On weekends I use back packs, that, I have to admit are more practical for longer rides and carrying purchases when making a super market stop over. But the sweat patch in the Dec-March heat is unsightly when you arrive at your destination. I have a collection of three packs; Small, smaller smallest.
At this point I should mention that I don’t wear specialized cycling clothes, just regular cotton tees and pants rolled up or long regular shorts. When I started cycling to and from work, I discovered that my choice of handbags was narrow in relation to my new lifestyle. All my handbags were short-strapped and best hand-held or carried in the crook of my arm 50s style. Note that though comfy to carry when riding, back packs, if not properly weighted can be a danger.
So I went out looking and paid a local wardrobe stockist called Closet 49 on Ngong Road, Nairobi a visit and found some cool bag options for female cyclists.
In pictures (Closet 49):
I should go back there see if they have any cycle-friendly handbags now.
My sister happened to have a lovely cross-body messenger-style handbag, with a long adjustable strap, that could carry all – a pair of heels to change, my wash cloth, a fresh top or dress, moisturiser, deodorant and basic make-up… I quickly appropriated it.
After a couple of months of using it daily use, the poor pleather (fake leather) bag became visibly worn, especially along the strap where the buckle grazed along during the multiple adjustments. I got a great leather bag maker to take the good parts and refurbish it in leather; he recycled the zips, the buckle, and the great lining onto new leather.
While he worked on the new bag, I got a rear carrier installed so that I could strap down my hand-held bags with a piece of car tire inner tube (bladder). It worked, but the vulnerability I felt, knowing all my valuables were in the bag behind me left me an easy, and unable to concentrate on cycling safely. I kept glancing over behind me to see if it was still secured, which is bad especially in slow traffic in case a pedestrian crosses between the cars, or the car in front suddenly stops.
Now, all girls reading this know that your handbag is only “safe” (relatively so) when it is next to your body, preferably hooked over your shoulder and tightly clutched by the strap in one hand.
I dug into my travel bag & suitcase, that are in storage, and found my passport holder that hangs from an adjustable strap. For sometime, this worked well as it could hold my phone, money, and bank cards while my bag was strapped to the rear carrier holding less valuable stuff. On weekend riding trips I hooked the camera case to the passport holder strap for easy and quick access when taking photos as I cycled.
One early morning, on my commute to work, the long-suffering passport holder strap gave way as I cycled between cars in traffic along the highway, making my way to the head of the traffic at a roundabout between the left and the second from left lanes. I watched it slip over the crossbar, tangle briefly on the pedal arm and crush onto the tarmac in what seemed like in slow motion. The traffic cop had just let the traffic on my side of the roundabout through. It had dropped just past the broken line and I hoped the motorists behind me were not changing lanes.
I glanced back in panic. The traffic cop saw my hesitation and yelled, “Proceed!” The driver to my left had seen what had happened and looked out his window waving at me frantically, probably thinking I was unaware. I quickly cut in front of the slow-to-take-off trailer on the left lane and hopped onto the pedestrian walk at the traffic lights. Watching to see if my phone in the passport holder would be crashed.
After what seemed like an eternity the traffic cop stopped the flow of traffic and I dashed in to pick it up. Inside the phone was crashed to near-pulp. The plastic all cracked and stuck together.
So much for keeping my valuables safe eh? Got this BlackBerry Curve 9320, it takes great photos so I no longer need the little point and shoot camera. Depending on the distance and what I am going to do at the destination, my new bag (below) holds my phone, a change of clothes (bottoms, jacket and tee or a dress and jacket), some fresh undies, a wash cloth, a pair of flats, basic make-up and my net book + charger.
Other bags that have come in handy are those small purses that come with a very long strap, sometimes with a strong chain interwoven with the fake leather. I use one of those on days that I am wearing shoes that work for work and for cycling, on cute-flats-day, as I won’t need to carry a change of shoes. I am slowly collecting those in different colours and shapes.
If your bag strap is adjustable, adjust it to the last buckle hole so that it’s close to your body and does not touch your lower body. If it’s a small cross-body purse without the adjustment option, tie a knot at the top of the strap to a length that suits you. This works best with the bags that have a chain interwoven with the strap as they bounce back to normal when you untie the knot.
In the cool of June and July the back pack is tolerable. It gets less hot and sweaty on your back, and you can carry everything without worrying too much. Only trouble is the cyclist reflector body cross won’t fit over the back pack, you may have to wear the sleeveless reflector jacket instead which goes over your back and back pack, keeping you visible to motorists.
Some inspiration from far, far away:
I would love to get one of these. Works well and is waterproof. This blog has some interesting shots of how women on bikes handle their handbags. These guys thought like a thousand women on bikes to create this bag. But these ones are after my own heart with women’s leather bike hand bags wow!!
With this design below, the closer to your upper body the bag is, the more comfortable you will be while riding. It’s better than risking having it snatched off your rear carrier.
The build of the new bag (below) with an adjustable strap allows it to sit on the small of your back while still keeping you cool, unlike the back pack. Being a cross-body style, the weight is distributed diagonally across, and the size limits the amount of stuff you carry to make for a comfortable ride. You must make sure the weight in your back is properly distributed to keep the bag behind you and the strap is adjusted short enough so that it does not bump onto your saddle when you hop off the bike at the traffic stops.
Happy cycling in Nairobi!! ❤ Cycling! ❤ Nairobi!