It’s the end of a weary week of toil at the coalface of work, which also means it’s time for First Look Friday – your roundup of the best kit to land at BikeRadar.
In this bumper edition, we have a handsome custom rando bag from C. Brenn, bikepacking bags from Ortlieb, a fancy out-of-doors coffee solution from GSI, a chain breaker from Pedro’s, tasty nut butters from Outdoors Provisions and rad custom Oakley sunglasses.
Elsewhere on the site, we’ve taken a look at an unusal nickel-titanium airless bicycle tyre, been over the basics of what exactly an ebike is and had a close look at Wahoo’s refreshed Speedplay pedal range.
If that isn’t quite enough for you, don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for a twice-weekly hit of the best news, reviews and features from across BikeRadar.
C. Brenn Cyclotouring Bags custom handlebar bag
I like the aesthetic and ease of access a traditional boxy rando-style bag offers.
However, I have no need for fussy audax accoutrements, such as map cases, back pockets, or internal dividers that typically feature. I simply want a boxy cycling satchel in which I can quickly and easily pack snacks, jackets and cameras without having to deal with fiddly roll tops or buckles.
I shopped around for a bag that would fit these criteria but the options out there left me feeling cold, so I eventually settled on ordering a custom bag from Cory Brenn in Glasgow, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
How do you fit a rando bag?
Using a traditional randonneur bag with the minimum of fuss starts with the bike’s frame geometry.
Randonneur/audax bikes will pair a long-reach frame and handlebar with a comparatively short stem. This avoids the front rack having to be excessively long and brings the bag closer to the head tube, which keeps handling normal.
The stack of the frame is also usually higher to provide a comfortable fit and make space for the bag (Bikehugger has a good explainer on this subject).
The bag then sits on a dedicated, lightweight front rack and is held in place with a decaleur (a simple, non-loadbearing, slotted quick-release) to allow for easy fitting and removal.
There are often additional straps on the bottom or rear of the bag too, to ensure absolute security.
This setup isn’t usually possible with regular road geometry because long stems and a small gap between the front tyre mean fitting a bag or decaleur is difficult.
My bag sits atop a small front rack from Brick Lane Bikes and slots securely onto the tombstone (the vertical extension at the back of the rack).
A small elastic strap will then extend from the base of the bag and around the tombstone to hold it in place. If I want extra security for unpaved adventures, I also have the option to strap the bag to my handlebar.
The alternative is to use a Rixen Kaul KlickFix style mount, but they can only carry a limited amount of weight and are a bit bulky for my tastes.
The bag is made from a stiff waxed canvas and is finished with synthetic trim. The bag is lined with a thin plastic sheet stiffener, which gives the bag a surprising amount of structure. The tombstone strap, stiffener and wear plate on the base are made of thick tool leather.
Cory’s style is typically more traditional with leather trims, but I wanted something a little more minimalist, which he was happy to accommodate.
Inside, there are two semi-circular flaps, which help to keep out rain and provide additional structure to the bag.
All of the hooks are custom-soldered by Cory and every riveted part is reinforced with small plastic washers.
Overall, the craftsmanship is absolutely superb and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into using the bag this summer.
- Contact Cory via his Instagram profile
Ortlieb Fork-pack bikepacking bag
Now we have an altogether different style of on-bike luggage.
The Ortlieb Fork-pack is essentially a miniature roll-top pannier that fits to fork legs using Ortlieb’s QLS quick-release adaptor.
Using Ortlieb’s signature welded construction, the adorable micro-pannier is fully waterproof and boasts a modest 4.1 litres of storage.
The QLS adaptor is designed for forks with threaded mounts. On forks without mounts, it can be fitted using flexible steel bands that wrap around the fork (head to the Ortlieb site for a full overview of how these work because it does a far better job of explaining the fitting process than I ever could).
Orlieb cautions that the bag should not be attached to carbon forks without eyelets, but you can use it on suspension forks.
The whole system weighs 272g and could be a really useful addition to lightweight bikepacking setups.
GSI Outdoors Microlite Javapress + cage
Jealous of Matthew’s on-bike hot drink experiments this winter, I’ve decided to try out my own system but take things a step further in the beverage smugness game.
The GSI Outdoors Microlite Javapress combines your typical adventure-friendly, stainless-steel insulated flask with a french press.
Fresh coffee and water are placed in the base of the flask. The sliding inner carafe then replicates the function of a normal french press, with the rubber seal stopping any stray grounds from escaping.
The press features a hardy powder-coated finish and has a non-slip rubber plate on the bottom to protect it from bumps, and help it stay upright.
Unless you like the taste of over-extracted coffee and make it at home before a ride, this is probably best for those who want to make a fresh coffee in the field but don’t want to mess about with drip filters or an Aeropress.
- $34.99, international pricing TBC
Arundel Looney Bin
Standard cycling bottles have a 73mm diameter. The Looney Bin will accommodate bottles from 65mm through to 95mm in diameter. That makes it the perfect accompaniment to the Javapress (or a “nice bottle of pinot noir”, to quote Arundel).
Because the ratchet can be used to clamp down tightly on the bottles, it should also be more secure than a typical cage. With this in mind, I also reckon the cage could be used to secure cylindrical stuff sacks for bikepacking.
- £20 / €TBC / $25.95 / AU$39.95
- Buy direct from Arundel
Outdoor Provisions nut butter
Outdoor Provisions (which we have featured in a previous edition of First Look Friday) has expanded its lineup to include two nut butter sachets, which provide a slow-release and nutritious burst of energy for “lower-intensity but longer efforts”.
Said to be good “on noodles, mixed into porridge, eaten with fruit or necked neat”, each 32g sachet packs 183kcal of energy.
Available in either coffee, almond and cashew, or almond, date and sea salt, both flavours are pretty tasty, but give them a good knead before slurping because the ingredients tend to separate within the pack.
As always, everything is delivered in biodegradable packaging. Ten packs will set you back £15, or you can subscribe for a regular dose of cycling snackage for a 5 per cent saving.
- £15 for 10 nut butters
- Buy direct from Outdoor Provisions
Pedro’s 6 Pack portable chain breaker
After wading through the suggestions, I eventually settled on the Pedro’s 6 Pack, which combines a small hex key-operated chain breaker with a spoke key in the handle.
This fits my needs perfectly because I specifically wanted a chain breaker that could be operated with my PB Swiss PB 470 multi-tool.
While going for two tools isn’t as svelte as an all-in-one multi-tool, I prefer the ease of use and additional torque my setup provides.
The tool itself feels really well made and the spoke keys are a genuinely useful addition. The pin in the breaker is not replaceable, but that’s not unusual for a portable tool.
I may remove the small rubber part that holds the included hex key to cut down on volume but, otherwise, I’ll be glad to have this in my toolkit (and hopefully I’ll never have to use it).
Custom Oakley Sutro sunglasses
I’ve had a chance to spec my own pair and, naturally, I have gone with the most outrageously clashing design possible.
With a purple lens, orange frame, yellow legs, green logo and luminous green nose-piece, these go with absolutely none of my kit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you want a more austere look (or an even more wild one!), there are over 40-million combinations available via the service according to Oakley.
The turnaround was very quick from ordering (less than a week) and speccing a custom pair doesn’t command too much of a premium over a stock pair. What’s not to love?