Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Velo Orange Croissant Bag: Small, Tidy, Classic

While I prefer a large saddlebag for long distance, on my fixed gear roadbike I wanted something minimal: a bag just big enough to hold a few necessities, but small enough to hang neatly behind the saddle without sticking out to the sides. I considered a "bike burrito" style wrap, but ultimately I like structured bags with secure closures and multiple attachment points. There are several options out there, but I was already placing an order with Velo Orange and decided to get their Croissant Bag while I was at it.

When I removed the bag from its packaging, it was larger than it had looked in the pictures and I was worried that it would not fit in the space under my saddle. But as you can see, everything fit nicely. So even if you have a bit less than the recommended "fistful" of seatpost showing, it should work. The bag retains its structure perfectly, and the straps stay in place. There is no bouncing, and nothing rubs the tire or fender.

Close-up view. The leather and canvas feel to be of good quality. The leather is a medium brown that somewhat (but not exactly) matches the colour of Brooks "honey", as well as the colour of amber-shellacked twine.

View from the front. The lower strap goes around the base of the seatpost; the upper strap threads through the rails under the saddle (not through the bag loops). Installing the bag is fairly straightforward.

The bag opens by unfastening the strap closure and untying the white cord that holds the inner flaps together.

Inner flaps with cord.

Inside, the Croissant bag is shaped like a Chinese food take-out container, and holds about the same volume. (I do not suggest that you stuff it with fried rice, though I found it tempting.) Notice the stiffener in that little pocket on the bottom - that explains how the bag keeps its shape so nicely.

There is not a great deal to say about a bag this small and this simple, and perhaps that is a good thing. It looks and functions exactly as I hoped it would. The Velo Orange Croissant Bag is an excellent choice if you need a small saddlebag that is neat, structured, well-made, and classic. 

28 comments:

  1. I just purchased a similar bag from Acorn Bags--the medium rear bag in tan (http://acornbags.bigcartel.com/product/medium-bag). I really like the size of these bags. It makes me feel very streamlined.

    ReplyDelete
  2. it looks like VO drew more than a little inspiration from the gilles berthoud bag, but then made improvements. for example, the berthoud bag does not have a stiffener, and as consequence, deforms somewhat when it isn't stuffed. i also like the tie-closure flaps as a secondary containment measure-- another feature the berthoud bag doesn't have. lastly, the price is certainly right! the berthoud bag sells for double, and does not appear to be of any better quality than the VO, at least based on your pictures. i have the berthoud version and although i haven't seen a VO bag in person to compare, can say that the berthoud doesn't seem any better or worse made than the carridices or minnehaha that i have.

    i find this size bag is perfect for short rides. it can hold my wallet, cell phone, camera, multi-tool, patch kit, compact pump and a spare tube. while it won't fit any clothing, it is theoretically possible to buckle another leather cinch strap (or toe strap) around the existing strap to cinch a rain jacket or sweater to the bag.

    ReplyDelete
  3. kara - That one is cute! What bike is it going on?

    somervillain - Whenever there is talk about manufacturers imitating Berthoud or Carradice, my question is whether the Berthoud and Carradice designs are in themselves original. My feeling is no; these were simply the names that survived from "back in the day" when such designs were generally popular. And if that is indeed the case, then imitating them - especially if the imitations involve improvements - is fine in my book.

    I haven't compared the Berthoud saddlebag with this one, tough the Berthoud handlebar bags are mighty impressive compared to others I have seen. I almost convinced myself to buy an Ostrich handlebar bag from VO, but then saw Elton's gray Berthoud at Harris Cyclery and couldn't do it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. copying something but making key improvements is fine in my book, too. i have little interest in a copy of something that has inferior quality to the original. but on the other hand i admire when someone can take something and improve upon it--as i suggested VO did with their croissant bag. the japanese camera, auto and bicycle industries certainly did it, and i own japanese examples of each :-). i was complimenting the VO, yet noting that it is indeed a copy, at least in form, size and color, of another bag that has been on the market for a long time. whether VO intended to copy a design that was simply popular "in the day" or merely try to bite into the market share enjoyed by the one other bag maker who still sells that design, is anyone's guess.

    kara-- i love the acorn bags! but how come whenever i go to their storefront, they always seem to be sold out?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Veloria - The acorn bag is going on my Betty Foy. I have to admit they look pretty great together. Perfect the for the rides I have planned.

    somervillain - The one thing about Acorn Bags is their limited availability. I think they are a small mom and pop operation so they tend to release a small batch of products at a time, and with little notice. They give updates on products for sale via Twitter. In my case, I followed them on Twitter and when I saw the bag I wanted was available I jumped on it! It isn't the best business model, but I'm sure happy with my purchase.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't mean to turn this into a discussion about manufacturing and design practices, but this whole topic has been of interest to me lately. One thing I've noticed is that when companies are criticised for copying classic designs, that criticism is selective. For example, I have never heard anybody criticising Jitensha Studios for producing their (very expensive) handlebar bags in the style of TA/Berthoud, but VO is criticised for it all the time (both their own bag and the Japanese "Ostrich" bag they carry). Similarly, I was amazed by the negative sentiments out there toward Zimbale for "copying Carradice". Why the selectivity, and how are Acorn and Jitensha Studios better than VO and Zimbale?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Let's remember that this style of bag, as well as the handlebar bags, were made long before Gilles Berthoud or I were born. All these bags are inspired by pre-war French designs. The French were so far ahead of their time... We just strive to further refine the classics.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Velouria,
    I think some of the criticism is based on the perception (right or wrong) that some of the copying is an 'homage to great design' and others is a 'copy this cheaper, in places with less good worker protections and questionable environmental policies b/c that's what the market wants'

    It's a difficult situation and not a simple one, either to assess. Is work done in Taiwan, for example, substantively better than China? What about work done in Mexico or Canada vs Taiwan or Japan? How do you factor in environmental policies or the impact of importing things from very far away vs having them produced closer by but potentially costing more b/c of labor costs?

    so it's not just about 'copying' something or not - b/c let's be clear - everything is a copy and variation on something else. Anyone who tells you they have had a new, original thought is selling something, but it is about the motivations behind the copy and the resulting output FROM the copying.

    Not obvious or fun as a concerned consumer to decipher.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Doesn't it seem a little bit encouraging if "the market" wants better design than the ugly and unworkable we've been mostly stuck with for so many years?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Chris - Thanks for your comment; that is exactly what I meant.

    skvidal - I do realise that. But based on what I know, that perception is inaccurate when it comes to the difference between the manufacturers I mentioned.

    Emma - Yes it does! And to think that even as recently as a year ago, most of the bike shops around had no idea what a real pannier or saddlebag even was.

    ReplyDelete
  11. skvidal: I'm not religious. But I think the Book of Ecclesiastes said it all when it comes to bike design (and a lot of other things): "There is nothing new under the sun."

    You also make good points about how and where a product is made. Given current practices and policies, most of us couldn't afford to buy "neo-retro" stuff if it weren't made in a low-wage country. And some of it wouldn't be made at all: The manufacturing facilities are disappearing in the US and Europe. Probably the best we can do is to research whoever is marketing the product to ensure that they are having their products made in non-exploitative conditions.

    Velouria: Have you noticed that the less-expensive producers and merchants are accused of "copying," while the more expensive ones are lauded for being "inspired by" an old product? It reminds me of what I see in the academic world: When a freshman uses someone else's ideas or words, s/he's accused of "plagiarism." But if a prof who wins awards and grants does it, they are said to be "appropriating" the material.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have used the velo orange croissant bag now for well over a year. It hangs from the Brooks pro saddle on my Heron Rally. It holds a lot and looks so much better than the typical black nylon seat bag. I attached a blinky light to the leather cross strap but it kinda sags and point downwards. I guess some type of stiffening material would help that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anon - I have the same problem when I attach a light to almost any bag, even when the attachment point was specifically designed for a light : (

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great bicycle blog - lot's of helpful content.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great blog, thanks--you've inspired me to do my own fixed conversion of an old French road bike, which has been an incredibly fun project.

    On the "copying" issue: what I find terribly ironic is that when one reads reviews of the Electra Ticino bikes, they are often criticized for "copying" VO--which is of course hilarious, because VO is itself "replicating" older design models.

    I see this as performing a service: without VO, where would we find parts for classic bikes, such as French bottom brackets?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Richard - That is funny! But I draw the line at Electra Ticino bikes and such. Not because of the "copying", but because of the quality and the watered-down style. The prices they set for those things are not low enough to justify it.

    Justine - The more expensive something is, the more "artisanal", of course : )

    ReplyDelete
  17. Croissant bag? No, I actually like Chinese take out bag much better!

    ReplyDelete
  18. somervillain - I saw the Berthoud bag which the VO Corissant resembles today (at Harris, in gray), and it did have a stiffener, in the same location as the VO bag does. The stiffener was sewn into the bag and not detachable, but definitely there. Also, seeing the Berthoud bag up close, it is shaped differently, more "curvy" than the VO. Taking the fact that I love gray out of the game and looking purely at the shape/utility, I am not sure which I prefer; both bags seem nice.

    ReplyDelete
  19. hmm... mine is older; i wonder whether the stiffener is something they added later?

    ReplyDelete
  20. See if yours has a pocket for a stiffener, maybe someone removed it. You could then cut a plastic sheet to shape.

    The VO bag seems just a bit larger. Not sure of actual volumes.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I can't tell from the photos and I've looked back at the previous post on this bike, but what type of wrap do you have on the bars of this fixed gear? I absolutely love the white Panaracers and am thinking about using them on my commuter, but want that color you have on your bars as well...cork? I can't see it clearly enough. Thanks!!
    Nicholas

    ReplyDelete
  22. Nicholas - It's Cinelli cork tape in natural. The Panaracers feel *very* nice!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just ordered the VO bag and love it. They're doing good things over there - and I love that Chris K has weighed in on the discussion. Copy schmoppy. While I agree that we need to be responsible in our consumption, so that nobody is exploited, let's not make the mistake of dismissing things produced in the East for latent (or explicit) racist reasons.

    By the way, a small lock fits nicely inside the bag, and tightened in the rail fastening strap. I find it also helps keep the bag up and away from the brake cable.

    ReplyDelete
  24. With regards to electra "copying" VO, the difference is that VO started the French bike-trend in America, and electra came rather late to the game with many parts that, when held side-by-side to VO parts bear an uncanny resemblance except with regards to quality..

    the VO parts on the other hand, while clearly based on many existing designs, never stoop to the downright duplication of electra, but bear the mark of thoughtful consideration...

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi, I was just curious as to where you got the leather wrapped thermos/bottle. I just got a Brown Brooks Saddle for my green fixed gear also. Instead of the VO bag I opted for the matching Brooks Brown D Bag. The thermos/bottle (or leather cover) would be an awesome purchase to finish off my bike. Particularly because I'll be using the bike to ride to hospital rotations and I'll be needing water/coffee at all times. =)

    If you could e-mail me at mspropst@gmail.com where I could find it, I'd really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. >>Hallows blurted: ...While I agree that we need to be responsible in our consumption, so that nobody is exploited, let's not make the mistake of dismissing things produced in the East for latent (or explicit) racist reasons....

    That is an incredible assertion. There is far more exploitive, oppressive manufacturing, environmental degradation, and product quality issues than would be needed by consumers to justify not buying budget asian product knock-offs.

    That said I have used the VO bag, and it is a nice piece, but the straps began to unravel so I sewed on a shoulder strap and made it a camera carrier. Another bag has taken its place.

    ReplyDelete
  27. How to keep a clip-on taillight from drooping: Just ball up a piece of duct tape and stick it under the light. They are very directional, most of them, and it's important that they point straight back.

    - Mark (another rider pleased with his VO Croissant bag)

    ReplyDelete
  28. A quick question....

    Would this bag work on a bike that uses cantilever brakes with a rear cable hanger?

    ReplyDelete