Single strap messenger bags were the epitome of urban cycling chic for well over a decade, but now is the era of the backpack. Backpacks are more comfortable and more practical for most anyone besides working couriers, with small day packs like this rolltop from Vaya growing in favor.
Vaya is a one woman shop out of the borough of Queens in New York City, handcrafting messenger bags and backpacks out of recycled canvas and surplus Sunbrella sailboat fabric. The Blue Lagoon Rolltop is a compact day bag measuring just 9.5” x 5.5” x 15” closed, featuring an interior laptop sleeve, expanding front pocket, minimalist straps and a u-lock or bottle holder. The bag is made from waterproof Sunbrella fabric, with an 18 oz vinyl coated liner and seatbelt webbing straps, with an attractive blue color scheme incorporating repurposed tubes on the body. The Blue Lagoon has just enough space for the work commute essentials like tools, a laptop, and an extra layer but not much else—you won’t be stopping by the grocery store on the way home from work unless you don’t mind things hanging out the top of the bag. Rolltop closures are nice because of the way they allow you to overload when necessary, with the extra long strap helping to keep cargo in place but otherwise swinging around a bit more than I’d like when walking. The outer expanding pocket is nice for easy access to lights, gloves and your phone, and doesn’t interfere with the interior capacity, but is not totally waterproof like the rest of the bag.
Reflective patches on the sides and strap are always welcome, as is the reinforced base for long wear and added protection when putting the bag down on wet ground. I like the minimalist straps, you’re simply never going to fill this bag up enough to warrant heavy pads, and the seatbelt webbing was comfortable even with just a t-shirt. The side bottle holder is great for keeping liquids far away from electronics along for the ride, and handy for carrying a u-lock otherwise. Some of the stitching isn’t as perfect looking as some other bags I’ve seen, but overall construction is solid and clearly well thought out by someone who rides and cares about the bags leaving her shop. I expect to get many years out of this bag from Vaya. Available for $195, or in a single color as the Simple Rolltop for $175.
Cyclocross bikes have long been a choice for the rider looking for a versatile machine—enjoyable on long road rides, capable on trails and light singletrack, able to handle a light tour and near perfect for the committed medium to long distance commuter. As cyclocross racing has grown the selection of bikes under the ‘cross umbrella is wider than ever, from thoroughbred race machines to traditional steel frames and performance commuters.
Trickle down tech is at the core of most any consumer industry, and the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 takes advantage of what has become the new normal at the high end of spec and brings it to a $1220 complete bike ready for the 9-5 and your next mixed surface adventure. The butted aluminum frame features a post mount disc brake, a tapered headtube with a 1 1/2” lower bearing, and a press-fit BB86 bottom bracket. The carbon blade fork has a durable aluminum steerer and dropouts, and a post mount disc brake as well. Single fender eyelets adorn both the frame and fork, with seatstay mounts for a rear rack and a pair of bottle mounts for when the miles start to rack up. Geometry wise the CX 1.1 borrows heavily from Fuji’s race bikes with a few tweaks to fit larger volume tires that ends up with an 11 mm longer wheelbase overall.
The component spec of the Feather CX 1.1 is nothing much to write home about—a 9-speed Shimano Sora drivetrain and industry standard Avid BB5r brakes with 160 mm rotors do the name brand duties, with no-name Vera wheels and house brand Oval Concepts parts otherwise finishing off the bike. The 50/34 chainrings and 11-32 cassette provide a well thought out, wide gear range and while 9-speed isn’t the newest in new it has proven a durable choice with some long time adherents. The wheels are an odd mix of bladed spokes and mountain bike width 19 mm rims — very likely to stay true over many a pothole, but sluggish feeling on a long ride. Disc brakes come with their own weight penalty, coupled with overbuilt wheels the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 weighs 23.9 lbs. Contrary to the spec sheet our 58 cm review bike came with 170 mm cranks, definitely short for the people riding this bike and something I would have asked a dealer to swap before purchase. The blacked out, gloss on matte finish on the frame and fork is hard to beat, it’s a shame the Oval components don’t match.
City streets, light trails, dirt roads—the Feather CX 1.1 has the person that can’t keep their bike clean in mind. Add a full set of fenders and it makes a solid choice for an everyday vehicle that should last the long haul, stock it is more than up for hitting that dirt road loop a dozen miles outside of town. The geometry isn’t dumbed down in the name of relaxed commuting, giving the bike the handling character so many love about cyclocross bikes.
The frameset is where you should be spending your money, and the Feather CX 1.1 gives you a platform to grow with over the years. The press fit BB86 bottom bracket makes the bike compatible with any number of high end cranksets out there, and while I had no problems throughout the test I’m not the only one still skeptical of the benefits of press fit bottom brackets. Post mount brakes are welcome, even if I had issues with the stock spacers deforming during setup. I do wish that the full-length rear brake housing had another cable stop along the top tube to curb what is an otherwise annoying rattle without a loop of electrical tape, even if it’s an easy DIY solution.
Ride it now, keep your eyes peeled for deals on the easy weight saving upgrades and pick up a racier groupset a few years down the line when the original Sora drivetrain is worn out. While neither the lightest nor the snappiest accelerating bike out there, for the non-racer the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 proves a solid disc brake ‘cross commuter and weekend explorer. The Feather CX 1.1 is available in five sizes from 48 – 60 cm, with a lower spec’d $1000 CX 1.3 also available.
I couldn’t be happier that winter is over, even if some cool stuff happens when it gets ugly. The Cutters Ball and Shopbike Shootout video has surfaced. Slippery.
Friday the 13th is always a good excuse for a race — San Antonio doesn’t disappoint. bikebexar.tumblr.com
Stainless steel bottles are where it’s at for clean tasting water as they don’t leach plastic chemicals into the water, or hold flavors from what you poured in there over the weekend. 24 Bottles is an Italian company making stainless bottles, and the Porta Bottiglia holder. Carry a bottle on a bike without bosses, add a holder for the extra long ride. I’ve not used one, but I’d worry about the Porta Bottiglia eventually swaying and interfering with the drivetrain when mounted to anything but the toptube. Given the woven construction there shouldn’t be any rattle and even with the swaying concerns, love the easy way it attaches to most any tube.
CMWC 2014 is happening right now in Mexico City, with some great images surfacing as the events unfold. Pretty into this Flickr set from Juan Jose Mesa Sanchez, with more to appear as the weekend continues.
Rollapaluza paired up with Guy Martin, the British paced land speed record holder, to see just how fast you could spin up the Rollapaluza roller racing setup using Martin’s record setting bike. Think 380 gear inches — huge. Top speed for Craig Maclean, fastest man of the night: 142 mph. See more at the Rollapaluza blog.
Read more about the history and rebirth of roller racing in Urban Velo #5 from November 2007.
Tallinn Bicycle Week and Tour d’ÖÖ group rides are activities brought to life by a circle of bicycle aficionados in order to bring different bike lovers together,
grow “the pack” of cyclists on the streets of Tallinn and other Estonian cities and to celebrate the bicycle as one of the greatest thought and action inspiring mechanisms ever invented. This is the fourth year, still completely independently run and financed at a grassroots level.
Snapguide is a member generated DIY how-to site, and they are sponsoring a Bike Hack contest through June 4th. None of the entries so far are mindblowing in my opinion, though I never tire of seeing retro-direct drivetrains, perhaps you have something on your bike that can carry the contest. Write up your best home hack and enter to win a bunch of stuff from Portland Design Works and Walnut Studiolo at www.snapguide.com.