27 September 2011

Product Review: Grass-Shopper by Marsupial Bicycle Bags...

Marsupial Bicycle Bags is an independent company based in Brentford. Founded in 2010, their aim is to make "interesting and practical bike luggage" that reflects the personality and character of the cyclist and their bike. I'd seen one if their Panniers on display in a well known London Cycling Shop -  the design certainly caught my attention and I wanted to find out more about this very different Pannier. So, when I was contacted by them to review* one on VCG, I had to give it a whirl...

The material the Grass-Shopper is made from is something that I have never seen on the Pannier market before: it consists of a single piece of Astroturf (artificial grass) which has been carefully hand stitched and riveted into making a very sturdy Pannier.
Already unique in design, you have the option of customising the bag by choosing the colour of the waterproof drawstring liner, floral decorations & how the bag attaches to your bicycle. I opted for Purple lining, Lisianthus Flowers, and Hook attachments in order to use the bag on my rear rack.
I think the customisations are a really nice touch, as it allows you to personalise the bag to suit your own style and the style of your bicycle. Fixing the artificial flowers onto the Grass Hopper was easy to do: using the generous supply of Cable Ties provided, you simply thread them through the bag and tighten around the Stems.
Both the Stems and Leaves on the Flowers are made from flexible materials, meaning you can arrange the "floral spray" into almost any position you want on the bag.

Attaching the Grass-Shopper to my Pletcher was simple: the size of the rack was not an issue and both hooks clipped onto it easily and locked into place. With these hooks, the bag should fit on any standard sized bike rack (the 'Strap' attachment option is designed to fit outsized rack rails). Testing it with a gentle tug, the bag didn't come away from the rack and was a great fit.
The hooks are small in size and blended in so well with the colour of my Pashley, it actually looked like the bag had bloomed from my bicycle! 

Of course, it was important to know just how well the bag fared when on the move with weight inside of it & how accommodating the dimensions of the bag are. I decided a good test for this would be to use it for some grocery shopping. 
As the Grass-Shopper comes with an adjustable & detachable shoulder strap, you can take it off your bike and use it as a normal "everyday" casual bag - a brilliant feature indeed! Instead of my normal "Bags for Life", I used the Grass-Shopper to pack my groceries in. It certainly attracted a lot of lovely attention in the supermarket and didn't disappoint with the amount it could hold... (what you can't see are the two boxes of sticky Chicken Wings and a large bag of oven chips concealed under the healthy stuff!) - it held my shopping in place & still had room to spare.

While cycling, it sat comfortably on the back: it didn't knock or sway against the wheel, nor did my leg touch it when I was pedaling - I'm a tall girl, so this is a very important thing for me! The bag remained securely attached to my Pashley riding back home with my shopping.

All things considered, I think the Marsupial Grass-Shopper is a fantastic bag. It's a refreshing take on the world of Panniers: the design is unique, very eye-catching and makes a fashionable addition to your bicycle. The fact that it doesn't ignore the practical elements of a Pannier is also a plus: made from durable material, it has a sturdy build and should last you a very long time. I look forward to seeing more designs and products from Marsupial in the future, especially if they are as unique as this.

The Grass-Shopper can be bought directly from Marsupial Bicycle Bags, or from the following stores as listed on their stockists page.

*This bag was kindly gifted to VCG by Marsupial Bicycle Bags for a review. 

18 September 2011

The Bikeminded and VCG Project Begins...

C&CC invitation image courtesy of BikemindedRBKC design team

Last month I met with Kathryn of BikemindedRBKC to discuss working together on ideas for future cycling projects. Plenty of progress has happened since that excellent meeting, and the first project to come from it will be the Kensington & Chelsea Cake & Coffee Cruise!

The C&CC will be a cycle cruise to some of the Royal Borough's Cafés, with the chance to sample some of the best Coffee & Cakes on offer with a degustation menu being specially arranged for the ride... including a very special luxury foodie stop along the way. With the various Coffee-Stops confirmed by Kathryn & the Bikeminded team, the next step was to get together for a practice ride of the route.

We met-up a couple of weeks ago to test out the route. It became a lovely day of group cycling as we were accompanied by The Boy*, @jackal420 and @thefixedfactor

Starting off from Portobello Road, we made our way along the planned route, taking in the beautiful quiet back roads of Kensington. There was the occasional stop to meet with some of the Cafés involved with the C&CC. Without revealing too much, we had to sample some of the delicious Coffee and sweet treats that would be part of the event... of course ;)

The practice run was fantastic & has us all very excited. The inaugural Cake & Coffee Cruise will lead on to another being organised with a larger group capacity, so keep your eyes on BikeMindedRBKC for further announcements. To those attending, see you very soon...!

*Many thanks to Ian James for the photography for the day.
More images can be viewed in the "Cake & Coffee Test Ride"set on Flickr.

6 September 2011

From East to West: A Cycle to Melograno...

A few weeks ago The Boy and I were invited to join our friend & Photographer Paul Winch-Furness for lunch at Melograno, a lovely Deli in Holland Park where he was working for the day.

Of all my Coffee-Cycle Days, this would be my most epic one to date! Having never cycled from Newham to Kensington, I loaded up the route on Google Maps and had it ready to go on my iPhone. The usual CS3 journey was fine: we broke away from it and followed the route Google had plotted. Along the way, there was the chance to take in some sights: cycling along Embankment, through a traffic free Mall & past Buckingham Palace... then it all started to take a bit longer than expected. When we ended up almost joining the A4, we realised something was rather wrong! Getting off the A4 before it was too late, I double checked the Map... The Boy pointed out that the route was actually completely incorrect! My 1st ever Google Map / cycling route fail had to happen at some point I guess! However, I did clock-up 13.4 miles on the Pashley - which is pretty good going!

Journey fail corrected, we finally rolled-up at Melograno and met Paul - capturing him at what he does best :)

I was instantly impressed when I walked in: the layout was beautiful & the food looked delicious... already I knew this was worth the cycle. Riding certainly gives me a caffeine thirst & the hunger, so the Flat White and the triple Sandwich platter I had did not disappoint at all...

Of course, after the savoury, must come the sweet... and boy was there a lot of sweet to choose from! We were caught eyeing up (and of course Instagraming) the treats on display, and had a lovely selection of them: Cannoli, a slice of Lemon Polenta Cake & a Panettone to share :)

There was time for one more Coffee before our lengthy cycle back to East London - and of course, time to capture my cycling wardrobe for the day - the sunshine meant that I could finally wear one of my Playsuits on the Pashley!
Playsuit: Motel Rocks
Earrings: Topshop
Necklace: Kenneth Jay Lane
Elasticated Bird Belt: Topshop
Bracelets: Dorothy Perkins
Open Toe Pumps: Poetic Licence
Ring: Orelia

It was a lovely day at Melograno & is certainly a place that I would happily ride back to again. It's cycle-friendly & I certainly recommend it to any other cyclists out there who love their coffee and cakes! Thanks Paul* for introducing me and The Boy to the place... we shall return soon - next time without my map fail :) 

*also, thanks for the Instagram shots Paul, and The Boy as always for the Cycle Wardrobe shots of me.
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