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What women want (I think) in a bike bag

Posted Oct 06 2011 2:36am
At Interbike 2011 last month, I heard the oft repeated question “What do women want” followed by the observation “all the people making the decision about what women want are men”.  I’m not an industry insider so all I could do was nod and wonder if that is really the case.

A leather saddlebag in the Italian Commerce Authority exhibit.
To the question of what women want in bikes and bike accessories, I can only speak for myself. I am but one woman and I really only know what I’m looking for in a bicycle and bike products. I can certainly guess what other women might choose but my theory would be largely formed around a specific woman rather than women in general. When I first went hunting in search of a commuter bike I studied up on Paul Dorn’s website for the hard science of bike commuting but I found my inspiration on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, also authored by a man, Michal Colville Anderson. Both I found very helpful, despite each having very different perspectives on transportation cycling, and I didn’t give their gender a second thought. Both writers helped me determine what I was looking for in a bicycle, and when I visited the many local bike shops in Flagstaff I was able to find the bike for me, or at least accessorize one to meet my needs.

Leather Bobbin pannier.
Meeting my needs, however, is not the same as meeting my wants. Up until a few years ago I couldn’t find bike bags and panniers that balanced function with style. They seemed to be designed for the male bike messenger in mind or a college student.  A functional bag or pannier means that it can carry all my daily necessities of life (wallet, glasses case, cell, camera, rechargers, gloves, scarves, notebook, magazine, water bottle and lunch), will be waterproof and easy to transport off-bike. Style means that I can carry it into a work meeting or a boutique looking professional, well organized and pulled together.

The Toocan pannier, by Detours.
I couldn’t have been more pleased when I walked into Absolute Bikes two years ago and found the Detours’ Toocan line of bags and panniers displayed in the accessories section. I purchased the pannier immediately and went back for the small shoulder bag a few weeks later. As I discussed in my review of the Detours pannier , it was not just the attractive floral pattern that motivated my purchase but the combined elements of style and functionality. Just slapping or flower or a butterfly on a bike bag is not responding to what I need.

Interior of the Toocan bag, by Detours.
I purchased the Detours bag for, among other things, the sturdy, heavy-duty construction of the quilted, nylon fabric; the a hard, flat, rubberized bottom that allowed the pannier to sit firmly upright on the floor; and the numberous pockets of varying sizes for efficient organization of contents.

A Brompton bag offering.
I would never try to speak for other women. Half the time, I have no idea where other women are coming from. What I am pretty sure of is that most women want to offered a variety of bike bag options that they can examine in order to figure out what will work best for their individual needs. I love Elly Blue’s writing on the economics of bicycles but I am pretty sure that our pannier and bag selections could be pretty divergent. More power to us both for choosing what best suits our individual needs and preferences. While at Interbike last month, these are some of the bags that caught my eye from Detour, Koki and LinusAlki Beach Basket in Feather, from Detours.

Detours Fremonster Flap in poppy.

Bagaboo R, recycled chic from Koki
Panniers and handlebar bags from Linus.
Ladies, what are you looking for in bike bags and panniers? I suspect that most of you also seek a happy medium between style and function, with price playing a role as well. And gentlemen out there, where are you? Are you finding what you need? Is finding a bag that supports a professional image an issue or not?
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