Emily’s Kryptonite Keeper Lock Review

Kryptonite’s Keeper lock is their least expensive option available at Varsity Bike Shop. It has a 12mm hardened steel shackle that measures about 9 inches in length, and 4 inches in width. This makes it possible to lock my bike up to any street sign or bike rack, through both the front wheel and frame. It also fits in an outside pocket of my backpack, but if you prefer not to carry it in a bag, it does come with a mounting bracket that can attach to most bicycles.

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The Keeper is a great no frills high value lock option.

The Keeper has a safety rating of 5 out of 10. According to Kryptonite’s website that means it’s ideal for quicker stops in metropolitan areas. I have left my bike locked up outside of many locations around Minneapolis, day and night, for a couple of hours at a time,  and have not had any issues. If you are planning on using your bike around a college campus, getting to and from class, I think the Keeper is a great option for the price. It does not have a rotating dust cover, which a lot of their other models offer. The advantage of those is extra protection from the elements. With the Keeper I have found that if you lock it with the keyhole facing towards the ground, snow and rain don’t seem to damage it. I believe that this lock is durable, dependable and affordable. AND, it comes with the keysafe program. Register your keys with Kryptonite (each lock comes with 2) and if you lose both of them, they will send you a replacement set for free!


Blackburn Grid Front Light

I have been using the Blackburn Grid front light for a year now and I have been very impressed. It is bright enough for a city commuter light at 100 lumens but not too bright to blind our fellow bicyclists when you meet them on the path. The beam pattern is a circle about 3 feet in diameter at 20 feet out. The battery lasts me 4-8 rides on high so that fits right in with the 4 hour charge that it is in it’s specs since my ride is 30-40 minutes.  I like the fact that it is somewhat theft proof. It is attached with two allen head bolts. Yes someone could use a tool to take it off but it is much better that the quick release brackets that are on most lights. I wish it had covers for the bolts then I would run the light upside down on my bars to get the light closer to the ground for a better light angle and for less clutter on the bars. If I did this without allen head covers it is obvious how to take it off with a tool. It takes about three hours to get a full charge with the usb cord. To charge it you twist the front part of the light and pull it out. This leaves the light case on the bike. Someone could steal it this way but most would not know how to remove it. It is very easy to take off so sometimes in the winter I remove it to bring it inside to keep it warm and make the battery last longer.

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Blackburn Grid Light mounted

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Blackburn Grid light mounting bracket

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Blackburn Grid light out of the handlebar case




Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop Pannier 20 Review

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Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop Pannier 20

I received a Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop Pannier 20 about two months ago. I was in need of a new pannier and Dan let me try out the new Chrome version. I have always been intrigued by the concept of having a pannier that easily converts to a messenger bag or backpack. Years ago I used a Vaude backpack that turned into a pannier on 3 week long trip to Italy. It worked pretty good as both but after the trip it was almost destroyed(partially due to its not great construction and equally to my inherent nature to destroy equipment) There are two ways to make the shift from pannier to bag possible. One is to have the rack mounting hardware on the bag and then have a way to hide the hardware when using it as a bag. The Vaude and the Timbuk2 Shift Pannier Messenger use this system.

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Vaude Backpack Pannier

The problems with this system is that the hardware is not padded enough and bites into you and the bag needs a stiff support board in it to make it work well as a pannier but that makes it uncomfortable to wear on your body as a bag.The other system is to have the mounting system on the rack like Chrome does. I like this approach better because the stiffness for the pannier comes from the rack adapter mount and the is nothing on the bag to annoy you. The disadvantages to this system I found are that you have to use it on that rack and it is not as easy to mount.

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Chrome Rack Adapter

I personally did not like this bag. Why? Because I wanted a pannier not a hybrid bag but do not blame Chrome for this. I was surprised when I received it and found out it had a mount for your rack and it was a combo bag. When Dan offered it to me he called it a pannier and that is what I was replacing. I think it is hard to mount and has not gotten easier. To mount it on the rack adapter it has three metal “tongues” that insert into the bag. The bottom one is easy but getting the top two in simultaneously is challenging. The other reason is purely psychological, I pull it off to go places and all I can think of is a saying from my cousin, Susan. “Your purse needs to be larger than your butt.” I was never sure if this was meant to keep her butt small or purse large. I feel like I am carrying a purse around with the big double handle straps and the shoulder strap does not help this idea. You can judge if I am violating her rule.FullSizeRender 225x300 Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop Pannier 20 Review

I would recommend it to someone who wants a hybrid pannier bag. It is secure on the rack and has never fallen off. I have rode in rain and it has been waterproof. I like the laptop sleeve and it fits my 15”. The roll top design allows a lot off extra room if you need it and can be compressed down if you do not. The rack adapter mount was fairly easy to install although I only used one of the metal secure mounting clamps and three zip ties. The only disadvantages have been the above mentioned hard to mount it to the adapter and the roll top straps are long so they can go into the rear wheel, no issues yet except for noise. I tuck the straps into the front woven straps now so the rarely get out.

I am going to stick with my Trashbag backpack when I want a bag for me and look at getting a new pannier for when I want a bag for on the bike. Maybe someday I will simplify my life more and just have one bag. Then I will move back to the Chrome Saddle Bag.



NiteRider Lumina 400 Light Review

Niterider Lighting systems have long been a solid standard for large area illumination for late night adventures.  Most options in the Niterider catalog are going to be geared towards off road mountain biking after dark.  The Lumina 400 is a bit of a crossover from specific trail lights into the world of city commuting.

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The Nite Rider Lumina 400 features high quality materials and an integrated battery.

The light itself is a single piece power source and light so its a bit bulkier than most other headlights available in your local shop.  While its size can be off putting, its performance more than makes up for its lack of subtlety.  Almost all of the lights in this category are going to come with an easily attached helmet mount as well as a very sturdy handlebar mount.  Helmet mounts are very useful for late night singletrack riding, but for commuting the handlebar mount is much kinder to cars and those you’re sharing a trail with.  The handlebar mount utilizes a hinged attachment with a long threaded bolt that allows easy mounting on any handlebar size.

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The Lumina comes with an adjustable, secure and easy to use bracket.

Commuting in Minneapolis I rarely find use for lights with this kind of super bright output, since most of the cities streets and bike trails are either lit, or benefit from the substantial ambient light that is common in most large urban areas.  That said, I recently took a trip to my fairly small hometown of St. Cloud.  If you’ve ever ridden in a town like St. Cloud you’ll know that outside of the downtown areas the city can be very, very dark indeed.  It can be a little nerve racking being on some of the more rural roads dealing with intermittent traffic.  I really appreciated the Lumina’s powerful and long reaching light in this capacity.  It was more than adequate to provide a perfect field of vision on those deeply pitted back roads and trails.  It also gave me a solid sense of security since my headlight easily competed with a vehicles in terms of visibility.

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The Lumina also comes with a helmet mount. Which is perfect for trail riding, or for the highest possible visibility.

In the past rechargeable lights have suffered from somewhat inadequate to downright terrible charge inputs.  Nite rider has decided to use a really convenient micro usb cable and the rubber seal for the port on the light seems to be a quality seal.  The Lumina does not come with a flashing or pulse option which limits its runtime, however, I have yet to exhaust this battery even running the high light output setting for 2+ hours.

Used for after hours trail riding this light is a stellar deal.  The Lumina would easily allow you to navigate singletrack while still giving you a light to get safely home from the trail.  As a commuting headlight its a little overkill inside the city, but if you’re looking for something to really light up the paths or streets it is an exceptionally good buy at about $100 retail.   For more specific information and details visit the Niterider website or feel free to give us a call at the shop.


Ortlieb Back Roller Pannier Review

I purchased a set of Ortlieb Back Roller Panniers in 2008. I was looking for panniers that were large enough to use on tours, and waterproof. The Back Roller proved to be both.

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The Ortlieb Back Roller Pannier in black

I flew out to Seattle that same year to bike along the coast to San Francisco with a friend of mine. The bags worked great to store everything I was traveling with, and I was able to take one on the plane as a carry on. They come with two pockets on the inside, which worked great for keeping things that I needed to access quickly and easily, like my wallet, tools, gloves and a book. Both the carry on and the pannier I checked handled the wear and tear of airline travel brilliantly. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we did not actually bike down the coast. But the panniers were excellent for shorter day trips that I took, and made it very easy for me to keep all of my belongings with me.

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The design of the Ortlieb panniers provides plenty of capacity while remaining low profile.

In 2010, I used them again on a tour from Minneapolis, MN to Madeline Island, WI. They once again held everything I needed to camp with: clothes, camping pots, towel and extra food. It rained a few times on this trip, and everything inside of the bags remained dry.

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The Ortlieb Panniers utilize welded seams, which are waterproof and sleek looking.

These panniers also have more practical uses. For grocery shopping, they are my go to everytime. They easily clip on and off of the rack. I like that they have a clip that wraps all the way around the top of the rack, for extra stability. The clip opens easily when you lift up the strap, so even when they are full, removing them from the rack is a breeze. The roll top is a great feature in the rain to keep your items dry, but is also convenient if you need to fill the bag to capacity. On more than one occasion I have completely filled the panniers, and I am still able to clip the bags shut, so nothing falls out.

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The Ortlieb panniers all feature very well designed strap and closure system.

I recently purchased the Ortlieb Carrying System for panniers. This allows you to carry one of the panniers on your back, like a backpack. It is easy to secure the pannier to the carrying system, and the attachment itself fits nicely inside the interior pocket. I’ve used this system on trips out to the Minnesota State Fair, and will continue to do so every time I attend. It’s great to bike, especially on hot days, with nothing on your back. I personally prefer backpacks to over the shoulder straps, which the Back Rollers come with. Once I arrived at the fair, I simply put the carrying system on the bag, and was able to wander around comfortably.

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Emily modelling the optional Ortlieb carrying system

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Ortlieb offers a backpack carrying system that allows you to convert your panniers into a backpack/pannier hybrid.


In the six years that I have owned these panniers, I have had no issues with them. They did come with a 10-year warranty, which was another reason I chose them. Ortlieb offers different sizes and styles of pannier, so find the ones that are right for you and your needs.


How can we make “being a cyclist” more inclusive?

Bicycling in the United States is at a turning point, say community bicycling advocates Suepinda Keith, Jonathan Maus, and Doug Gordon.  In March, the League of American Bicyclists hosted its largest annual event, the National Bike Summit, in Washington, D.C..  One of the main themes at the summit was how to make cycling more accessible, and ultimately draw participants from groups who do not normally consider themselves to be cyclists. Since cycling is traditionally known for catering to a niche market, one way advocates hope to make it more inclusive is by shifting to a more utilitarian approach to cycling.

The week before the National Bike Summit, the third annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum was also held in D.C..   The Women’s Forum drew over 450 attendees, compared to 700 at the National Summit, and drew attention to the need to unify the sport’s participants.  “Now people are starting to say, why is there a separate Women’s summit?” said Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland, “It felt like a different kind of summit, and I think the National Bike Summit could use some of that energy.”

The Women’s Forum, and women cyclists in general, have been instrumental in changing the approach to cycling from recreational to utilitarian.  This is especially noticeable in the focus on family biking at the Women’s Forum, according to Suepinda Keith of Triangle Bikeworks.  “I really never identified as a woman bicyclist before I had a kid,” Keith said.  She noted how having a child changed everything from her commuting habits to the cargo she carried while biking, while the recreational aspects of biking became less important.  “I’d do it if I had time, and not a two-year-old,” she said.

This is a feeling that many women bicyclists share.  In the past three months, I have spoken with several women who came into Varsity Bike and Transit looking for a new bike, and they have each said something along the lines of, ‘I haven’t biked in so long, but now that I have a toddler I want to again.’  Whether they are looking for a bike for  themselves or one that will have space to carry their children, too, having a family significantly changed their biking habits, and the Women’s Forum argues that family biking deserves the same attention from bike advocates and city planners as those who view cycling as a sport.

The League of American Bicyclists has also come to realize over the past several years that there are many people who bike frequently, yet do not identify as ‘cyclists.’  As a bike store that services a large number of college students, Varsity Bike sees a lot of this.  When I ask ‘what kind of riding do you plan on doing?’ to someone who is looking to buy a new bike, the most common answer is commuting from home to school and work.  Unfortunately, many of these people who bike on almost a daily basis, but do not participate in recreational races or tours, do not see themselves as cyclists (myself included).

“We need to simplify our message,” says Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke.  One way in which the league is attempting to do just that is by rebranding themselves.  A name change has been suggested, which would change the League of American Bicyclists to the League of American Bicycling.  Even slight wording changes such as that could make the sport identify with many more participants.

Varsity Bike is lucky to be located in such a bike-friendly city as Minneapolis, but even here we can see the struggle for bicycling to become more inclusive.  Family bikers and commuter bikers are a large portion of who we service in the shop, and the National Bike Summit and Women’s Forum helped to remind bike advocates around the country that these groups cannot be left out of bicycling discussions.


Our Annual Sticker Contest is Here!

homepage stickergraphic 031 Our Annual Sticker Contest is Here!

You’ve all been waiting, and the day has arrived – we’re launching this year’s sticker contest starting today – Monday, August 18.

There will be an unveiling party at Varsity Bike & Transit on September 25th, 2014 from 6 pm – 8 pm to announce the winners. Come check out this year’s sticker designs, enjoy free food and beverages, and enter a drawing to win bike prizes donated by companies such as Surly, Bern, Banjo Brothers, Fuji.

Grand Prize: SE Draft Lite Bike ($350)
2nd/3rd $50 gift card to Varsity Bikes

What you need to know:

Deadline for submissions: Monday, September 22, 2014
Our unveiling party: Thursday, September 25, 2014

Varsity Tee Our Annual Sticker Contest is Here!

-Choose from a 2.5” x 1.5” rectangle shape or a 2.5” in diameter circle shape.

-Designs must include the text “Varsity Bike & Transit”. You may download our logo in vector form at or you may create your own.

-Your sticker design must fall into one of these three categories:

“Pedal Less Oil”: Pedal Less Oil is our statement about trying to make the world a better place by riding our bikes. Stickers in this category should incorporate the slogan “Pedal Less Oil”
“It’s Easy Being Green”: Riding your bike is a fun, easy and inexpensive way to green your life. Stickers in this category should incorporate the slogan “It’s Easy Being Green”

And that’s it! Freestyle Design: Get creative and send your designs to" target="_blank"> We can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!

 Our Annual Sticker Contest is Here!



After this year spring is never going to feel so good. 25 Degrees seems like 50. Riding on streets with a little bit of ice is so easy after riding on ice, snow and whatever else was glued to the pavement. If you have your bike stuck in a snow bank now is the time to get it out before it goes through a number of thaw and freeze cycles to make sure everything on the bike is a rusty mess.


Bike Events with Kat: Pictures from Powderhorn 24!


What a beautiful and fun event for the Minneapolis bike community.  Mad props to the organizers, volunteers, Powderhorn community, riders and supporters.  Here are a few of my pictures from the event.  HUGE congratulations to Loretta Treviño who took the OVERALL first place in the solo category, competing one extra lap than the first place male, Alex Oenes.

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Loretta Treviño, top solo rider over all (!!!), with Mary and Lee, 2nd and 3rd place female riders.

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Loretta Treviño, finishing her final lap, to win the overall first place for solo riders. She rode 320 miles in 24 hours… AMAZING!

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The top three male solo riders celebrating their hard work.

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Top three women’s teams!

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My best friend Nathan came out from Madison!

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Nathan coming in on his final lap.

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Callie, BK, Emily, and Perfecto. Just a few of the wonderful people in attendance.

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Alex Oenes finishing up his final lap to win the men’s solo category.

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Until next year everybody!






Bike Events with Kat: Powderhorn 24!!!

Powderhorn 24

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Powderhorn 24, 2012

Last year a group of 5 girls and myself joined to become team Menstrual Cycles in the Powder horn24 – a 24 hour bike race.  What followed was a remarkable experience of community, friendship, and love of biking.  It’s difficult for me to describe the greatness of this event because I truly believe it is best witnessed or participated in directly.

The event is organized around the Powerhorn neighborhood in Minneapolis and starts on the Midtown Greenway near the Midtown Bike Center.  The bike center is the best viewing spot if you’d just like to watch the racers do their thing.  Racers have the choice of joining a team of up to six members and you can break down the 24 hours of racing in whatever fashion you choose.  If you are up for a particularly difficult challenge you can opt to do the entire race as a solo rider, taking on the entire 24 hours on your own.Sounds hard core, right?  It is… and AWESOME.

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Team Menstrual Cycles ties for first place! (2012)

The reason I find this race to be a diamond among gems of Minneapolis bike races is that it really is an event for everyone.  Most of the women on our team had never raced before, all of us rode single speed bicycles, and one team member did the entire race in flip flops and a bikini top.  We made our “jerseys” with some with old shirts and sharpies.  There was no judgement and we felt fully comfortable racing against much more experienced racers.  By the end we were ecstatic about our performance in the challenge as we came in 2nd place in time and tied for 1st in completed laps. I finished the race full of sweat, dirt, glitter, and filled with absolute happiness.  It is not a race to be missed.  Starts tonight Friday August 9th at 7pm, ends tomorrow (Saturday) 7pm. Some of the folks form Varsity will be down their with the Babboe cargo bike.  Come on down and cheer people on!

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Powderhorn 24, 2012

For more information check the pages below!