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Beautiful bike pannier bags. No really.

Beautiful bike pannier bags. No really.

Updated for Summer 2020!

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 Bohème 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 black and charcoal version, but it also comes in lovely red and aquamarine versions too.

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!

image courtesy Bike Belle

The Bike Belle MIRA Au Lait is from the Polish bike accessories brand’s Kickstarter campaign, and they kindly sent me one to try out. I love it, and when I was working in an office in Vancouver I was asked repeatedly where it came from, and when I demonstrated the built-in pannier hooks, there were gasps. It’s vegan leather, which keeps the price affordable and water resistant. I routinely packed my Macbook, a packed lunch, notebooks, pens, a cardigan, and a water bottle in there comfortably. There’s a shoulder strap included as well.

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 blue 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.

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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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The convertible shoe Kickstarter you’ve got to check out

The convertible shoe Kickstarter you’ve got to check out

I’ve been keeping my eye on this German start-up for awhile now. I love the concept – shoes with a heel you can switch out from high to low. Much less bulky than bringing an entirely separate pair with you (and what do you do with your other pair even if a pair of flats can roll up small, your other shoes won’t!). Mime et Moi make some incredibly cool convertible sandals, from heels to flats.

Up until recently, you couldn’t get these shipped outside of Europe, but now Mime et Moi have a Kickstarter up and you can get them shipped anywhere! I particularly love the block heel options.

I’ve got my eye on some practical black Nappa leather ones, though my heart is clamouring for the dalmatian spot ones.

Which ones would you pick??

All images courtesy Mime et Moi. 

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Travelling to Germany: Books to Get You in the Mood

Travelling to Germany: Books to Get You in the Mood

Before I travel somewhere (or move there!), I like to get myself in the mood, atmospherically. This may seem excessive to some, but I read a lot, so transitioning my reading list to focus more on where I’m going adds a lot to my trip.

I have a few history books in my list, but not guidebooks. This is all about getting the feel for a place.

[amazon_image id=”B00358VI2I” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Treasure Chest: Unexpected Reunion and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_image]

The Treasure Chest, Johann Peter Hebel

Imagine Reader’s Digest-type stories from the early 19th century, but all centred on the southwest corner of Germany. The Treasure Chest is a collection of Hebel’s fables originally written to accompany a Lutheran calendar sold in the region. Some are funny, some are clearly meant to impart a moral, and some are just ridiculous, but it’s an easy read that brings to life some of these Black Forest villages you see out the train window.

[amazon_image id=”B00LGUF0F8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Red Love: The Story of an East German Family[/amazon_image]

 
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family, Maxim Leo

This is a very personal story of East Germany, and how different family members managed their relationship to the state. The author digs back in his own family’s history to pull apart the narratives of his socialist hero grandfather, his journalist mother, and his artist father. It’s the first book I’ve read that really conveys the feeling of building a new world that infused the early days of the GDR after the war, and it’s fascinating to watch it go to pieces through the prism of these small stories.

[amazon_image id=”014044503X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Sorrows of Young Werther[/amazon_image]

The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You’re going to Germany, you have to read some Goethe. I kind of love Young Werther for all its moping around, hand-on-forehead draping moodiness. The landscape descriptions are lovely, and give you a real sense of the pastoral scenes Germans of the 18th century were so enamoured with. Goethe loved the ruins of my local schloss in Heidelberg, so I admit I have a fondness for him no matter what.

[amazon_image id=”0006511260″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Royal Flash (The Flashman Papers, Book 2)[/amazon_image]

Royal Flash, George MacDonald Fraser

Now I recommend Flashman books with a very huge caveat, which is that while they are enjoyable to a certain extent, the average woman’s role in these books is terrible. Fraser wrote the screenplay for Octopussy, so that should give you an idea of what I’m trying to get at. However, this one covers Flashman’s mixup with Bismarck and delves into some interesting North German and Danish history.

[amazon_image id=”0312680686″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of Germans and Their History[/amazon_image]

Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and their History, Simon Winder

This rambling sort-of history is a good overview of the different regions in Germany, and some of the history that makes the country what it is today. I found the author’s occasionally smug, self-important Britishness a bit much sometimes, but he is quite funny. It’s clear, particularly by the end of the book, that he has a great fondness for the country.

[amazon_image id=”0746098545″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales[/amazon_image]

Illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This one is a great for kids coming along on a German adventure. The Brothers Grimm collected folklore in the early 19th century, and grew up in southwestern Germany. They were influenced by Johann Peter Hebel’s stories, and you can see the parallels in their description of little villages, naughty cobblers, recalcitrant blacksmiths, and so on.

I’ve made you a lovely image, so you can pin this post for later.

Germany Book collage

*This post contains affiliate links, for which I get a small percentage if you click on one and buy something, at no cost to you. I thank you for helping to support this blog.

 

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Nine stylish camera bags. No really.

Beautiful Studio Lei Momi satchel in yellow, image courtesy Studio Lei Momi

I’ve started bringing my DSLR with me more these days, and my Cambridge Satchel Company habit is not compatible. I have a little Crumpler camera bag that sort of works, but the strap is too short and I find it difficult to get in and out of. So, I am on the hunt for a nice-looking, simple bag that will fit my camera safely, and will also fit in my bike basket.

Impossible? I hope not. When I started googling this, I kept coming up with really frilly looking ‘women’s camera bags’ with pointless flowers on them. Do we need to review why camera bags don’t need to be gendered, and they don’t need to involve frills and unnecessary zipper pulls? *sigh* It’s nearly as bad as diaper bags and bicycle panniers.

This is an on-the-go, everyday kind of camera bag I’m looking for – no extra lenses or anything. Most of the companies I mention make camera bags specifically, and they have options for those of you toting more kit than I do.

So here’s my list of stylish camera bags that don’t scream CAMERA BAG. Any suggestions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below. This first ONA bag is the priciest of the lot, so don’t despair, there’s more below!

ONA

I’ve seen these around for awhile, and while they are beautiful, they are also very pricey. Still, I hear they last forever.

The Brooklyn €534

ONA brooklyn-black-frontONA brooklyn-black-interior

The Palma €388

ONA palma_black_sideONA palma inside

Johansen

I had only seen people link to Johansen bags that looked too fiddly for me so I hadn’t investigated further. Silly me, they make some gorgeous simple ones too. I am seriously lusting after the Sienna, but I’m not really a brown bag person – I reckon I could make an exception. If they make it in oxblood or black, I’m in serious trouble. I think I’d go for the Granada though, affordable and simple.

The Sienna $179 USD

Jobags sienamainJObags sienainterior

The Granada $99 USD

Jobags granadamain

Jobags granadablack2

Cheeky Lime

Most the shapes here didn’t really work for me, but their satchel in cherry red was the exception. I love that it has detachable backpack straps, because satchel backpacks make me weak in the knees.

Locho Satchel $129.95 USD

Cheeky Lime Loko satchelCheeky Lime Loko inside

Studio Lei Momi

I dipped into Etsy for this one, as I’ve had good luck with Etsy bags. This one is faux leather, which I appreciate for its affordability and protection from rain. The yellow is lovely too – I have several yellow satchels and love them dearly, particularly in grey February.

Alice in Summer bag €117.02

Studio LeMomi satchelStudio Le Momi inside

Pompidoo

European and lovely, Pompidoo has some gorgeous leather options. Again, pricey. But… so pretty. The Geneva below also comes in a beautiful grey.

Geneva €240

Pompidoo GenevaPompidoo geneva inside

Tokyo €290

Pompidoo TokyoPompidoo Tokyo inside

GATTA

I just discovered this bag through Instagram, and I think this is my new favourite of the lot. The black one goes fast, so preorder is the way to go. I am so tempted by the pink though… gah!

Lola $149 USD

gatta outside

So which one would I choose? If budget wasn’t an issue, I think I’d go for either of the Pompidoo bags. For affordability? I think I’d go with the Johansen Granada bag. What about you?

Note: all prices are correct at time of writing, all images belong to their respective companies.

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