The Zixtro Spark from Alt Gear is a pretty good frame bag.  You get a good amount of room in the bag and a nice looking exterior design.  The styling on this bag is more in line with mountain bikers rather than commuters if you’re paying attention to that sort of thing.  If you’re looking for a good frame bag to store your gear, then read on!

First Impressions

The Zixtro Spark, like it’s little brother the Birdie, is water resistant to keep rain out of your bag.  From the moment I opened up the Spark, my eyes caught the large zipper grips.  My first thought was, “Well, that’s a bit excessive.”  And then I figured that this is most likely very handy when you’ve got your full fingered mountain biking gloves on.  After using the zippers, I love them.  I like that they’re easy to grab.  The oversize grip is also handy for when you need to grab something out when you’re on the go.  It might be bad form to suggest this, but what the hey.  If you have your cell phone in the bag and it’s ringing, you can easily reach in and grab it.

When I was opening the bag, I expected it to open just a bit more.  It seemed that the design should allow for this, but it felt like it was catching on something.  I think that if the zippers wrapped a bit further back, you would be able to open the case a bit more.  Both on and off the bike, I feel that the case should be able to open up a bit more than it does.

Once I looked inside the bag, I liked the layout for your tools and other belongings.  The case has a designated spot for your multi-tool…as long as it fits.  I’ve got a Topeak Alien and it was too big to fit inside the designated spot.  Sort of a poor waste of space at this point for me.  You can’t remove the walls to make room for something else.

Construction

The construction of the Spark seems lower quality than that of the Birdie.  The Birdie’s interior felt  like the cloth was better adhered and more durable than the Sparks.  This is only my gut feeling and time will be the better decider in this case.  The exterior is a much better build quality than the inside.  The seams are nicely done and the zipper is waterproof which earns this case some bonus points.  That’s one point where some companies would have skipped over, but Alt-Gear put in the extra bit to get waterproof zippers and I think it adds a lot.

Installation

The Spark installs very easily onto your bike.  Just slip the included Velcro straps through the loops on the bag and slide them around your frame.  Fasten everything up and you’re ready to ride.  Keep in mind, though:  Easy on, easy off.

Check out the video below to see how it looks installed.

Disclaimer:  This is not a paid review. Alt-Gear contacted me and asked if I would review some of their gear.  This review is as unbiased as a review can get when something new is given to you for free.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

The Zixtro Birdie case has an interesting look to it.  The sharp design of the case gives it more of an extreme mountain biking look, but after sticking it on my bike, it looked right at home on a commuter.


First Impressions

When I opened up the packaging, I immediately noticed the design of the Zixtro Birdie.  It’s not something that will sit on your bike unnoticed, so keep that in mind.  I like the lid design, though.  It’s nice to have a full length, fairly rigid lid that opens up wide enough to get access to your tools/gear inside the case.  The Birdie’s design is meant to be water resistant since the lip of the lid comes over the body to keep rain out of your gear.

Construction

The build quality of this case seems to be decent.  The hinged lid, while not made of polypropylene like most polymeric live hinges, should hold up for a long time if it is not stressed during use.  Luckily, the design of the case allows the lid to be opened very easily and there is no need to pull the lid back far.  The interior of the case is fabric lined and has a fabric divider to keep goods separated.

The material is also waterproof so that if you find yourself riding in the rain sometimes, you don’t have to worry about things inside this case getting wet.  The lid clamps over the body and has a nice sturdy catch to keep it fastened tight.  If you don’t have many tools to carry in this case, I could imagine that it would be convenient to hold a cell phone and keys in the Birdie while out on a ride.  It would have to be a smaller cell phone, though.  My Samsung Galaxy SII wouldn’t fit inside the case, but a flip style phone would fit in easily.

The Birdie is big enough for a multi-tool, a tube and a few smaller things like a patch kit.  Figure on two larger things and a few smaller things being able to fit in here comfortably.

Installation

Putting this case on your bike is a breeze.  Keep that in mind, too, because taking it off is also very easy.  The Velcro straps that the Birdie comes with make the placement of this case very versatile.  I came up with five different configurations in three different locations on a bike that it would be convenient to put the case.  Two of those locations are pictured in the gallery above and the third would be on the back of the seat post attached to a free floating rain/mud guard.  My bike doesn’t have one of these installed, but if yours does you could take advantage of this option.

Check out the video below to see how it looks installed.

To see more cases, check out Alt-Gear.com.

Disclaimer:  This is not a paid review.  Alt-Gear contacted me and asked if I would review some of their gear.  This review is as unbiased as a review can get when something new is given to you for free.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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I’ve been on a frame material kick lately and came across this concept bike that is being pushed into production.  As an avid rider, whenever I think of the perfect frame I think of something light, strong, slightly flexible and durable (doesn’t break easily on impact).  Steel is a good fit for these qualities and has sufficed for me in many of the bikes that I have ridden over the years.  Carbon has its place and aluminum has done a good job at proving that it has a (rather large) spot in the frame industry.

But what happens when something truly unique comes along?  The picture that you see above is the new Clarity Bike designed by designaffairs STUDIO.  It’s a bike frame made completely from plastic.  The original polymer was developed for military use and has some surprisingly good specifications for a bike application.  Impact strength is continually mentioned first on their blog.  I find this interesting as a first mention instead of strength.  They are not the same thing!  This is a critical point for a frame material.  In fact, reading through the post, I don’t see any mention of strength.  Impact strength in bike frame materials is a good specification to have highly rated.  No one wants a cracked frame.

They mention that it is ultra lightweight, but they don’t really give any hard numbers, instead merely mentioning that it has a lower density than polycarbonate or acrylic.  Acrylic is less dense than polycarbonate (33 versus 34 lbs/cubic foot), so this new material is in the low thirties.  Steel is around 150 which makes this material nearly 5 times less dense than steel. Not bad!  Keep in mind that this frame is injection molded, however, and the volume of the material in the frame is going to be higher because the tubing will be solid compared to the hollow, extruded tubing you’re used to in bikes.  If a bike were made of this material at some point in the future, you shouldn’t expect it to be 5 times less weight.

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designaffairs STUDIO mentions that the material has a ‘gentle flexibility’ to it and this is something that I appreciate as a regular commuter.  I need my bike frame to give a bit rolling over the road.

The cooler aspect of the potential of this material is the fact that you can just injection mold it.  This opens up a surprising range of design options for frame designers.  You can start integrating components into the frame or you can start adding modular systems to the bike to give it more functionality.  Aerodynamics would be easy to just design into the frame and wouldn’t create a difficult manufacturing process.

I think it is cool to see companies pushing the envelope with new materials and would be excited to see something like this make it to market.  If you’re still digging the idea, check out the picture below.  You can see the wall cracks continue through the frame.  Neat!

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