Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sunlite QRS Commuter XP Trunk Bag + Panniers

Sunlite QRS Commuter XP Trunk Bag on a Green Zone Folding Bike

National Bike to Work Month is in May but for some of us, it is a year round celebration... well sort of.  When our bicycle is set up properly and we have everything we need on board, it can be wonderful.  In other words when you have a plan, you can relax and know that your commute is pretty much covered from minor equipment repairs and rainy weather to medical emergencies.

So to make sure you can stick with the program for a week or even a month trial of bicycle commuting, consider upgrading your bike bags now.  There will be quite a few warm days that you can try out your new setup before hitting the road in earnest.  I was looking for a more structured rear trunk to replace the old Trek Bag I currently use.  I saw Sunlite Bags at a local bike shop and was really impressed with the aerodynamic lines and compact design.  I like neat bike bags with a bit of shape, not the "sausages" you see on the touring bikes headed for the Appalachians.  We plan on doing that later just not with a folding bike!

Sunlite Commuter Bag with Panniers down
Sunlite QRS Commuter XP Trunk Bag

This trunk offers the sleekness of a hardshelled case with the option of expanding the side pouches by lowering them down into panniers.  These side panniers are large enough for an extra change of clothes, food. drinks, etc.  There is even a plastic hook at the bottom of the bag to anchor it to your rack for extra stability.

As these panniers are smaller than the yellow AngleTech TechWind Panniers (photographed for size comparison), you don't have the problem with kicking during your pedal strokes.  The main compartment of the trunk itself is also expandable with a Bungee cord tie down strap on top.  An easy to access zip pouch in the rear gives you a place for money, keys, tissues or anything else you want to have handy.  This rear accessory pocket also has a light strap so you can clip on a blinky (pictured is our cool Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light).
The bag itself is made of water resistant 660 denier polyester with large, highly reflective 3-H trim all around. The zippers are self sealing so if you get caught in the rain as I have with this bag, the contents will stay dry.  Some of my other trunks, (Detours D2R Trunk Bag) and panniers come with rain covers which would most likely fit this rear trunk but I think you would be fine without one.  Best of all is when the Panniers are not needed, they stow away but if you need extra space, you have it.  So many times I've said, "I just need a few things from Target" only to roll out with a shopping cart full of stuff.  Having expandable cargo space like this increases the usability of your bike, making you more likely to take it for short errands and shopping trips.

This particular Sunlite Commuter Bag model (#97087) has the QRS or Quick Release System which is a clip on bicycle luggage set up.  The QRS spring elements in the bottom of the bag allow you to clip it on and off the rack and carry it with the strap which is included.  So you will need to purchase a QRS carrier compatible with this system to utilize it fully.  The bottom of the trunk itself is hard-cased which is good to protect your belongings, but personally would have liked a slightly softer, more rubbery material so the bag would be more secure and quieter on the rack BUT this might not be the case if I used the matching QRS carrier. To remedy this, I placed a chamois mitt between the carrier and the bag so now it rides snug and quietly.   (Note: I don't have the QRS Carrier/Rack System for this bag.  I added elastic straps to the bag and am using the original rear rack that came with the Green Zone Folding Bike).

Pack Your Bags!  I've dumped out my rear trunk so you can see what's in mine.

Commuting or just tooling around?  I take along:

Montane Lite-Speed Jacket breathable, water and wind resistant, (packs neatly into a hacky-sack like ball with carabiner).  A change of clothes, top & pants is a good idea too.

Adventure SOL Medical / Survival Kit has everything for medical emergencies, gear repair and being comfortable until help arrives.  Cable ties, duct tape, aspirin, bandages, a fire starter.  The works!

Extra tissues and handkerchiefs.  I store and separate them in zip lock bags.

Mission Skincare SPF 15 Lip Balmer.

Insulated Klean Kanteen in a PDW Bar-ista holder.
CatEye Tora Outdoor Light allows you to see and be seen if you have to do repairs or walk your bike.

Extra food and water.  We like Insulated Klean Kanteens for keeping food and drinks HOT for up to 6 hours.  If you break down or bonk, warm up with that hot coffee you've got in your Portland Design Works Bar-ista cup holder.  (See Hot Food & Drinks to Go)

The main thing is to be prepared for common things like flats but also not so common events like injuries and fatigue.  Always have a charged cell with you and put ID inside your helmet.  You can start bike commuting by doing your local errands in good weather.  This will give you confidence while easing you into the raging bike commuter you want to be by May. 

So what are some bike comfort essentials you can't leave home without?  Coffee, snacks, Jack Daniels (oh wait)?

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