This review is by Arleigh of Bike Shop Girl. If you remember, Arleigh was at the helm of Commute by Bike for a good while and will be continuing to review and post commuter articles now that she is back on the bike commuting after her accident with a car last October. We are excited to see Arleigh back commuting!
This past May I started commuting again. There will be a string of various posts behind the reasoning, and effort that it really took to get back on the bike as a commuter.
As I started my bike to bus commute in the humid months of Charlotte, NC I knew the messenger bag or basic pannier wouldn’t cut it. One night I questioned Josh about needing a bag that converted quickly to a messenger or backpack. You see my commute didn’t go far between work and the bus, so it was easier for me to have the bag on my back, and then for the longer ride from bus to home I could clip it on my rack so not to get sweaty back!
Initial Thoughts of the Vaude Cycle 30
Pulling the bag out of the well-packaged box, I was excited to see the bag didn’t look “urban” or “commuterish.” It looks like a black bag with some reflective hits and a good amount of zippers. I could easily walk into the office of a client with this thing under my arm and not get a “oh you rode your bike here” look.
As I opened the bag up the features kept pouring out. Three weeks after using the bag I still found a couple cool features that I hadn’t even seen! Vaude should have done a better job explaining the bags features in its tag/brochure attached to the bag.
Would this bag solve my backpack, pannier and laptop carrying needs? It looked promising.
Features of the Vaude Cycle 30
- Three main compartments. The first is a small pocket that holds keys, wallet and smaller items. The second compartment is the largest, often holding my notebooks, purse or lunch. The third compartment is for a laptop, holding up to a 15.4-inch model. (Personally I was carrying my 13-inch Macbook Air; never tested the size limit.)
- Other compartments included one on each side of the bag for quick access when using it as a backpack. Smaller zippered compartments within the first two mentioned above. Finally, a compartment underneath that houses the rain fly and where the pannier attachment flap would roll up into when using the bag as a backpack.
- A mesh clip on square to hold your helmet or maybe rain jacket. I never used this feature other than to take a photo.
- Top mounted handle for carrying.
- One click on and off pannier system.
- Sternum strap for backpack use.
- Reflective hits on front side of bag.
Using the Vaude Cycle 30
Once I learned all the little features of the bag it became increasingly my favorite. My DSLR fit in the middle compartment. My laptop had a padded sleeve to fit in. And even if I was on a bike that didn’t have a rack I could use the bag as a backpack. Thus it kept the bag as my go-to for bike-to-bus commuting.
For the days that I would ride the 28 mile commute home and didn’t have a rack, the bag was too uncomfortable and hot for the long haul in 90 degree weather. I could use it on my back for maybe 15 miles at a time, but after that it wasn’t my preference.
There are a few things I would change on the bag. They weren’t deal breakers, and I figured out ways around them.
- The rack strap that hooks on the bottom of your rack is made out of plastic and doesn’t stretch well. A bungee style would be better, and will be what I retrofit mine with.
- The laptop sleeve does not “hover” off the ground. If I were to drop the bag on the ground my laptop would hit. I solved this by putting a t-shirt at the bottom of the compartment, keeping my laptop from touching the ground.
- There isn’t enough reflective bits on the bag–especially on the sides motorists would see from behind. I would have also liked to see some sort of loop or clasp to attach a light when using this bag as a pannier. There are a loops on the front of the bag and a decent amount of reflective strips.
The bag worked wonderfully. It did what it was built to do and it did it well. If someone was looking for a laptop bag that also could be thrown over their back, this is it. The downfalls aren’t major, and you’ll find quirks you don’t like with any bag that isn’t custom made. I like the ease of use, functionality and looks of the bag!