Going Green with Keen and Pedro's
By Jon Sharp
If you're riding your bike instead of driving a car, you're already doing wonders for the environment. Even if you still drive to work, at least your outside riding and improving your health. However, if you long to do more, and you worry about what impact you might be having on the world around you, Keen and Pedros have a couple bags that might help you sleep a little better at night.
Keen Cornell Messenger Bag
When you ride to work, what bag do you use? Is it made of nylon and rubber to shield the contents from the elements? What was it before you got it? Keen knows exactly what the Cornell was doing before it became a Cornell. It was rice bags. Yep, ordinary bags used to transport rice. In addition, it was inner-tubes. Now, however, it's a one-of-a-kind messenger bag that is well suited to hauling your stuff around as you save the world, one pedal stroke at a time.
How is it one-of-a-kind? Well, it really is made from recycled rice bags. As such, each looks a little different. One might have writing on it, another might not. There really is no telling what it will look like when you get it. The outside is made from brown paper rice bags while the interior and pockets are made from white plastic rice bags. The buckles are made from recycled aluminum and the bottom is reinforced with old inner-tubes.
Inside the bag, there are many pockets. There' a large zippered one. There are a few business card-sized pockets. There's a zippered mesh pocket that looks like it's made from ordinary window screens. There's also a clear plastic pocket that reminds me of the plastic bottled water bottles are made from. There's also a laptop sleeve built in that's slightly padded and sized to fit up to a 15.4" notebook computer.
Initially, we had a few problems with seams ripping open, but only in a pre-production sample we got. When we were sent a production unit, there were no such signs of weakening. Though not the roomiest of messenger bags, it has enough room for a trip to the office with your lunch, computer, and a few peripherals inside.
Because it is made from recycled materials--rice bags that have, presumably, lived a full life already--the Cornell isn't quite as bomb-proof as other bags. In addition, if the weather looks like rain, you might want to chose a different bag. The tag admonishes to avoid getting it wet--something the rice bags were never made for. One of the chief side-benefits of the materials is the light weight. The Cornell is by far the lightest messenger bag I've ever used. For this reason alone, I reached for it again and again.
Summary: The Keen Cornell is both a functional and light messenger bag. While it might not be able to handle the rigors of actual messenger work, it'll get your stuff to work and back. Unfortunately, even sticking to that light work lead to visible wear much sooner than I've experienced with any messenger bag I've reviewed before. Also, the chief benefit of using this bag is knowing that you gave new life to old, discarded rice bags that might have otherwise spent their remaining years mouldering in a rubbish pile on the outskirts of some city in the far east. How much will peace-of-mind cost you? In this case? $90.
Pedro's Ethik Seat Bag
With their Ethik seat bag, Pedro's also looks environmentalists straight in the eye and dares them to be friendlier to Mother Nature. Instead of using recycled materials, Pedros focuses on making the Ethik seat bag recyclable. When you're done, don't throw it away, recycle it! Not only is the material recyclable, but the ink used to print on it is water-based. (Though the photo shows a floral print, our test sample was solid black.)
The Ethik seat bag isn't just eco-friendly, it also is very sleek and light--a product of both the shape and material. It is very narrow and has a dry-bag-type roll closure which both seals out the elements and allows you to also grow and shrink the bag as necessary. It is very narrow at the seatpost attachment side--which is the source of Pedros' claim of being the most aerodynamic. There is a buckle for the seat rails and velcro for the seatpost.
Overall, the seat pack performed well and I never had any issues. It is a small bag, so don't expect to carry everything you have in it. The bag is narrow, but the roll-top closure is horizontal which can sometimes make packing the Ethik bag to its fullest difficult. I also wished that the seat-rail strap was located a little further away from the seatpost strap--which would have made the bag a little more stable.
Summary: For around $22, you not only get the lightest seat bag out there, but also one that can be disposed of in a good way. The Ethik seat bag not only carried my belongings, but also kept Mother Nature's menacing eye at bay.
Jon Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com. He recycled his first aluminum mountain bike into 412 soda cans. Read his blog (Lactic Acid Threshold).
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