Sunday, 16 January 2011

How I carry it all around

I commute on a daily basis.  I cycle about three miles from home to the railway station, get on the train for 50 minutes, pick up a Boris bike and cycle a couple of miles to my office. I like go to the gym some lunchtimes to do a class or some yoga.

I have to look smart in the office but unless I'm going to court (I'm an in-house barrister), I don't have to wear a formal suit.  I find it difficult to cycle in some of my work clothes, especially on the Wisp, so I keep shoes, trainers, toiletries, a suit and a spare skirt and tights at work and dress according to the weather, temperature and what I'm going to be doing that day.

Vienna has a pannier and a rear rack but, as yet, the Wisp doesn't have a rack.  I'm planning to put one on but just haven't got round to it yet.  I lock my bike at the railway station and have to carry all of my kit into London with me.

The morning routine goes something like this.   On Monday, I put my gym kit for the week in my bag, then I put in my lights and a reflective rucksack cover.  I have a short cable lock in my panniers, a waterproof seat cover and a cargo net.

So, in my bag is my purse, phones, keys etc, gym kit, SLR camera and various bits and bobs of make up, hair thingys, hand cream and gloves, lights and rucksack cover.  I put my bag on the rack and attach it with the cargo net, put on my helmet and winter hat and gloves if it's cold.  If I'm on the Wisp, I carry my bag messenger style.  I wear a pair of clear glasses for cycling in because my route in the morning is mostly downhill and it's pretty fast. Stuff gets in my eyes otherwise.  In the summer I wear my Oakleys.

I keep a Kryptonite lock and long cable at the station because they're too heavy to carry all the time, especially if i don't need to.  I lock them up on the overhead racks and leave them there all the time. The only time I bring them home is during the holidays.  I always have a couple of locks at home for when I'm out and about.

When I get to the railway station I lock the frame and rear wheel to the cycle rack using the Kryptonite lock and the long cable.  I lock the helmet and the front wheel to the cycle rack if I can or just to the frame if I can't.  I put the seat cover on if I'm not in the undercover section.  I don't leave any lights on the bike and I don't leave anything in the pannier.

At the moment I'm using a nylon canvas bag that I got from Muji.  It fits everything in, has top handles and a strap that I can carry messenger style but it's not very smart.  Sometimes I use an oilcloth satchel from Boden which is nice but doesn't fit enough in and sometimes I use a black North Face rucksack.

None of these options is ideal.  Bags carried messenger style aren't great unless you're a messenger and need your bag to slide easily round to the front to get stuff out, because funnily enough, that's what they do while you're riding!  It's really annoying especially if I'm on the Wisp and leaning forward.  I can't pedal then.  I have to keep pushing it back round.  The rucksack is ok on the way there when I'm not working very hard but it just makes my back all hot on the way home and it's not very chic.  I much prefer to carry things on my bike however, when I get on a Boris bike, there usually isn't room on the small front rack so I have to carry it all on my person.  So I need the option.

When I go home, I do the same thing except this time, I put the lights on my bike and if I'm on Vienna, I cover my bag, which is on the rack, with the reflective cover.  Below is a picture of my night-time set up.  I don't see the need to cover myself in flouro so I don't use it other than the cover. I'm writing up a post for  next week on about that.

All of this has taken me ages to figure out and lots of messing about. It isn't perfect yet.  What I'm searching for is a bag which is just big enough for my gym kit and all my other stuff, which is made of lovely soft and supple leather, which has four-way handles and which looks chic. I need four-way handles so that I can carry it in my hand or on my arm using a top handle, I can carry it on my shoulder with a strap which I can then sling over my body and carry it messeger style but with the strap converted to attach around the front of my waist to secure it so that it doesn't keep falling round to the front.  The Brooks Barbican is almost there, but its too messenger-like and male.  I need Anya Hindmarch or Rapha to do one.  I keep thinking that it's not too much to ask but that is a pretty random specification and I'm probably the only person on the planet who requires it!


  1. I'm not sure you're going to find all those specifications in one single design and make one yourself!

    I have two cycle-specific bags, both of which are messenger bags from Knog. One of them is a smaller orange coloured one and has the option of being used as a pannier. The other one is much larger, waterproof and has a waist strap to stop it from sliding about.
    You can fit almost everything into the latter bag --->

    I came across this
    ( ) earlier in the week. Not really leather as such, not really smart either...but pretty and different.

    As for clothes, I suppose I'm pretty lucky that (a)I don't have far to go to work and (b)I can pretty much wear whatever I want. (Shame the job is total pants though)! more thing: Could you not just keep a set of gym clothes/stuff at work and have them washed at a laundry? It would be one less thing to carry around.

    Good luck with the search. :)

  2. Most of the newer bicycle specific messenger bags have a side strap that prevents the bag from sliding forward, if you wanted to look into that option. (Timbuktu, Chrome, etc.)

    Here in Portland, there is a local bag maker, North St. Bags. He makes a convertible packpack/pannier which is something I covet!
    Since these bags are custom, you can always get it tweaked to your specifications.

    Since I'm from across the pond, I'll ask this question, so pardon my ignorance: Is there a reason why you don't bring the bike on the train with you? Do they not allow it during commute hours, too expensive, or is it just personal preference?

  3. Thanks for you comments and suggestions.

    The thing is, I know about most of the cycling specific stuff. What I'm after is a really lovely handbag, that will do the job, four-way strap and all.

    adventure! We aren't allowed to take anything but a fold-up bike on the train into London from where I live. That would solve a lot of my 'portaging' issues and I have toyed with the idea of buying a Brompton. It's all hills round here, so I'm not sure how successful a Brompton would be and I've not found a bike shop on a hill to test it out!

  4. I don't know if this would help, but maybe check out Queen Bee (also here in Portland):
    They've got nice vinyl handmade bags. They had a nice pannier, but I don't see it anymore. Since they are handmade, you might be able to get it modified. I know vinyl isn't leather, but I don't know of any custom bag makers using that.

  5. And that sucks they won't let you bring your bike on board! A Brompton would be a nice option for getting on the train. I rode one for a month a few years ago. It's definitely a nice bike, but I don't know how well it would do in really hilly terrain. Bike Friday and Dahon are other options worth pursuing, though neither looks as "classy" as a Brompton.

  6. I know you're looking for a chic leather bag, but what about an Ortlieb pannier? They have their 'Bike-Packer' classic which is very sturdy, and can also be carried as a backpack. I know a few male and female riders who have Ortlieb panniers and they swear by them.

    Also - you may want to go with a leather-like material, because an all-leather bag large enough to carry all your gear could get quite heavy.

  7. Ms Ding,

    I've thought since this post about the fact that an all-leather bag could get quite heavy. I remember when i had my first child that I had Mulberry Congo leather backpack to put all the nappy stuff in and I could hardly lift it when it was full. The Ortleib panniers look really good. I'll check the price over here and see how they compare.

    I recently went to Rapha for a sneak-peak at their new season's stuff and I think my dream bag maybe on it's way, if it's not too much. They have got something going on with a messenger/shopper with a waist strap for on the bike which looks as though it might be the one, plus a funky rain cover inside.

    Whatever it will be, I'm going to take my time because i don't want to spend more £££ and make another mistake. Thanks for your advice.

    Btw, what do you think about the Rack Tote from Po Campo? Is it big enough?

  8. I've been using the same Ortlieb office bag for 12 years - it's just starting to wear a little - reckon I might need to replace it in 5 years or so.
    You can get everthing in - I regularly carry a complete change of clothes, including shoes and some (yes more than one on occasion) laptop.
    Compeletely waterproof and a great securing system. You can use it as a shoulder bat off the bike. I use mine when I have to take the car and have even been known to use it as a carry on on business trips.
    I noticed they now have a nice range of office type bags.

  9. This blog have most of information about regular work. I really appreciate your work.