Stretchy yet tight, but which one to choose?
When looking into bicycle trailers I was reading customer reviews for the Burley Travoy on Amazon.com. Several reviews mentioned that the supplied straps were not very good. One reviewer mentioned that ROK Straps were a good replacement, and to get the long ones. After I go the Burley Travoy I also found the supplied straps to be unimpressive. They do not stretch and the material seems thin.
ROK Straps were developed as a safer alternative to bungees with metal hooks which can be dangerous when they slip and shoot towards your face. In the past years I have had some incidents with these metal hooks. Last year one of them got caught in a spoke. Thankfully the only thing that was damaged was the hook itself. Just a few weeks ago I almost got my beard caught in one while trying to adjust it. I decided to get rid of one of the stiff bungee with the metal hooks before it does some real damage.
On my previous cycling trips I usually spend a lot of time strapping down our luggage. I even wrote an article about strapping things to a bicycle. There I mentioned the differences between elastic and non-elastic straps. The ROK Straps combine the advantages of both. One thing I particularly liked is the speed with which things can be strapped down. I often spend several minutes carefully looping straps around the luggage and the carrier in a particular pattern and then tightening it so hard that my fingers developed calluses after week of cycling in Sweden.
How ROK Straps work
ROK Straps have one elastic part and one non-elastic part. Instead of hooks they have loops on one end which cannot slip off or scratch anything. The parts connect together using a plastic buckle. Pulling the non-elastic part shortens it and tensions the elastic part.
To release the strap you open the buckle. The elastic part will contract. Since it is secured around a loop it will shoot towards there, not towards you. This is unlike bungees with metal hooks where the hook can shoot towards you.
After I was convinced that these really were some good straps that would be very useful for me I wanted to buy them. The website of ROK Straps is quite confusing with all kinds of straps with different numbers, colors, widths, lengths and uses without making exactly clear what the differences are and where to get them. My best guess so far is that there are just a few different sizes which are available in various colors and are marketed for different uses with different names, but are essentially the same.
They can easily be found on Amazon.com, but getting them in Europe was a bit more complicated. Although ROK sells some straps for bicycle commuting, I did not find any (online) bicycle shops selling them. They are however widely available in motorcycle shops. Where they are sold under the name Booster ROK Straps. It is unclear what Booster means in this context. It seems that several other motorcycle straps are also sold under the same brand which are completely different from the ROK Straps. I could find anything with this name on Amazon.com
The motorcycle store that had the best price was also quite unclear. I had to send an email to make sure if it was indeed two straps in a package, and what the numbers meant.
101 means black, 180 means black with reflective material on the elastic part, 404 means fluorescent yellow material on the elastic part. 16 mm wide means that they 300 to 1060 mm long. 25 mm wide means that they are 450 to 1500 mm long. At least we got that cleared up.
ROK Straps product overview
To bring some order in the chaos that is ROK's product overview I made a table. They all come in a package of two. Some are sold in packages with quantity discount. There are three sizes:
- Small: up to 28" / 70 cm they call this the commuter strap, and is only useful for carrying small loads on a bicycle.
- Medium: adjustable from 12" to 40" / 30 to 100 cm and is probably the best choice for cycling tourists and lightly loaded motor cyclists.
- Large: adjustable from 18" to 60" / 45 to 150 cm for serious cargo haulers, bicycle trailers and heavily loaded motor cycles.
|Size||Width||Min. length||Max. length||Color||Link|
|S||16 mm||28"||Full orange or full green||View on Amazon.com|
|M||16 mm||12"||40"||Black with white reflective parts||View on Amazon.com|
|M||16 mm||12"||40"||Full black||View on Amazon.com|
|M||16 mm||12"||40"||Full pink||View on Amazon.com|
|M||16 mm||12"||40"||Black with orange parts||View on Amazon.com - Package on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Black with orange parts||View on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Black with white reflective parts||View on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Black and green||View on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Black with blue and green||View on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Full pink||View on Amazon.com|
|L||25 mm||18"||60"||Yellow high visibility||View on Amazon.com (package)|
After receiving my ROK Straps I was quite impressed by their quality. I had been buying cheap straps, and these are noticeably higher quality. The elastic part is quite firm to pull. The stitches are double stitched and the ends of the straps have been melted so that they cannot unravel.
Tightening them is really easy. There is a warning label not to stretch them more than 50%, which is something that you can easily overdo. Unbuckling them is a bit scary for the first time. The high tension is intimidating, but once you do it you will notice that the tension is released in a surprisingly controlled way, and nothing will shoot towards you.
The straps are designed to loop around bars, but if you loop the ends through each other you can make it into one piece and use it to compress a single item, or wrap it around things that are too big for the loops. Alternatively you can join several ROK Straps together to make a longer one.
Update July 2017: After using the straps for over one year they have turned out incredibly useful. Both the small and larger versions have seen may uses; to strap luggage on the rear rack of bicycles, on the trailers, and to strap stuff on backpacks.
In June one of the larger straps broke on the first day of our two week trip. It was torn apart when one of the ends was dangling, got caught in the spokes and then wrapped itself around the hub. I hit the brakes as soon as I felt some resistance from the elastic part stretching and the strap tightening around the luggage, but before I was able to stop completely there was a popping sound and the strap had snapped. I was able to tie the two ends together and use it as a shorter strap.
The strap had snapped in a place where it was already damagad. The weakness of the ROK straps seems to be abbrassion along the width of the strap. When transporting luggage with a jagged edge it damaged the strap, even cycling a short distance, a plastic edge was able to make a significant cut in one of the smaller straps.