I was able to get my hands on one of the first production versions of this bag. And my initial impressions? Amazing. This bag is right on par with their past products in terms of innovation, usefulness, and quality construction. In fact, this may become my new favourite bag for all around daily use.
I'll get right into some of the things I like about it.
It looks great! I'm a big fan of the graphite colour option, which is a dark brushed grey look and red zipper tags for a pop of colour. The overall look has that same Two Wheel Gear feel to it - professional but slightly rugged. Polished enough for the office but tough enough for a rainy west coast bicycle commute.
Also, because it's a shoulder/laptop/briefcase style bag, it simply looks more professional than a backpack. For me, carrying this in and out of the office, it simply feels more appropriate.
It is very comfortable to carry. The shoulder strap has precisely the right amount of padding. This bag is comfortable either on one shoulder or across the body on opposite shoulder. One thing to note is that because of the pannier mounting system, it is a rigid shape. It is padded, so it's comfortable to carry against your hip - I cannot feel the mounting brackets at all. But this bag will not conform and shape around your hip like a plain canvas bag might.
This is the best pannier mounting system I have used yet. It is extremely simple and durable. Similar to the Pannier Backpack Convertible, the hooks are hidden behind a zippered flap. Simply unzip, tuck in the flap, and the pannier is ready to attach to your bicycle. Slide the hooks over the bike rack frame, flick the hooks down to lock them in, and you're set. Converting from briefcase to pannier takes mere seconds. There is a strap to fully secure the bottom of the bag against the bike rack as well, which I use for longer commutes/rides but not for shorter/quick trips.
DESIGN and LAYOUT
I love the layout of these pockets. Initially I was concerned that the two larger compartments should have been combined into one larger one (to save material and all that), but the more I use this bag, the more I like the two large compartment setup. Mainly, this allows me to separate two distinct groups of items: (1) office items like laptop and accessories and (2) commuting items like a change of clothes, lunch, umbrella, etc.
The large pocket at the back has a padded laptop sleeve and a mesh pocket for accessories. It is designed to fit a laptop up to 17". Both of my laptops (14" and 15") fit easily. With the Pannier Backpack, because the laptops went it lengthwise, it was sometimes difficult to angle them in (they fit once in, it was just about getting them in and out, especially when the bag was full). However, with this bag, my laptop is always easy to get in and out. This pocket opens the entire length of the bag along the top.
The next large pocket is perfect for commuting items. I often throw my lunch or a change of clothes in there. There are a couple mesh pockets in here as well to sort items. The bag is long enough for a compact umbrella so, living in rainy Vancouver, I usually have my umbrella and sunglasses (yes, in Vancouver, some days we need both of those things) stuffed in there as well. Perfect for some small toiletries or other items. This pocket zips open along three sides of the bag so you can open it right up to organize before closing it up.
The first of the outer pockets is a pretty standard office/school style setup - a couple of pen slots, two notebook slots, and a key loop. I use this to keep my notebook in one, passport in the other, a spare pen, and a pack a mints. I also like that this pocket opens along three sides of the bag so you can open it right up as well to view items.
Finally, the small front pocket. This pocket comes with the bright yellow rain cover in it, but is also perfect for my Kobo. I leave my rain cover at home most days and only bring it when I am (a) riding my bike and (b) it is raining.
For overall size, this is similar to the Pannier Backpack in that it is difficult to fit both my lunch and a full change of clothes. So when I am packing larger loads, I will still and forever use my Garment Pannier. This bag is perfect for everything else.
I really enjoy this layout overall and do not really have any criticisms. As well all new bags, the zippers are still quite stiff around the corners for me, but that is something that will ease over time as the fabric settles a bit after some more use.
One other feature I love about this bag is that it is designed to fit a rolling suitcase. As a frequent business traveler, this will be a huge convenience for me. The hand straps and the lower strap to secure the bottom of the bag against the bike rack easily fit over the suitcase handle. I have fit this over my suitcase to confirm it fits but haven't field tested this one through an airport yet - I will update this post in mid-April when I return from my next trip.
Two Wheel Gear is right in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for this bag (click HERE). They need $20,000 and, at the time of writing this, are just over half way there with 10 days to go. Supporters are also entered to win a commuter setup from Brodie and Two Wheel Gear! Please consider supporting them! They are a great local Vancouver company that continues to deliver innovative products designed for the bike commuting professional!
Overall, I am very impressed with this bag. It is the same high quality design and construction that I have come to expect from Two Wheel Gear. I definitely recommend this bag to anyone looking for that professional looking bag that can double as a pannier.
UPDATE (May 15, 2018): I have been using this bag as my daily bag for nearly two months now and I absolutely love it. I have been using it on my work travel, as well as to and from work, mostly even without my bike. Still love it!