A Bike Commuter Reviews the Brain Bag and Western Flyer
I commute to work by bike half the time and by public transport the other half. I usually lug a change of clothes with me (in case I can motivate myself to go to the gym), my really heavy laptop, and a bunch of other bike-related things (spare pump, bike lights, patch kit, etc). As you might imagine, I needed a bag that could fit all these things, wouldn't kill my shoulders, and would also be comfortable when biking (that is, wouldn't move around on my back)!
I have used messenger bags in the past, but I decided to try to go for a different style of bag, since I needed a slightly more business-like look, and since I found it hard only having one main compartment -- everything would fall out when I tried to pull my laptop out, for instance. I thus was really intrigued by the Western Flyer.
I got this bag in steel, and I have to say that it is a pretty amazing bag. I really was intrigued by the concept of the 3 ways to carry the bag -- I thought I could use the backpack style when I biked, the shoulder style when I had to ride public transportation, and the carry handle for quick jaunts. The briefcase-look of it also was appealing, in case I had to go to a formal meeting.
It was almost perfect. The best thing about the bag was how small it looked even when loaded up -- I am 5'2 so a lot of bags look really large on me. Also, the bag could carry all that I needed, and was really well organized. However, the backpack strap was truly uncomfortable on my bike commute, especially when the bag was full loaded. Now, I fully understand that the Western Flyer is intended to be an overnight bag, with the backpack sling serving as a way of carrying the bag for really quick stretches. I had just liked the look of the bag so much that I hoped it would work for my bike commute.
I then decided to try the Brain Bag. I initially hadn't been drawn to it, even with its dual compartments, because of the less formal backpack style. But, I have to say, having commuted with the Brain Bag on my bike and on the bus, the Brain Bag is probably the most comfortable bag I have ever owned. Today I carried all my usual things with me, and added to that a bag of groceries that I picked up on my way home from work. And the bag didn't look stuffed at all! Amazing! The best thing is that, through its mystical suspension system, the bag might feel heavy but is never ever painful. I really recommend the Brain Bag if you have to commute with heavy loads. I know there have been some comments about the size of the bag for shorter people, but as a 5'2 person, I find the bag totally proportional.
Bottom Line: The Brain Bag is a great bike commuting bag. The Western Flyer, while not so great for bike commutes, is also an amazingly well-designed bag.