Reviewing helmets is tricky. You can test fit and comfort, but very few of us are willing to take one for the team and actually crash test them in the name of journalistic integrity. While I’m happy to report that I didn’t need to test the efficacy of these helmets, I’m no stranger to cycling-related head injuries. Two and a half years ago I fell while riding my bicycle. I hit my head and sustained a concussion.
As you might imagine, that incident sparked an increased interest in bicycle helmet construction and design. At last year’s Interbike trade show, I spent a good portion of my time talking with manufacturers about helmet technology and mild traumatic brain injuries. And while each company touted the superiority of their respective technologies and features, practically every bicycle helmet shares the same basic design–namely, a layer of crushable foam encased in a protective shell that’s secured with a simple chin strap.
Even though winter hasn’t officially started, much of North America has already experienced some very winter-like conditions. For many riders, winter officially spells the end of their riding season, and bikes get relegated to the basement or garage. There are other options, though. You can drive to the gym and ride a stationary or spin bike, or maybe set up a trainer in your own personal pain cave. Then there’s the third option–actually riding your bike outside in the cold and dark.
While the concept may seem novel, winter cycling is as old as the bicycle itself. Riding a bike in bad weather ain’t rocket science, but it does take a little extra preparation and planning. Living in Colorado for over fifteen years has taught me a thing or two about riding in harsh weather. Because I detest being cold when I ride, I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to choosing winter cycling gear. As such, I’ve learned to take clothing companies’ recommended temperature ranges with a grain of salt. In other words, what works for me might end up being too warm for more cold-tolerant riders. That said, the following items have served me well for utility and recreational riding.
One reason for bikepacking-style seat bags’ popularity is their simplicity. Unlike panniers, the standalone seat packs don’t require dedicated racks. But depending on what you’re carrying, bikepacking seat bags–especially larger ones–can sway or sag. Arkel‘s new line of seat packs put an end to floppy, tail-wagging bags with the aid of minimalist, quick-release racks.
Arkel debuted their bikepacking line at Interbike in 2015. The first iteration resembled a traditional traverse-style saddlebag (read, Carradice) paired with a support inspired by the Canadian company’s Randonneur seatpost rack. After nearly a year of tweaking and enhancements, the sleeker Seatpacker 9 and 15 (so-named for their capacity) hit retailers’ shelves in summer 2016.