Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review - Howies (Timbuk2) Messenger Bag (Medium)

Bought from
Price Paid: £30, shortly before they were reduced again to £24 :/

Addendum: Howies' collaboration with Timbuk2 seems to have ended, and they now offer two self branded messenger bags, the Chevron Bag, which is a really interesting idea (I'm not sure the reflectives are quite right for traffic behind though), and the gorgeous Hand Me Down bag, which costs a fair amount (to say the least) but is built to last forever.

The bag I review here is essentially the Timbuk2 meduim, so hopefully the information is still of use.

I ride a commute that consists of two cycling parts (2 and a bit miles, 12 and a bit miles), with a train journey in between. I'm generally carrying work clothes, something to read, waterproofs etc, and found the load space of a rucksack a bit inconvenient at times (essentially tall and narrow, meaning that if you packed the thing you want under the waterproof, a degree of unpacking is necessary).

The courier bag appealed because of the wide, shallow load space - in theory, this means I can get to things without unpacking other things. It struck me that it might also be a more convenient place for my train ticket etc, given the ability to access the bag while wearing it.

Timbuk2 messenger bags seem to be reasonably well regarded by commuters, and the chance to pick one up at a lower price than the somewhat eyewatering £80 RRP was too good to pass up, even though the Ltd edition one does look slightly like it's made out of '70s curtains. (Sorry Mr Oakley).

First Impressions:
The bag is very well made, and under the cotton duck outer is a solid looking waterproof liner. The main load space contains a good sized organiser pocket (more than enough room for spare tubes etc) that consists of pen slots, a large zipped pocket (which contains patch type pockets (I put my tubes in those), smaller zipped pocket, and a clear, id type pocket (which seems a bit useless to me, as asking someone to peer into your bag to see your license/security pass etc is, well, odd). On the outside, you have one decent sized zipped pocket (under the main flap when the bag is closed) which has a pocket without a closure behind (good for wet gloves, for example).

The bag arrived from Howies in good time, and ordering & delivery was straightforward, as it has been every time I've used them.

In use:
Well, the bag swallows up a deceptively large amount of stuff - I used it on a short shopping trip when it first arrived, and was able to cart a boxed DAB radio, and two boxes of washing powder home in it. My commuting gear goes in very easily, and I suspect I could carry a pair of shoes in addition to all that without really stretching the bag at all.

It is important to remember that the back of the bag is unpadded, and as such a degree of thought is needed to pack it so that you aren't tormented by stuff digging into your back throughout the ride. The main carrying compartment is one space too, so you need to give some thought to whether things will slide about in it.

It also may not be suited to the lower position of a racing bike - unless the bag is packed exactly right, it will inevitably slide one way or the other across your back, and seems to need constant readjustment. Again, the key to this is packing properly, but this particular pack is one I manage to do once a week at most, it seems. I suspect that a more upright riding position (on a flat bar bike, or the hoods of a drop bar bike) would make this far less of a problem. More burly riders may also find that less of a problem, as the stabilising strap may sit better for them. (I find it doesn't go quite high enough up the main strap, personally, and would be better if it could be fitted over the shoulder pad).

In Summary:
Solidly built, huge carrying capacity, but expensive at RRP, and may not be ideal if you ride head down a lot.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Sort of Cyclist Are You?

Like any group of people interested in things, some cyclists have an urge to classify their two wheeled brethren.

I don't really have any answer to offer here, although I do think some sort of Cosmo style "What Sort of Cyclist Are You?" quiz would be helpful.

My contribution would be this question;

Another cyclist waves to you - do you;

a) Wave back
b) Give a slight, barely perceptible nod
c) Wonder whose party you met them at
d) Mentally assess the net worth of their bicycle and kit, waving only if it matches or exceeds your the value of your own bicycle and kit
e) Look around to see who they were waving at
f) Ignore them, they're probably some sort of serial killer
g) Ignore them, otherwise you'd be waving at everyone, and where would that end up?
h) Ignore them, as your goal is to normalise cycling, therefore there should be nothing unusual about seeing another cyclist that merits such a gesture and as such you should obviously SHUN this traitor to the cause

(My answer is A, incidentally).