PAC Basic Micro
PAC Designs in Canada are a
small company specialising in
courier bags, and we reviewed
some of their professional-level
bags way back in Issue 6. Now,
six years on, they have a UK
distributor and revamped range,
including the simpler and more
affordable Basic bags.
Sue Archer reviews the smallest
on offer, the Basic Micro.
I'VE never used a courier style bag before, but the Micro felt comfortable from the start, on and off the bike. In addition to the main pocket it has a mesh pocket inside, and a smaller zipped pocket on the front under the fl ap. It’s just the right size for an A4 ring binder, and at only 4" deep, it’s suited to fl atter loads like papers, books or a laptop, and whatever small odds and ends you need to carry. The bag is tough, with a rubbery inner layer and Cordura fabric on the outside, and mine looks very smart in red and black. A useful feature is that the fl ap and the front of the bag have Velcro on them, so you can be confi dent it won’t come open, even with the buckles undone. The buckles adjust to allow you to carry a taller load if necessary and still have the fl ap secured over the top. There’s a loop for a rear light on the fl ap, and for a small extra cost you can have a design embroidered on the fl ap too – mine came with a standard cog design, but Pac can do a personalised design if you wish. On the Basic series the straps are
simpler than on the Pro bags – just a shoulder strap for across your chest and an anti-sway strap which comes up under the arm. This can be attached to either side, so that you can choose which shoulder to wear the bag across. Although I didn’t fi nd it hard to adjust the strap length, Pac say they are going to introduce their ‘D-ring’ adjusting system to the Micro, which will make adjustment even simpler and one-handed. I’d like to see some refl ective material on the fl ap of the bag as standard, and a simple handle on the fl ap to allow it to be carried as a briefcase might be useful. Otherwise I thought the bag worked very well on the bike, and is certainly much easier to carry around than my normal pannier, and looks much smarter too. The UK importers, Brick Lane Bikes, offer the Micro for £59, or it’s 85 dollars direct from Pac.
VELOVISION ISSUE 32 DECEMBER 2008
THE Basic Micro came supplied with another product, the (£35, $45) Pac Strap Pouch – suitable for a phone, keys or other small items, making them conveniently accessible without opening up the main bag. It is quite an intricate item with internal mesh pockets and very chunky double zips, and little bellows around the opening, all made in heavyweight fabric and webbing. It also comes with a karabiner to hook it to more or less anything, so you could move it between bags or onto a trouser belt loop, for example. On the Basic Micro it attaches to a webbing strip down the edge of the bag. This is only there on one side of the bag, so as I’d chosen to reverse the anti-sway strap it put the pouch rather out of reach behind my back – although even the other way round, you’d probably have to swing the bag around to get at it properly anyway. On the Pro bag it clips to the shoulder strap so it’s easier to get at as you ride along – the Basic’s
an intricate item with internal mesh
strap is too wide for that. I found the quick-release clips used to fi x the pouch onto the bag or belt rather fi ddly to release, but they are nice and secure once snapped shut. I think the Pouch would be good if you had lots of loads going in and out – it would be handy to keep personal essentials from getting accidentally caught up with other loads, or lost in the main compartment. I found that in normal use it was fi ne just to keep things like keys in the main bag’s internal mesh pocket. So while the pouch is a cute, highquality little thing, it’s a luxury rather than an essential, for me at least.
pouch is a cute, highquality little thing, it’s a luxury rather than an essential, for me at least.
Manufacturer: PAC Designs, Canada. Tel +1 707 377 6190 or see www.pacdesigns.com UK importer: Brick Lane Bikes, London. Tel 0207 033 9053 or see www.bricklanebikes.co.uk PAC would be interested to hear from other dealers in the UK and Europe. They also have an importer for Switzerland: Velo Henderson. Tel +41 43 243 9189 or see www.velohenderson.ch
We also received Basic Slim and Pro Slim bags from Pac, and we’ll review these in future issues. REVIEWS
Grips on the cheap
Peter Eland tries out some
cheaper alternatives to
the Ergon grips.
AS you’ll have read last issue, Ergon grips are a particular favourite of mine. But at retail prices of around (or over) £20 a pair, handlebar set-ups like that on my touring tandem can get pricey. Second-hand bargains may help on occasion, but could there be a cheaper alternative? I came up with a mixed bag. Several dealers sell so-called ergonomic grips, but most don’t offer anywhere near the level of palm support of the Ergons. And of those that do, most are the traditional push-on sort which rely on friction to hold them in place, rather than using a positive locking system. These can still be good – like the ones on the S-300 reviewed this issue – but I really wanted the locking feature, mainly to make removal and refi tting easier. Eventually I found two likely candidates on (where else) Ebay. Just search for ‘Ergonomic grips’. One pair was £9.99 plus postage, the other £11.99. But as you’ll see from the pictures, the two pairs were close to identical. One was labelled BBB Ergofi x, and the other Velo Vice
Grips, but I’d be astonished if they didn’t come from the same factory in Taiwan. The only difference is the pattern of the rubber. They lock on, not with a clamp system like the Ergons, but via two Allen keys which screw in straight towards the handlebar, compressing a protective metal strip so they don’t actually mark the bars. It doesn’t seem as nice engineering-wise, but once done up they’re solidly in place, and they remove easily too. And the ride? Well, they’re not bad, and they certainly make fl at bars much more bearable. I don’t think they offer quite the same level of palm support as the Ergons, but it’s close. But one annoying niggle is the hard plastic shell on the outside edge of the grip – it can dig in to the edge of your hand at times. Another thing to note about these is that there isn’t a short version for people who use gripshifts – so you’ll have to cut them down yourself if necessary. A hacksaw should do the trick, but the result may not be as neat as you’d like. But for a town bike I’d say they’re perfectly adequate, and you may as well pocket the saving! For longer tours or off-roading the Ergons may still be worth the difference.
The BBB Ergofi x grips (above) and Velo Vice Grips (top) installed on a tandem. They're good, if not quite up to Ergon standards.
As we go to press I’ve just discovered another candidate – the 2008 Specialised BG Comfort Lockon grips, above. At £9 or less a pair they’re even cheaper, and should be available via many local bike shops, too. I’ll order a pair and report back!
ISSUE 32 DECEMBER 2008 VELOVISION