So you rode to work…what comes next?

I am a huge proponent of riding to work, whether all the way from home, or in conjunction with another mode of transport – so-called “bimodal” commuting. Once you get to your workplace though, what do you do to transition from sweaty bike commuter to presentable office worker?

I’m going to share my strategy. Obviously, our circumstances may vary, so not everything may work exactly the same way for you, but I bet you can still pick up some tips.

BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES

It’s a fair bet most workplaces frown on their employees dressed in sweat-drenched clothing, so at the very least a change of shirt is required.

An old knapsack houses my change of clothing and freshening-up stuff.

I also found out the hard way that trousers or pants are a general no-no for bike commuting. At least for me and my “don’t stop pedaling” style, the action of thighs moving against saddle nose and sides while turning the pedals at 80-90 RPM wears holes through pants very, very quickly from pure friction. It is just not cost-effective except for shorter rides. For this reason, I would much rather ride in baggy shorts or spandex; there is much less material in either garment to get in the way and be subjected to friction, so they last longer. Ultimately, when you wear through the seat of your baggy shorts, it’s cheaper to replace that with a new pair than doing the same with trousers or jeans. Save your trousers and jeans for when you’re actually in the office.

Best to bring spare underwear as well, to avoid your groin and crotch sprouting saddle sores from the moisture and friction of sweaty skin. Petroleum jelly, if needed, is also a good idea.

SECURE A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FRESHEN UP…AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF

The concept of a shower room for cyclists is a pretty strange one for most office spaces, so you will have to make do with what you do have. For me, it’s a cubicle with a toilet and a nearby tap.

Taking a “shower” this way is bound to leave a mess of a wet floor, so I borrow a mop from the janitor’s closet every day to clean up afterwards.

Alternatively, if you don’t have something like this to work with, I’m told baby wipes are a decent way of freshening up. I’m a little iffy about this though, as baby wipes are also notoriously hard to decompose or biodegrade – I try not to use them unnecessarily.

BRING SOAP AND A TOWEL

Cheap, effective, compact, smells inoffensive – what’s not to like?

If the shower option is feasible, I highly suggest bringing a distilled set of bathing gear. I’ve had success with Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towels and Safeguard’s Pure White body wash in the 200 mL bottle because they are as small as I can get away with, while still remaining very effective.

Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towel is small, but very effective.

The Aquazorb microfiber towel in particular is an underappreciated gem, I think. It’s a “hand towel” per se, and it may feel strange against your skin at first, but in practice, it has enough absorptive capacity to put a full-size terrycloth towel to shame. Even in an air-conditioned office, it dries in after around 2-3 hours of being laid flat. When not in use, it rolls up into a little bundle with its own elastic strap. At PhP180 apiece, it’s perhaps the cheapest you can find a good microfiber towel for in Metro Manila. Just don’t wash it with fabric softener.

BRINGING A DRESS SHIRT?

Fortunately for me, my workplace doesn’t require button-down shirts; simple shirts and denim jeans are fine. For guys out there who have to bring a button-down shirt with them to change into at work, one tip from GCN’s Matt Stephens to keep the shirt wrinkle-free is to employ old magazines and sandwich the shirt there…or to make use of the magazine as a shape-giving filler or “spine” for the folded shirt, and put it all in a relatively tight-fitting envelope. I’ve tried this before, and it’s surprisingly effective.

BRING YOUR CLOTHING IN ADVANCE?

Alternatively, instead of bringing clothing every day, you could bundle all the clothes you’d need in a work week and leave them in a locker at your workplace on a weekend. This method may work for some people, or it may not.

 

In a nutshell, that’s how I freshen up after each and every day riding to the office. What’s your post-commute strategy?

Review: Cat Eye Volt 800 (HL-EL471RC) front light

Alas, the little Cat Eye Nano Shot front light I bought along with Bino in 2013 died a feeble “death.” Well, maybe that’s incorrect. The LED emitter and optics still worked fine, but its proprietary internal 1050 mAh battery had given up any semblance of holding a charge.

My dearly departed Cat Eye Nano Shot: 2013-2016. Rest in peace

Theoretically, I could order a new battery (but I highly doubt local availability), open the Nano Shot chassis up, and swap it with the old one. Given my experience with the Volt 1200, though, the 200-lumen Nano Shot just wasn’t going to cut it for me any more. It was time to upgrade…and I now had specific demands.

Is the Volt 800 front light going to satisfy those demands?

FEATURES

  • Single white high-intensity LED emitter with OptiCube optics and reflector design
  • Replaceable 3100 mAh, 3.6V cartridge battery
  • Mounts via FlexTight bracket
  • Five modes
    • High: 800 lumens @ 2 hours burn time
    • Normal: 400 lumens @ 3.5 hours burn time
    • Low: 200 lumens @ 8 hours burn time
    • HyperConstant: 200 lumen beam + 800 lumen pulse @ 7 hours burn time
    • Flashing: 200 lumen strobe @ 80 hours burn time
  • Rechargeable via included micro-USB cable or optional charging dock

IMPRESSIONS

This thing is sleek. The blocky Volt 1200 could look out of place on a road bike, and the Nano Shot can give off a toy-like vibe at times. In contrast, the Volt 800 looks right at home.

On the surface, the appeal of this light to me was how it could pack a large punch in a package half the size of the Volt 1200. It so happens that the main things about this light, the 3100 mAh battery and single LED emitter, are exactly half that of its older big brother.

Also noteworthy is its appearance. The Volt 800’s light head comes in anodized black, a treatment it shares with many of the second-generation Volt front lights, like the Volt 400 and Volt 1600. So far, it has resisted the cosmetic corrosion I got with the Volt 1200 and its bare aluminum light head. At max power, the light head can get warm, but not as scaldingly hot as the Volt 1200 does.

Basic layout is the same as with most other Volt front lights. The optics still have cutouts at the sides in a bid to improve side visibility, although they’re proportionally a little larger here. There’s a lone button up top which glows red when the battery runs low or is charging.

Underneath, a rubber grommet on a strap still provides protection for the micro-USB port. It uses the trusty FlexTight bracket; the mounting foot here slides and clicks into the middle rail instead of surrounding it on the outside.

The rear of the Volt 800 is made up by its replaceable cartridge battery. Instead of mounting up with three bolts, this screws itself into the light head and terminates in a satisfying soft click. The screw-in design is friendlier for quick battery swaps than that of the Volt 1200’s, whose battery on mine is pretty much permanently seized inside the light head. Cat Eye even sells a two-way dock you can use to either quick-charge this battery, or as a power bank for charging other devices.

SAMPLE BEAM SHOTS

All photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX5 with identical exposure settings: F/2.8, 1/2 second shutter, ISO 400, 50 mm. The camera was simply placed on top of the saddle, unsecured, and may have been slightly nudged sideways with each press of the shutter release button. The lights were tilted about 5 degrees down from horizontal to avoid dazzling other road users.

OFF

Volt 800 – LOW mode @ 200 lumens. (The HyperConstant mode’s steady beam is identical.)

Volt 800 – NORMAL mode @ 400 lumens.

Volt 800 – HIGH mode @ 800 lumens.

Here’s how the Volt 1200 fares in the same location, for comparison.

Volt 1200 – ALL-NIGHT mode @ 200 lumens. (The HyperConstant mode’s steady beam is identical.)

Volt 1200 – NORMAL mode @ 600 lumens.

Volt 1200 – DYNAMIC mode @ 1200 lumens.

Side-by-side against the Volt 1200, the Volt 800’s light has a slightly cooler, bluer tint. Apart from that and the lower max intensity, they share a lot in common. The beam pattern is still a tightly controlled rectangle which emphasizes seeing off into the distance over short-distance flood lighting. It doesn’t seem to mind being mounted upside-down, either.

LIVING WITH THE LIGHT

One notable change from the Volt 1200 was the pulse frequency for the HyperConstant and Flashing strobe modes. On the 1200, both modes have quick turnover – perhaps even obnoxious and seizure-inducing on the Flashing mode. On the Volt 800, the pulse frequency is a little more relaxed and friendlier in both modes.

The improvement I appreciated the most on the Volt 800 was its button programming. A long press turns the light on or off; once on, single presses on the button cycle through the different modes as listed above. This time, Cat Eye finally got the hint that a quick double press of the button should instantly switch over to the High 800-lumen mode; the next button press returns to whatever the previous mode was. I wish I could export that programming to the Volt 1200 because it’s just so useful. For most of my riding, I just switch between HyperConstant and High, to squeeze as much operating time as I can out of the battery while maintaining good visibility.

That brings us to the intended purpose of this light. Unlike the Volt 1200, whose mammoth battery makes it a super-versatile monster of a front light that can swallow either a 200 km audax or 10 days of commuting on a single charge, the Volt 800 leans more heavily toward commuting. In the day, you could get by with HyperConstant; switch over to Flashing in the bright light of noontime for extra attention. The 400 and 800 lumen modes ensure that fast-paced night rides can be done more safely.

All the while, you’re going to be more aware of the limitations of the battery’s legs, especially since a full charge from empty will require five to eleven hours depending on how much current you can push into it. Buy a spare battery or two, though, and all concerns of burn time anxiety go out the window. If you also own either a Volt 300, Volt 400, or Volt 700, or the Volt 50 rear light, you can use any of those lights’ batteries in the Volt 800, as they all share the same basic chassis.

VERDICT

Like the Volt 1200 that I got before it, this is not a cheap light. It is, however, just as packed with value, although I do feel investing in a least one spare battery increases that. The 800-lumen emitter, good optics, and improved button logic make it investment-grade. Everything else checks the important boxes for me.

Highly recommended.

Review: Topeak Wedge Drybag S saddle bag

As insurance against a punctured tire or some other mechanical mishap while riding, I’ve always installed a saddle bag on my bikes.

I still have the very first one I bought, a Deuter Bike Bag II. It’s a simple satchel with 1 L of capacity, which is enough to carry everything I need – and that’s without expanding it to 1.4 L by opening the bottom zipper. It secures to the saddle and seat post via one Velcro strap each, which meant that it fits around saddles with rails that are very wide at the rear, such as my old Selle SMP Hell saddle.

After almost four years of riding, though, it’s looking a little beat-up and tired. While Deuter says its material offers water resistance, it wasn’t enough to prevent my KMC master links from rusting.

I got the Topeak Wedge Drybag Small to replace it.

FEATURES

  • Waterproof polyurethane material, sonically welded seams
  • Roll-top closure secured with side buckles
  • Attaches to saddle by clicking into mounting bracket installed on saddle rails
  • Fits seat posts from 25.4 mm to 34.9 mm diameter
  • Rear light loop and reflective material strip
  • Volume: 0.6 L
  • Weight: 140 g (bag only)

IMPRESSIONS

The Wedge Drybag is made of a similar polyurethane material to my Vincita B050WP-A panniers, except here it’s given shape and stiffness by a curved plastic plate. As such, it holds its distinct shape better than the Bike Bag II.

From experience with my panniers, I’m a believer in the waterproofing provided by a roll-top bag closure. Here, though, there isn’t enough material to let riders leverage another advantage of the roll-top closure: it is tolerant of overfilling. More on that in a minute.

Since changing to the Fabric Line saddle, the use of these saddlebags with a plastic quick-disconnect bracket has been restored to me. The QuickClick bracket on the Wedge Drybag attaches with just a 3 mm hex wrench.

A look at the inside of the bag reveals slim mesh pockets on the sides, as a way of organizing the contents. They’re not exactly deep, but they’re useful enough.

At 0.6 L, this Topeak bag is rated smaller in absolute capacity than the Deuter Bike Bag II. The old bag could fit two cyclocross inner tubes, a multi-tool, tire levers, a patch kit, master links, a spare rear derailleur hanger, and had space left over for some odds and ends. The new bag…isn’t as roomy, especially when trying to stuff it with two inner tubes.

Here it is with a Topeak Hexus II multi-tool with two included tire levers and one spare cyclocross inner tube side by side. Not seen, but packed in the side mesh pockets, are a ziplock bag with some cash; a tiny plastic bag with a KMC missing link and spare rear derailleur hanger; and a Park Tool GP-2 glueless patch kit.

It will manage to fit all this, but barely – mostly because of how bulky the inner tube is. Trying to fit two of these inner tubes is possible but requires a different strategy: skipping the use of the side mesh pockets altogether.

While one advantage of the roll-top closure is that it can tolerate some overfill, there just isn’t enough spare material for it. As it is, the roll-top closure folds over just once before the buckles come in to cinch the opening shut.

Moving all the small bits into the depths of the bag and covering them over with the two inner tubes jammed into the main cavity side by side proved the way to go. That left the multi-tool. I made it fit by making it sit sideways, and used whatever overfill capacity the bag had to cinch everything down shut.

…Like so.

Even stuffed to the gills, it’s much sleeker than the droopy Bike Bag II was. This is best illustrated by the Cat Eye Reflex Auto rear light I hung on its safety light loop. The Reflex Auto sits just a bit higher up, at a better angle, and it does this on its own.

Deuter Bike Bag II hung under Selle SMP Hell. Note the droop and angle of the Cat Eye Reflex Auto rear light.

On the Bike Bag II, I had to wrestle the saddle rail Velcro straps to combat the natural droopage of the material that conspired to make the Reflex Auto point downward.

There’s a finger-wide strip of reflective print, too, but I’m not sure how helpful it is given that it tends to face downward when the bag is mounted on the saddle.

Despite biting off more than it can swallow with my two fat tubes, the Wedge Drybag has done a pretty good job of ferrying my tools and spares around. The Velcro strap for the seat post isn’t strictly necessary for security, either. You could skip wrapping it if you regularly remove the saddle bag on and off the bike, since undoing it from the bag’s loop is more obtrusive than it should be. Riders who detest the thought of saddle bag straps catching on their bibshorts will welcome the option.

Overall, this is another good release from Topeak. If the Medium size was available, I’d opt for that, though.