplines is 'Building Indestructible Gear Since 1995', and damn is that right. This is the brand that first invented the swing-over messenger bag; using seatbelt buckles and straps, five bar webbing, and double-lined bombproof interiors. From the outset, the brand was built for the urban jungle.

More than 20 years on, with the days of garage floor sewing machine production well in the past, …

Review - Restrap Rando Bag - Front Rack Rack-Top Pannier

The Restrap Rando Bag is designed to be a go-anywhere do-anything front rack pannier bag; with a semi-rigid construction to make it easy to load, and extra stable. I have used Restrap's panniers, handlebar bag, and frame bags for numerous long distance tours, and they are faultless. While I have not taken the new Restrap Rando Bag on any global adventures, yet; it has been fitted to my run-around Quella Varsity single-speed bike, and it is performing very well.

The concept behind the Rando bag is that it would be ideal for a long distance randonneur (a.k.a. Audax'er) with a front rack, equally though it is superb as a daily run-around. It connects to the rack using two magnetic fasteners on the bottom front of the bag, and a tie-back strap on the rear of the bag; securely holding it in place but making it easy to remove. [N.B: you do need to use the magnetic buckle tie-back strap if you do not want to see your milk go flying down the road on the next downhill!]

The Rando bag …

Race Report - The IOW 7 Hills - 'Bone Shaking. Record Breaking'

I love local races. There is something unique and special about competing close to home—the friendly faces and familiar surroundings produce a completely unique atmosphere. The '7 Hills' holds a particular place in my heart though, because 16 years ago it was my first ever mountain bike race. This year, it was all about setting a PB on the Isle of Wight course…

The Isle of Wight Classic The 26 mile race runs across the Island, from Freshwater Bay to Sandown Airport. It is an orienteering set-up, but along a pre-defined mostly signposted route; with 75 percent of it off-road along the central and southern ridges of the Isle of Wight.

Most previous editions of the annual race have been held in September, and I have competed in conditions ranging from scorching 'Indian Summer' heat, to Force 10 winds and torrential rain in the tail-end of a hurricane. The event has now shifted to a March date, which gives it far more of an early season 'Spring Classic' feel.

My …