Geared Up: Reflectors, a Carbon Adventure Fork, and more

By Nick Legan and Alex Strickland

Alpine Luddites Handlebar Drybag Carrier and Seat Bag V2, $70/$175

Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Alpine Luddites’ John Campbell is an experienced bag maker and a former Tour Divide racer. His time in the backcountry informs his designs with his bags putting a priority on function and light weight, stripped of all extraneous items and features. The Seat Bag V2 uses a pulley Velcro strap to solidly attach it to seat rails and prevent slippage. Also incorporated is a load compression strap separate from the mounting strap that keeps loads stable. With three different sizes and a rainbow of available colors, Campbell is also able to accommodate custom requests.  

Alpine Luddites’ Handlebar Drybag Carrier offers a secure way to carry a stuff sack, tent, or combination thereof on your bars. For dropbar setups, I find this arrangement far preferable to tube-style front bags that load from the ends. The drops typically get in the way and making loading a chore. The ability to leave the carrier attached to your bar and simply remove the drybag is fantastic. Alpine Luddites’ take on a front harness is simple, light, and very effective. It’s also available in custom colors to match your other bags. –NL

Fyxation Sparta, $299

I assumed I’d have plenty of options when I set out to upgrade the fork on my trusty touring/commuter steed. I was wrong. As manufacturers have abandoned straight 1in. steerer tubes in favor of tapered models, so too have fork makers taken on the tapered trend. So if your wishlist includes carbon and mounts like mine did, the options are … well, there appears to be only one (the Sparta is also offered with a tapered steerer). Milwaukee-based Fyxation makes a small line of urban, gravel, and light touring bikes, and I’d noticed their carbon fork at a tradeshow awhile back, not realizing it features a straight steerer. The Sparta also offers a 100 x 12mm thru axle (the current “road” “standard”), which did require a small shim to make my 100 x 15mm mountain bike wheel work (see review below), but helped stiffen up the front end of my Soma.

In fact, the overall effect of the Sparta has been to sharpen my steel workhorse considerably. I grant you, some of this is no doubt influenced by the stock fork on my Soma Wolverine veering past “supple” and right on to “noodly,” but the carbon/thru-axle combo has had the effect of basically making the Soma a new bike entirely. 

The Sparta included rack and bottle mounts on the legs, fender eyelets, flat mounts and internal routing for a disc brake, and clearance for 42mm tires on 700c wheels or “Road Plus” 650b x 50mm. I’ve been running a Road Plus setup (47mm) with fenders and a bit of room to spare. 

With those big tires, I haven’t missed the buzz-killing steel fork I replaced and have welcomed a snappier bike. Depending on your front-loading needs, it could be an upgrade to consider. –AS

Ti Cycles PDX Ti 12mm-15mm TA Adaptor, $19

Nothing fancy here, just a carbon fiber tube to shim a hub from the mountain bike standard to the new road thru-axle size. It weighs almost nothing (9.7g) and comes from the well-respected folks at Portland’s Ti Cycles. If you need one, you need one. –AS

Blackburn Outpost Corner Bag, $35

I can’t really put it any better than Blackburn does in their description of the little Outpost Corner bag: “You weren’t using that space anyway, were you?” No, no I wasn’t. This small bag is perfect for a tube and a few tools, particularly on a full-suspension bike that can’t accept a full framebag. Using simple hook-and-loop straps that can be threaded to any number of daisy-chain options, the Outpost Corner can slide into a wide variety of frame shapes (not working? Flip it.) and stays put once there. So far my only real gripe is that the nylon zipper pull can flap in the wind and tap on the frame, giving the impression something on the bike has come loose. Great for day rides or as part of a larger bikepacking system. –AS

Leg Shield Pant Protector, $16, and Bands, $11

I commute to work year-round, and in Montana that means at least 10 months of long pants. I wear some kind of cuff on my right ankle, and if you ride a chain-driven bike to work, you probably do too. Some offerings from Leg Shield provide options you’re used to, and some that you aren’t.

First, Leg Shield’s neoprene reflective ankle bands will be familiar to most. A little taller than most with 1.8 inches of reflective material, these neoprene bands use a hook-and-loop (velcro) closure and should be visible from up to 750 feet away. They do exactly what they’re supposed to, and though I rarely wear one on each ankle, 11 bucks for a pair offers you the ability to do just that. 

Now for the one you might not’ve seen before: the brand’s full-on pant protector is a foot-long (okay, 11.5 inches) complete coverage wrap that keeps your pant leg grease-free from ankle to knee and provides either a high-vis surface with reflective accents in optional neon yellow or a less noticeable non-reflective flat black. Three large velcro closures make it easy to get a snug fit, and I had no issues with the protector moving around while riding. Two words of warning: one, in warm weather this thing is toasty. Neoprene is what they use for wetsuits, and my calf did get a little sweaty on hot days even on short rides. Two, if you’re not careful about folding your pant leg just so before strapping, you can end up with some almighty wrinkles. Now, if your destination isn’t an office that’s probably not a concern, but a carelessly wadded-up pant leg with a little bit of exertion is exactly the wrong kind of slack steaming.

I didn’t test the protector on a recumbent, but the brand markets it as a particularly good solution for the laid-back set, and I can see why as extra protection makes good sense for extra chain exposure.  –AS

Portland Reflector Afterglow Magnetic Reflector, $19

Sometimes it’s the simple things. This triangular reflector from Portland Reflector is one of those, and its no-fuss magnetic attachment system made a noticeable difference when it came to me bringing the Afterglow along for a ride. On my bikes and bags, if something requires straps, it’s probably staying put. That’s fine for everyday kit, but it means that any change in routine is going to result in something left behind. The simplicity of the Afterglow’s magnets meant I was much more willing to swap the reflector between backpacks and bags through Montana’s long winter. This roughly 6-inch-wide triangle is super bright when hit by lights and mine was a high-vis yellow in the day (other colors are available). It always felt securely attached — even on thicker fabrics — and gave a reassuring snap.

One potential hitch that Portland Reflector even warns about on its website: magnets and electronics don’t always play nice, so the company recommends keeping a few inches between the Afterglow and things like hard drives, pacemakers, and the like. I wasn’t always so vigilant and didn’t suffer any consequences, but it’s worth noting when considering your setup. –AS