When I first started riding the Nihola in November 2011, I had a problem. How to carry my phone, wallet, keys? And how was I going to carry all of those things that babies/toddlers need when they leave the house? I went to a now defunct women’s bicycle shop on Clarence Street. I found a small cross body bag that also attached to the bottom bar of the Nihola. My phone, wallet and keys fit and that was it. As I was home on maternity leave with Julius, I still needed the full kit of nappies, wipes, change mat, change of clothes, sun hat, sun cream, lunch, bib, bottle,
cot, change table, why leave the house at all yikes?. To accomodate all of those items, I used a packing cell from Kathmandu and kept it under the seat of the Nihola. Eventually though, I needed a larger bag. I went on Etsy and bought a handlebar bag. It was strong enough to hold a few tissues. Anything more and the bag fell open. Basil bags were my next candidate. I bought two attractive pannier bags. Easy on and off the back rack. But not durable. After a few months, the lovely patterned exterior started to break apart, the zipper came apart from the seams. Full of gear, they were also too heavy to carry comfortably.
In 2012, I discovered Po Campo bags. Shaking with excitement at its stylishness, I ordered the Pilsen Bungee bag. I thought its size would be perfect for the Nihola’s back rack. I waited impatiently for its arrival via our freight forwarder in the U.S. It was a lovely yellow pattern which matched the cabin of the Nihola. However, it was a bit fiddly to affix to the back rack of the Nihola. I watched the video instructions that Maria, the founder of Po Campo, had posted on YouTube. Meanwhile, Ofelia had started kindergarten and it was a beautiful and emotional time for us. My first child needed me a bit less now. Of course, I was not quite myself that first week when Julius and I dropped her off at the school gates. The first time I forgot to affix the bag to the back rack, I heard it drop behind me on the street. I stopped, turned around and picked it up. The second time, I didn’t hear it fall. I only realised that it was gone at the garage door of our apartment building. In the bag were my keys, wallet and new iPhone.
I quickly ascended Campbell Street to retrace my path. I suspected the bag would be gone. We have chosen to live in Surry Hills because of its diversity. That diversity includes a mix of homeless people, students, halfway houses for recovering addicts, multi-million dollar homes and apartments, immigrants, parks, a visible LGBTI population, multi-ethnic families, award-winning cafes, restaurants, pubs and wine bars. As I approached the school, my heart sank. The bag was nowhere to be seen. I entered the school with little Julius in my arms. At the school office, I inquired if anyone had handed in the bag. No one had. I went to Ofelia’s school bag outside her classroom. We keep an extra set of keys in her school bag for emergencies.
At home, I rang my phone several times. It rang but no one answered it. I did all the things one does when one loses one’s handbag. Five hours later, I received a phone call from Town Hall Police Station on the landline. The bag had been handed in. It had travelled from Surry Hills to Sydney Town Hall by some means. I collected it. I didn’t expect to see my phone or the paltry “mummy $10” in my wallet. Fortunately, all the cancelled credit cards, my drivers license – the entire contents of my wallet and keys were still in the bag except for the iPhone. The next week, it rained heavily. On the way home, I affixed the bag to the back rack of the Nihola securely. Unfortunately, rain water seeped in through the material between the zipper and the fabric of the bag. My second new iPhone was dead because of water damage. I gave the bag to my husband to store his bicycle tools.
Later, I tried the Po Campo Armitage Satchel which kept poking me in the back. Both it and the Logan Tote (whose shape reminds me of Louis Vuitton bags) would not stay upright on the rack no matter how much I adjusted the ConnectSystem straps. Now, they both sit in my closet unused.
Later, I discovered the Linus brand of bags and have been happy with the Sac and upgraded to the very stylish Eleanor, whose styling reminds me of Longchamp bags. They’re also waterproof. The only downside is that the Eleanor, when full, is very heavy on the arm when full of laptop, wallet, notebook, etc.
Consequently, when Po Campo Asia contacted me on Facebook and asked me to trial some of their bags, I was a bit dubious. But I thought I would try again. As a writer, I carry my office with me. Carrying a laptop led me to choose the Loop Pannier Bag. The coral colour was pretty. When it arrived, I was impressed. It comfortably holds all of the things that I need for a day of work.
I still find the ConnectSystem fiddly. It takes awhile for me to attach the bag to the back rack of the Nihola and the Gazelle. However, it hangs securely and I don’t worry about anyone ripping it off the side of my bicycle. I accept the delay in attaching the bag in exchange for its massive carrying capacity. The Loop Pannier is also relatively light in comparison to the Eleanor. I don’t use the shoulder strap as it looks unfashionable and it damages my jackets. Not using a shoulder strap also prevents me from carrying too much. From time to time, I hit the back of my heel on the bag but I make sure to attach it further away on the back rack. The set of three internal pockets are very handy for separating small items like door pass, headphone case, keys, laptop power cord, pens, phone.
I’ve been using it since mid-May and I’m still happy with it. I used a set of pliers to press down on both of the zippers to prevent the zipper pulls from repeatedly popping out.
However, because the bag sits directly on the bicycle’s rack base, it’s getting dirty. I suspect that it may wear through. Ortleib pannier bags, which are purely functional, have a little plastic bit on which the bag rests to prevent wear. Fortunately, the Po Campo seems more waterproof now. I haven’t experienced any internal leaks. However, when it rains, I keep the iPhone in a case to prevent water damage.
Unfortunately, a rip has developed on the pretty purple inside lining just this past week.
On the weekend, I switch to the Linus Eleanor because I don’t need to carry my laptop and it’s easier to detach from the back rack. All in all, the Po Campo Loop Pannier is a better product for me for going to work. And I keep finding that coral compliments all of my clothing!
Today’s ensemble: J.Crew dress, Zara jacket, Geox boots, fake fur scarf, Cartier Santos, BBB gloves, Witchery sunglasses, Yakkay helmet, Kryptonite Lock, Gazelle CityZen S9.
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