Minneapolis Public School Fundraiser


Varsity Bike&Transit will be supporting our Minneapolis Public Schools: Kenwood and Anthony. We will be donating back to each school 10% of our profits from any purchase made by a Kenwood or Anthony family from May 6th to May 17th. Owner, Rob DeHoff, has one child, Sophie, in 6th grade at Anthony and another, Toby in 4th grade at Kenwood. Help us support our schools.

Rob, Ann, Sophie and Toby DeHoff

Rob, Ann, Sophie and Toby DeHoff

At Varsity we serve the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis bike commuter market. This means we have many hybrid, single speed, city and road bikes in the $300 to $600 range. Breezer, SE, Fuji, Felt, Torker and Surly are our main brands. We offer electric and cargo bikes by BionX, Felt, Yuba and Babboe. These bikes can change your life allowing you to use the bike for so many new options including commuting, errands and more. We also carry a variety of bike accessories and parts to keep the bike world turning. Our service department is geared towards quality repairs at a reasonable cost. We find most bikes benefit from the $69.99 Pro Tune once a year to remain in prime condition.

We do not carry kids bikes but we can order them from our brands. Here is a guide for what size bike to buy for your child and a list of what we can get. If there is interest we can also do a group drop off at Anthony or Kenwood for ordered bikes after the event is finished.

We do have some kids helmets in stock but if below the bikes list is a longer list of helmet options.

If you have any questions please stop in, call us at (612) 623-0990 or email us at

Age  Child’s Height   Tire Diameter (outside) 
Age 2 – 5 26 – 34 inches 12 inches
Age 4 – 8 34 – 42 inches 16 inches
Age 6 – 9 42 – 48 inches 18 inches
Age 8 – 12 48 – 56 inches 20 inches
Youth 56 – 62 inches 24 inches


12″ Wheel Balance bikes with no pedals

Sun Lil Raskal                $69.99



Kidzamo Moto                 $99.99



16″ Wheels Bikes

Fuji Kit 16                       $199.99

Fuji Fazer 16                   $199.99

SE Bronco 16                   $209.99

Sun Flower Power 16       $199.99

Sun Matrix 16                   $199.99

20″ Wheel Bikes

Fuji Kit 20                        $219.99

Fuji Fazer 20                    $219.99

Fuji Absolute 20              $349.99

SE Bronco                         $219.99

SE Soda Pop                      $289.99

Sun Flower Power             $199.99

Sun Matrix                        $199.99

Felt Q20-R                        $299.99

Felt Q20-S                        $349.99

24″ Wheel Bikes

Fuji Absolute 24               $379.99

Fuji Sanibel 24                 $299.99

Fuji Sanibel 24 LS            $299.99

Sun Scout 24                     $299.99


SE Soda Pop 24            $279.99

Felt Q24                      $399.99



Lazer is the main brand we recommend

Max Plus Toddler          $34.99

BOB Toddler                 $24.99

P’Nut Mips Toddler        $74.99

J1 Youth                       $39.99

Beam Junior                 $49.99

Nut’z Youth                   $54.99

Nut’z Mips Youth           $74.99



Felt Lebowske Review

Felt Lebowske

Felt Lebowske

I have been testing the Felt Lebowski for the last three months. I have been very impressed by this electric assist fat bike. I could see someone using this bike as  a do everything bike. Yes it has fat tires but with the electric motor you can easily get it up to 15-20mph and get a 40 mile range. This means someone could use this bike for year round commuting, mountain biking and recreational riding.

The Lebowske’s bike light weight aluminum felt frame has the 1×11 speed SRAM drivertrain, 10-42 cassette with a 18 tooth front chainring that is the equivalent of a 45 tooth through a step up gear system. This gives you a almost 1 to 1 to more than a 4 to 1 gear ratio for all terrain. It has 80mm Felt double wall rims with Schwable Jumbo Jim Evolution 4.0 tires. The bike has Avid Guide disc brakes and levers with 180mm rotors for great stopping power and lots of adjustment. A Rockshox adjustable seatpost with brake lever mounted adjuster gives the rider the ability to ride over most terrain. Carbon bars and other light weight components make the whole bike with the battery and electric drive weigh about 48lbs which is remarkably light for an electric drive bike and amazing for a fat version.


Felt Lebowske Drivetrain

The electric system is the Bosch assist only mid drive system. This means the motor is mounted in the bottom bracket and only adds power when the rider is pedaling. There is not a throttle only mode for the Bosch system. The mid drive allows for the drivetrain to be used as a transmission. Therefore the rider can start in an easier gear and the motor does not have to pull as much energy from the battery to get to the optimal torque like on hub motors. This really helps on initial start off, up hills and in challenging riding medium such as snow or sand. The motor is 350 watts with a 36 volt 11 amp battery. The controller is mounted over the stem with a left handed thumb activator for changing the assist level or information readout. There are 4 levels of assist, Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. The system will assist up to 20 mph while the rider can pedal the bike faster. I personally reached a max speed of 30 mph and the bike is incredible stable, not shocking with 4″ tires. The Intuvia controller allows easy control of the system from either the stem mount controller or the left hand thumb actuator. The Intuvia computer tells you speed, distance, time and most other  


Bosch Electric Motor

The Intuvia controller allows easy control of the system from either the stem mount controller or the left hand thumb actuator. The Intuvia computer tells you speed, distance, time and most other  common computer functions. The main console also has a mini usb port to charge your phone, gps or anything you would like to power up.


Bosch Intuvia

I rode the bike first without the battery. It was stable but responsive more like the trail fat bikes than the adventure longer wheel base models that I have rode. It rode like most fat bikes, feels great the first mile or so and then you hit the first uphill and you notice those low pressure wide tires and slow down dramatically. Some of this could be due to the extra weight from the electric system but mostly it felt like a fat bike. My non electric ride was 6 miles of road, bike trail and dirt road to the now opened Surly Brewery near our shop. There was about 2″ of fresh snow on most of the riding surfaces.


Bosch Downtube Battery

The first electric ride was the long way to my house. I rode 20 miles with an 16.8mph average speed. I got home with 2 out of 5 bars left on the battery. I rode in a combination of the two highest assist modes, turbo and sport. I rode mostly paved bike trail, some road and across Lake of the Isles with 3-4″ of snow on the frozen ice. This first ride the computer said the bike would get 80 miles in Eco mode and 30 miles in Turbo. The tires were inflated to 14 psi and the temperature was in the high twenties.

The second major ride I was determined to ride as much different terrain and kill the battery. When I started with a full battery the system told me that I had 47 miles of range in the Eco mode. It seems the system learns the bike to get a closer approximation of the true range. I rode a variety of terrain including roads, paved bike trail, snow covered dirt double track and a couple miles of very sandy trail. The bike performed stellar in all terrain, very nimble and stable. The electric system seamlessly adds power and cuts immediately when you stop pedaling so you do not slide around corners. I rode a total of 35 miles on a combination of eco and city mode. I arrived at my destination with 1 mile of range left. I charged the battery for 2 hours which got it up to 4 out of 5 bars of power. Then I rode it home on turbo mode and was there in 45 minutes after 12 miles of city traffic riding.

We have taken it with other fat bikes on a variety of demo rides. The Lebowske has been universally loved on streets and paths. Some riders have said they do not like it on skinner trails because they say that power is applied sometimes when they do not want it. I believe it is just a matter of getting used to it. I find it applies power when you need it and cuts out the moment you stop pedaling. When heading home it has been battled over for who gets to ride it. It makes keeping up with the faster guys much more fun. I would highly recommend this bike for virtually every type of riding unless you want to get more than 40 miles of range out of an electric bike.


Planet Bike Superflash USB Rear Light Review

There comes a time in every bicycle commuters life when riding after dark becomes

unavoidable. This is a very stark reality in the midst of a cold Minnesota winter, when it gets

dark at about four in the afternoon. While it is understandable for folks to be nervous about

being in traffic after dark on snowy roads, there are lots of ways to take some of the edge off.

Obviously caution and defensive riding are your two best options, having a solid means of

illumination not only improves your safety but will often go a long way towards bolstering

confidence on those dark nights. Recently I’ve been using the new Planet Bike Superflash USB

Rechargeable, and I have been very impressed. The standard superflash has long been my go

to for a consistent bright rear light with a longer than average lifespan. As a daily commuter I am

using my lights on average 5-7 days a week all year long, so I have used every version of the

superflash thats been released in the last ten years. In terms of visibility I havent come across

too many lights that can compete for the price. All the super flash lights come with 3 super

bright LEDs and a compact but highly efficient reflector to get the most out of the lights

themselves. The mounting bracket is standard across all of the Planet bike rear lights and while

it isnt the cleverest option for mounting, the basic plastic is durable and replaceable. The USB

rechargeable option is the newest in the line and shares most of the features of the other lights

with a couple of obvious improvements. While the standard super flash have always managed

a pretty substantial lifespan with double A batteries, the choice to go rechargable has become

more common and often more desirable. Planet bike advertises a 24 to 36 hour runtime per 4-6

hour charge which I have found to be true if not a little ungenerous. I have been using mine for

about 6 months on a daily basis and I have had to give it one total charge. That fact alone for a

rechargeable light is very, very impressive. Planet bike has also changed the power switch

from the original. My only complaint with any of these lights has been the fact the the switch to

turn the light on has always been a hard, almost flat button on the bottom. This made the light

difficult to turn on in the best of circumstances much less with heavy winter gloves. The

rechargeable option has a rubberized and slightly more raised button making it easier to locate

and much easier to activate the LEDS. This may seem like a small thing to be picking at but

when you use the lights everyday it’s the little things you notice. I always got the feeling that the

old design was mostly for weatherproofing the light but I haven’t seen anything to suggest this

new light isnt proof against even the harshest winter conditions. Which is possibly the best

thing I can say about all of these lights, they just keep kickin. I have put many superflash lights

through the ringer and have even been able to repair a couple of them when they finally couldn’t

take any more damage. Not only do they put up with a ton of abuse but they don’t lose any

effectiveness even when they’re a little beat up. My overall impression of the Superflash lights

has only improved with the release of this option and I see no reason to not use at least one of

these on each bike I take into the black night.



Bike Buildup Showdown With Jameson

Building My Own Bike, Was It Worth It ???

Hello, bike friends. Today I thought I would write up a review to compare the cost of  a store bought single speed bike, and a custom built single speed, with your current bike that you might be riding, or a build up from a frame.

First we will look at the store bought bike.

Felt bikes 2014 Brougham fixed / free wheel, MSRP: $539.99

  • Frame:Felt single speed custom butted 4130 TIG-welded Cr-Mo tubes, butted tapered seatstays w/ horizontal machined Cr-Mo dropouts, horizontal top tube
  • Fork:Felt Urban design, 100% Cr-Mo, 1.125″ threadless steerer & oversized straight fork blades, 43mm offset
  • Crank:Forged aluminum, w/ 144mm B.C.D, 47T x 3/32 inch
  • Freewheel/Fixed Cog:17T x 3/32 inch
  • Brake:Tektro dual pivot caliper front & rear, stainless hardware
  • Brake Levers:Tektro aluminum front & rear
  • Bottom Bracket:Euro sealed bearing, 68mm
  • Stem:Felt aluminum forged, 4-bolt clamp
  • Handlebar:Felt Urban riser bar
  • Pedals:Aluminum pedal, steel toe clips, leather toe straps
  • Seatpost:Aluminum micro-adjust, 27.2 x 300mm
  • Saddle:Felt Urban classic road saddle w/ riveted custom cover & steel rails
  • Wheelset:Alex DA30 double wall aluminum, 30mm deep V-section aero rims, Alloy 32H hubs (Fixed/Free Rear) Vittoria Randonneur tires 700 x 28
  • Sizes: 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm

Jameson’s Brougham in all its winter livery

All in all, it’s a great bike to own. You can set it up to be a fixed gear, or a single speed. The bike can handle a fairly wide tire, like most 35c tires and it’s at a remarkable price point for what you get out of the box.

As it is set up this is a bike you can just fill the tires and go.  This bike has a nice ride and feel to it, the handling is not twitchy, yet nice and responsive. The Vittoria Randonneur tires that come on the bike are a great tire, they are a long lasting, and have double shielding puncture protection.

For the winter I have equipped mine with a pair of 700 x 35 Continental winter contact tires, (which is a tight fit), SKS Xtra-dry fenders, and FSA Metropolis handlebars. I have aftermarket rims as well (There’s nothing wrong with the stock rims, I just wanted gold.) One of the downfalls of this bike is that there are NO fender or rack mounts, which means no full wrap fenders, and no frame mounted rear rack for the Brougham.

Custom Building A Bicycle From A Frame Up

Ok. lets say your friend gives you a cool frame and fork, or you have your dad’s old 10 speed and you want to update some of the parts and pieces. This is what I came up with, to help you make your decision..

  • Frame: My Dad’s Old 10 Speed Bike, single speed Cr-Mo tubes horizontal dropouts, horizontal top tube: n/c
  • Fork: Cr-Mo, 1″ threaded steerer: n/c
  • Crank: Forged pink aluminum, w/ 130mm B.C.D, 48T x 1/8 inch: $69.99
  • Freewheel & Fixed Cog: Free wheel ACS 16T x 1/8 inch: $24.99
  • Brake :Tektro dual pivot caliper front & rear, Pink anodized…2@34.99: $74.98
  • Brake Levers:Tektro aluminum front & rear: $29.99
  • Bottom Bracket:Euro sealed bearing, 68mm x 110mm: $29.99
  • Stem: Origin 8 aluminum forged, 4-bolt clamp: $29.99
  • Headset: Origin 8: $34.99
  • Handlebar: Woodman pink anodized Urban riser bar: $49.99
  • Pedals: Aluminum pedal: $19.99
  • Seatpost: Aluminum micro-adjust, 26.8 x 300mm: $24.99
  • Saddle: Soma Urban Ensho saddle Bassboat pink: $59.99
  • Wheel Set: Weinnmann DP-18 30mm deep V-section pink (Fixed/Free Rear): $199.99
  • Tires: Thick Slicks: 2@34.99: $74.98
  • Grips: Oury pink grips: $14.99
  • Tubes / Rim strips: $17.98
  • Chain: KMC Pink: $12.99
  • Cables & Housing: $11.98


So, you’re going to spend a bit more up front building a bike from a frame up, but when you do it this way, you’re building the bike with the parts you want, the way you want. A build up like this one can run you in the ballpark of $800 – $1000.  That price can vary quite a bit, based on the components that you chose, where you get your parts, and who builds the bike, .  

However, I’d highly recommend that before you build a bike up from scratch, you make sure to stop by your local bike shop and talk to a mechanic. They can help you decide on certain parts that will and will NOT work on the frame that you have.  That way you won’t end up with bike components that are not compatible with your frame.

Building Up A Single Speed With The Bike You Have, Can It Be Done?

The majority of the time the answer is yes, but this set up can come with some hidden costs, so let me help you to decide what might be best suited for you. The first thing we want to do is look at the dropout on the bike.  The dropout is the opening for the rear wheel’s axle.

A bike with vertical dropouts.


So the drop out above (A.)  isn’t the most Ideal drop out to used for a single speed conversion, but it can still be done with a chain tensioner, (B.) which serves in place of a derailleur to help keep tension on the chain so it doesn’t fall off the chain ring or freewheel.  You may not get the clean aesthetic of a single speed setup like in picture (C.) but it works.

A bike with vertical dropouts and a chain tensioner.


Rearward facing “track” dropouts.


What you’re looking for in an ideal frame to do your build up are slotted horizontal dropouts like in pictures (C,D, or E.)

In pictures (D. & E.) these bikes have a derailleur or a derailleur hanger that can be removed from the frame. In both cases the drop outs are slotted, and once we’ve removed the derailleur and hanger we will be able to put a wheel in and pull it back to hold the proper tension on the chain like in picture (F.)  

A bike with, slotted horizontal dropouts and a Derailleur w/hanger

Another style of horizontal dropout.

Note the slack in the chain. After we snapped the photo, we removed a link to get better chain tension.


Besides the frame we will need to look at the current wheel and determine whether it is a Freewheel or a Cassette.

Freewheel: Gears thread directly onto the hub itself. (G.)

A freewheel hub


Cassette: Gears slide onto a pre installed cassette body then uses a lock ring to keep it in place. (H.)

A cassette hub, cassette and lockring.


The freewheel, like in picture (G, and I), you will probably need to use an eighth inch chain to make up for a less than perfect chainline. Some people will respace the hub to achieve a better chainline, however,  it’s not recommended, because it can put the wheel too far to one side of the frame. In some cases it’s just best to buy a single speed wheel.

Both styles of wheel can be used for single speed applications. If the wheel is a freewheel you can unthread the old gears and then thread on a single speed freewheel like in picture. (I.) or If the wheel is a cassette you will have to buy a cassette spacer kit, cog and lockring (J.)

A freewheel hub with a single speed freewheel installed


A cassette hub with a hub spacer, single cog and lockring installed.


Now we are going to look at different crank sets that are out there.  If you have a crank set that is pop riveted together and looks like this crankset below (K.) the rings are not removable or replaceable.  It is possible to use one of the existing rings, but it’s far from ideal.  You may want to look at getting a new crankset, and possibly a new bottom bracket (L.) (The Bottom Bracket is the bearing unit that allows the cranks to spin.) In some cases the bottom bracket spindle will be too long to run a single speed crankset and will need to be replaced with something shorter.

A riveted crankset. The chainrings cannot be removed or replaced.


A single speed crankset and bottom bracket


A road double crankset. The rings on this crank are fixed in place with a nut and bolt and can be removed with proper tools and know how.

In other cases like the cranks in this picture, the chain rings  can be removed from the crank arm and a single ring can be installed with a set of single speed chain ring bolts.

Single chainring bolts.

A single chainring installed on a set of cranks.

Last but not least you will need a new chain.  Chains come in a couple common sizes for a single speed setup.  An ⅛ inch chain is generally recommended for anything single speed or fixed.  ⅛ Inch chains are a little heavier duty than the common 3/32 chains that are used on most geared bikes. Most single speeds will work with a 3/32 chain, but if either your chainring in front or the cog in back are ⅛ inch you will need to use an ⅛ chain.    

A flawlessly set up and maintained single speed drivetrain. Whoever owns this bike must be awesome.

So lets recap and price out some of the things that we have talked about. You won’t need all the stuff in the list below, you will need different things based on your individual conversion. Some of the prices will vary from shop to shop I got these prices at Varsity Bike & Transit.


Single Speed tensioner: 29.99

Cassette Spacer kit: 29.99

Lock Ring: 4.99

Cassette Cog: 9.99

Single Speed Freewheel: 11.99

Chain Ring: 19.99

Single Speed Chain Ring Bolts: 6.99

Cranks: 69.99

Bottom Bracket: 29.99

Single Speed Wheel: 69.99

It seems that single speed bikes have been consistently growing in popularity as the desire for something both affordable and easy to use becomes more prevalent.  If you’re considering going the single speed route, it might be in your best interest to start out purchasing an out of the box stock build first, to see if you enjoy this type of riding.  If you’re certain one gear is the choice for you, it can be very rewarding to pick out just what you want your bike to be.  Regardless of the direction you choose to go, it’s always a good idea to pop by your local shop and ask as many questions as you need to, in order to make the best decision for you.


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.

Kryptonite Keeper Lock

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.

Blackburn Grid Light mounted

Blackburn Grid Light mounted

Blackburn Grid light mounting bracket

Blackburn Grid light mounting bracket

Blackburn Grid light out of the handlebar case

Blackburn Grid light out of the handlebar case




Chrome Saddle Bag Rolltop Pannier 20 Review

Chrome RollTop Saddle Pannier Bag 20

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.

Vaude Backpack Pannier

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.

Chrome Rack Adapter

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.


Emily modelling the optional Ortlieb carrying system

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

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.