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.
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.
Adding a strap to the buckles turns it into a shoulder or messenger bag.
Forgoing the strap allows the sack to be used as a handbag (or, if you prefer, "man purse").
These same buckles can then be used to strap the bag to a porteur style front rack.
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.
By waterproofing the zippers, VO was able to design this bag without flaps, making both compartments very easy to access from the "cockpit" -
and like so.
For 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.
While 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!).
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?
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.