Monday, 25 February 2013

Review (in 2 parts): ORTLIEB ZIP CITY S messenger bag

15 February 2013

Nearly three months on, my love affair with my Michaux Club bag shows no sign of abating. My satisfaction has not, however, made me faithful. Indeed, I am looking at other messenger-style bags even more now, wondering if I had been missing the beauty of how functional this style of bag is, because I couldn't get past the aesthetics. If the beauty is in the function, are all the others just as good?  Since the Commuter is so perfect for my cycling and commuting needs, I wonder if (aesthetics aside) I might have been just as happy with, for example, a Chrome Mini Metro, Timbuk2 Classic Messenger or similar? Are they all "created equal" with the rest just semantics? 

So -- all in the interests of research, you understand -- I intend over the next few weeks to make some comparisons with others bags. My criteria in choosing ones to look at are: size no bigger than 20 litres (as volume seems to be how the industry judges size), and it must have a stability (aka "anti-swing") strap included.

First up -- the Ortlieb Zip City in size small (14.5 litres). It arrived today.

First impressions:  it's MASSIVE!  Far bigger than the Commuter, which is dwarfed next to it.

How do people carry something like this on their bodies, regardless of how full it is?

Secondly, the material is advertised as completely waterproof and I'm prepared to accept that. But it's also very rigid and, though smooth to touch, rough to handle. It puts me in mind of Tyvek, or those heavy-duty garden refuse sacks provided by some Councils here in England. My fingers felt assaulted as I fumbled to open the zipper (another point bearing full consideration). I may be unusual in this regard but cold air makes my hands more sensitive to knocks and bumps and indeed more susceptible to cuts if I'm clumsy with fiddly things. This bag could hurt me, commuting in the cold of winter (and well into spring).

Thirdly, the colours are not quite the same in real life as in photos on websites. I bought the Lime & Blue colourway. The green is lighter than the bright green suggested by online photos, and the blue is darker/brighter (almost Tesco blue). My perception while window-shopping online  was that the shades of green and blue were of similar "value". They're not; the blue is definitely the dominant colour, even if used as more of an accent colour.

Fourthly, the stability strap is completely optional. In fact, the brackets that need to be fitted to the bag in order to attach the strap come in a plastic bag. So you have the option to fit those brackets yourself if you intend to use the strap, or not. This option does open the target market to non-cyclists, who won't be leaning forward and throwing their bodies through the air and thus wouldn't want to have needless black brackets on the bag.

Aesthetic impression:  It's not bad. I like the colours and I like the graphics. The shoulder and anti-swing straps are made of black nylon and totally utiliarian in appearance. The plastic hardware is bulky, driven by technical considerations not elegance. Aesthetics considerations can't be limited to visual aspects though; tactility (is that a word?) is also important. The stiff, rough material is a turn-off here.

My opinion so far probably relates to features that would be more off-putting for women than for men. Size is the most likely deal breaker here. I probably won't keep this bag. But I will look it over in more detail over the weekend, taking photos and measurements and such as I go. If I decide to give it a proper college try and fit the stability strap, then I'll write a full product review in due course. In the meantime, I will leave the tags on to reserve the option to return it to the retailer. Alternatively, especially as I may have the same dilemma with other messenger bags headed my way, I may devise a blog give-away or host a special readers-only sale, whether or not the bags are still "as new" or have had some outdoor testing.


25 February 2013

Further to my post on 15 February and in spite of my doubts about whether I'll be keeping this bag, I went ahead and fit the anti-swing strap and shoulder pad to the Ortlieb Zip City bag on Saturday.

This was quite straightforward. Full instructions are enclosed. Here are photos showing me following the step-by-step process.

The exceptions to this being "straightward" and "as-instructed" is the fact that there is a piece included that I was completely unable to make sense of! It's the curved "hook" with two prongs, identified in the exploded-view diagram titled 3.4 as "C". It is depicted in this diagram at an odd angle that makes it difficult to visualise how it is intended to fit. First I tried putting it on the end, but it fell out. I then tried fitting it just inside the interior cap, but this introduced a gap between cap and bag wall so that the screw couldn't reach, because the prongs extended past the cap - an significant scratching/poking/snagger danger to hands and bag contents! In the end, I left it off. I can't see any way that function will suffer for this.

The next thing was to fit the shoulder pad. I found this to be rather over-engineered - lots of padding and lots of "restraining" fold-over tabs. Having said that, you have to take care to use all the restraining tabs, or the pad will simply fall off.


Here is the (empty) bag on my back:


  • Capacity.   As a basic measure, I prepared a bundle of items that is typical for what I commute with:  a skirt and tights to change into, a small pouch with jewellery for the day, sometimes also shoes. If I were using this bag myself, I'd also put my handbag inside. 

    As you can see, the Zip City bag simply swallowed these items up with loads of room to spare.

    The bag felt fair comfortable, at least a reasonable fit - making me think that the large size of the bag may not be as much of a problem, in practical terms, as I feared at first.

  • Comfort.  While size in and of itself may not be an issue, the potential weight, should the bag be loaded to capacity, probably would be.

    I also noticed that the shoulder straps have a half twist where they meet the bag. I can feel these against my side (on the right) and back/shoulderblade (left).

Possible issues in real life use 

  • The design of top means opening is smaller than the area within the bag. At times difficult to put things inside the bag... almost impossible one-handedly.
  • The bag itself behaves evasively when off the body! Its rigid nature and slippery material means it moves around i.e. slides on the bed/table/desk, falls over, falls on the floor -- often while your hands are full trying to put something in or take something out (see above).
  • It's also worth noting that the zipper used to close the bag is a "TIZIP" zip which requires lubricating before use. Ortlieb's website suggests that a small tube of the appropriate grease is included with each purchase. That was not the case here, and I will be contacting the retailer about this.

Ideal purpose

I can visualise this bag being used by a man (?) who commutes with change of clothes including shoes, with or without laptop and/or files/folders. Waterproofness will be his top priority, along with large unstructured interior capacity for bulky (but not necessarily heavy) items.

I did a road test on Sunday to see how this bag performs in real life -- report here.

Do you have this bag? What do you think about it? 
What do you look for in a messenger bag? 


My reviews of other messenger bags can be found: 
  • Michaux Commuter here
  • Timbuk2 Classic Messenger XS (custom) here
  • Knog Big Dog here

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Velocouture Part 1 (2010), or Whatever Is There To Wear??

What to wear when cycling is the perennial question. For women, at least.  You see, there is always lycra, or indeed in my case merino, for those days when you want to ride efficiently and well, with very little time off the bike. "Fit for purpose" is my motto.

But then there are those rides when the point isn't so much riding the bike, but getting from point A to point B, often by way of interim points A2 and A3, meeting with friends for coffee at point A27. Being streamlined is not important - looking somewhat "normal" (as in, as if you didn't get there by bike!) is.

I started cycling for transport and for fun -- indeed, cycling as an adult, full stop -- in July 2009. As a beginner I fell in with a certain school of thought that said, if you're on a bike, then wear the right clothes for that activity. But by spring 2010, I began questioning that.

I intend to start posting more photos of myself wearing not-necessarily-cycling-clothes-that-nonetheless-work.  But in the meantime, I'd like to capture and collate here my thoughts and attempts at this back in 2010.

From the diary:

I started out cycling with blinkers on, thinking that only clothes cut specifically for cycling would be comfortable when on the bike for any length of time. Yet I hate lycra. Yet lycra's pretty darn comfortable and fit for purpose. Then I discovered, hey, for a social outing like cycling over to Wimbledon (half hour each way) to meet up with friends for a coffee, a dress & leggings & boots weren't too bad! So I went a bit mad the other way, wearing everyday clothes. Until I ruined a few good things with snags and scrapes. Not to mention mud.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A "Putative Pootle", aka a City lunchtime ride

Our friend Stephen issued an invitation a few weeks ago on Cycle Chat (my forum of choice) for a lunchtime ride round the City.  This had instant appeal as, though I've been commuting by Brompton most days this winter, I've really been missing my Fridays clubmates -- to the point where I've caught myself counting down the days to our first ride of the season (overnight to Felpham at the end of March).

So I escaped from the office right on the dot of 12.30 and made my way down Bishopsgate to the London Monument. Within a few minutes, there were 8 smiling people (6 on Bromptons) all set for a wander round the City of London in the bright wintry sunshine.

Stephen took us on a mini architecture tour -- with commentary -- with the highlight to be Christ Church Spitalfields, home of the "the finest interior in England", according to Simon, our resident architect (and Fridays founder). Alas, services were in full flow, to which some of our number were certain to be allergic, so we clustered in the vestibule craning our necks while Simon presented brief but vivid arguments on why the interior -- indeed the entire church -- is quite special.

We were out for about 45 minutes, covering about 3 miles all told, during which we took in:

The Paleys upon Pilers, a popsicle-stick-birdcage-esque wooden structure erected a few years ago at Aldgate. This marks the location of the original "Aldgate", the London City Wall's easternmost gate. The original gate had a small house above, where the poet Geoffrey Chaucer lived from 1374 to 1386. The new structure was designed by architects Studio Weave, who claim they were inspired by Chaucer’s two dream poems which apparently featured elevated temples and which he wrote while living in the house above the old gate.

Some lovely detail about the structure itself can be found here.

This is a "fold of Bromptons".
 We stopped in Brick Lane admire the spire outside the mosque

...and finally reached Christ Church Spitalfields on Commercial Road.

It was lovely to be out of on our bikes in the sunshine with friends. We'll do it again!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Not Cycling Related, but...

Spring is in the air.  

We seized the opportunity on Saturday afternoon to see how my cat Sara would do outdoors.

A little background: 
I got Sara and her brother Bailey
in December 2010 from an empty underground apartment/flat in Bermondsey where they'd been abandoned... for 3 months

(My outrage about this would take a blog post of its own.) 

At the time, I was living in an upstairs flat with no sensible way to provide outdoor access.
But it was a successful rescue and they adjusted quite happily.

Then last November I moved in with my boyfriend Adam, into a house in a quiet street in a village in Bedfordshire.

(oh, I can feel a Boo Hewerdine song coming on...)

The intention was to let Sara and Bailey settle in over the winter (including reaching an accommodation with Adam's two cats Mickey and Flora) before "re-introducing them to the wild".

Four weeks in, Bailey forced the issue by escaping... and not being found til well after midnight. So we accelerated his rehabilitation and he has been very happily going in and out whenever he likes for the past two months.

Meanwhile Sara has been very contented and happy in her little room at the front of the house. Her daily routine revolves around humans. 

Recently however she has shown increasing curiosity about any activities taking place on our front drive, often cautiously approaching the open front door.

We feel it would be safer if she develops a preference for coming and going via the back door into the garden... on Saturday I carried her out... and set her down....

She was very happy about the whole thing.... so much so that she was emboldened for further adventure the next day...

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Anticipating another off-road adventure at dawn on the the next FNRttC... just 6 weeks away!

All Change Please

Yesterday evening, the ramifications of my move to rural Bedfordshire truly sunk in, at least as far as my daily commute is concerned.

I commute from my home in a village on a hill three miles west of Luton to Luton train station, either by Brompton or by bus. When I leave the train in London, I cycle (or get the bus or tube) about 1.5 miles to my office. In between those short journeys is the longest (both in terms of time and mileage) segment of my commute. This is by train.

Yesterday, an overhead power cable snapped over a train travelling London-bound near Radlett. One end of the broken cable was snagged by a train speeding northbound. The northbound train ripped out miles of power cable. Result? The entire Thameslink line from West Hampstead to Luton had to be shut down. Reports are conflicting as to the extent of the shut-down - the position I state here was true as at 7.30pm.

Radlett cable failure causes major rail delays
First I heard of it, I was on the platform at Farringdon, being told to get on the next train but get off at St Pancras, walk to Kings Cross and get a train there to a station on the Peterborough line, from which a bus replacement service would then run to Luton. (Information kept changing: one minute we were told to get a train to Welwyn Garden City, the next to Hitchin. I guess I was lucky that they didn't change their minds yet again while I was actually on the train to Hitchin!).

I'll give First Capital Connect their due: once we got to Hitchin, there were loads of coaches, the transfer went smoothly and the coach was comfortable. I arrived at Luton Airport Parkway not much later than I would have done had the trains been running normally.

However.  While I peered off into the darkness from my warm seat on that coach, it dawned on me that having a Brompton with me -- indeed, having any bike at all with me, at any time of day, any day of the week -- would not have improved my situation. I was in the hands of the train company, at their mercy.

I've been there before. That kind of loss of autonomy, and the sheer misery and sense of degradation that builds up as a result, was a big factor in putting me on a bike in the first place, back in 2009 when I was sick of feeling helpless and decided to wrest some control back wherever I could.

When I was living in London, train failures simply meant I jumped on a bike and cycled into work. In truth, I cycled most days anyway. But still. Gone was the sense that I had no choice.

Now -- living 35 miles from central London -- cycling all the way to work isn't a viable option. Not when I'm expected to spend most of my day at work, not on a bike. More's the pity.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Cycling Blogs by Women

My friend Jane and I are brand new to this whole cycle blog lark, but we join a happy throng - just have a look at this!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

My Bike Family

Lucy - 2012 Brompton S1L

Lorelei - 1978 Puch Princess mixte

Bridget - 2010 Surly Cross Check

Robin - 2011 Surly Pacer

Baby - Circe Helios Duo tandem

Liesl - 1950s Puch Rugby Sport

Saturday, 2 February 2013


"Tan Commuter". An unremarkable name for a quite remarkable bag. Okay, so the bag doesn't break new ground, either in basic design or aesthetics. But what makes it special is that, until Michaux Club came on the scene, no one was making a bag that looks like a normal shoulderbag that is nonetheless a fully-featured cycling-specific messenger bag.

Michaux Club is a new London-based brand of "bike-friendly bags & accessories" launched early last year. I am not the first person to review one of their bags but, from what I've seen so far though (see e.g. Vélo-City-Girl's review of the Weekender bag ), other reviewers have approached the products from the other end of the spectrum as I have. They are smitten (and justifiably so) with the fashion/style aspect:  "oh isn't this great? A beautiful handbag that's also a messenger bag!"

I, on the other hand, have a bit of a "fit for purpose" obsession. It's not enough for a handbag to be gorgeous. The most beautiful handbag in the world that behaves fairly well when worn across the body (as, to be fair, is the case with all of my Kipling crossbody bags) won't cut it for me on the bike, at least not for anything more than the short term. 

My take on the Commuter is: "Wow, a functional bag that is also beautiful!"  This is a remarkably well-designed cycling-specific bag in the messenger style that happens (albeit not by chance given the designer's personal aesthetic preferences) to be a nice shoulderbag, so nice in fact that I (wearing my trade mark/branding hat) would say aspires to being a luxury brand handbag. Here, appearance is undoubtedly important. It's crucial that a product designer gets the presentation right (both the aesthetics of the product itself and the appeal of any packaging or promotional materials) if she's to create a new market or exploit a gap in the existing market. And it's the look of this bag that drew me in first. I'd been window shopping for a messenger bag for years (harbouring some concerns about how practical they are and whether they're bad for the back/neck/shoulder!) But as long as the messenger bags on the market looked like this or this or this or even this, I was never going to give one a try. (And these are the least off-putting ones I'd found, the last one even having the appeal of matching the colours of my commuter Brompton!)

I first encountered the Tan Commuter (and the Michaux Club brand) at the Bermondsey Street Festival last summer. I was doing a stint on the Southwark Cyclists stall when one of my colleagues who'd been wandering around the event came back and said "there's a lady down at the other end of the street selling bags that are kind of different". His attempts to describe them were somewhat ambiguous -- "a kind of rucksack with straps that join at the front" -- and the hand gestures that accompanied them weren't much help either but, as it was a bit quiet at the time, a female colleague and I decided to go check it out.

There were a number of bags and various small accessories displayed on the Michaux Club stall but my eyes were immediately drawn to the tan leather one the designer, Rachel Bonney, was modelling herself. First impression:  wow, what gorgeous leather!  I had to touch it. It was like glove leather. Sensuously soft, almost warm to the touch. It promised to mould itself to me, go to the office with me, to the pub, meet my friends, chat with my bikes... in essence, share my life and grow old with me! Okay, that's a bit of poetic hyperbole, but somehow the bag spoke to me. So I chatted with Rachel to get the details. The bags are entirely her concept and creation. They are manufactured by a local garment factory right here in London. She provides the pattern parts and does the three-layered reflective-detailed trim around the front flap of the bag, the factory then sewes them up. Production is slow and in very small quantities. Rachel continually reviews the design and production quality, making occasional tweaks where needed.

My Southwark Cyclists colleague was put off by the price. I wasn't. This kind of hands-on workmanship doesn't come cheap (and shouldn't). While I couldn't afford to buy one there and then, I intended to at some point. Some point soon.

Fast forward to the end of November when I received an e-mail asking if I'd like to review one of Michaux Club's products and write about it. Would I? Gosh, yes! Rachel asked which bag I'd like to have for a week or so for doing the review. No hesitation there: the Tan Commuter please!

After using the Commuter extensively for a week and having a chat with Rachel about what I love about it and what, if it were up to me, I'd change (very little!), I batted my eyelashes at Adam my partner and he bought it for me. Just as well, as I wasn't about to part with it now!
As you can see, it's taken me a little while to get round to writing this. The delay isn't due to any doubts or reservations about the bag, but because, frankly, I quickly became Michaux Club's No. 1 Fan. But how to write a review when I have so much to say about it?!  So here goes...

The colour is described as tan. Rachel intended this to match (or at least co-ordinate) with Brooks England's "honey" coloured leather saddles, handlebar tape, etc.

As the owner of two honey-coloured Brooks saddles, in my opinion the Commuter bag is a more orangey-tan than Brooks. This isn't normally a colour I'd go for - orange just not being 'my thing' - but it's actually a quite trendy colour (my partner's fashionista daughter loves it!) So it's a matter of personal taste. I was willing to consider the bag in this colour because the quality of the leather and workmanship is so good.  (It's also available in BLACK.) 

That said, the colour does seem to very closely match the honey leather of the Velo Orange brand, which is what I have on my Brompton. (Handlebar grips match too!)

The soft leather and structure mean the bag is quite "slouchy". 

An open slip pocket extends the full width of the bag at the front.

There is also a small zipped pocket on the underside of the outer flap - perfect for a phone or keys or other small items you need easy and frequent access to. I use it for my train ticket and work pass.

The interior of both the main compartment and front slip pocket is lined with a lovely Liberty print. The two zip pockets (the one inside the outer flap another on the back wall of the main compartment) are also lined with this print fabric. I understand the prints vary from bag to bag. 

There is also a sprinkling of leather trim throughout the interior of the bag - something's that not strictly necessary but which does add to the luxurious feel of the bag overall.

As you can see from the photos, the top is open (i.e. no zipper or drawstring closure). This raised two concerns:
  • "Won't stuff fall out?"  So far, I haven't had anything fall out or come close to falling out, whether the bag is stuffed to the gills or almost empty or somewhere in between. And I do chuck things about a bit. So far I've had no reason to think security is an issue, short of someone actually putting their hand in your bag while you're stopped at a right light. (I'm fairly conscious of maintaining good road position and keeping space around me, so hopefully that's a very long shot.)
  • "Can't water get in?" The bag features inserts (a kind of curved skirting) on each end where outer flap joins main body. In use, these inserts tend to buckle outwards. Surely it would be better if they turned inwards?  I paid close attention to what happened during (and inspected the bag afterwards to confirm) wet rides, and found that the folding outwards is in factbetter: when I lean forward (even if only slightly), rain strikes me from the front. The flaps effectively divert any water (coming from the front) outwards and around the sides of the bag rather than allowing water to potentially collect inside the flaps, which may get dumped straight into the bag the first time you lift the flap. 
The bag simply closes by draping the outer flap over the top and clipping the D-ring on its underside through the swivel clip attached to the end of a strap coming up from the bottom of the bag. This effectively "cinches" the entire bag closed, with the strap fastener holding the outside slip pocket close to main body of bag, even when full, and also holding the outer flap so that it is aligned to the main body of the bag. I've found this still allows easy access to items at each end of the slip pocket (under each end of the flap) and even, to a limited extent, to contents in the main body of the bag (by reaching under the flap from the end.

I like the way the swivel clip can be situated facing outwards to allow this kind of fastening to be done easily and accurately even when in a hurry.

Now turning to what is undoubtedly the winning feature of this bag:  the anti-swing, or as I like to call it, stability strap. Messenger bags are, at their most basic, designed with one long strap that goes over your head and rests on one shoulder, with the bag hanging on the other side where it then is often swung around to rest against your back.  If the bag is a comfortable bag and you don't move around too vigorously (or bend forward suddenly!), the bag will for the most stay put against your back fairly well. However, bags intended to be worn during more physical activities -- e.g. running, cycling, hiking, climbing -- aren't so good at staying in one place as your body moves.

One option to deal with this is a second strap, connecting from the main strap where it crosses your chest, passing under that arm and attaching to the bag on the opposite side of it from where the main strap attaches to it. 

This basically completes a circle:  you have straps of one kind or another around your body. The main shoulder strap takes the bulk of the weight; the secondary strap simply prevents the bag from swinging from your back under your arm or even all the way to your front (which can be dangerous if it happens suddenly).

The stability strap has a snap/popper attachment at each end. So the entire strap can be removed from the bag if you wish. (It's mostly canvas so this is useful if you wish to sponge-wash it when it gets a little soiled.)  The strap can also be attached to the bag lying against the back of the bag itself, i.e. not around you, where it stays neatly out of the way. This works very well:  the strap does not catch on things.


Another useful feature, which I am not aware of other reviewers mentioning, is the facility to attach a rear light to the strap that "cinches" the bag. Depending on how you adjust this strap, the light can be placed on the part of the strap between the bottom of the bag and swivel clip, or on the end of the strap dangling below the swivel clap. Either way, it's possible to adjust the position so that the outer flap doesn't cover up the light when it is fastened down.

One final thought on the reflective features of the bag. This is highlighted by retailers and reviewers - indeed on the Michaux Club website - as being a key safety feature subtly integrated into the understated look of the bike. I won't argue with the last point - it is indeed tastefully done and quite decorative. But I wouldn't bank on this as a "safety feature". The degree of reflection thrown back isn't enough to be effective as part of an overall safety system. I have been followed by cyclists at night (who are therefore at a similar height and travelling much closer to me than the average motorist, and positioned directly behind me), who say the reflective bits are not caught by their bike's front lights at all - not even Hope or Exposure or similar high-power lights.

However, I'd think the angle that lights hit the bag make all the difference so it's possible that that there is a useful (if minimal) degree of reflectivity for riders on upright bicycles. My use of the bag has been on my road bike and my Brompton S-type, which both put me in a quite aggressive forward-leaning position. Possibly this means the reflective strips are facing skywards.

Owners of this bag may also be interested in matching accessories for it, which  include:

- purse in matching leather with decorative stitching (with reflective eyelet detail). This is about 14cm tall and 17cm wide. As with Commuter bag, the purse is lined with a Liberty print. The zip matches those used in the Commuter as well. I have been using small pouches of this type for years to keep small things together in a bigger bag - this prevents them from getting lost in the bottom of the bag (usually in the corners or between other objects where they aren't easily felt or spotted). So I knew I would find this useful and appreciate having something that matches my bag.  (The various puncture repair tools and supplies shown on the website are illustrative only and are not included with purchase of the purse!).

- keyfob with leather tassels. Each tassel has had reflective paint applied to one side of the lower half of it - this is pretty but purely decorative.  The useful aspect of having this keyfob (or something similar if you're not too fussed about having it match the bag) is that, if you attach it to a zip pull, you'll have something larger to grasp, making getting in and out of a zipped pocket much quicker and "sure footed". (I found adding this keyfob definitely improved use of the zippers.)

The bottom line:  the Magic of this bag is how comfortable and practical it is in use. (The less-expensive, more casual-looking Weekender bag is certain to be just as good in this regard.)  The weight of the bag and all its contents just disappear when I get on my bike. This is the opposite of what my experience has been with the average (non-cycling-specific) cross-body bag, which work well when slung over my body or over my shoulder but which feel ungainly, off balance and even somehow heavier when I'm on my bike. In contrast, the Commuter is comfortable enough as a fully-loaded handbag but the minute I get on my bike, it just disappears. This week I've had it so full I'm sometimes not sure I can manage it getting out of the house.. and then I get on my bike and it all melts away. Amazing. 

The size and shape is perfect for me. And the pockets are all just the right size, shape and angled "just so", so that everything is easily and quickly accessible. I don't get into the pockets while actually riding, but I am in and out of this bag constantly, often while walking with one hand on the handlebar or stem of a bike. Whether the item I need is in the pocket in the outer flap, in the front slip pocket or in the main compartment, I can reach in, unerringly retrieve exactly what I want, use it and put it away again without missing a beat.

And look quite stylish while doing it.

P.S. These photos were taken this week. The bag has been in almost daily use in all weather for nearly two months. I didn't clean it - not even to wipe it down - for the photoshoot. It's no longer pristine. It's getting that nice "lived in" look that is one of the hallmarks of well-loved leather goods that last a lifetime. Is this called patina in the context of leather? Anyway, I love it.

VERDICT  [ added 10 March 2013 ]

Cycling-specific design features: 9 / 10
  [Incredibly well thought-out -- the shoulder and stability straps in particular. The more I see other messenger bags, the more impressed I am at the way the straps attach to the bag (swivel clips) and are easily adjustable even on the bike.]
Usefulness e.g. accessibility and comfort: 9 / 10 
  [My only slight reservation is the open top under the flap. Nothing has come out yet, but I am mindful and careful of the risk something could, even if that risk is slight. Otherwise, the bag is superbly practical and comfortable.]
Durability:  8 / 10
   [A point or two off for leather care, if you're a careful owner.] 
Attractiveness:  9 / 10 
   [Assuming this is your cup of tea"]
Value for money: 8 / 10 
   [Initial outlay is £290.  But this bag should last a lifetime.]

Overall:  43 / 50


11 February 2013

Since buying my Tan Commuter and writing the review above, I've found a few other messenger bags that, like Michaux Club's bags, are not quite as in-your-face-SPORTS-bag in style as the Chrome, dhb, Ortlieb etc bags I'd considered but couldn't warm to. Hooray, there ARE other aesthetics out there, so if all-leather doesn't float your boat, have a look at alternates like these: 

The Trakke Bairn - shown in Harris Tweed. Other colourways are available. Trakke make other styles, including the Wee Lug, which is very similar to this but quite a lot larger and which was reviewed here (a very nice blog, by the way)
Carradice's Kelbrook satchell - shown in green with brown leather trim.
Also available in all black. Part of Carradice's City Classics range.

I wish I could see both of these in person!  Do YOU have one? Please let me know what you think of it.


My reviews of other messenger bags can be found: 
  • Ortlieb Zip City S here and here
  • Timbuk2 Classic Messenger XS (custom) here
  • Knog Big Dog here
  • Trakke Bairn here and here

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