I don't know about you, but cycling to work and around town is not only a great way to stay active, but it's fun too... but only when you're rightfully prepared for whatever you may come up against.
At this time of the year, Mother Nature likes to throw some curve balls once in a while. You can leave your house under beckoning blue skies and a mile down the road, you're being pelted by hail and sideways rain. It's not only tricky to get your layering right, but it's difficult to ensure your stuff remains safe, secure and protected too.
Fortunately for us, there are a number of brands ploughing money, time and resources into overcoming our daily commuting struggles. One such brand is Freitag.
In the mid-1990's, Swiss graphic design brothers, Markus and Daniel Freitag set out to create a robust and weatherproof bag to carry their valuable work in. Inspired by the hustle and bustle of Zurich's transit intersection, the brothers sourced discarded seatbelts, bicycle inner tubes and lorry tarpaulins to create a totally unique messenger bag.
Since then, Freitag has over 70 different bag models with over 5000 unique products, all designed from recycled tarps, belts and tubes. With that in mind, we've been reviewing the Skipper and the Jamie to see how they withstand our commutes. If they're good enough for lorries, they should be good enough for cyclists, right?
Freitag's F511 Skipper
Are you the kind of commuter who packs everything and the kitchen sink into their bag, you know... for those 'just-in-case' moments? Or are you the minimalist who takes only the essentials and likes to make life as streamlined and efficient as possible?
Whatever kind of bag-packer you are, the Skipper has been designed with all in mind. It's simple, minimal and spacious to boot with dimensions of 17.3 × 11 × 6.3 inches (L × W × H). It has one large compartment of around 19 litres, an upholstered laptop pocket to suit sizes up to 15" and a smaller quick-access side pocket for your other essentials.
Primarily made from seatbelts, the straps of this bag are wide and reinforced which makes them extremely comfortable on the shoulders. There's a great deal of adjustability also so not only can you get the fit spot on, but the Skipper also suits any gender and any size adult.
There are two carry handles, one on top and another on the side which offers you the carry option if your shoulders were having none of it that day.
There's a vertical zip running down the full length of the bag which opens up the entire single cavity to make finding your stuff really easy. There's a hook-and-eye fastening which runs over the top of this zip, that's also adjustable so you can squash down the volume and keep the contents in position as you ride.
Now, when it comes to the unique construction of the bag itself, I couldn't have been more impressed. Everything from the stitching of the seams, to the finishing touches of tags and labels, are immaculate. Not only does the tarpaulin feel strong, thick and durable, but the seatbelts add extra reassurance also.
There are over 50 unique designs for the F511 Skipper with each one priced at £215. For more information and the full range of designs, head over to their website here.
Freitag's F153 Jamie
Bum-bags, hip-bags, fanny-packs... whatever you want to call them, they are most definitely coming into fashion. The enduro mountain bike scene has begun to see them spring up and take over from the traditional backpack, and in urban city riding, they're making their mark too.
Freitag's F153 Jamie is the adorable hip-bag that is perfect for your everyday essential items because it's lightweight, discrete and neatly sits on your hip as you ride without the pressure or hindrance that some other shoulder bags can come with.
Designed from reused lorry tarps, seatbelts and velcro, the Jamie bag has two compartments; a main inside area and a smaller zipped pocket on the outside with makes up its 1-litre capacity.
The strap is fully adjustable with a double-belt torsion system and if you're not really the hip-wearing type, you can easily adjust the length of a cross body position. It's simple and it's appropriate for quick dashes around town. What more could you want?
They look stylish, different and they are certainly made of the good stuff, so is there a catch?
Well, yes and no. They are water-resistant and the resilient tarpaulin ensures that enough, but the zip on the Skipper is not sealed. While the strap fastening covers the zip, I can't say it's 100% waterproof, but it's pretty damn good at keeping moisture out in a shower. Similarly, the Jamie is also water-resistant, but the flap lid closure and the velcro don't offer total water protection.
With the Skipper, the large open compartment is amazing. Because you can unzip the full length, it's so easy to find your stuff, especially as the smaller side pockets take care of your essentials. No more faffing or digging around for those long-lost keys!
For me, there are a couple of things that I love about these bags and Freitag in general. Firstly, the brand's environmental awareness to reuse tarps, belts and tubes is just brilliant because not only is it great for the environment, but you come away with a high-quality, totally unique and widely functional product.
Admittedly, these bags aren't the most affordable on the market. With the Skipper being £215 and the Jamie being £80, it's a fair chunk of change to invest. However, these aren't just bags to be used for cycling. I've caught trains and planes with the Skipper on my back and I use my Jamie quite frequently as another handbag option. The durability of the materials and the attention to detail of each final product gives me a great deal of confidence that these bags will last me a lifetime.
You may also enjoy: