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Beautiful bike pannier bags. No really.

Beautiful bike pannier bags. No really.

Updated for Summer 2021!

I had a hilarious conversation by the bike racks at the farmers market this weekend. A woman and her family had just ridden up, and we started chatting about my Sahn helmet (but have you seen my new bike helmet that looks like a hat??), the merits of no holes in your helmet (ventilation v style and not getting rained on). She noticed my Linus pannier bag and was amazed to see a such a nice-looking bag be a pannier, and not look like a WATERPROOF RACING CYCLIST kind of bag.

I admit I have spent maybe more hours than would be strictly healthy searching out bike gear that does not look like Bike Gear, if you know what I mean. In my moments sweating up a major hill, then walking up the rest of the hill, then stopping at the top texting my husband about how I think I might throw up or something, but trying to look nonchalantly busy with an important message from a cool person about some pop-up supper club, I am deeply embarrassed about my obsession with nice-looking gear.

But then I think – what, I can’t have anything nice until I can do the Tour de France? Forget that. If I’m going to suffer trying to get up these damn hills, I’m going to have a nice jacket/pannier bag/bike basket while I do it. *stamps foot*

So now that we’re all on the same page, let’s look at some pretty pictures of nice, functional panniers that don’t look like scuba gear.

linus the sac

The aforementioned Linus’s The Sac. I’ve been using this one for about a month and I really like it. Fits my 13” Macbook in a sleeve while still being able to close with the powerful magnets at the top. I’ve also fit a 1lb bag of kale, a bunch of radishes, a small bag of nugget potatoes, my wallet, my make-up bag, and a package of smoked salmon. So you know, it’s flexible. Small ring and padlock included should you want to secure it to your bike.

New Swedish brand Weathergoods makes some sleek vegan leather options that look like a proper work bag, but hides secure pannier clips for your bike’s rear rack. Not only that, but the insides show the same attention to detail, with secure laptop sleeve and small pockets for phone, keys and other bits. Not surprising considering it was designed by two cycle commuting Swedish women. Vegan leather is not a cop-out here, but a great design choice, because if you’ve cycled in the rain a few times, you know your bags get absolutely soaked. You don’t want a nice leather bag going through that.

Dutch bike accessories brand Basil is a great place to start when it comes to beautiful baskets and bags. Their bike pannier options are excellent. This Wanderlust Carry All comes with pannier hooks under a zippered flap, and loads of space inside, with some compartments to keep your small bits contained. It’s water-resistant too. I love this dark bird floral version.

Image courtesy Bobbin Bicycles

I have a beautiful old pannier basket from Bobbin that I love, so I’m thrilled to see this gorgeous sac with handles model on their site. The Daytripper pannier comes in mustard, black, bright blue, and this candy-apple red. There are two hooks on the back to hang on your rear rack, as well as a detachable shoulder strap. This water-resistant cotton bag has that nice outer pocket you can see in the photo, as well as a little pocket inside and a roomy main compartment.

Dutch brand New Looxs makes cute, slightly sporty but quite affordable bike panniers. I love this nautical blue stripe double pannier. Rain-resistant polyester won’t hold up for mega downpours, but your stuff is safe from a shower or two. I like the rear reflective strips and the quick clip closures. Because these panniers are quite a bit cheaper than some of the other ones on this list, it would be quite fun to have these around for beach trips or picnics. There’s a single shoulder bag of the same jaunty blue stripe if you’re looking for something a bit less cargo-centric. Super cute.

If you’re looking for more storage capacity and the ability to attach panniers around a child seat, this double-bag from Basil is an excellent budget option. It’s got a 35L capacity, reflective bits to make you more visible in the dark, and a closure that allows you to lock your panniers to your bike. I love that these are so roomy, but also actually beautiful. That’s a bit of a Cinderella pannier, I have to say!

This Willex shopper can hold a whopping 13 litres of stuff, and is really, properly waterproof. It has four little knobbly feet on it, and it’s built to stay stiff, so you can set it on the ground and it won’t slump over into a puddle. Belgian brand Willex have their own special locking system which means you can be sure it’s not coming off your rear bike rack accidentally. The pattern isn’t my absolute favourite, and the other two colourways are butterflies which is really not my deal, but it looks like a very solid, practical shopper for a very reasonable price.

Image courtesy of Bike Belle

I have a deep love of satchels, and Bike Belle doesn’t disappoint with this red and white canvas version. Water-repellant canvas with leather trim, this retro beauty has a zippered flap that covers the pannier hooks when you take it off your bike, so you won’t catch it on your clothing. It also comes in cherry red. There’s a shoulder strap tucked in there too.

Tourbon is a brand I hadn’t seen before, but I like their waterproof canvas bags. They do a nice over the rear rack double bag for a reasonable price. They roll up when not in use to save space, and you can detach one and bring it with you as a shoulder bag.

Have you found a beautiful bike pannier? Please do share.

This post was originally written in 2018, updated in August 2020, February 2021

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Things I love: Bandbox bike helmets

Things I love: Bandbox bike helmets

Bike helmets. I know lots of people don’t like them, question their efficacy, and chafe against helmet laws. And while I appreciate how annoying they can be, I have also known a couple people who have avoided serious brain injury by wearing one. When you have a child and ride with them a lot, it is just easier to wear one than constantly argue about why they have to and why you don’t.

Bandbox bike helmet with beret cover
Bandbox bike helmet with beret cover

So – I’m going to wear a helmet, why not find a way not to hate it?

Bandbox is a small millinery/helmeterie (?) based on the east coast of the United States, and they make beautiful custom covers that fit over their bike helmets. I had been lusting over them for awhile, but let myself be deterred by cranky people on the Internet saying they looked weird. Why do I listen to these people? I will never know.

Bandbox bike helmet sporting their Hollywood helmet cover.

This is how it works:

You buy one helmet, and choose the strap colour that will blend in best with your skin or hair colour. Then, choose a cover, or covers. I have four covers for my helmet: a winter felt cloche, a wide brim blue straw hat with a big pink flower, a smaller brim black straw hat, and a black wool beret. I change them depending on what I’m wearing, or what the weather is like.

Changing hat covers is easy. Inside the hat is a drawstring-like arrangement, you just undo the cord and pop off your cover.

Bandbox bike helmet with their Louisville helmet cover and my own lily of the valley floral trimmings.
Bandbox bike helmet with their Louisville helmet cover and my own lily of the valley floral trimmings.

I love my Bandbox helmets, but the main downside is the cost. A helmet and cover will set you back 150 USD, and the covers on their own run from 50 – 80 USD. I started out with one summer and one winter cover, and only invested in two more a year later. Of course, once you own the helmet, you’re good. Could you just buy a big hat and put it on there…? Well, not really. I think you would need some millinery skills to fit it to the helmet, and affix the drawstring arrangement properly. The covers are all handmade.

For me, as someone who cycles every day and wears a helmet every day, I feel like my lovely helmet that looks like a hat was worth it.

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5 Things You Need to Commute to School by Bike

5 Things You Need to Commute to School by Bike

My seven-year-old son and I bike to and from school every day. It takes about 10 minutes each way, and is mostly flat, so it’s an ideal commute for a smaller cyclist. He is on his own bike and I am on mine. This isn’t an option for everyone, I know – in our last city his school was much too far away and up a giant hill. We’re now in a small European city with extensive bike lanes and an incredible amount of cyclists on the road, so it feels like drivers are much more aware of us.

There are a few bits of kit that make this much easier, most of them really inexpensive. I’ve lusted after cargo bikes and bakfiets, but the reality is with one child we just don’t really need it, nor can we afford it. So if you’re thinking about changing your commute, or just want to ride with your kids more often, take a look:

Bike rearview mirror

Rearview mirror

This bendy-armed thing might look a bit ridiculous, but it has made such a difference. It’s hard not to turn around constantly to see what your child is doing, but with this mirror I can always see him. It minimizes those bike-wobbling full body visual checks too, and allows me to keep my eyes on what’s going on in front of me as well. It just fits on your handle bars, no need to remove grips.

Front and rear baskets, bungee cords

Because we bike to school, there are school bags and sports kit, plus the unwanted jumper or coat on the way home. It’s quite hard to cycle with a backpack on when you’re small, so I have both a front basket, and a big rear basket with a four-hook bungee cord thing that spreads over whatever I have crammed in there. I find this set-up easiest so I am free from backpacks too, and my bike can accommodate whatever comes home from school.

Front and read bike baskets

Lights for everyone

In the autumn and winter, it’s quite dark during commute times, and if it’s raining, visibility to car traffic is tough. Having lights on your own bike and your child’s really helps. Lots of kids helmets also have lights on the back which is a great feature, as rear lights on kids bikes are quite low to the ground. My son has cheap LED USB battery lights on his bike, but I have dynamo-powered lights on mine. I have an after-market bottle dynamo, which is like a little bottle shaped thing next to my front wheel that I can click into place, and it rubs along my tire, generating energy that powers my front and rear lights. I like this because all my lights are screwed permanently in place, and never run out of power. It can make it harder to pedal, and it’s not quiet, but I do mostly city cycling, so it works for me. Also, if my son’s lights run out of battery, at least his helmet light works and mine always do.

biking to school

Gloves and cowl

These gloves don’t need to be fancy – in fact I buy a pile of cheap stretchy gloves from H&M, as well as his main pair, which are fingerless with a flip over top to make them mittens. In the autumn and early winter it can be 1ºC when we set out in the morning. He also has a cowl made from fuzzy fleece which can be easy to whip up on the sewing machine – it looks like a single loop, so no ends to flop about.

biking to school 2

Seat covers for wet weather

Sitting through school with a wet bum is pretty horrible, so we have a selection of waterproof covers to pull over our seats. What we’ve also used: plastic bags tied underneath or shower caps. And if you’ve forgotten to put one on and your seat is soaking, use the seat cover anyway and just sit on it, keeps your bum dry for that ride at least.

Do you cycle often with your kids? How about riding to school? Let me know in the comments!

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The gorgeous bike pannier Indiegogo campaign you need to check out

The gorgeous bike pannier Indiegogo campaign you need to check out

You know me, I am a bit, er, obsessive when it comes to bike panniers that look like lovely bags. I mean, other than super sporty things that look they’re going on a hike afterwards. I am an upright bike riding, wear my regular clothes that I’m going to work in kind of cyclist.

I have lusted after some of the gorgeous accessories from Polish bike shop Bike Belle for several years, and now they have an Indiegogo campaign to fund their new MIRA line of panniers. And you will want to get in there now.

 

au lait elston swing velvet

There are still some early bird pricing perks left, so pop over to Indiegogo and support them. I don’t really wear any purple, so the Swing Velvet is out for me, but the Au Lait has had me hovering over the Contribute Now button many times today. I mean really, look:

au lait 2

I particularly like how they’ve managed the pannier clips, with a zipped cover so they don’t snag your clothes as soon as it comes off the bike. It’s the one downside of the Bobbin Straw Pannier I have now.

pannier clip cover

So, which one would you choose? I need a winter bike pannier, right?

 

All images courtesy of Bike Belle

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Five essentials for my bike commute

Five essentials for my bike commute

Bike to Work week is coming up soon here in Vancouver, and this year I actually do ride my bike to work. Albeit a few days a week, and it’s only a 8-10 minute ride. However, thanks to some serious research and great gear, it feels easy. I am not a CYCLIST. I don’t change when I get to work, I don’t go super fast, I wear heels. My bike is a lovely Raleigh step-through with a basket. As with many exercise-related endeavours, it pays to get some bits that you love, that will also make doing the exercise easier. Here are mine:

Cleverhood rain cape. This being Raincouver, if I decided not to bike every time it rained, I would never bike. I have yet to find a raincoat that doesn’t make me feel like I’m slowly stewing in my own juices, so the open bottom of this rain poncho is ideal. Not only that, it allows me to wear all normal clothes underneath, including whatever layers I need for the cold. The houndstooth is woven with reflective fibres, so shows up clearly in dark rainy weather, but looks normal and cool in daylight. The hood fits under my helmet, and the thumb loops help me keep the cape on while cycling. I’ve had endless compliments on it whenever I show up somewhere, which is better than ‘whoa, it’s really raining out, isn’t it?’ the subtext being ‘you look like you waded through the ocean to get here’. The clincher for me: made in the US by decently paid workers. Cleverhood rain cape.

straw pannier, image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier. I love my pannier dearly, and it took months of research to find. I am not a sporty cyclist, as mentioned above. So, I didn’t want a pannier that was all rubberized and reflective-y. I saw photos of this straw pannier around Pinterest, but for the life of me couldn’t find a stockist anywhere. It seemed to be discontinued. I tracked it to Holland, but then got lost in a maze of Dutch bicycle sites. Finally, I found the wonderful Le Vélo in Victoria, BC, and they carry it. I was so obsessed, they emailed me as soon as the pre-order was available. I fit my laptop, a bento box, a small mason jar with snacks, a notebook, and my little Cambridge Satchel Company bag in here, with my rain cape folded on top. It’s treated, so a little rain is no problem. Super secure on my rear rack and it stands up well on its own, so loading and unloading it is simple. Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier, Le Vélo in Canada, Eleanor’s in the US.

jockies

Jockey skimmies. As I mentioned, I cycle in regular clothes. In the summer months, that means a lot of dresses. These little shorts are thin and light, and come in a variety of non-underwear colours, so when you accidentally flash someone, it looks like bike shorts and not, well, underwear. They are super comfortable to wear, and if you get any thigh rub, this solves that whole problem too. They come in longer and shorter lengths, and loads of sizes. Jockey skimmies slip shorts. Hudson’s Bay in Canadain the US.

Barista coffee cup holder. I often make my coffee before I leave, and then when I pull up to a light, I sit back and have a sip. People point at me from cars, they are so impressed with my set-up. I’ve had many people watch me walk up to my bike at the rack, plunk my half-finished coffee in my holder and get on with leaving, make that ‘ahhhhh – now that’s a good idea’ noise. I know, right? Why rush your coffee drinking if you don’t have to? Portland Design Works Barista coffee cup holder, from MEC in Canada, from PDW in the US.

CharlestonGoldS

Bandbox bike helmet with cover(s). There are opinions about helmets, and that’s fine. I wear one. This helmet is the one thing on the list I don’t actually own yet, right now I wear this super cute one. I am in love with these helmets though. You buy the base helmet, and then can choose hat-like covers for it. Straw hats! Wool felt cloches! I am obsessed with this, and I think I want about three of them. Love. It. Bandbox helmet and covers. image credit: Bandbox

Finally, if anyone has any leads on a decent skirt guard, let me know. Enjoy your commute!

PS – Panniers that look cool. Really.

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