Sunday, October 15, 2006

Solving the Right Problem

Sometimes the most important part of problem solving is making sure that you are solving the right problem. Recently I was involved in this exchange over on the iBOB list.

Here is the original post that kicked things off:



Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 13:04:03 -0500
From: "Gates, Keith W [NTK]"
Subject: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers

After a long stint using a single Carradice Super C saddlebag for commutes, I've reached a point in my job where I have to start ferrying the laptop home in the evenings. I looked at this as a chance to upgrade my commuting rig! No problems!

So, I recently bought and installed a Tubus Fly, and bought a cheapy pannier, waterproof - but cheap and basic - so basic I won't bore you with the name of the company. Nothing notable. A recent heavy rain proved it's waterproofness, but it has no pockets, a cheap suspension system, and look like it might only last a single season, maybe slightly longer.


I love the rack --- VERY well made, with tubing almost as thick as the seat stays on the bike!! Install was clean, and it's SOLID. Makes me wonder how conservative their 40 lbs. rating is -- but I'll never exceed it on a commute anyways. I digress.

To my chagrin, the Super C saddlebag was not big enough to hold all my clothing and such AND a laptop -- the laptop *DID* fit in there, surprisingly, but it left me no room for winter layer overflow, groceries. Thus the pannier solution -- Carradice Super C holds all the normal commuter stuff with room to spare, and the laptop in a neoprene sleeve rests inside the cheap pannier between some 1.5" thick foam pads I cut out. However, this is a little clumsy, so I'm already thinking of ways to fully convert from saddlebag-dom to pannier life.

My saddlebags will survive for tours and weekend stuff, but for the daily grind I'm looking for opinions on office-style panniers -- I have it narrowed down to three makes, for functionality, weatherproofness, build, and apparent functionality off the bike:

Carradice, Arkel, and Ortlieb all make "briefcase" style panniers, all with differing mounting systems, and all with their own unique attributes. I have to admit, I'm biased towards Carradice for the fabric, build, and the luck I've had with three of their other products I've owned (which is why I was hesitant to give up on the saddlebag in the first place!) --- I had heard of Arkel, but had never seen one, and after an internet search I found that Arkel seems to be VERY well thought-thru, very well-made - but sadly not waterproof as it sits, unless I added a rain cover to my order. Back to Carradice: Cotton duck has it ALL over anything else I've used, but I wonder if Carradice has as much thought in their laptop protection, pockets and suspension as Arkel seems to have? Then, there's Ortlieb; famous fr waterproofness and toughness, but it seems always at a the expense of pockets, features and off-bike convenience -- their bags will take you around the world with maximum protection, but it seems like they are smaller, have fewer features, and it's harder to access things. At least that's my impression. There are some other options from Jandd and a few others, but for the price and the quality it seems that the three I mentioned are truly the best choices, unless I missed one out there.

So, before I rush out and buy the Carradice briefcase pannier, any thoughts from people that have used either of the other two in the real world?

Sorry my posts are always so long, folks -- I'm a details guy, and I think it gets me a quicker answer if I try to cover everything right off the bat. Thanks again!

After I get this answered, I wonder what I'll do with the OTHER side of the rack??? :)

keith Gates



Keith did get a few replies about various panniers and then a fellow who goes by the online name of "Nom DePost" sagely replied:



Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 16:45:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Nom DePost
Subject: Re: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers

> After a long stint using a single Carradice Super C saddlebag for
> commutes, I've reached a point in my job where I have to start
> ferrying the laptop home in the evenings. I looked at this as a
> chance to upgrade my commuting rig! No problems!

Plan B:

i stopped dragging the laptop around - flashdrives.
first i used a chunk of my iPod to store data and then got
into flashdrives, 4-GB so far.
also, check out this site:
<http://portableapps.com/>
(i'm typing this in portable Thunderbird.)



At this point I jumped in with my advice:



From: "Kent Peterson"
Subject: Re: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 17:03:15 -0700

Nom DePost wrote:

> Plan B: i stopped dragging the laptop around - flashdrives. first
> i used a chunk of my iPod to store data and then got into
> flashdrives,
4-GB so far. also, check out this site:
> <http://portableapps.com/>

> (i'm typing this in portable Thunderbird.)

Amen to everything Nom typed and I'd add this. A lot of us have high speed connections both at home and work. You can file transfer a lot of stuff back and forth and use remote desktops like:

https://secure.logmein.com/

My job is helping people commute by bike and probably half of those who think they need to take a laptop back and forth are amazed to find out that they don't.

Kent Peterson
Commuting Program Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington



The next day Keith posted this note to the list:



Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 18:29:27 -0500
From: "Gates, Keith W [NTK]"
Subject: [BOB] RE: Saddlebags to panniers

> https://secure.logmein.com/

> My job is helping people commute by bike and probably
> half of those who
think they need to take a
> laptop back and forth are amazed to find out
>
that they don't.

> Kent Peterson
> Commuting Program Director
> Bicycle Alliance of Washington

At the risk of venturing off-topic, I'll keep this short:

Once again, Kent Peterson saves the day -- honestly, this solution never even crossed my mind.

I just saved at least 8 lbs off the bike, the extra hassle of docking/undocking, etc. every day to and from work, not to mention the removal of risk while commuting this winter, etc.

The system recommended above works flawlessly - my problems are solved!

I'm keeping the Tubus rack -- it's so light, it doesn't matter that it's
there, and I still have the cheapy pannier for grocery runs, etc. I'm back to my successful "one bag" formula with the Carradice Super C saddlebag and SQR system. Life is good again, as I reply to this on my work computer, which is docked at work, while I sit here at home with a cup of coffee and the TV going. Bliss.

Thanks, Kent! Superior recommendation, and a great example of something non-cycling directly benefiting the cyclist.

keith Gates



I'm glad Keith has happily solved his problem. I myself go into the office four days a week and on Wednesdays I use logmein to telecommute.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way to go Kent! You totally missed
the heart of the problem!!! You are
off on some quest to answer the question he 'asked' but totally ruined his chances of solving the problem he really had: *This guy wanted to upgrade stuff on his bike!!!!* ;^)

Ok, kidding aside, here is a nuance to your and Nom's solution. On tuesdays and thursdays I get up at my usual time but I use my company
issued laptop to work from home until my son is ready to leave for school and I ride with him to school. This is family compromise that lets him ride to school but ride with someone to watch out for him. My problem is I hate to lug that computer home in a messenger bag, don't want to use a pannier, etc. I have to pull the laptop home because I have to use it for logging into company email. How can I use the flash drive solution to keep both machines in synch with Microsoft Exchange?

Anonymous said...

I spent a few days thinking about ways of commuting with my laptop last winter, then settled on remote desktop and a flashdrive. A few months later my briefcase shoulder strap failed, and the briefcase got dumped onto the road at about 20 mph. A laptop might have been damaged by that impact; the flash drive never blinked. Good solution Kent. - Raj

Anonymous said...

anonymous. I am not a fan of MSexChange but if you use the imap features and outlook it should synchronize your laptop and your office computer. Even messages sent on your laptop will be seen when you go to the office and login. Ask your admin

erik

brian said...

I completely missed this discussion on iBOB. My company has a VPN and I simply remote desktop into my workstation on days that I work from home. I was given the option to have a sweet laptop or a sweet workstation, and I chose the workstation, knowing I could just remote in and work, rather than lug a laptop around.

Tammy said...

You are brilliant!

As for the comic... thanks for the visual ;P

Wallet B. Grundle said...

Totally in agreement with the solutions provided. I'm a LOT happier now that I don't have to carry my laptop (and power supply) (and portable hard drive) (and power supply) (and various cables). I'm starting to think I need a smaller bag (well, want-but-can-justify-if-I-try-hard, really).

Jim said...

Of course, an even simpler solution is to find a way to not take work home from the office.

NewsAce said...

One other thing to toss in the mix: because I'm too cheap to buy a flash drive, I end up using www.box.net to "transport" my files. Their free account gives you 1 gig of storage space. Plus, you have the option of making any file or folder in your account a "public" file/folder, which you can then share with others to prevent problems from trying to email huge files.

mike

Vik said...

Thanks for the tip it works great and I passed it on to several friends.

rigtenzin said...

I had the same problems with my laptop. I built a special bag that held it nicely on the bike, but it was a hassle. Then I saw an 80GB portable hard drive on sale (WD Passport). I bought it and they let me expense it. Between that, VPN, SSH, and Remote Desktop I don't need to carry computers anymore.