Bagaboo Workhorse Messenger Bag [Review]
There was a point in time when I wanted to be a professional cyclist.
But not the lycra-clad, hairless-legged, genetically freakish variety… for some reason I had decided that in every way my dream job was being a bike messenger.
Now whether this was due to the fact I’d just watched Premium Rush or I’d been sucked into a YouTube wormhole of the illegal courier alley-cat races, there was something about the messenger culture that drew me in.
Thankfully this phase didn’t last long and the fixed gear bike, hefty chain lock and general air of reckless abandon left as quickly as they arrived.
There is however one appurtenance of that persuasion that is still part of my riding. I am of course referring to the messenger bag. The sling style bag is the staple of thousands of bike messengers for reasons Pete goes into here.
While there are many makers of these types of bags, few are as proliferated on the backs of my fellow London bike commuters as this small Hungarian brand that is definitely punching above its weight.
Bagaboo sent us their Workhorse Messenger Bag which they describe as their top sling messenger bag and it starts at €157.
Cycling Messenger Bag
Most reviews start with opening the box the item comes in, for this one however, it started at the point of ordering.
Bagaboo have made this bag fully customisable in terms of colour for the different elements, tweaking functionality to make it more ergonomic or adding extra features.
There are in fact more permutations of this bag design than there are stars in our galaxy (I actually did the maths), so uniqueness is assured if you want it. I chose the basic Workhorse version in size medium therefore the one you get can only be equivalent or have superior functionality.
So when this personalised bag arrived it felt as a cycling bag should do upon taking it out of the box, namely: tough.
The exterior is made of 1000 denier Cordura, the same fabric racing motorbike jackets are made out of so it’s definitely rugged and is about as impregnable as any bag available to civilians can be.
The inside lining (the colour of which is of course customisable) is made from truck tarpaulin which further contributes to the hardiness of the whole package.
If, like me, you commute in the UK or some such similar climate waterproofness is an essential tenet of any cycling bag. Bagaboo claims waterproofness but due to the style of the bag I was initially sceptical. After testing it out in the torrential rains and driving winds of storm Bella I can testify that it is entirely waterproof.
This is in part due to the aforementioned fabric and lining. However, a number of messenger style bags don’t close well enough to actually keep the contents dry, thus nullifying the effects of the material. With the Workhorse however, the designer (more on him later) has made the flap longer so that no matter how full the bag is, it can still be properly closed and secured by the straps, keeping the contents dry.
The primary mistake I made in the testing of this bag was that I alerted my mum to the fact that it had arrived.
Scarcely had it left the box before she plonked in front of me 30 parcels and letters to be delivered to church members scattered across the city. Firstly I was pleasantly surprised that all these packages fit in the bag as they were an assortment of sizes including some rather large and heavy items. The true craftsmanship however was revealed when I started riding.
Throughout the whole 3+ hour ride, the bag was entirely comfortable. While this is unusual, perhaps even unique for a bag, this product is the brainchild of the founder of Bagaboo who himself was a bike messenger, a fact that is made clear as one uses the bag.
The primary factor for this comfort was the strap system. The main shoulder strap is thick (therefore tough) and padded (therefore comfortable) and there are auxiliary straps that can go over the wearer’s other shoulder and under their arm.
It felt a bit like the love child of a harness and a backpack. This meant that the bag was always secure and fastened comfortably to my back.
It was simple to adjust the straps while riding which meant I could easily reconfigure as my payload decreased. Due to some ingenious strap wizardry (that I don’t entirely understand but can now use), the straps can be loosened by a large amount quickly so you can reach the main compartment without having to take off the whole bag.
The main strap only goes over left or right shoulder so you will need to decide before you put your order in. It did take a while to get used to the whole fastening system so do be careful as while trying it out initially I did almost choke myself when I pulled the wrong toggle. However, once I got used to it, it was the best strap system of any messenger bag I’ve tried. It did at times feel perhaps a little bit overpowered for the medium size but that was a minor worry.
Another feature that provides comfort is the back padding which made an appreciable difference to the feel, particularly when carrying bigger/irregular items which otherwise might have dug into my back.
Despite having what was at one time a decent level of fitness, the moment I am in contact with a bike and a bag I start sweating more than a sumo in a sauna. By some feat of what can only be described as sorcery, I barely perspired at all while using this bag, chapeau to Bagaboo.
This is the opposite of most bags in that it feels more comfortable on the bike than off it however it still isn’t bad if you use it out and about while walking.
There are a number of small inside pockets to store valuables of various sizes and a slightly larger pocket at the front that a pair of trainers fitted into quite nicely.
In conclusion, regardless of your opinion on bike courier culture, this bag is about as good as messenger bags get and I would heartily recommend it to any urban cyclist looking for a bag of this style.
Comfort, capacity and customisability: it really does tick all the boxes so if you have the money, you could do a lot worse than this bag.
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