Because I’m buying a new Brompton under the UK tax relief scheme for commuting bikes I have a one-off chance to get a big discount on accessories, so although I have a Touring Pannier and an S-Bag I was interested to see whether the new C-Bag, which came out just after I bought my S-Bag, was worth getting.
I bought the S-Bag because it makes good cabin luggage for flying and quite a good briefcase, however I’m used to the cavernous Touring pannier and the S-Bag is extremely limited, no room for anything more than the basics, certainly not much use if you are shopping. I found that it is possible to take the S-Bag and Touring Pannier on the bike together for example when travelling by rail or air and needing the luggage capacity of the Touring pannier en-route, but the convenience of a smaller bag for day trip, business or conference use at your destination.
The C-Bag is higher (can’t be used with S-Bars) but nominally only 2 litres bigger than the S-Bag which seems hardly worth paying for. So today I went to Cycleheaven in York to look at the C-bag alongside my S-Bag. I also had the chance to see the Carradice City Folder, designed to fit Brompton, which might be a much better proposition at 28 litres. I packed a selection of stuff that you might take on a day trip:
Light fleece sweater, litre of water, tools (in the wedge pack which is normally on my saddle), newspaper, book, iPod, pump and notebook. This pretty well fills the S-Bag
Here are the S and C Bags side by side
The C-Bag is bigger in every direction, and the external pockets look a bit more useful, with waterproof zips instead of flaps (no idea whether waterproof zips really work but…) The front flap looks a bit bigger with the zip for its document pocket much higher up. the zip half-way down the flap on the S-Bag is a pain with A4 sized documents. Although it’s bigger I think the C-Bag is still a practical size for a briefcase or airline cabin bag. It would probably be possible to do my S-Bag Saddlebag trick but it would be quite a big saddlebag.
The interior of the C-Bag is a lot better:
The yellow lining helps you see what’s in there (I can lose stuff in the touring pannier for weeks), there’s a divider like the S-Bag but it has a zip pocket in it, more document space. It still has a restricted throat (the real curse of the S-Bag) but not as small as the S-Bag so that should not be a problem.
Here are the two bags with the same stuff in each:
It’s not completely clear from the photos but the S-Bag on the left is pretty well full whereas the C-Bag could take nearly as much again. So I was convinced and I ordered one with my bike.
While in the shop I had a look at the Carradice City Folder, a few people have commented that it’s a good bag and, with its boxy shape, its certainly a step up in size from the C-Bag:
In the flesh my expectations were confirmed. Carradice make robust kit but the bag just looks a mess. The shape is VERY boxy and untidy, the colours of the canvas, leather and trim all clash (the leather will age I guess) and the general appearance is 1940s army surplus with a hint of the Orvis huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’ catalogue. The really horrible visual feature and the one that destroys any credibility is the combination of a leather strap with buckle and a modern plastic snap-fit fastener. Carradice are determined to keep their retro style but they mix traditional and modern materials in a totally insensitive way. I’m not completely prejudiced about this, I use the Carradice leather straps with my S-Bag saddlebag setup and I think they look OK that way because it’s a tidy and uncomplicated arrangement.
That said, if you can live with the army surplus style, it’s a roomy bag, with useful pockets and divisions and the throat is a proper drawstring affair like a traditional pannier so it should be possible to overstuff the bag. They do a waterproof silver version (1940s army surplus meets 1960s Courrege space suits maybe? Could end in tears).
(Update 20 September 2009 – having owned a C-Bag for a month I’ve posted some additional comments in a new post)