Red Ledge Rain Gear is the Best Value for Your Waterproofing Needs

This post brought to you by courtesy of our awesome tour guide, Sierra!

Here in the Willamette Valley, having a good set of rain gear is essential regardless of the way you might commute. That being said, good, water-proof gear is even more of a necessity if you get around by bike for most of your transit. There have been a number of times that I have left the house with no rain gear, thinking that the grey clouds wouldn’t be malignant that day, only to arrive at my destination completely soaked.

Usually the “Portland rain” that people talk about is actually just a very light, all-day mist that might render itself slightly inconvenient if you let it. This season, however, we’ve typically seen one day with constant, pouring rain with a string of very dry, sunny days in between. On the one day where it would be pouring, I would often arrive at Cycle PDX with my pants completely soaked through… and it would take them hours to dry. I decided that it was time to pick up a pair of rain pants to alleviate the feeling of wet, cold legs. So, I put the Thunderlight Pants by Red Ledge to the test.

Figure 1: Red Ledge Thunderlight Pants, size small
Figure 1: Red Ledge Thunderlight Pants, size small

The pants that I chose were the most affordable of the Red Ledge bunch, which is what really attracted me to them. I wasn’t looking for anything lavish, I saw “water-proof” and “$40.00” and I was sold. Despite their very low price, these pants function wonderfully, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the features of the Thunderlight Pants.

First of all, these pants are extremely lightweight and pack down tremendously. If I want them to, they’ll pack down small enough to fit into the back pocket of my jersey, my jacket, or my jeans. All Red Ledge products come with a small draw-cord bag to store pants or jackets, making it even easier to pack them down. So far, these are so lightweight that I keep them in my commuter pack and haven’t been caught in the rain without them.

Figure 2: Mike the Mechanic suffers from wet, cold legs. Don't be like Mike, equip yourself with rain pants!
Figure 2: Mike the Mechanic suffers from wet, cold legs. Don’t be like Mike, equip yourself with rain pants!

Another detail of the Thunderlights that I appreciate is the fabric that Red Ledge chose is very breathable, something I wasn’t expecting to find in a $40 pair of pants. Unlike most affordable rain gear I’ve tried, I have never arrived at my destinations feeling too hot or sweaty with these pants. I have only arrived with my jeans feeling perfectly dry and comfortable. These pants are unisex and I took to wearing the size small.

If there is one thing that I really don’t like while riding a bike, it is storing items in the front pockets of my pants. I’ve always found the placement of pockets on both rain jackets and pants inconvenient for biking, but this is not at all the case with the Thunderlights. These have one zippered back-pocket and it is in the perfect spot for riding. The lightweight feeling of these pants can be partially attributed to their lack of front and cargo pockets, so I appreciate that Red Ledge skipped the extras and allowed the pants to be a truly featherweight shell.

Figure 3: Sierra wears the Thunderlight Pants, size small, and our soft women's Cycle PDX Tee
Figure 3: Sierra wears the Thunderlight Pants, size small, and our soft women’s Cycle PDX tee-shirt

The Thunderlights have a tapered leg with adjustable snaps at the ankle, also making them great for cyclists. If it weren’t for the provided snaps, the leg of these pants would easily get caught in my chainring and be completed destroyed, so this is a great detail for cyclists. My one complaint is that the snaps are extremely difficult to unfasten, and for this reason I wish that Red Ledge had gone with velcro instead.

Figure 4: Thunderlight ankle snaps help prevent the pants getting ruined by your chainring
Figure 4: Thunderlight ankle snaps help prevent the pants getting ruined by the chainring

My one real complaint is that, because I am 5’2” and these pants are meant to accommodate a variety of heights, I’ve had to wear them well above my natural waistline(see Figure 3). If you are of an average height, this wouldn’t be an issue for you. But, if you’re petite like me, it is something to consider. One other aspect of these pants that I find troublesome is the waistband gets twisted very easily, so I am constantly having to straighten out the elastic(sometimes in vain). That being said, the Thunderlights are still an absolutely wonderful value, and I recommend them to anyone that is perturbed by soaking wet jeans.

These Red Ledge Thunderlight Pants are available in our shop, along with a variety of rain jackets by the same company. I haven’t had the opportunity to try the jackets out yet, but if they are anything like the pants, I believe the two would make a wonderful pair.

Figure 5: Red Ledge bright rain jackets keep you dry and visible
Figure 5: Red Ledge bright rain jackets keep you dry and visible

Blog post by our tour-guide, Sierra.

Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Pannier Review: Style In The Streets

The Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier exhibits itself as a hip urban bag capable of getting you through your city pursuits, whilst keeping your cargo safely out of the elements. Here in Portland, we put a lot of wear and tear on our equipment, and in case you didn’t know, it also rains every now and then. I took the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier for a two month test ride, using it daily through everything Portland could throw at me. Was this stylish pannier up to the task?

Thule Pack n pedal 7

Sporting a capacity of around 17l, the Commuter punches in much smaller than other panniers I’ve tried to date. For my usual day-to-day I’ve grown accustomed to Ortlieb’s spacious 40l back-roller Classic. At less than half my normal size, it definitely took some getting used to. One thing I really liked was that though it *technically* only supports up to 15in notebooks, I was able to fully insert my 17in Macbook into the laptop sleeve without an issue – this is something I cannot say about my regular Ortliebs. This is likely due to the Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter having a rectangular bottom, wheras the Ortliebs are tapered. This gives it a less “dorky” look, and really gels with the aesthetics and design of the rest of the bag. When I initially started riding, I was concerned the rectangular dimensions would lead to heel strike issues (I ride a 26in Surly Long Haul Trucker). I found that on my rack I could space the pannier back enough that it wasn’t an issue, however I could definitely see this being problematic on a bike that was smaller than 54cm, or has short chainstays – check first to make sure.


Thule Pack n pedal 14

Though Thule is relatively new at making panniers, you can tell they put a lot of thought into their “Urban” design. Some neat features include a hidden exterior pocket for cellphone/wallet, and 1-way fabric on the exterior that lets you stash a light that can be visible when on, and hidden when off so that your lights don’t get nicked. (though I’d advocate that if you were depending on this feature to keep your light safe, you should really be worried about them running off with your whole bag.) This brings me to what I consider to be the most problematic part of the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter – It’s attachment system.

Thinking outside of the norm, Thule tackled a problem that almost all panniers suffer from – getting poked in the back by the attachment system when using the bag over the shoulder, or as a backpack. Thule’s flip-panel solves this solution nicely by having one side that is smooth metal, and one side containing the attachments. This solution does suffer a weight penalty as it puts more “bulk” into the bag, and as a trade-off requires you to use an attachment system that I’m not a big fan of.


Horizontal slots, while neat in theory, have been executed poorly in this iteration of Thule’s Commuter. If you’re used to simply placing your pannier at the side of your rack, letting it slide down to the tune of two satisfying “clicks” as it locks into place, you can think again. The first week I used the bag found me grumbling as I struggled to align both attachments in the dark, rainy night, only to have one of them “connect” and then have to reset the whole bag to get the other. I did get better at judging the angle over time, however this system is on the whole less functional than vertical hook type attachments such as the Ortliebs. After about a month, I started to feel like the bag was feeling “loose” while on the bike, so when I got to the shop, I turned it over only to find that one of the screws holding the hook had started to unthread. If it had unthreaded en-route, My laptop, and camera may have ended up in the road. It was not confidence inspiring. When I threaded the screw back in, I found that I could not find that perfect harmony between “to tight so hooks won’t work” and “loose enough the hooks work, but bolt doesn’t un-thread”. Whatever tension setting Thule used from the factory makes the hooks swivel perfectly, if they could add some blue loctite to the screw threads, to stop them from de-threading, I think this would go a long way. As for me, I never could find that “like new” action, and have resorted to forcefully “coaxing” the bag onto my rack since then.

My final gripe about the attachment system is that they did not include a very well thought out “wear-bar”. Almost all of the bags that I know of include a plastic bar/hook combo at the bottom that hooks into the rack. This allows the bar, instead of the fabric to take the constant beating from rubbing back and forth. The Thule has a small magnet attachment which connects straight to the bag, and thus wear-and-tear is inflicted onto the fabric itself. Over the course of two months, a significant wear pattern exhibited itself on the bag. Nothing broke through, but I wonder about the longevity of the fabric in this configuration. (My guess is that Thule didn’t include a plastic wear bar so that the bag was more comfortable in “backpack/shoulder bag mode” with the included strap.)

According to Thule, the Commuter “Fits best on Thule racks, but will work on virtually any bike rack.” I have not had the opportunity to test this bag with Thule’s proprietary racks, but have seen them demonstrated. I feel that including a 1″ by 6″ plastic strip with magnet embedded at the bottom of the bag would make this bag last a lot longer.

If you use this primarily in shoulder pack configuration, you’re probably not going to have this problem, but for anyone that attaches this to their normal rack, Thule really needs to fix this. According to Thule, the Commuter “Fits best on Thule racks, but will work on virtually any bike rack.” I have not had the opportunity to test this bag with Thule’s proprietary racks, but have seen them demonstrated. This appears to be true, however, it is my opinion that Thule is limiting themselves by designing towards optimization of a proprietary system. If they designed their pannier to be excellent in universal compatibility, and then made a rack that took advantage of those design choices instead of the other way around, I feel that they could see much larger market adoption with this pannier.

The fabric that the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier uses is is actually pretty neat. On the sides, gunmetal grey gives it an industrial look, and the cuts of the side pockets are very stylish. It has more of a fabric, than plastic feel, which is quite nice to touch, and doesn’t smell like PVC when new. This pannier does get it right in the looks department. I also found no issue with the waterproofness of the material. I do wish they used a similar/more durable Cordura type material on the bottom, as the current material already scratched/punctured on my bag. The bottom fabric appears to be a rubber laminate, but it’s not bonded very well and is prone to scuffing off under normal conditions.

Thule Pack n pedal 18

Overall, 17 liters is a respectable city size. I feel the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier could benefit from keeping the same shape, and expanding a bit in the capacity department. I don’t think it needs to be as big as the monstrous 40l Ortlieb Backroller, however upping it to 25-28l would allow me to carry all of my regular items, and a bit home from the grocery as well. If I were to make it, I’d expand the top fabric by two inches, and make the strap 3-5 inches longer. If this bag is really crammed, you can’t actually get the buckle to thread, and latch, leaving you with an open-ended pannier, lengthening the strap would solve that.

If you routinely carry a laptop, gloves, rain jacket, camera, repair kit, and want to do it in style, the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter is the pannier you’ve been looking for. If you want to carry that, plus say, a 6-pack, a bag of salad, or something else measuring solid larger than 4″x6″ – you may want to look into something a bit bigger.

Thule Pack n pedal 1