Rapha’s Loopback – Function With A Splash Of Flair

When Rapha’s loopback jacket arrived to my apartment, the mercury was pushing 40ºC [I’m not sure what that is in fahrenheit, so let’s just call it “Hot AF”]. It was sharp-looking, sure, but not what you want to see during southern European summertime. Just the thought of it was enough to induce severe perspiration, and so, it waited patiently, for the weather to change and the autumn to come.

A couple of months later and it’s become a go-to, which is about the best thing you can say for any garment. But I do have one bone to pick, albeit a pedantic and totally silly one. Rapha’s own description reads: “Trucker jacket utility with the comfort of a jersey.” I’ve just travelled from southern Spain to northern Portugal, and along that 1,100km stretch of road, at not one single rest stop did we see a trucker wearing Rapha.

Trucker jackets usually come in heavy-duty fabrics like denim or canvas and close with sturdy metallic buttons. And while the lightweight loopback fabric used here would be fine against bare skin, this isn’t a jersey. I’m not sure why they’re trying to make either association. Perhaps “blouson” didn’t sound as cool?

Rapha Loopback jacket

That said, you’re buying the jacket here, not the marketing copy. And the only bad thing I can say about the product is that I was a little confused by the sales pitch. I’m not sure how much more I can add, other than to say that it goes well with a tonne of stuff, is very comfortable, and the reversible, high-vis and pink cuffs are a nice touch for anyone feeling a little fancy. The water repellent, wind-blocking material is quick drying, so it does a great job as a cycling commuter jacket, but thanks to some low-key retro styling and a smart cut, it does just as well on social occasions. All in all, a solid addition to any wardrobe.

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Chrome Industries’ Barrage – one seriously bombproof backpack

Photo: Colin O’Brien/ element.ly

Remember when everything was made to last? No, me neither. Built-in obsolescence is such an integral part of modern life that we’re surprised by anything designed to go the distance. What was once standard practise now almost seems … perverse.

Which is why Chrome Industries have always stood out. Even at a cursory glance, their bags make most of the competition look, well, kinda shitty. OK, military-grade materials might be a little elaborate for most urban commuters, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the welded seams, truck-tarpaulin liners, and heavy-duty nylon outer shells. And who can argue with a lifetime warranty?

My old Chrome messenger bag must be more than a decade old now and it still looks brand new. So even before I laid my paws on the Barrage Backpack, I was pretty sure I was going to like it.

There’s an isolated laptop compartment, which feels really secure, and the roll-top closure was great while traveling because I was able to get everything as compact as possible before sliding it under a train seat or into a packed plane’s overhead locker. It also renders it totally waterproof; unless you take this thing swimming, everything inside will remain totally dry.

The 3M Scotchlite reflective strips are a nice touch for anyone who rides at night, and the cargo net on the front has made itself useful, carrying everything from a bike helmet and shoes, to a stack of magazines, to a laundry bag on a weekend trip. There are also two side pockets, and a zippered front pouch for smaller things like wallets and keys.

What more is there to say about the Barrage? At $200, it’s not cheap, but you can feel good about that warranty – and about the fact that it’s made in the good ol’ US of A, rather than some grim and grubby sweatshop in the developing world. It’s versatile, good-looking, and you won’t need to buy another one for a very long time. And how often can you say that about a new purchase nowadays?

Photo: Colin O’Brien/ element.ly

Commute in style with the Cannondale Bad Boy

I always had a soft spot for a Cannondale Bad Boy ever since its inception in 2000. I was relatively new to the whole cycling thing then, but that monochromatic theme made quite an impression to me (a kid) that I almost convinced my parents to buy me a 2001 Bad Boy Jekyll… from Copeland Sports, no less. A former race mechanic eventually steered us away from buying a Bad Boy to race high school cross country (he was right).

But the want factor remained.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Cannondale got into the whole murdered-out black color theme way before it was even considered cool, or maybe because the Bad Boy always carried a unique narrative within the Cannondale lineup parallel to that of an unassuming sleeper car. Over the years, proven technologies from both the road and mountain segments such as the HeadShock suspension fork, the one-sided lefty, and the SpeedSave rear triangle design all made their ways into the Bad Boy line up. The redesigned 2017 Bad Boy is no different. In fact, it’s a gem with all the subtle integrated details.

The rigid lefty fork design remained but with all the room inside the hollow rigid tube, designers at Cannondale integrated a LED light strip directly into it. Dubbed the LightPipe Lefty, the USB-rechargable strip is a continuous light with a claimed 24-hour run time that functions like an aftermarket front light would to increase visibility. 

See that white strip on the lefty fork? That’s a light. Oh, and there’s the one-piece headtube and downtube assembly.

The LightPipe is by no means a replacement for your 1,000 lumen headlight, but the said model shown at InterBike this past September was plenty bright to be noticeable, not to mention all the light integration made the Bad Boy significantly less cluttered, more streamline even, as if the Bad Boy got hooked on Kondo Method and was a believer of marginal gains.

The Bad Boy shown at InterBike.

With the front LightPipe covered, Cannondale also added a built-in red taillight into its massive 31.6mm seatpost with three modes: Continuous, blink and wave. Run time, as I was told, will be about 50-hour in continuous and blank modes and 100-hour in wave. It’s powered by 2 internal AA batteries.

Integrated taillights within the seatpost.

Yet the makeover did not stop at the lighted fork and seatpost. While the previous Bad Boys came with 700c wheels, the ’17 Bad Boy will have 650b wheels throughout. The frame is new too, most notably with its massive one-piece 3D-forged headtube and downtube assembly. The Bad Boy is available in disc-brake only, so plenty of power for those endless stop and goes around town.

The Bad Boy will come in four models in various built favors from $870 to $1,840. The top-of-the-line Bad Boy 1 will come with a belt-drive drivetrain with an eight-speed Shimano internal gear hub. So yay for less maintenance, no lube getting on your hands/pants, and a smooth silent ride.

It’s worth noting that only the Bad Boy 1 and 2 will have the LightPipe fork and illuminated seatpost.

The last detail worth mentioning is the rubber strip along the top tube to protect the frame from whenever it’s leaned on. It’s a simple design touch but nevertheless a refreshing sight to see a company go great lengths to execute a well thought out performance whip as opposed to a boring hodge podge commuter bike.

Obviously it’s not a bike for everyone’s taste, as some might still scoff at the idea of a single-side fork, or fat aluminum tubes even for that matter. If you’re looking for a well-designed, high performance commuting machine with an understated look though, look no further.


How to Survive Your First Week of Commuting

The Warren Wall. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
The Warren Wall. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

I don’t really commute.

Not that I don’t want to, but I can’t. I mean, it’s kinda rough to roll up to a photo shoot carrying 30-40lbs of camera gear.

But with the car in the shop (thanks, rock) and the fact that I am in the studio this week, what the heck, it’s only a mile. NBD I can do that. It’s only a mile but dude, no flats! Half mile, 10% descent immediately followed by a 14% climb (well that’s the average but it’s far steeper than that in some sections) for another half mile … aka the Warren Wall for you SF readers.

So it’s a bit of a workout but whatever. I’ll deal with it. Here are some notes from the past few days (so far).

Day one: Super early call time equals riding in the dark. Those new Knog lights are pretty sweet (review soon).

Day two: Shut up legs, I’m half awake. But hey, I have my coldbrew, a bottle of fruit smoothie and it’s warm enough to wear a t-shirt at 7 a.m. without freezing my ass off.

Day three: Alright alright alright I’m getting used to it now. 14% in street clothes is a bitch but at least I’m wide awake by the time I make it to work. Forgot my coldbrew today and that Odwalla mango protein shake was gross. What was I thinking?

Day four: Barely made it to work on time. Rushing up Warren and trying not to swear sweat too much just don’t work.

Day five: TGIF

Here are a few things I came to really enjoy during the “commute.” It’s been a hard week on set yet the ride to and from home (Weeee downhill!) is arguably the best daily escape, or even a bit of a guilty pleasure I can count on to get away from the grind for just the right amount of time like having my pasta perfectly al dente. No phone, no KOMs, just rides, dude.

Plus a little bit of workout doesn’t hurt, either.


Dos and Don’ts for Bikers on Bike to Work Week

ride to work riding commute commuting bicycle bicycling biking bike
The bike in lane is on loan. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

“You bikers. Not one of you can obey traffic laws. You are constantly running the red lights and doing unpredictable things,” said the nice lady sitting across from me on the ferry. “I just want to run you all off the road.”

“Well let me just share a little secret with you. Yes, some of us break the traffic laws occasionally, but if we mess up, we die. And if you mess up, we die. There is very little chance there is anything we do where the ‘die’ part becomes a thing for you.”

“Hmmmmm. Interesting point.”

Drivers are trying to get somewhere fast and we are apparently messing with their mojo, but my day-to-day conflict is not with automobiles, but with the other “commuters” and especially the bike commuters.

What a bunch of rude, poorly-behaved, ill-mannered, unaware jackals.

So in honor of Bike to Work Week, and in no particular order, here is my list of things I believe will not only make your commute more pleasant, but it will also make my commute more pleasant.

The List

Wear a helmet. Even if you don’t care about your brain, it makes you seem more intelligent. And therefore worth not driving over.

Communicate. If you are going to ride up my ass and try to squeeze by me in a tight spot, you might want to open your trap and give me a heads up. More than likely if this maneuver goes bad, it will go bad for you and not me. Sorry about that.

If you have to listen to your music so loud you can’t hear me yelling at you, don’t blame me for … well … whatever I am about to do.

I’m not an e-bike hater, but don’t buzz me at speed and give me the look like you just owned my ass, because, you know, you didn’t.

There are a lot of great companies out there making amazing commuter bike clothes helping make your ride more comfortable, safe and stylish. I realize flip-flops, flannel shirts and the like are in style. But your ride would be so much more enjoyable with the proper attire. I love my Levi’s commuter jeans, my Giro New Road bike shorts, my socks from The Athletic, my new backpack from ILE and the Gore Tex knickers.

If you are riding a stolen bike with tiny clipless pedals you might want to go invest in a pair of cheap flat pedals. Or go steal a pair off a bike in the Mission. They will, once again, make your ride so much more comfortable.

You should feel free to commute on whatever contraption you so desire. But if you are going to ride a high-wheeler or a recumbent or a treadmill bike like contraption, then you should be prepared to discuss it, be gawked at and wait until it is clear before trying to mount your abomination.

Please stop yelling at me. I realize you are having a bad day. I mean, you are running on the embarcadero under the beautiful Bay Bridge and the sun is shining on your face, but is that really a reason to yell at me. I guess if you have to yell at me, if you could at least do it in a fashion where I can understand what about me pedalling by makes you so aggravated. Thank you.

Enjoy the ride. Don’t travel from point a to point b like a zombie on two wheels.

Oil your chain. Seriously, you have to hear that racket your bike is making. Day after day with the squealing and squeaking. Oil it.

I don’t need to see your butt crack. I don’t want to see your butt crack. And from the looks of it, no one does. Let’s get the crack under control. Wrap up the crack. Please. And thank you.

Smiling in the rain, instead of grimacing, works wonders.

You can’t have too many pair of gloves, shoes, baselayers and jersey options. Part of what keeps it interesting for me is constantly looking for a better garment solution.

I’ve tried pedals with cages, flat pedals and mountain bike pedals and I’ve settled on a pair of SPDs. Sure in some situation not having to clomp around in my cleats would be nice, but I still prefer to be clipped.

For San Francisco weather I love me a pair of knickers under a pair of shorts and a long sleeve jersey. It turns jersey pockets are extremely helpful for my keys, wallet, phone and morning muffin.

Flat tires are the great annoyance of all bicycle commuters and you should do everything possible to minimize the possibility of such things having. Make sure you top off the pressure in your tires, run as big a tire your rig will tolerate and check your rubber after every ride.

If you find yourself riding next to fixed-gear fixie mountain bike rig, who happens to be doing a 5 block long wheelie. Give him a little room, sit back and enjoy the show. This goes for just about any crazy oddity out on the road. It is much better to just kick back and enjoy the free circus, rather than joining in.

If you are in the city on a bike path trying to get your sprint repeats in, your zone 17 training or a personal PR for a Strava segment you are doing it all wrong. For the love of god please go find an appropriate stretch of road for your testosterone fueled adventure.

ride to work riding commute commuting bicycle bicycling biking bike
Hey kids, get yourself a really, really good lock. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly