Gadling Gear Review: Vaya Pannier Hybrid Bicycle Bag

Once upon a time I was a hardcore bicycle commuter. This means I still know what I like in bike gear because when you do enough time in the saddle, you get opinions about these things. Vaya makes good looking bike bags that will help you get your gear from point A to point B – and make it easy for you to carry your stuff around when it’s off your bike. I checked out their Pannier Hybrid, a bag that goes from your bike rack to your back.

Their pannier is a bucket style roll top back that closes with a big clip. I like the sturdy hardware and I like the easy to use clips that attach the bag to your rack. The liner is waterproof and the roll top closure makes sure your stuff will stay secure. The strap that keeps your bag from swinging around when it’s on your bike converts to a shoulder strap, so when you’ve unclipped it from your bike, it’s totally manageable, unlike my old Ortlieb bags.

There’s something about the configuration of this thing that I didn’t love, though. It doesn’t quite hold what I need for commuting – or perhaps I need two, as I can’t get away with just one. I put a pair of shoes (I ride in cleats) and a clean shirt in the bag and it was almost full. It’s a little narrow to hold the kind of stuff I haul around on commuter days. While my Ortlieb panniers are not great for carrying around, they’re easy to load and unload and hold lots of stuff.

There’s an external pocket on the back (the side that would be up against your bike or your back). I’m a little confused about what I’d use it for, though. Because it doesn’t seal, I don’t think I’d put my wallet or my phone in there. Maybe it’s for stowing a candy bar or other small things that you won’t be stressed about if they should go missing.

The bag is great looking, totally sharp, made from recycled bike tube material and super heavy-duty scrap canvas. You can pick your colors – that’s cool – and which way you want the bag built, for slinging over your left shoulder or your right. I really wanted to like this bag but my years of commuting mean that it’s not quite the bag for me. If you don’t need to carry around a lot of stuff – you want to stow your lunch and your laptop and maybe a book – then it will absolutely work for you.

The messenger hybrid is $135 from Vaya. While you’re poking around in their site, check out their other bags too. I didn’t love the hybrid, but the other bags look totally hot. Really.

Google maps adds bicycle navigation feature on Android phones

Google Maps with navigation is one of the more powerful selling points of the Android platform. The navigation features within Google Maps are absolutely fantastic – but best of all, they are free.

This afternoon, Google issued a market update that adds bicycle directions to its app. This means you can now get driving, walking, public transit and cycling directions from within Google maps.

To get the new features, just allow Google Maps to download its update and pick your transportation method in the navigation screen. Of course, you may want to invest in a bike mount for your phone. At the moment, bike directions are only available within US based maps, but knowing Google, this may make its way abroad pretty soon.

Other new features include the ability to share your location through email, messaging or Twitter (in addition to Google Latitude) and a new quick-launch navigation icon for your program launcher.

Play chicken in Helsinki traffic

I was pretty impressed by Helsinki‘s public transportation, which was more than ample with trolleys, subways and buses. There were few SUVs, and the bike lane was rarely empty. While the Finns got the ingredients right, the mixing was … well … suboptimal.

The least menacing of the interesting transportation overlaps involves the bike lanes and sidewalk. Neither is clearly defined, and I almost got clipped by a cyclist my first day on the ground. And, that wasn’t the only Finn to take a shot at me. Of course, this is tame compared to the streets, in which cars, buses and trolleys jockey for position.

I actually saw a trolley, bus and car jammed in traffic, while a pedestrian walked straight into a guy wearing headphones while riding a purple woman’s bike. From my spot on the small patio in front of the Klaus K Hotel, I was able to enjoy the misfortune of others. But, I almost lost my arm at the hands of an errant cyclist while taking the few steps back to the front door.With Satan traveling the roads, what chance does any pedestrian have?

I snapped this shot with my Blackberry. This was the taxi in which I rode while in Helsinki over the summer. Needless to say, I did pause for a moment before getting in.

David Byrne of the Talking Heads gives cycling in NYC a boost with his bicycle racks

PopEater gave me a heads up about David Byrne of the Talking Heads designing bike racks in Manhattan in order to promote bike riding. The bike racks are finished and in place. Each reflect its location. For example, head to Wall Street and you’ll find one shaped like a dollar sign. Here is a link to his Web page that shows the racks and where they are located.

The video is a clip from this past July. The rack on Wall Street is one of them shown. Plus, you’ll get a feel for Byrne and the experience of bike riding in Manhattan. If you do bike ride, watch out for vehicles.

A taxi driver opened his car door without looking first which caused someone near and dear to me to fly over the door and break his collar bone.