Brompton S Bag
Brompton S Bag
By Ed Owen
Brompton S Bag – Something Commutable
The Brompton S Bag can be used on any of the various configurations of the iconic folding bike. The frustrating thing about it is that it won’t be more widely used – Brompton’s bespoke bag might be the ultimate answer for the urban cyclist…
Brompton holds a unique place in the world of cycling. One design, albeit with several variants, that has been honed and refined over the years. In its own way, Brompton bears some comparison to Apple computers. Both formed within a couple of years of one another in garages, Apple in 1976, Brompton in 1979. Both have design at the heart of what they do, and are/were revolutionary products. Both have had something of a resurgence in interest over the past couple of years. Both have evolved from niche enthusiasts to a wider appeal, championed by a kind of urban hipster elite. Both are very much premium products.
This comparison only goes so far, but I think you see what I mean.
For those unfamiliar with Bromptons, buyers of the folding bike can choose various combinations of handlebar, colour and so on, but the S-type bag is compatible with all types, hence this trial. Brompton-specific bags sit on a stub fitted above the front wheel, so when the bag is in place it is neither a panier nor a backpack but something else, jutting out at the front rather like the basket on an old-fashioned butchers’ bike.
The S Bag is in the ‘premium’ range, but the finish adequately reflects this, with a sturdy aluminium frame at the rear to give it stability when attached, and finished in a coarse, robust synthetic canvas. The one I have on loan is the premium version with a fetching red flap made from recycled hoses that fixes loosely with velcro, and/or with a clip and looks not dissimilar to a classic saddlebag, as if transported from some old Western.
This particular bag has a 20-litre capacity, but I find capacity often meaningless, as practical capacity also depends on geometry so I’ve compiled a list of items that a cyclist might want to include (below), and it manages everything but the 12” record, where the flap can dangle over, but the record does bend somewhat, so anyone sensible would leave it out. Brompton do offer larger versions, so they might well swallow the record too. Remember, the items are there to illustrate size and practicality – not many people will now carry 12” records about, but the size and shape is well understood.
Ed’s Backpack List:
1x 12” record
1x pair shoes
1x hardback book
1x pair jeans
1x large pad paper
Assorted pens, other detritus
With the weight sitting on the front, there is more stability when riding compared to a rear pannier. Having the weight off your back is liberating. Apart from that moment when the bag is either attached to or detached from the bike, there is little the rider notices.
The bag has been my companion for a couple of weeks now. 20 miles per day in the wettest winter on record has shown the bag to be robustly waterproof, and my sandwiches have not squashed. The semicircular interior is inflexible, just because of the frame, but there are additional zips and pouches both inside and out to give you anything you might need.
When the S Bag comes off the bike by flicking a little switch that mirrors the switch used to trigger the folding mechanism, it is a little heavy, essentially down to the metal frame, but not uncomfortably so. The strap is long and can be hitched over one shoulder or right over the head in the manner of those old fashioned DJ bags students seem so keen on.
On riding, the bag is a revelation. You are free and quickly forget you are carrying any extra weight. The style really is the best of all worlds – the bag is carried easily and with no fuss, with a minor niggle in that it obscures the front wheel, but on the other hand it acts as a rather effective super front mudguard. Because you are not carrying the thing, it cannot rest on your back and make you sweaty. Brilliant.
In summary, there are two flaws to the S Bag, and both are insurmountable. The first is in the transition from assembling the bike to riding away, or from riding to parking. The bag simply makes the bike more unstable. If parking you suddenly have two items to carry – the bag and bike. But it is difficult to see any alternative here – this is the way of the Brompton, and is a minor irritant.
More serious is this: the S Bag is only available for Bromptons in the first place. Such a simple and no-fuss design would be welcome on any bike. Some have made rather Heath-Robinson hybrid designs (see http://www.atob.org.uk/bicycle-accessories/brompton-folding-bike-luggage-post/) to transfer some of the Brompton magic to a any bike. So, while this bag is not perfect, I’d say it’s as near as dammit to perfect for the commuting cyclist, and quite honestly I don’t know what on earth I was doing beforehand.
Brompton S Bag RRP £110-£145
Price: 4 out of 5
Finish: 5 out of 5
Capacity: 4.5 out of 5
‘Sweat’ factor: 5 out of 5
Overall: 5 out of 5
If you enjoyed Ed’s piece then stay tuned as over the next few (hopefully drier) months he’ll be putting loads more commuter kit, especially bags, through their paces…