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Review: Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

Over the summer Vaya Bags sent me one of their most recent bag designs — a Pannier Hybrid Bag — to review. The bag they sent me to review can be both a backpack and a pannier (hence the name “hybrid”) – in turquoise and orange material, with accents of recycled bike tubes.

Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

I first met the women behind Vaya Bags in March at the Women Bike Pop-Up Shop at the Women Mean Business Bike Forum in Washington, D.C.

Over the past couple months riding with this backpack/pannier, I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and fellow cyclists. And I must say that hearing others sing the praises of the bag certainly added to my impression of Vaya Bags.

Vaya Bags describes its Pannier Hybrid Bag as…

A nifty little design that combines the load carrying ability of the pannier with the carry-with-you convenience of a backpack. This bag easily clips onto your bike rack to carry those loads you don’t want on your back. When not on your bike the pannier converts into a backpack for a comfortable way to carry your belongings with you. Even more, we’ve added mega cool new features such as U-lock holder, reflective tape and expandable front pocket.

The quality of this handmade in NY product is evident. The exterior material is durable and water repellent — all Vaya bags are made with canvas that is “recycled and scrap Sunbrella® Fabric from local sailboat factories;” the interior is lined to make this pack fully waterproof.

Vaya pannier/backpack waterproof interior lining – also quite vibrant!


It has a rolltop closure, with velcro and a clip to keep the bag securely closed – whether packed to the max or just minimally packed, ensuring no water seeps into the bag during a downpour. Fortunately I didn’t have to endure many downpour bike commuting conditions during my time with this bag; but I did put it through the paces.

rolltop closure secures with both velcro and clip

An interior laptop pocket or other such divider could have been a nice bonus, but not necessary. On the couple occasions I decided to travel with my laptop or work iPad, I just used a padded sleeve and slipped it right in the bag.

The bag also boasts a small exterior front pocket with velcro closure. That pocket was great for stashing keys and other small items that I might need to access on the fly, but I did find that small items could escape from that pocket if not secured well. I wished that pocket had a zipper or other means of keeping the contents safe. It would have also been nice to have a key strap to secure keys for easy reach.

For a daily commuting bag, this pack is about the right size — small enough to not be too voluminous but large enough to expand to carry those extra groceries you decide to pick up on the way home. It was also a good size for me; as a petite female, I often find that most unisex backpacks are just too big for me and cater to folks with larger/longer torsos. This Vaya bag did not have that issue of being oversized…. could it be that woman’s touch on the design?

I altered between carrying the bag like a backpack and letting my bike haul it as a pannier. I must say that I wished the conversion from backpack to pannier and vice versa was quicker, but I soon got the hang of it. Just a bit of tucking in and clipping straps before mounting the pannier and then untucking and reclipping the backpack straps to use as a backpack. As a backpack, it took me a bit of time to get used to the unpadded seatbelt-material straps; these unpadded straps, however, did allow for ease of tucking the straps away to use the bag as a pannier. I did appreciate the chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and the bag more stable on my back.

Seatbelt-like backpack straps tuck away into pocket when used as a pannier


as a backpack

Riding with a backpack

The reinforced bottom allows this bag to stand on its own when set down on the ground.

reinforced bottom


When I first started using this bag as a backpack, the bottom of the bag hit my lower back at a weird angle when just walking around, but it was fine on the bike; I don’t notice it anymore but just the other day I did wish the back offered a bit of padding.

For use as a pannier, the bag connects to any rear rack with the use of d-rings and small carabiner style clips.

Vaya pannier hybrid on the bike


I was impressed how the bag remained anchored on my bike with just those two attachment points.

carabiner clips and d-rings mount the pannier to the bike’s rack


I fretted that the back of the bag would get dirty when used as a pannier and that it would put a damper on my wanting to use it as a backpack, but I never had that problem (I also didn’t use it as a pannier in much foul weather when crud could have gotten kicked up onto it).

This Vaya pannier-backpack hybrid comes with reflective tape on each side of the bag for great visibility when in use as a pannier hanging off the side of the bike.

Backpack – side view (photo taken with flash to show how the reflective tape adds visibility)


But I wished it had some reflective tape on the front of the bag that would be visible when in use as a backpack (similar to how the Vaya backpacks have reflective tape on the back) and a loop for a rear blinky light.

On the side of this pannier/backpack are a few loops — one velcro and one hanging loop for a u-lock. The velcro strap is just one more way of securing the bag to the bike – which I rarely used (and only figured that feature out after viewing some of Vaya’s product photos online). The hanging loop for a u-lock did not fit my Kryptonite lock. But I usually just clip my lock to my rear rack for transport, so that wasn’t much of an issue…. except on the odd day that I rode a different bike with a rack and found myself searching for the best method to haul the hefty lock.

Overall, I give this bag two thumbs up – especially for design and aesthetics. With a new and improved model on the way, I look forward to seeing just how much niftier this dual bag becomes. I noticed that some of the features I was looking for when I used this bag as a backpack already come standard on the regular Vaya Backpacks; the nice thing about this bag is its ability to morph into a pannier, too.

In a recent correspondence with Vaya Bags, we confirmed that a few improvements (which may also address a few of my concerns) are in the works on the revamped design of this Pannier-Backpack hybrid, including:

– We did update the U lock holder so that it is adjustable and put velcro on it to help stabilize the U lock
– We added reinforcement to the back of the bag to prevent rubbing
– We changed the clip system to a strap system to make it easier to put on and off the bike!

We look forward to the new product, which we will get our hands on within a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the updates to the bag work in comparison to this model.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Velo Transit Module 25 Women’s backpack

We here at BikeCommuters.com have been busy reviewing some Velo Transit – waterproof packs and panniers – all Made in Seattle. As you may have seen, our writer Matt reviewed another of the Velo Transit – waterproof backpacks and the Velo Transit Metro 20 Pannier. Velo Transit also makes women specific packs and sent me a women’s Module 25 Waterproof Commuter Backpack to review; they sent me a size ‘small’ in orange.

Per their site, the specs on this women’s specific waterproof bicycle commuter backpack are as follows:

Module 25 has been significantly upgraded for 2012. We improved access with the new “Slick” Roll-Top, making it easier to get in and out without compromising waterproofness. All day comfort is guaranteed with improvements made to both the 3D Mesh back panel and ergonomic shoulder pads.

Like the 2011 version, this is the base unit of a modular bike pack. Various attachment pockets and accessories let you outfit the Module 25 for your needs and wishes. Look for these accessories to be rolled out over the coming months.

Bike specific features, like blinker mounts, reflective tape and a lock pocket are standard on the Module backpack.

This Slick Roll-Top Pack has an RF-welded liner, giving it the STORM-PROOF seal.

A 3D Mesh-lined back panel helps to dissipate sweat and along with an HDPE Frame sheet to maintain its shape and stability under load.

The Front U-Lock/ Zippered Stash Pocket gives you quick and easy access to your lock and supplies.

We are sure this will be the most comfortable and useful waterproof backpack you have ever owned.

This commuter backpack retails for $159.95 – midrange between their panniers and their urban backpack line.

Velo Transit lists the Module 25 as one of their three waterproof packs and panniers in their women’s specific line-up.

I asked the folks at Velo Transit what the difference was between the Module 25 and the Module 25 Lite bags and they responded:

“The Module Lite 25 does not have the side pocket attachment system and the D-Ring attachment points for accessory front lash straps.”

For this review they sent me this pack with the optional mesh side pocket already attached – very useful for stashing items on the fly.

Accessory Mesh side pocket

I’ve been rolling around town with this pack intermittently over the past few months and can honestly say that I like it. Despite it’s overwhelming size (even the small seemed too big for me), its voluminous capacity and ease of carrying made it a winner. For me, the width of the bag at the shoulders sometimes obscured my view when I would try to glance over my shoulder; this only occurred when I did fully load this pack. (It can haul a lot!)

Velo Transit Women's Module 25 Specs

Me with the Module 25 Backpack

Side-by-side with a pannier, this backpack has about the same hauling capacity:

Module 25 & pannier

Plus, a messenger riding in the opposite direction one morning hollered at me “Nice backpack!” (“Thanks!” as I pedaled on with a smile on my face)

For me, I appreciated the bright orange color of this pack and the reflective accents and blinker mounts (yes – multiple attachments available). This pack does come in eight different colors – so there should be a color to suit nearly everyone’s preferences (if neon orange isn’t your thing).

Reflective tabs on pack

I also liked the sleek profile of this pack. Despite its ability to carry a lot, the weight remains evenly distributed and I never felt like I was carrying too much or unbalanced. With normal backpacks I’ve used in the past, I felt like the bag just kept expanding outward…causing awkward carrying issues and shoulder pains. I was able to travel light with this pack OR load it up without any weight distribution issues. On a few occasions, I enjoyed stopping by the market on the way home for a few items without worrying about having enough space for my goods.

Profile view of the Module 25 backpack

The front zippered “stash pocket” is a great place for a U-Lock and other necessities you might need to grab on the go.

Stash front pocket

And the mesh padded back and straps further eased carrying a load and limited sweating.

Module 25 backpack straps

Best part about this Velo Transit waterproof backpack? It’s actually waterproof! (at least it was for the few times I was out in the rain with it). I used it in the rain on a day when I carried my laptop in it and the interior remained bone dry. The liner is a bright yellow – which also makes it easier to find your stuff – and it’s described as “stormproof”.

"Stormproof" Interior of Module 25

The top of this backpack rolls closed and cinches tight – so there are no seams for water to sneak in. The water just beads up on the fabric.

Beads of water on the roll-top closure

I was skeptical of riding with another backpack, after suffering from neck/shoulder pain for the past several years. This backpack never me feel like I was carrying a load and never caused me any pain. There were some days I chose to ride with this pack instead of a pannier just for the ease of on/off bike mobility with the pack.

Bottom line: the Velo Transit Module 25 is a quality backpack that can rival the carrying capacity of a pannier and is waterproof too. It gets my vote.

My only suggestion – consider offering an even smaller size pack for the “light” travel days.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Product Review: Velo Transit Edge 40 Backpack

Velo Transit Edge 40

For the past six weeks, I’ve been testing the Velo Transit (VT) Edge 40 backpack, as well as the Metro 20 Pannier (which I’ll review in my next post). My version of the Edge 40 was the men’s medium (it also comes in a men’s large and women’s small) and also included the add-on water bottle pocket. The pack itself retails for $225 and the bottle carrier is a $20 add-on.

The Edge 40 (the 40 stands for 40 liters, by the way) falls into Velo Transit’s “Urban” category of bags, and while I’m a little puzzled by their distinction of “urban” and “commuter” – to me those terms evoke similar needs – it makes a lot of sense as an everyday pack. It has a cavernous main pocket with a roll top and 4 zippered pockets on the back (front?) – two that bump out a little (VT calls it a “volumetric pocket”) to give some volume, and two flat pockets behind those – one half-length and one full-length. VT’s site says the flat pockets are for things like locks, wallets, computers, etc. and the “volumetric” ones are for tools and a “catch-all.” Unfortunately, I read that description AFTER using the product, so I ended up putting everything in what was apparently the wrong place… but thanks to this experience, I can reassure any hesitant buyers that the tools pocket will carry a wallet, the wallet/valuables pocket will carry tools, and the “catch-all” pocket will carry a lock.

Over all of those pockets goes a zip-down “storm shield” that also happens to be bright yellow and is very good for visibility. It can roll up into a small velcroed pocket at the top, but I generally thought visibility was a good idea and rode with it down – it also gave the pack a sleek look that I liked.

The Edge 40 is a highly adjustable pack – despite being sized – and I was able to get it to fit me very well. It also had enough adjustments to cinch down whatever I wanted to carry so it wasn’t banging around inside the generally larger-than-necessary main pocket. Speaking of which – the Edge 40 is probably larger than necessary for most commuters. I probably had room to bring two sets of clothes and two lunches in this pack with room left over. If I were to buy a pack from Velo Transit, I might go for the Edge 30 – it’s a little smaller but otherwise identical.

While I overall had a very positive experience, I do have a few nitpicks with the Edge 40:
– Because it is a fairly large pack, my visibility when glancing over my shoulder was compromised. I was able to adapt somewhat, but I could not see as well as I can with other packs or bags.
– There are a lot of straps. This is generally good, but the ends flap all over the place, sometimes hitting me in the back of the neck and making me think I had just gotten hit (or bitten) by a bug. Some type of retention would be nice.
– The price is pretty high. To be fair I think Velo Transit is providing high quality for that price, but it is higher than many similar products.

Although the waterproof claim is one of the high points of this pack, I never got to check it out on my commute during our test period (yes, I had to give it back!). In an effort to give full rigor to the test period, I did expose the pack to a prolonged watering period with my sprinkler – much to the amusement of my family and dog!

The slighlty strange pose is because I'm holding my 1-year-old, who wanted in on the fun

Inquisitive Canine

According to my very scientific tests, the Edge 40 main compartment passes the waterproof test after approximately 30 minutes under direct sprinkler. The “storm shield” proved to be slightly less effective – paper I placed directly underneath it still got slightly wet – but the contents of the outer pockets were still dry.

Still dry!

In the end I have to give a lot of credit to Velo Transit for the quality they provide – if you’re looking for a commuting backpack and the price doesn’t dissuade you, the Edge 40 is a very strong contender.

Preview: Detours Ballard Market Pannier/Backpack

It’s springtime and time for new product lines… Our friends over at Detours sent me a couple new bags to review and I will be putting them to the test over the coming fine weather months.

I’ve already had the opportunity to take the new Ballard Market Pannier on a very bumpy maiden voyage commute last Friday am sharing my first impressions. Still to come will be my first impressions and review of the waterproof Coffee Bag which is designed to keep some smaller items dry and secure.

The Detours site provides the following description of the Ballard Market Pannier:

Seattleites flock to the Ballard neighborhood every Sunday for one of the best farmers market in the Northwest. If you’re rolling up on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hide-able padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack when browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your bike rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable raincover protects your goods when the skies open up. Interior organization and a laptop sleeve makes this a great option for a casual office commuting as well! Distinctive prints make this bag just as beautiful as the fresh produce you’ll haul home.

Available in Black, Red or our exclusive Herman Yu Dahlia print.

Best uses: Around town, commuting
Volume: 920 cubic inches
Dimensions: 11 x 5.5 x 15 inches
Average Weight: 2 pounds
Price: $69.00

I rode with this Ballard Market Pannier on a long commute last Friday.

Ballard Market Pannier attached to my bike


It fit more than everything I needed for work and for my bike, and it felt so much less clunky than the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier that I’ve been using (that RL also reviewed a while back).

A peak inside the Ballard Market Pannier

Part of it could be that it’s because I finally packed only what I really need. My bags tend to accumulate “baggage” over time and I end up with quite a hefty load after a while.

My commute followed a lot of bumpy roads and the pannier remained securely in place on my Blackburn rear bike rack.

Ballard Market Pannier clips securely to bike rack

If I ever chose, I could also wear this bag as a backpack via nicely padded straps that easily pull out to make backpack straps.

The Ballard Market Pannier becomes a backpack


No more need to decide between a backpack or a pannier!

I also received a few compliments on the bag – bonus! 🙂
Being chic on a bike goes a long way towards making this my new “go to” bag.

Stay tuned for the full review after I’ve put in a few more commutes with this bag.

Friday Musings: Back to the Backpack?

Not too long ago, I gave up commuting with a backpack in favor of letting my bike haul my stuff in panniers. I had just discovered the Banjo Brothers waterproof pannier and have commuted with a pannier ever since – never looking back. In the meantime, my neck and shoulders have enjoyed the added relief of being unburdened.

But today’s morning bike commute got me reconsidering the backpack. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking about getting another bike commuter specific backpack for a while now. It was seeing that bike commuter this morning sporting a hot pink Chrome rolltop bag that reignited the spark and interest in a backpack. Talk about hi-vis! I could see this hot pink pack from a block away and it actually brightened my mood on this otherwise gray Friday! (sorry I missed the photo op)

Also, just yesterday another biking friend emailed me about his collision with a pothole last August that resulted in him fracturing many ribs and a having a collapsed lung. The staff at the trauma center told him that if he had not been wearing his small backpack he would have been paralyzed. Saved by the backpack?

So – my meandering commute this morning not only took me in a less than direct path to work, but also has me looking back into backpacks again. What goes around comes around, right? This time around I think the options in commuter backpacks have come a long way.

If you commute with a backpack, what’s your preference? (Note: finding a pack that isn’t too big is an issue for me = is there one that’s “just right” for me?) I’ll be trying to figure that out.