I was at the British Museum when I finally made up my mind. I’d cycled there, which meant I had my red Ortlieb bag with me – because wherever my bike goes, it goes too. On my bike, it’s incredibly practical. Off the bike, it’s cumbersome and awkward, and oddly far heavier than the sum of its contents. My shoulders ached at the mere thought of carrying it around the museum. What I needed, I told myself as I trotted off to the cloakroom, was a smaller, more portable bike bag. Something that worked both on and off my bike.
Since my last post on the subject, I’ve become obsessed with finding the perfect bag for cycling. I’ve spent literally hours on various different websites, searching for the bag that would meet my needs. I’ve weighed up the merits of just about every bag by Po Campo, Basil and New Looxs. I was almost seduced into forking out the best part of £200 on a beautiful Ally Capellino bag, and may yet convince myself that £120 is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for the Ortlieb Downtown QL3.
My search hasn’t stopped at bike bags. I’ve mulled over the possibilities of front baskets, rear baskets, side baskets and handbag huggers. I’ve developed a fascination with the solutions other people find to this – to me, anyway – most perplexing of problems. I’ve even taking to photographing some of the more DIY approaches.
In short, I’ve probably spent more time thinking about this than is strictly necessary. But where has all this deliberation got me? Banging around the British Museum with my oversized Ortlieb bag, that’s where.
What I realised that day, as I lugged my bag to the cloakroom, was that I didn’t need the perfect bag. I just needed the right bag for the situation.
Having been freed from the burden of finding a bag that met my every need, deciding which one to buy was surprisingly easy. In fact, I already knew which one it was to be: Basil’s Katharina shoulder bag. I’m a sucker for anything floral – if Cath Kidston ever produced a range of cycle bags, I’d be first in the queue – and it’d been a case of love at first sight with this bag. I’d just been waiting for an excuse to buy it.
What I like about this bag is that it really doesn’t look like a bike bag at all. I’ve always thought that anything cycle-specific would mean compromising on style, but not in this case. It’s such a pretty bag that it’s easy to forget that it’s a bike bag. In fact, I’ve already used it when I haven’t been on my bike, which is not something that can be said about the Ortlieb.
All of this would be worthless if it didn’t also work as a bike bag. Admittedly, in this respect it’s no match for the Ortlieb, but then I wasn’t expecting it to be. It’s a little fiddly to attach to my pannier rack and even more fiddly to take off again. I don’t think it would hold up to the kind of rain we’ve had rather too much of lately. I’m also wary of putting too much weight in it – my previous experience with Basil suggests their bags aren’t designed for carrying heavy loads on a regular basis.
But that all said, it’s still a good little bag. It feels pretty sturdy. It’s stayed securely fastened to my bike, no matter how many potholes and bumps I’ve gone over. It has pockets, which means I don’t have to root around to find my keys or my lights. It’s roomy enough to fit a change of clothes and my lunch. And best of all, when it’s not on my bike I can sling it over my shoulder and no-one need know it’s a bike bag.
So is it the perfect bag? No. It’s not a bag I’ll use everyday. But for those times I do use it, it’s definitely the right bag. And that, in the end, was all I was looking for.