Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: the Velo Orange Porteur Bag

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
For as long as I've owned transportation bicycles with porteur-style front racks, I've been looking for a simple, easy to use everyday carry bag to go with them. And while a variety of porteur bags has been available on the market for a couple of years now (see my earlier review of the Swift Polaris), none were quite what I was looking for. Namely, they were too much bag for what I needed, and they lacked the convenience of quick access. The sort of bag I had in mind would be just large enough to fit my laptop and camera equipment, would have a low profile so as to eliminate swaying, would be quick and easy to clip onto the rack, and would allow me to access its contents on the go. Before all my projects were put on hold during my move to Ireland, I had begun to talk about designing a bag of this type with an interested party, and was just about to revisit the subject this summer - when a parcel from Velo Orange put a stop to those plans. By god, they have beat me to it: They have made a low-profile, easy to use, easy to access porteur bag. And the design is simpler, more practical, and lighter in weight than anything I had envisioned myself.

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
For a Velo Orange product, it is also surprisingly un-French in appearance. I fact, it is almost shockingly plain: Just a simple black cordura sack (ballistic nylon, actually), with a choice of black or brown emblem and two sets of plastic buckles.

Velo Orange Porteur BagAdding a strap to the buckles turns it into a shoulder or messenger bag.

Velo Orange Porteur BagForgoing the strap allows the sack to be used as a handbag (or, if you prefer, "man purse").

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
These same buckles can then be used to strap the bag to a porteur style front rack.

While optimised to integrate with VO's own porteur rack (removable rail attached), in theory this bag can also be used with other racks - although there will likely be some fore and aft movement, the degree of it depending on that rack's design. When secured in the way shown here, the bag is immobile.

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
There are two zippered compartments in the VO Prteur bag: a main compartment, with padded bottom, is accessible from above. There is also a long accessories pocket at the rear.

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
By waterproofing the zippers, VO was able to design this bag without flaps, making both compartments very easy to access from the "cockpit"  -

Velo Orange Porteur Baglike so,

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
and like so.

Velo Orange Porteur BagFor me this accessibility is an invaluable feature, as it allows me to remove things from the bag without having to get off the bike and unfurl a complicated messenger-style closure system. The  combination of the low-profile design and wide opening also allows me to see the contents of the bag, rather than having to rummage inside blindly and extract things by feel. It's a system that is ideal for everything from removing a jacket at a stoplight, to stop-and-go photography. I can even reach the compartments in motion, while pedaling.

Velo Orange Porteur BagWhile the VO bag won't fit the kitchen sink, as some other porteur bags on the market, it does hold about 22 liters and measures 31.5cm (12") x 26cm (10.25") at the base. The height is expandable to 24cm (9.5"), and a system of daisy chains can be used to attach the bag to the rack in its fully extended state. The weight it is suitable for will of course depend on your rack's and bicycle's construction (Canon balls? Sure, if your fork can handle it!).

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
At the time of this review, I've been using the VO bag for just over a month. For my use case scenarios (especially photography on the go) it is pretty much an ideal product, and the waterproofing has worked reliably for me on rides of up to 1 hour in solid rain.

As far as criticisms or complaints - nothing serious, but everyone can find a couple of subjective things to whine about, so here goes: Firstly, I really wish the rail wasn't necessary for this bag to be 100% stable. Like many others, I prefer to use the VO porteur rack without the rail, in case I might need to attach large or awkward objects directly to the rack's platform on my travels. In fairness, the rail is very easy to remove, and I have even done it without tools. But still - putting it on and taking it off depending on whether I want to use the bag or not detracts from the otherwise hassle-free system. Other than that, I do wish they made this bag in colours other than black. Olive green please?

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
The Velo Orange Porteur Bag is made by a small manufacturer in Maryland (locally to VO), and is priced at a very reasonable $88. If you are looking for a practical, low key, low-profile everyday porteur bag, I see very little not to like about this one. This is one of my favourite products from VO and I thank them for the opportunity to try it.

37 comments:

  1. Wow. This is pretty great and as you say the look is a surprise from VO. I am sold.

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  2. The concept of a front mount bag works for me. I've been using the Rivendell Sackville Shop Sack and standard Wald basket combination for over a year and a half now and I couldn't be happier with how versatile and useful this set up is. The bag is used on or off the bike on a daily basis and is affectionately referred to as my "man bag". I use it for road rides to carry my tools, pump and other necessities. I'll keep one end unzipped so that I have access to a tissue or paper towel for blowing my nose or to wipe the sweat from my brow. I'll take the bike to go shopping and will over fill the bag, meaning I can't zip it shut, but instead just tie the handles together for the mile ride back to the house, nothing falls out. I clip a strap to it for when I use it for walking/hiking. For me, bikes are never just for recreation, they always have to be able to provide transportation so this combination or a rear rack with a pannier are on all my bikes. My Salsa Casseroll has both.

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  3. I too prefer the VO porteur rack without rail (in fact I bought the no rail version), but otherwise this bag is ace. Have you used it without the rail attached, and if yes how badly does it shift about?

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    1. I've used it without the rail and found it tolerable, assuming an upright bike and no epic cornering. But I don't think VO officially recommends its use without the rail. Perhaps they will chime in...

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    2. We designed it to use the rail to keep the bag and your belongings stable and secure. Making the bag work well without the rail would have made the bag much more complicated and we wanted it as simple as possible. Enjoy!

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    3. Darn, deal breaker for me. I never use the rail, I find it just gets in the way of loading up the rack when I need to carry large boxes. I was all set to head over and order one until I read that part... anyway, thanks for the review, now I know it won't work.

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    4. There is another front bag in the review queue that might be more appropriate for your use case scenario. A messenger style bag by ILE. Unlike the Swift Polaris it folds down to sit low on the rack, not boxy. The attachment system is not quite as simple as VO's, but it is compatible with virtually any porteur style rack and does not require a rail.

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    5. The addition of another strap to secure it fore and aft, stowed inside the bag on removal, would solve most of the difficulty without adding much time to remove the bag (especially if it had a similar clip system)

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  4. Maybe OT but, I recently bought a Brompton C-bag for my Brompton. It does everything beautifully. I highly recommend it to all Brompton owners. Check it out.

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    1. One great thing about Bromptons is that they can carry a boatload of weight in the front without flinching. Lots of great bags out there for Bromptons now, and I especially like the Carradice City Folder. Although normally, I just use the "bagsket" and dump everything in there.

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  5. With that kind of latching system, I'd bet it could be made to work at least decently usable on other brands of racks.
    I remember VO discussing this bag on their blog, thanks for the review. I'm a big fan of practical/ easy-to-live-with bike bags.
    I'll second your wish for other colors. Why does bike stuff always have to be black?


    I can't wait for you to discuss this bike, it's really eye-catching.
    I'm curious about the grips on there. The Rustines. When you do give us the details on the bike, please give a moment to give us your thoughts on them if you don't mind.



    Wolf.

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    1. The latching system will work on any rack of similar size. But having the rail attached introduces a set of stoppers that prevent the bag from sliding forward.

      The Rustines are excellent and shall be given their due attention soon!

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  6. Any thoughts on whether this bag would work in a Wald basket?

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    1. Probably, but it would be awkward wrangling the buckles through the basket wiring.

      Basically, the beauty of this bag is how simple and easy it is to use. But the more you deviate from the system it was designed for, the less simple and less easy it will be. For a Wald basket, personally I'd use the Rivendell Shop Sack.

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    2. Ah, there's a sucker born every minute. A backpack also works beautifully. It also has many uses beyond the bike but it's perfect in a Wald.

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    3. Yeah, my backpack fits pretty well in my Wald basket.

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    4. +1 for Wald basket and almost any bag of similar tote-esque design. Wald basket with 2 straps, each with 1 end permanently affixed = super fast attachment / detachment. But usually I use a bag from Filson which has outside pockets, and a rectangular bottom the same dimension as the Wald - is a perfect fit. I think it's their original field case or some such - it fits perfectly and can quickly come off or on.

      Though I have a bike w a porteur rack (Somafab), unless i'm carrying something big and flat, I think the

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    5. Re backpack-in-basket: Sure. You can also forgo baskets and bags altogether and just lash things directly to the front rack. That is my preferred method, unless I find a bag that is truly user friendly and hassle-free.

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    6. Problem is, at $90 plus shipping for the bag and $160 plus shipping for the porter rack, that's some serious change! Many of the reasons I use a bike is to simplify my life and enjoy things and experiences which do not require high price tags. It's quite easy and comfortable to carry stuff on and off the bike with a variety of options which are far easier on the pocket book and give a sense of pride and creativity that one can do quite well w/o the expensive brands. I've learned that most things bought for a specific use/look end up in a pile in my house.

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  7. The wrench in your bag is for removing the rail the bag attaches to! What an ecosystem you've got there.

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    1. Ha. Thankfully a wrench like that is not required to remove or install the rail : ) I had it with me for saddle adjustment (vintage seatpost & clamp).

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    2. Not a fun wrench to use on those clamps. Not impossible but a box wrench makes things much easier ;)

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    3. I've got a box wrench as well, but the one in the photo is nice and portable (in comparison) and is actually pretty easy on my hands. This, plus that 3-way hex thingie from Park Tools are my must haves for vintage bikes.

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    4. Some nuts are tight reaches and require a precise tool. Your seat arrangement doesn't look so bad for a tiny crescent wrench, but an equally tiny box wrench is so much nicer to the nut. I carry one of those Park thingies b/c it seemed practical but when a family of cyclists limped towards me with a bicycle issue and a need for a tool, and I proudly shared my Park wizard, we were all disappointed. You must live a good life!

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  8. Another request for more colors here.Gray, olive green, and for the daring among us perhaps a nice VO orange?

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    1. Especially daring if one is in Northern Ireland : )
      In July.

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  9. This bike is adorable and I hope it's showcased in a post soon. I'd love to see its pink writing up close and more of that cute fly-wing chain guard. Is this your beater? Your around-towner?

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    1. The bike is a late 1970s discarded low-mid range Viking (the only bicycle brand ever to be made in Northern Ireland), which I stumbled upon last summer. It was initially meant to be a beater, but after using it in that capacity for a year I felt bad for it and, suspecting it capable of great things, decided to clean & dress it up instead. So now it's been VO'ed and the result is - well, you can see for yourself! More about the bike itself very soon.

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  10. Velouria,
    Great article. Love VO for filling in gaps to our cycling problems at hand. VO got my old PX 10 singing on the road with a new bottom bracket, hubs, and headset. I enjoy spanking the carbon crowd with my old bike! I really enjoy reading your blog!
    Thanks,

    Ron

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  11. On another note, that is a fantastic coat you are wearing in that one shot. Where's it from?

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    1. Thanks. It's a loden coat handmade by an acquaintance. The colour is actually green, not brown as it appears in the photo.

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  12. I have this bag as well and I enjoy using it. I do wish they'd made the straps longer or adjustable, though, so I could fill the bag more.

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    1. Do you use the daisy chain to attach it?

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    2. No, I emailed VO to ask them how to do that, and they said they'd send a photo, but they never did.

      At any rate, using the daisy chain would mean the bag is more permanently on the rack, right? Which I would not prefer...

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  13. If you need the rails for the bag, are you left without a place to mount a light on the rack when using the bag? I'm assuming that this is the Velo Orange Porteur rack.

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