Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Swift Polaris Porteur Bag

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
I am trying out a Swift Industries Polaris Porteur Bag - a front bag designed specifically to fit on porteur style racks, such as those from Velo Orange and Soma. Handmade in the USA, this is a very large, "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of bag that's surprisingly stable, requiring nothing but the rack for support. I am using it on an upright bicycle with low trail geometry. 

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
Founded in 2008, Swift Industries is a 2-person shop in Seattle. Frequent bike travelers Martina and Jason started out making custom touring panniers, eventually expanding into saddlebags, handlebar bags and city bags. Today they have streamlined their process so that standard models can be customised with a selection of colours and features. 

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
The $230 price tag of the Polaris includes choosing the colour of the fabric, trim, stitching, and reflective strips. Being the boring customer that I am, I chose an all-olive canvas with brown trim, brown stitching, and silver reflective strips. I opted to forgo the optional clear map case.

The boxy 22"x14.5"x12" bag attaches to the Porteur rack at 5 points: Two sets of adjustable straps with buckle closures secure to the rear of the rack's platform, two more secure to the sides of the platform toward the front, and an additional velcro strap secures to the rack's "tombstone" at the rear (this last attachment is not shown in the picture).  

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
Initially I was somewhat skeptical about the attachment system. I doubted that such a large bag would be sufficiently stable with only the lower support, and I thought the bag might be time-consuming to attach and detach. But I was glad to be proven wrong on both accounts. The bag contains some very effective stiffeners inside, and combined with the adjustable straps, this keeps it entirely free of either side to side, or fore and aft sway. The straps and buckles are fairly easy to manage, taking no more than 30 seconds in total to attach and less than that to detach.

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
The bag features a cordura exterior, with a waterproof vinyl interior. At the front is a zippered front pocket and a headlight mount. D-rings are added to the sides for an optional shoulder strap. For those who do not wish to attach a strap, a short carrying handle is attached at the rear. On the left side is an external U-lock holster that fits a standard sized lock snugly and securely. The flap, featuring reflective strips and expandable straps with buckle closures, opens away from the rider. 

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
Both functionally and aesthetically, the design of the Polaris strikes me as a messenger bag that has been converted for porteur carry. The main compartment is immensely expandable. The spacious interior is free of dividers - you just pile things in. There are internal pockets handy for carrying tools and spare tubes. 

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
Given the size and design of the Polaris, it is not feasible to retrieve objects form the bag while cycling. Opening and closing it are multi-step processes. And once expanded, the height of the open bag might block the rider's view on the bike. 

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
Depending on the rider's size, it may not even be feasible to retrieve things from the bag while remaining standing over the bike - the reach to the buckles at the front is fairly dramatic. In short, the Polaris is not designed for easy en route access; it is assumed the rider will access the bag once they reach their destination.

Swift Industries Polaris Bag
A number of things impress me about the Swift Polaris Porteur bag. The quality is top notch, and the bag has a "production" rather than a DIY look and feel to it; it is apparent that they have made a number of these already and have the process down pat. The waterproofing is well thought out: Not only is the interior vinyl, but the roll top prevents water from coming in from the sides. And, perhaps most importantly, the attachment system really works to keep the bag stable. I have tried much smaller bags that have swayed without additional decalleur support, but the Polaris feels glued in place. 

The large size and the messenger-style design of the Polaris offer the freedom to carry a great deal of stuff on the bike in an enclosed, sturdy, waterproof, expandable container. Those who routinely travel with technical equipment, piles of books, and the like, will find the Polaris very handy. Those seeking a more compact bag for commuting, or an easy-access randonneuring bag, will probably want to look elsewhere. I should also mention that I find the shape of the bag slightly awkward for off the bike carry, but not overwhelmingly so. All that said, Swift Industries does take custom orders and can make alternative versions of this bag to fit a customer's needs. They also make front bags for Cetma racks, Gilman front bags for the Brompton, and Ozette rando bags, as well as a variety of panniers and saddlebags. Overall, some great products for a variety of uses. 

---

POST SCRIPT:  Q&A

I've received a number of questions about this bag over email. Rather than try to incorporate the info into the text retrospectively, I post the answers below:

Q: Is there a way to attach a cable lock?

A: This is how I am carrying mine. It does shift around a bit, but not enough to affect handling. Fine for city use, though might start to drive you nuts long distance.

Q: What size U-lock will fit into the holster?

A: I am not well-versed on U-lock sizing.  A typical, standard one should fit, such as this one from Kryptonite.

Q: Will this bag fit a laptop?

A: My 13" Macbook air, inside its padded carrier, fits, but you won't be able to go any wider.

Q: Will this bag work with drop bars?

A: I have 42mm width drop bars on my roadbike. Just tried to fit the Polaris in between them. It's a tight squeeze that would render most hand positions unusable.

Q: Do the straps interfere with any of the rack's light mounts?

A: The straps do not interfere with any part of the VO Porteur rack. I have no experience with the Soma Porteur rack.

Q: Is there any way to tuck in the dangling straps?

A: I don't think so. But while aesthetically not great, they are nowhere near the front wheel, so perfectly safe.

Q: How much weight is this bag rated for?

A: It's your rack and bike that will be the limiting factors, rather than the bag. Be careful carrying a lot of weight on your bike unless it is designed to do so and made of appropriately robust, touring+ grade tubing. As VO puts it: "Parisian delivery bikes were reputed to carry as much as 110lbs of newspapers on similar racks, but of course they had strengthened bike frames and forks, not only racks."

61 comments:

  1. Dammit I wrote a big thing...anyway I don't think either the bag or bike designs matter a lot if the system can not carry say 40lbs. with ease. Have you carried this much yet?

    Otherwise one might as well get any normal bike and a rear rack.

    Ultimately I'd like to know if this system is substantively faster, more efficient, less taxing than that Radish at the same weight. One could easily set it up to yield the same position as the mixte and find out...:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judging on hauling capacity alone, it does not matter. A multitude of systems can cope with a <40lb load equally well, it's just a matter of which setup the rider prefers and which their bike best reacts to.

      I had the mixte set up as upright as the Radish until recently; the difference in handling overwhelms all the other differences. Both bikes are some of the funnest bikes I've ever ridden. But I'll keep the bike comparisons separate from the bag. Tomorrow is Radish day, I think.

      Delete
    2. Yea the question is more about speed vs fun or handling. Surely one is faster than the other.

      Oh you don't have to tell me proudly designed bikes are fun-one of these is closer to a thirty mile errand mule; I'm not talking about local puttering so much.

      Delete
  2. I have been using the predecessor to the Polaris on my Pass Stow rack equipped city bike for several years now.

    Way more space than I need for the stuff I bring back and forth to work on my commute. The ease of removing and placing it back on the rack make it ideal for making multiple stops at all the speciality food shops between work and home.

    Just bought a set of Swift panniers which I hope to put to work soon.

    Definitely second your endorsement.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The bag is cool, but what I'm really waiting for is the post about THAT BIKE! The glimpses of it are soooo tantalizing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At this stage I am done finding out everything I wanted to know about the bike's real-world performance, so will write about it very soon. Next week I think.

      Delete
  4. Oh my goodness! This bike!

    Ahem. Although I'm all about the commuter bags, the product review is very detailed and well thought out as per usual. Cheers for this and the Brompton tip.

    Ohkay

    ReplyDelete
  5. I admit that I don't really understand the whole porteur thing. Why would anyone want to carry so much weight and bulk up front? Maybe a delivery person who needs a large, flat, platform? And wouldn't one require a bike specially designed for this type of bag? Anyway, are there visibility issues with something so large? I would worry about that, especially at night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's forget the word porteur for a sec and all its niche implications. Let's just call it front carry or something. Aside from delivery persons, some people simply prefer to carry weight on the front of their bike. Look at Dutch bikes - as in the ones ridden in the NL by real people - many are equipped with enormous rack-mounted front crates into which the rider will just pile stuff carelessly. It can be a useful system, if set up properly. That last bit is key though. In my experience it's a lot harder to get a front load setup right than a rear one. If something sways or bounces or pulls to the side in the rear, not really a huge deal. In the front, it can be terrible.

      As for this bag specifically: No, it does not affect visibility, assuming you are not in a racing position on a tiny bike - in which case this bag is the wrong choice anyway. Af far as needing a specially designed bike, it depends whom you ask. Personally I remain unconvinced that a low trail design is necessary to carry front loads.

      Delete
    2. I used to ride with loads on the front and found it awkward and potentially dangerous. The ride was always about eight miles and I'd carry everything from groceries to books to junk....Eventually, i moved to low riders in the front which helped, then just a rear rack and panniers. The other day when my son was visiting and I returned from the grocery store with maybe 40 lbs of stuff in my panniers and on my rack, he commented that the bike felt empty and smooth while riding, like there was nothing there. I couldn't agree more. Stuff always bounced around in the front set-up and it was always a battle. No longer...Just think carrying things in the back and lower is better, that way gravity helps things settle and the front wheel isn't bothered.

      Delete
    3. If you stand out of the saddle and rock the bike a lot the tail wags the dog too much.

      Delete
    4. 'Personally I remain unconvinced that a low trail design is necessary to carry front loads.'

      I don't think you've put sufficient weight on the front to truly know.

      Delete
    5. When I hear/see it expressed, the "low trail is good for front load" sentiment extends to medium and small loads as well.

      As far as 40lb+ front loads, my experience is sparse. I've ridden, on several occasions, some fully loaded front load cargo bikes (high trail long johns & low trail bakfietsen), but not systematically enough to draw conclusions. But I do have some test rides in the works that might prove enlightening. The proto-mixte is not designed for that kind of weight.

      Delete
    6. OK thx. For lesser weights low T is prolly not a big deal. Low step over + low T not necessary for the most part for porteurererering-

      Delete
    7. I have used an extra-large CETMA rack for five years now. It's been used in seven different setups on five frames. I have carried loads in excess of fifty pounds and used it as my front rack on a 1000 mile tour. Most of the time, though, it's empty as it's usually on my commuter and I don't need the extra capacity.

      I wrote the above to show that I have used a front-loading method extensively and am fairly knowledgeable as far as real-world front loading experiences. Also, none of the bikes have been front-load geometry. Two frames were early 90s MTBs, one was a 80s tourer, one was a '00s tourer, and one an '80s sport tourer. So all those bikes had quite a bit of trail.

      All this said: even with big loads, it's not "dangerous." The 50 pound TV I hauled across town was...an experience... but I went slowly and carefully and I had no problems.

      It is absolutely ideal for grocery trips: just stuff everything in a box, strap it on the rack, and go. Much easier than loading up panniers, in my experience. If you load carefully -- I will use a sweater to prevent jostling sometimes -- it is rock solid stable. I find the weight easier to control when it's hooked to my handlebars. Easy to stop and go at lights, and riding out of the saddle is much better. Handling is not good, but as long as you ride carefully it's not dangerous.

      I also appreciate being able to haul big, awkward objects like chairs or whatever relatively easily.

      Overall, I will always have a bike set up with a big front platform rack. It is simply way too handy to go without. Add in a trailer and I have a super-high capacity cargo bike that becomes a normal bike in two seconds.

      Delete
  6. Excellent review.

    I have a general question about bags. In April I will be doing a 70 mile charity ride between London and Hastings - a route that is challenging because if numerous steep hills.

    Is a handlebar bag appropriate for carrying stuff on a long haul likethis or should I get a rear bag or even a rucksack on my back?

    Many thanks in advance

    Poppy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Without knowing more about your bike, the safest bet is probably a medium sized saddle bag, such as the ones from Carradice.

      Delete
  7. I like that there's a manufacturer out there fulfilling a need. I also applaud quality. This seems to meet both needs.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My fiance said she'd gift me an Ozette for my birthday this month.

    Sadly, Swift is not taking orders until February 1st...makes for a lackluster birthday present!

    ReplyDelete
  9. That is a big bag! Swift also make a fine rando handlebar bag. There was recently some fighting over one on ebay. It's also nice that they will do business with people outside the US which Acorn another couple bag building company(gorgeous stuff!)refuse to do.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have visited Swift Industries! Martina is so nice and accommodating,and it's wonderful that you can customize your bags. I'm hoping that a pair of waxed canvas Roll Top panniers are in my future!

    ReplyDelete
  11. will a negative response be published here?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just one man's view, but I like the front end of my bikes to be clean. I enjoy seeing the front tire and fender. Unless one is doing heavy duty touring I say put the weight behind you. Boxy bags in front also take away from the aesthetically pleasing curve of the handlebars. Just my opinion though - others will see it differently.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've carried at least 40 lbs. in my Swift bag on the Pass Stow rack.

    I have a bike set up for low rider panniers as well. I prefer the top loading set up on rides when I plan on making multiple stops and do not want to leave the pack on the bike. For the reasons V points out above, it is a lot easier for me with a single bag up front when I stop, remove the bag, and then put it back on when I head off again.

    Some very compelling arguments were made recently in the V Salon by a person who builds front loading racks that keeping your stuff in one bag up front makes a lot of sense for off road touring as well. Certainly makes enough sense that I plan on giving it a try next camping trip.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sometimes I wonder whether we are trying to carry too much stuff on our bicycles. I know that commuters need to bring necessities, and others pick up groceries on a bike, but as a general rule wouldn't less be more, by way of lightness and fun? I see lots of riders in our city hauling what looks like camping gear for a week. Is it all necessary? We are so cluttered as a society; is this spilling over to our beloved steeds as well? just asking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With you to an extent.

      My bike with the Swift bag is low trail. I don't like the ride without a load up front. Since work replaced my lap top with a tablet, I find myself riding my mid- trail bike on non-grocery days.

      On the other hand, the low trail porteur rack and Swift bag work so well with loads, I find myself enjoying these rides as much as when it is just me and the bike.

      Delete
    2. See, that's the sort of thing I don't experience. The proto-mixte pictured here has 29mm trail. I will sometimes ride it with a rear pannier or two and nothing in the front. She does not seem to care. Similar experiences with other low trail bikes. Different people must be sensitive to different aspects of ride quality.

      Delete
    3. 29 is LW. How much weight?

      Delete
    4. I am bad at estimating. Ranging from pannier with laptop+camera+bike lock, to that plus 2 full grocery bags. Bike itself is fairly lightweight (27lb). Feels fine with an unloaded front.

      Also, Austrian city bike. Heavy duty tubing, bike weighed 50lb+, geo like a roadster except low trail (35mm I think). I routinely carried loads of heavy things in its rear folding baskets. Like, sacks full of apples from the orchard sorts of things. It was fine, at least I thought so.

      Delete
    5. Anon 1/8 6:27pm, I can see your point, but I think there is a place for "sporty and light" and also a place for "utility". I think having more options for carrying stuff, and the "mainstreaming" of the notion of carrying stuff on the bike is better than "as stripped down as possible" philosophy that dominated urban cycling for many years. All this meant was people tried to carry everything on their back instead, leading to a market for what is basically the Polaris bag on your back. I tried that, and don't like it.

      Delete
    6. Part of my experience can be chalked up to familiarity.

      From the first day I had the city bike I loaded the Swift with the lap top in case and an Abus chain and lock designed for motorcycles and weighing nearly 12 lbs. Throw in a rain coat, spare inner tube, tools, lunch and whatever other doodads I carry around, and the bike has always had a load up front. Take the load off, it seems different.

      Along with the tablet replacing the lap top, your recent piece on the Park multi-tool inspired me to get one. Paired with a Leatherman, I have all the tools at less than half the weight (and more important - bulk) as before. Abus is now making ultra-light but still very strong locks. Altogether my daily commute load is much lighter and more compact.

      The current LT city bike is a beater. I am in the Retrotec queue. Originally planned on getting a deluxe LT city bike. Now I am thinking of having Curtis build me something still LT but more in the line of an off road tourer then use the Clockwork around town except for grocery days.

      Delete
    7. I'm probably one of those that looks like I'm carrying around camping gear for a week on my commute, but it isn't necessarily the case. I generally leave one pannier attached to the bike, and the pannier in question is very large and holds its shape when empty. But I basically just leave it there and treat it the way a driver treats the trunk - if you want to carry something, you just toss it in.

      It's not necessarily a matter of cluttering up my modern life, bike included; it's more a matter of having the capacity attached as a default so that I don't have to think about it if I need to carry something any more than a car commuter makes a decision in the morning about whether to bring the trunk along. To me, that's what a commuter/around town/utility/etc. bike should be: you don't have to plan, you don't have to think about what you're doing and where you're going and what you need to carry today, you do as little maintenance as possible. You just grab it and go and take it completely for granted as much as possible. :)

      Delete
    8. This guy is just so dispirited: http://humofthecity.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/2257.jpg

      Delete
  15. Replies
    1. Less so now than I used to be, but yes.

      Delete
  16. I've had an Ozette Rando Bag by Swift in everyday use for, I'd guess, the past two years or so. If it is anything to judge their other product line by, the bag you write about is going to be very tough to beat. Mine has stood up to the daily rigor of carrying all manner of things, from clothing to food to camera gear and artist paints, etc.; rain, shine, snow, sleet. The material is light and tough, and I love that I got to "design" my own bag by selecting from a variety of color configurations.

    ReplyDelete
  17. One thing that always struck me about the typical urban cyclists in Germany, who just toss their stuff into their front baskets and go, and also the ones here who have baskets or crates on the back into which they just toss their stuff, is that somehow their stuff never seems to go flying even though it isn't strapped down. For a short time, enticed by the idea of just carelessly tossing my stuff in, I rode around with a basket on my rear rack. But that was short-lived, because I still had to have some kind of strap or lid to keep things from bouncing out. And the weight I'd put in it would often put too much stress on the rack from rocking back and forth and going over bumps.
    I guess I probably just ride faster or more aggressively or over more bumps and curbs and stuff than those people, but I still have always looked at them serenely cruising down the street with a bag of groceries or a handbag or backpack resting comfortably in the basket and NOT bouncing out and thought, "How come I can't do that??"
    For the detractors, at least with a closed porteur bag you can just toss your stuff in and it won't go flying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my experience the Germans do ride at a more stately pace. I ride a bike with a front basket attached to the frame and stuff does like to jump out going over bumps and speed humps at higher speeds - especially round things like tomatoes and oranges

      Delete
  18. HI, nice review. I have used porteur rack/bag extensively for the last two years. The bike is a Kogswell P/R with a low-trail fork, which is designed to carry heavy load up front. I have used two different porteur racks--VO and a Roseland rack specifically designed for the Kogswell Fork. I used Polaris's predecessor Pelican for a while before switching to a custom bag made by Ely Rodriguez of Ruth Works. Though the Pelican is of very high quality, some of the issues you mentioned in your review--inaccessibility of content while riding or even standing over the bike, for example--led me to have Ely make a custom bag.

    Now the Ruth Works bag attaches to my front rack with an ortlieb pannier hooks and two velcro straps in the front-bottom, and I have a kryptonite thin lock cable attached to it so I can lock it to the bike when I go run my errands. I typically carry a thin/light grocery bag in the porteur bag so I can take it out for shopping. When I am done, I simply drop the entire grocery bag with the content in the porteur bag and begin riding.

    The bag opens toward me, and I can access the content while riding much like a boxy handlebar bag. The ortlieb pannier hooks are quick-release and taking the bag off and putting it on is pretty easy, though carry a boxy bag off the bike is not easy so the bag stays on the bike virtually all the time. The bag can stay open, and the lid simply folds down to the front of the bag and doesn't obstruct my view

    Besides being a daily workhorse carrying up to 50lbs of grocery (I have carried a 20lbs bag of brown rice AND 30 lbs of grocery from farmers' market once), I have also done a 200k brevet on it once and toured with bag filled up with stuff twice now. Because the bike is designed to carry a moderate to heavy load up-front, the bike stays extremely stable at speed, even as I descended the winding roads of the Santa Cruz mountains this past weekend (with a full load in the bag).

    My wife carries all her stuff on her 1982 Trek 720 in panniers on a Tubus Logo rear rack, as the Trek 720 has extremely long chainstays and is designed to be very stable with heavy rear load. I agree with many folks who have already posted here, bike designs matter the most when deciding where to carry the load. I do think that I appreciate some of the design element of my Ruth Works bag more than the Swift, such as content accessibility during riding or standing over bike, and the fact that the bag can stay open when big content overflows and I can still ride. But the Polaris looks like a great bag for the right use.

    Here is my blogpost comparing my wife's and my different touring set up during our short tour to Santa Cruz last year (which we repeated again just this past weekend):

    http://bikegarage.blogspot.com/2012/01/santa-cruz-3-day-trip-by-bikes-part-4.html

    Here is a set of pictures of my kogswell, many of which with the Ruth Works bag:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/franklyn/sets/72157613524232554/

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nice review, V!

    I've had a Pelican, the Swift predecessor to the Polaris, (the one made for the 5-rail Cetma rack) for four years now and used it pretty much daily in all seasons for the first three years I had it.

    I have never been happier with a bike accessory purchase than I am with that bag.

    (I guess full disclosure, I am now pretty close with Martina and Jason. They are really nice!)

    Swift Bags are super tough, I've sat in a tent and watched a raccoon give up on getting into my bag after apparently opening and pillaging my comapanion's Ortlieb h-bar bag. It was very cute.

    For city riders, the bag is easy to remove, a real boon when you are taking it inside with you everywhere you go. Like V says, it feels totally secure when it's on there.

    It's absolutely waterproof even in very heavy Seattle storms.

    Great looking style, in an urban hipster-meets-retro-tourer kinda way. This comes from Martina's background at ReLoad Bags, I'd guess.

    Until my family grew and my work-related cargo needs expanded, this bag served as the "trunk" on three different light-touring setups, a B'Stone RB-T, a Fuji Special Tourer and a Nishiki mixte, all late 80's/ early 90's road bikes. I've used it with (wide) drop bars and two different upright/ sweptback bar set-ups. In my experience, I can certainly feel the load in my bike's handling. The bike rides just a little differently depending on what's up there. Some handling compromises result, I am less able to make a long shoulder scan if I've got a heavier load. However, I find this preferable to a single loaded panier dragging one side of the bike's rear into every turn or carrying and removing two panniers everyplace I go.

    Nowadays, I mostly ride an Xtracycle and use a basket in the front so I can more easily toss in my daughter's discarded gloves or toys.

    Still, the Pelican is in fairly regular use on my lighter bike an I am sure it will stay that way for a very long time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I've sat in a tent and watched a raccoon give up on getting into my bag after apparently opening and pillaging my comapanion's Ortlieb h-bar bag."

      Surely that needs to be in one of the customer testimonila blurbs on their website? : )

      Delete
    2. oops
      testimonila = testimonial

      Delete
  20. Post Script: Q&A

    I've received a number of questions about this bag over email since having posted this write-up, so adding a Q&A at the end of the post.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm gonna take a wild stab at some of these...

    "Q: Is there a way to attach a cable lock?" Probably not the intended question but mine is: how do you lock the bag to the rack? Since it's custom I'm sure you can spec some loops on the bottom, through which a cable or mini U could be run. Lot of hassle but hey so is a LT porteur.

    For straps dangling you can get elastic or plastic buckle strap keepers. Easy. REI, camping store, or maybe Swift.

    Drop bars -- depends on their height from the rack. If low then width of bar is the defining metric. That or less with brifters. Pretty much no room with them, actually.

    The touring tubing+ comment - for front loads only it's overkill to make the bike ride like a brick using it all around. Selective placement, yes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "how do you lock the bag to the rack?"

      I take the bag with me, because there's no easy way to carry the contents anyway. For those who want to lock it, I guess you could run the cable through the D-rings? Wouldn't take much too snip off one of those cloth loops of course, but then neither would it take much to snip through a thin cable lock.

      Delete
    2. I'm thinking the bag functions as a milk crate, dump your other bag in a la Free Loader bags.

      Ultimately this kind of bag is too nice to leave unattended. Is it cumbersome off the bike? Maybe. Would you walk into a meeting with this? Maybe a non-profit.



      Delete
    3. Right. It cannot in any way be mistaken for a briefcase. But great for a photographer on the job.

      Cumbersomeness off the bike is only slight, good size/cumber ratio I'd say, and I am probably on the picky side in this respect. Carrying it by the loop handle works nicely, though I am sure strap is even better.

      Delete
    4. At risk of stating the obvious since we're talking non professional bags this is just a standard msngr backpack like my Freight Baggage, which has a carry handle as well, stands up on its own. All you'd need is a bungee or compression strap for the bike and have the ability to portage OFF the bike.

      Delete
    5. The Polaris is pretty much a messenger bag. With the exceptions that its base dimensions are more squarish, and that many mbs would be collapsible/soft, whereas this one has a supported bottom and side stiffeners.

      Some people just do not feel comfortable using bungees to secure things. So with this bag they get rack-specific straps & stiffeners. The Polaris also offers the option of a clear map case on top, and later I learned that you can get some custom rider-facing pockets added. Price is pretty much the same for the Polaris as for a good handmade messenger bag. Choose your poison.

      You might have mentioned this already, but what model Freight Baggage do you have?

      Delete
    6. I have medium roll top, which is huge. And heavy.

      Pro tip: no bungees, compression straps. 3 of them live on the long tail. They never whack you in the face. Xtracycle sells some great ones natch.

      Pro tip 2: Lack of stiffeners means the contents sag slightly, creating little hand holds on the rack.

      Delete
    7. "compression straps"

      Hmm okay, need to try them.

      Delete
    8. Xtracycle Cinch Straps is what they're calling them.

      Delete
  22. For the sake of full disclosure, what would it cost for one to ride the set-up pictured here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean the bag + rack combo? Well, the bag is $230 as stated; the racks for which the bag was designed are in the $100-150 range. There might be others.

      The bike is a handmade prototype; not for sale. A variety of bikes will work with this setup.

      Delete
    2. No, I meant a custom low trail, 650B with lights, fenders, racks, and lovely bags to go with this front end carrying bike.

      Delete
    3. Wide, wide range. There are framesets now that are quite affordable, starting at around $500. Components are up to you. But further, I would argue you do not need a low trail bike to carry this bag. The Swift website & flickr account show all sorts of bikes, from vintage 10 speeds to modern mass-produced and custom, set up with the bag.

      Delete
    4. Okay, you got me curious. If you want to go low trail and current production, you could get an almost complete VO Polyvalent for $1200. Add whatever components are missing, plus rack and Polaris bag, and you'll come in at under $2K I believe.

      Delete
  23. Adding to your Q&A, the Swift bag does not interfere with Pass Stow nor Cetma light mounts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...although the bag you have is a previous model, and I understand they may have changed some things with this iteration.

      Delete
  24. I'm setting up my VO-Swift rack/bag combo on a Campeur frame now...what light mount did you use (it looks different from the VO bracket) or was it custom?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete