I know that using a bag on the front block is more efficient and better for my back. But I don’t like the look of the bag in the front. The exception to this is the Brompton wicker basket which I don’t use so much now that I can get a ‘basket fix’ from riding the Trek.
Brompton provides a range of bags for the front and back for the bike. I feel that until recently the design of these bags never received the same attention as the design and look of the bike. The bags that were available two years ago also had drawbacks, 1. Narrow shoulder straps. The pannier is impossible to carry when commuting because of narrow straps. I had to buy an additional shoulder strap pad. This is an obvious and simple design feature that could have been incorporated at the beginning. 2. Black interior lining. The endless frustration of finding anything in a deep bag with a dark lining was too much for me.
I get asked questions about what bag to buy for the Brompton from those in the process of buying. My advice on this is to go without buying a ‘special bag’ until you get to know your Brompton and your way of riding and using it. This will probably take a couple weeks and not more than a month. Oh yes, get a bag block fitted so that you still have the option.
Here is a rough guide on how I use my Brompton when I am working:
- Cycle to station. Fold bike and get on the train.
- On arrival in central London wheel bike through interchange to another platform. This will involve carrying bike up and down stairs.
- Or on arrival wheel bike through to the underground station to get tube using escalators.
- Get on second train or underground train with the Brompton. If on underground, change trains and wheel the Brompton through the station and carry up and down stairs. Get on another train.
- On arrival cycle to destination.
I try to minimise as far as I can the number of changes I do or trains I have to use. I work across London and I cannot predict where I will be from one month to the next. My first Brompton bag was the pannier, but I soon discovered that I could not carry it comfortably when going through the various interchanges I had to make between the train to underground tube. I also discovered that I didn’t need such a large bag for my work journeys. But too late I had already parted with £70. I got the zip around bag (now discontinued) and found this was too small for my needs and it was still uncomfortable to carry because of the narrow straps and the hard frame on my back.
I did try wheeling the bike when partially folded with the pannier fixed to the front block. This only works until you have to use stairs and then you have to clip the bag off and on or risk falling over if you loose balance.
Two years ago I considered whether to make my third investment in another Brompton bag, this time the messenger type bag that was available. These came with wider straps but in dark grey with a Brompton logo on the front. I didn’t want to give Brompton any more money for a bag I really didn’t like the look of and given that I needed a bag I could carry on my back I then opted for a non-Brompton bag by a company (Timbuk2) that specialises in bags for people who cycle.
Personally I like riding with a bag on my back and this works for me because of the various changes and folding I have to do. I can fold and unfold and just get going. However if I just had a simple commute, for example, cycle to station get on train arrive and then cycle to destination then maybe I would have just stuck with the pannier. Or if I didn’t have to use the train and I had to cycle all the way and this journey took longer than 40 minutes then carrying a bag on the front or the back rack would be cooler.
Which is why I advise new users to get to know your travel style before parting with more money so you can be sure you have the right bag for your needs and quirks. I like to use a bag that I can carry on my back because of the numerous changes I make in the course of a journey. I now know that I like to ride in this way and as I said, I prefer the look of a bag on the back rather than the front. I also want a bag that is soft against my back, with wide straps and a light coloured lining and works well as a bag when I am not cycling.
I do what works for me and this may not be the best way but it’s my style.