In my head, I have a picture of the kind of cyclist I’d like to be. Glamorous and perfectly styled, I would pedal effortlessly, arriving at my destination without a hair out of place and nary a drop of sweat on me.
While it’s unlikely I will ever achieve this completely, I can at least take one step towards making it a reality – thanks to the Hill and Ellis range of bags.
Launched earlier this year, the range was created by Catherine Ellis, a keen cyclist frustrated by the lack of attractive, well-made cycling bags that worked both on and off the bike. So she set about creating her own.
So far there are four bags in the range, in both women’s and men’s (or perhaps unisex) styles. They’re all made of high quality leather, and are designed for the discerning cyclist who wants a pannier bag that doesn’t look in the slightest bit like a bike bag.
These genuinely are beautiful bags. There are cyclist friendly features on them, but they’re discreet – such as the reversible reflective strips, the hidden pannier hooks, and the rain cover that packs away into a little matching case when not in use.
I’ve been trying out the Dorothy bag, and have had lots of admiring comments from friends and colleagues who were amazed that something so gorgeous was designed to use on a bike. I’ve taken it to work, to restaurants, to the theatre and even to an awards ceremony, and no one could have suspected it was anything other than a handbag.
Clearly it worked well off the bike, but what about on the bike?
Like all the Hill and Ellis bags, it’s designed to fasten onto a rear pannier rack. I found the hooks a little tight, which made taking the bag on and off quite fiddly – I took to pushing the hooks from underneath, rather than trying to pull the bag off – but newer versions of the bag have different hooks, with more of a gap in them, which should solve this problem.
Once on the bike, the bag felt very secure, and I never had to worry about whether it would stay on. It kept its shape very well, even with a full load, and didn’t sag at all. There’s a protective metal bar running along the bottom of the bag, to stop the leather from rubbing directly against the pannier rack. While this helps keep the bag looking its best, it does also result in a slight rattle while cycling.
You’d be forgiven for thinking such a beautiful bag isn’t designed for taking out in the rain. I was certainly reluctant to try it, for fear of damaging the leather. But I was perhaps being a bit over-cautious – the beauty of leather is that it looks great even when it’s weathered a bit. If you do get caught out in the rain, the bag comes with a removable rain cover, which is very effective at keeping the bag dry. It can be a bit of a struggle to put on – though this got easier with practice – but if it weren’t so tight it I suspect it wouldn’t work so well at keeping the rain out.
The one drawback for me was the size. At 12.5 litres, the Dorothy isn’t the biggest of bags. It’s designed for the cyclist who travels light, which I am not. There wasn’t enough room in it for everything I tend to carry around me with – although, that said, I did manage to fit a dress, pair of tights, shoes, wallet, keys, phone, lunch, small makeup bag and my bike lock in there!
The Dorothy bag is probably the most beautiful bike bag I have ever seen, and may ever see. While it’s clearly designed to work well off the bike, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked on the bike, too.
Of course, a bag like this doesn’t come cheap. At £154.99, the Dorothy is the cheapest of the Hill and Ellis bags. While that may seem a lot, bear in mind that you’re essentially getting two bags for the price of one – a smart handbag, and a pannier bag.
For some, the price tag may just be too high. But if you have the money and you’re looking for a bag that transitions effortlessly from bike to work and beyond without compromising on style, this may be the bag for you.
• Doesn’t look like a bike bag
• Keeps its shape well
• Fastens securely to pannier rack
• Rain cover works well
• Quite small
• Fiddly to attach
Bag available from Hill and Ellis website.
Review first published on London Cyclist.