Karen Voyer-Caravona is an admitted bicycle dilettante in Arizona, who blogs about her adventures on two wheels, vélo envy, her husband’s cooking, and cross country skiing at www.sheridesabike.com. Visit her Website for her endless opinions on the most stylish shoes for pedaling, critiques of bike parking, and the best bike date dining destinations.
Do I carry a bike bag because I pedal or do I pedal so I get to carry a bike bag? That’s a hard question for me because I love bike bags – panniers, messengers, cross shoulder bags, saddlebags. And I spend a great deal of emotional energy coveting the next great bag, wondering if this bag will be the bag. The one that meets every imaginable need and do so stylishly.
The first really great, great bike bag I owned was a Detours Toocan pannier. Now three years old, it’s a beautiful, water resistant, quilted pannier that is also roomy, tough as nails, simple to attach to my bike rack and easy to carry around when I reach my destination.
I later purchased the matching Toocan small over-the-shoulder-bag for trips that require nothing more than a wallet and some lip balm. Because I had the opportunity to check out Detours latest offerings at last fall’s Interbike, I was pleased to review the Phinney Handlebar and Rack Bag, a very different bag from the Toocan bags but just as impressive.
The Phinney, named for the Phinney Ridge neighborhood that straddles the Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods in Seattle, Detours’ home base, straddles the line between handlebar bag and rack trunk. It resembles a traditional handbag in design and size, measuring 10 x 4.5 x 7.5 inches.
The bag comes in orange, black and grey and is fabricated from water-resistant nylon. The bag attaches to the handlebar with nylon handles, both which open with interlocking plastic clasps. Additional nylon straps and clasps neatly and securely lock the bag to the rear rack. Finally, the Phinney comes with a bright yellow rain cover, cleverly hidden in a zipped compartment in the exterior bottom of the bag.
Off bike, the Phinney is meant to be carried as a handbag and, like any decent handbag, the interior includes several organizing pockets of varying sizes and a key fob. I’m a huge advocate of keeping organized when bike commuting so I especially appreciate these elements in a bike bag so that I never have to search around for cells phone, keys, camera or a pen.
I tested the bag for about two weeks, taking it shopping, to the movies and my almost daily treks to Target. I have two bicycles and tested it on both bikes.
Although the Phinney is easiest to attach as a handlebar bag, my preference for it was as a rack trunk. First of all, my Phinney just didn’t work as a handlebar bar on my Breezer since the headlight and the gear cables got in the way of a good fit. A different style of handlebar with the cables position less directly in front, and a lamp that fit on the handlebar or on the fork would have eliminated this problem.
The side straps and locks didn’t fit for either of my bikes due to the configuration of the handlebars. I could see, however, that on drop bars or handlebar such as those found on a Workcycles or Batavius Dutch bike, the side mounting straps would add stability and prevent the bag from flopping around. Although, I had no problem attaching the handle of the Phinney to the front of my Dahon, I simply missed having my open bike basket in front of me where I can reach in easily for my camera, cell or water bottle. Since I often carry a light sweater and scarf with me, I also like to have a place to quickly deposit them as I shed them when the temperature climbs.
I really loved the bag as a rack trunk, which I’ve never used before. The rack mounting gear is located at the bottom of the bag and attachment is very secure. I couldn’t feel the bag move at all during my rides, even after riding over dips or fissures in the concrete. I don’t have a basket for my Breezer, so when I had to use my phone or camera while still on my bike, I could easily reach back for them in one of the exterior side pockets.
Realistically, I’m not going to find a bag that will meet the needs of all situations. It’s a fairly illogical pursuit when one thinks about it. Although, I’ll use my Toocan pannier quite possibly for the rest of my life (it still looks like new), I don’t need a large bag when I’m just going to the dentist or a movie.
The Phinney is just big enough for trips involving casual appointments, entrainment and recreation where I don’t anticipate carrying a lot of “stuff”. If I do think I might need panniers for trips like grocery shopping, I can still attach collapsible box-style ones to the rear rack while still accommodating the Phinney.
The Phinney Handlebar and Rack Bag is clearly designed for the female cyclist who is interested in style and function. The fact that it looks so much like a standard casual handbag is a big plus. For me and many other women cyclists, we don’t necessarily want a bag that looks bike specific. I want a bike bag that blends in nicely with the rest of my life. I get compliments on all my bike bags and when I’m asked about it I always mention how I use it anyway.
As sporty and casual as it is, I probably would not take the Phinney to work with me, that will remain the domain of Coach bags and my Toocan pannier, which I use as a brief case. I will carry it with me regularly when I return to school in the fall and just about everywhere else.
At $59, the Phinney is a more affordable rival to a favorite among bicycling fashionistas: the Po Campo handlebar and rack trunk bags. Detours could give Po Campo a run for their money by expanding the line to include additional colors and adding patterned fabric to the collection. I tested the bright orange bag and really liked it for the additional visibility it provided. Black and grey don’t show dirt and smudges but a greater range of colors and patterns injects more fun and personality into a very high-quality bag.