I remember the first “portable computer” I had. It was called, appropriately enough, the Compaq Portable. In the vernacular of us computer geeks of the time it was referred to as a “luggable.” It was the size of a portable sewing machine. You laid the thing on its side, unsnapped the keyboard from the bottom of it to gain access to a 9-inch screen, and searched around for an electrical outlet to plug it into (no battery on this puppy!).
And it weighed around 30 pounds.
In the years since the old Portable, because of my job in Information Technology I’ve always had access to some sort of take-it-with-you computer either as a full-time workstation or as a lightweight backup machine to take into the field. Luckily, just as portable PC’s have become lighter, so have bikes, bike components and bike accessories.
Ten years ago I started back riding a bike to work (after an over 30 year hiatus). Not long after that I was issued a laptop which weighed a mere five pounds. I eventually got a Vaude Egger bag to carry that laptop; it weighs just three pounds.
In a previous post I spoke of my new bag, a Vaude Reva which weighs 2.5 pounds. The Reva is smaller than the Egger, but the reason it works for me is that I have traded in that old, heavy laptop for a new, much smaller ultralight which weighs just 2.5 pounds.
Just as computer manufacturers continuously put more features and power into smaller and lighter machines, so do bike accessory makers constantly improve their products in a variety of ways. For instance, on my Reva bag, the quick release hooks are attached to a bar which can be detached from the bag; this means that on those days when I am forced to drive to work, I can take the hooks off so the bag is even lighter and the hooks aren’t there to dig into my side as I sling the bag over my shoulder.
The quick pannier-to-messenger-bag conversion feature is what sold me on the Vaude Reva, but the other products I was considering also had some innovations which would satisfy riders with different needs. The Banjo Brothers Backpack Pannier Combo has a wicking surface on the back, which helps to keep your own back from getting all sweaty; it has a big side pocket for carrying a BluesCat sized coffee mug and a super attractive price.
Just recently, I saw a Carradice Super C Recumbent Panniers bag set which can carry over 22 cubic feet of stuff in a pair of them and both bags don’t weigh much more than my old Egger. I could live out of those bags! The Carradice bags also take advantage of the fact that heel clearance isn’t a problem on a ‘bent (as it was with the Egger on my mountain bike back rack) so they can make them big enough to accommodate really large items … like my cat (should he ever express a desire to ride with me to work; so far, he hasn’t).
Until my cat indicates he does want to ride in with me, my new Reva bag has plenty of room for all the much lighter stuff I carry these days, and because of the vertical, messenger bag configuration I can strap it to my mountain bike rear rack and heel strike isn’t a problem.
Vaude, along with a lot of other gear manufacturers, are also becoming more planet considerate by using a lot of recycled materials. Light to carry and light on your conscious, now that’s the ticket!
BluesCat is a senior citizen still living and working in Phoenix, Arizona. He has never been accused of being a bagman.