The Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag

Po Campo Logan Tote in Free Bird fabric

Look at this and tell me it's not a purse.

Raise your hand, ladies, if you’re like me in my former life: Always buying another purse in search of the perfect purse.

That’s the one that doesn’t weigh too much totally empty, that has the right dividers and organizers inside, that has a comfy handle or strap, that will fit a file folder or laptop inside—whatever the features are that matter most to you that you can never, ever find all in one purse.

Then I started biking and pretty much gave up that particular quest because I just use my panniers. But I don’t like them.

They do not satisfy the inner Barb, the purse-shopping Barb, the Barb who wants to put her cell phone into the exact same place every time so she can always find it when it’s time to parent her teenage daughter via text.

Purse-shopping Barb is doin’ the happy dance tonight, though. This doesn’t count as a review because I haven’t gotten to ride around with my new bags yet but I just had to show you the before and after pictures.

Axiom Cartier Journey Series Bike PanniersBefore: Utilitarian black bags, purchased in an emergency when my old pannier blew out during a conference. I kinda sorta hate them.

Why?

  • The hooks dig into my side if I carry just one with the strap.
  • If I clip the two together (admittedly a handy feature—if you want the entire weight of everything you’re carrying pulling on one shoulder) the hook attachments that hold them to the rack are a total pain! They frequently get snarled together in a fingernail-breaking tangle. Naturally I can’t get the tangled hooks apart when I’m in a hurry and really just need to get the bags on the bike so I can get rolling.
  • Black is a bad color for the inside of a bag. More than once I’ve lost a little black pouch that holds my electronica because it’s swimming around in the bottom of a black bag and I can’t see it, or I managed to drop it into the gap they left between an inside liner and the true outside of the bag.
  • No true organizing possible. Everything just mooshes down to the bottom of the pannier. There’s one outside mesh pocket and one small zipper pocket on each of them but the protected space inside is just a big maw that engulfs my stuff.
  • The outside mesh pockets close with Velcro, which means that any fabric items I stuff in there are guaranteed to get snagged.
  • I had to buy bags that fit my specific rack, which constrained my choices.
  • Plus there’s the whole ninja look.
Po Campo Bike Bags: Logan Tote on top of rack, Pannier hanging below

Pretty in Po Campo! Logan tote strapped on top of rack, pannier hanging on rack, both in Free Bird fabric.

After: Po Campo! Features I really like:

  • Quick attachment with straps that just buckle around the rack—nothing to dig into my side later and this would fit on any rack.
  • Not the slightest hint of ninja.
  • Everything shows up inside against the nice bright lining.
  • Pockets inside and a separator in the pannier that will make it easy to develop consistent packing habits.
  • Big outside pocket on the pannier has a magnetic closure—no more snags.
  • Straps on the bottom of the Logan tote used to fasten it to the top of the rack would also let me hang a yoga mat on there. How many times has Betsy seen me struggle into Spokane Yoga Shala with panniers, mat, water bottle, helmet, everything slip-sliding away?
  • Still have that safety bit that’s important to me: reflective elements on the sides that will show while I’m riding. Plus the light fabric will just show up more.
  • Back in the day before those daughters grew up, I would have appreciated the fact that these can attach to the handles of strollers too!
  • Last but oh, so far from least, they look like purses. Nice finish, nice hardware, protected zippers, pretty fabric (with a water/fade resistant finish).

Granted, I’m giving up some storage space because they’re smaller than the Black Ninja Monsters. But I keep trying to downsize what I carry anyway and this will force some additional decluttering.

I have an ultralight laptop that fits into the pannier along with files and my insulated lunch sack fits into the Logan along with the Po Campo wristlet (not shown here), which will become my new wallet because I can strap it onto my handlebars when I don’t need anything else and ride, ride like the wind.

Want to get hands-on with these beauties? I’ll have a variety of bag sizes and fabrics at the May 21 Bike Style Treats & Shopping Event at Roasthouse Coffee and at future shopping events. Bring your bike and try them on for size! (and for style)

Your Turn

  • What are your must-have features in bike gear and in a purse?
  • Have you found them all in one item yet?
  • Have you cleaned your purse/pannier out lately? What little treasures did you find?
Sharing is karma--pass it along!

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33 Comments to "The Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag"

  1. Sandra B says:

    Funny that this is your post. I have been thinking about new panniers. I got mine at a yard sale for 50 cents. They are red, and useful, but I was thinking about what I would like new ones to be…and more stylish is one of the criteria. and hooking on my bike easily is another.

    I clean my purse out regularly, and I want it to be big enough to hold my small wallet, keys, phone and lip goop. Must have lip goop…and I usually have several. If I keep the purse small enough, i will only have 2 or 3 lipsticks at any one time…and it will fit in the pocket of my pannier.

  2. Sandra, you’d love the Po Campo wristlet; it’s perfect for that batch of stuff. It can buckle quickly onto your handlebars (or rack if you prefer) or be stuffed into a bag.

    Hope to see you Saturday so you can check it out!

    barb

  3. […] Campo Bike Bags and Panniers: No one will ever guess that pretty purse is actually designed to strap onto your handlebars–until you show them. Not just for biking–great to strap onto strollers too! Made in Chicago by […]

  4. Read another great review of the Po Campo Loop Pannier here on Lovely Bicycle: http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/06/po-campo-loop-pannier-lady-like.html

    The comments on that post will give you some idea of the features and drawbacks of other pannier types too. Well worth reading through them all.

  5. I love my waxed canvas version of the loop pannier!
    Very cute that you have matching Po Campo bags on your bike : )

  6. […] Campo Bike Bags and Panniers: No one will ever guess that pretty purse is actually designed to strap onto your handlebars–until you show them. Not just for biking–great to strap onto strollers too! Made in Chicago by […]

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  9. […] that employs people with disabilities—provides something of an esthetic balance to the beautiful Po Campo Loop Pannier I carry on the other side for my laptop, cell phone, files, and other work […]

  10. […] panniers with my stuff. Because I now have beautiful Po Campo bags I no longer have to do as much switching as I did back when I had the Black Uglies so this step got […]

  11. […] wanted bike bags that don’t look like bike bags–turned out I could find […]

  12. Quora says:

    What are cool bags for women to carry their stuff around in?…

    Po Campo bags. They’re made for cycling so they’re fade-resistant and water-resistant, but they’re really pretty purses that don’t look bike-y. Besides attaching easily to a bike rack or handlebars (depending on which model you get) they can also a…

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  14. […] What, no pannier, you say? Then you’ll want a Donkey Boxx (room for lots of bottles!) or a Po Campo bag. […]

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  16. […] more nowadays, so I think more bike shops must be carrying them. Lately, I’ve been enjoying my Po Campo bag, but nobody has asked about that […]

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  18. […] ScrudderWhy We Need Each OtherMore Treats! More Shopping! And Panties! Bike Style Event June 29The Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How Bikes Can Save the WorldSweaty Betty: The Blogspedition Looks for Answers to that Special Glow […]

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  20. […] and get a look or two as I stripped off my helmet and bike gloves and dug my notebook out of the pannier bag serving as my briefcase. I’d guess I was viewed as a trifle . . . eccentric for riding my bike […]

  21. […] Hand Dryers Were BikesHassle Factor: Biking vs. DrivingWomen's Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How Bikes Can Save the WorldHow to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free Nice Rack, LadyThe […]

  22. […] business right here in my home state of Washington. So many great products I’ve found, like Po Campo bags and Pedal Panties, are the result of women who ride together, identify a gap in the existing bike […]

  23. […] more swapping stuff in and out of panniers—it’s always in the bag (now a cute one) if it’s riding season (which is at least 10 months of the year here, if you dress for the […]

  24. […] Bicycle Quotations on Life and CivilizationWearing Real Clothes: A Radical Political StatementThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.Women’s Clothing for Biking that Doesn’t Look Like […]

  25. […] essentially what I did to move into panniers for bike commuting, and I took it a step further when I recently switched to my cute Po Campo pannier and Logan tote instead of the Black Ninja Fingernail-Breaking […]

  26. […] The Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just be a Bike Bag […]

  27. […] Posts & Pages Women's Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListHappy Bottom: Pedal Panties ReviewThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike BagWhat to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear TogetherIt's Pants […]

  28. […] with giving the talk I’ll be bringing the cuteness: some of the Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus, skirts, bags, gloves, lace-trimmed padded liners and knickers, Pedal Panties, and other adorableness I carry […]

  29. […] happily carried a Po Campo Logan Tote on the rack on my road bike for a couple of years now, but the teeny-tiny platform on the rack that […]

  30. […] riding my silver upright Mary Poppins bike wearing a white Bern helmet, with floral Po Campo bags strapped onto my bike rack. I’m wearing pants rather than my more typical skirt, but […]

  31. […] the rack you see one of my beloved Po Campo bags along with a Detours bag made by a Seattle-based company that names all its bag models […]

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