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Vaela Bag Review: The Most Stylish Pannier Backpack Yet?

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I am personally very familiar with the challenge of finding suitable cycling apparel for women that isn’t bright neon pink, or of a very poor quality.  

As an example, I spent many years cycling to work with a generic rucksack (and a sweaty back!) as I wasn’t aware of any alternatives. I finally bought some cheap pannier bags for a bikepacking trip but these were better suited to carrying camping equipment, not my laptop

I use a second hand pannier bag for work but this is similarly far from ideal as when I delve into it I’m never quite sure whether I am going to find my packed lunch or my puncture repair kit…

So when the opportunity came up to try out Vaela’s bike bag, I was very keen. Vaela was established in 2020 to address the lack of practical, stylish and sustainable cycling clothes and products for women who cycle. After a positive experience testing and reviewing with their cycling jeans and stylish cotton jacket, I felt confident that their bag would be another invaluable addition to my cycling gear.

Vaela 001 Bike Bag
  • Fit
  • Function
  • Style
  • Value
  • Quality
4.2

Summary

A versatile cycling bag that works as both a backpack and a pannier bag. The exterior looks and feels great with it’s premium finish, while there are plenty of secure storage sections, including a built-in laptop sleeve.

Pros

  • Durable but soft finish
  • Lovely style
  • Very versatile
  • Reflective detailing

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Straps can be fiddly when wearing winter coat

First Impressions

As with the arrival of the jeans, the bag came in well presented and sustainable packaging. Once again, a card featuring information about ‘The Godmother’ that is Lady Harberton was also included in keeping with Vaela’s focus on amplifying women’s cycling. 

In terms of the bag, I was immediately taken aback by the high quality and finish. It felt durable, but soft. The reflective straps in the side pockets are a welcome, but subtle addition. 

The latch on the front is easy and quick to use, and the two clips mean either can be used depending on how full the bag is. 

Image of the Vaela backpack
IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

On the back is a well padded flap to cover the system that attaches the bag to your bike, as well as a sturdy handle at the top. 

Pannier clips on the Vaela bag
IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

Inside there is a large compartment that is divided into a section to store a laptop or tablet, as well as another smaller zipped pocket with the Vaela branding. 

Inside the Vaela bag
IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

Key Features

  • Showerproof and durable dry-oiled organic cotton
  • Undyed organic cotton lining
  • Two generous 18cm front pockets, each easily holding an average reusable water bottle
  • Reflective tapes stitched into each front pocket that can be pulled out in the dark
  • The main bag is closed with solid zip
  • A 20cm zipped interior pocket easily fits a phone, keys and wallet
  • Internal laptop sleeve fits a 15″ laptop
  • Adjustable webbing straps serve as both the tote’s handle and the rucksack’s shoulder straps
  • Adjustable pannier clips fit virtually all pannier racks
  • Cotton webbing grab handle
  • Wool padding in the base, back, laptop sleeve, and pannier clip cover to protect you and your belongings
  • The padded flap with magnetic snap ensures the pannier clips aren’t felt when used as a tote or rucksack
  • Durable, premium stainless steel hardware from Italy, including ladder locks from Alce, snaps from AMF and zips from Lampo
  • Subtle Vaela branding embroidered in ‘tone on tone’ black thread

Testing

I was eager to use the bag for work and it easily accommodated everything I needed for the day. I was particularly grateful for the smaller internal zipped pocket to store my keys and work pass for quick, but secure access. 

After adjusting the clips, it popped onto my pannier rack with a reassuring hold and the padded flap that covers the clips sat nicely in place on the top. I must admit that I wasn’t already familiar with how to use the locking mechanism to keep the bag fully secure but the lovely Jo from Vaela mentioned that they are in the process of making postcards to explain all the features so perhaps this could be mentioned. 

Vaela bag on pannier rack
IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

The commute went smoothly, and the bag was as easy to get off as it was to get on. Once removed from my bike, I must admit that it did take me a while to get used to the straps cleverly being one continuous system as they are also used for the front latch system. 

As I’ve been wearing my winter coat when using the bag, I had to make the straps as big as they could go so I could wear the bag in my preferred backpack set up. However, this means that unless I shorten them each time, they do stick out a bit when the bag is attached to my bike. It also leaves the latch hanging loose at the top when wearing the bag, but as shown below when wearing thinner layers it is possible to resolve this as you’ve got extra strap length to use. 

Vaela bag being worn as a backpack
IMAGE CREDIT: LUCY GIULIANO

Once at work, I was impressed that everything was still intact inside, including my precious packed lunch, and also that the bag wasn’t too dirty given how muddy and wet all my test rides have been. 

Verdict

Vaela’s bike bag is without doubt a significant upgrade on and replacement for my previous pannier situation. The design and features have clearly been well thought through with urban cycling and women in mind.  

It will set you back £240 but it is important to understand and acknowledge that the materials are of the highest quality and lowest environmental impact which cannot be underestimated. 

Overall, I feel that Vaela’s bike bag is a reliable, practical and stylish product that is perfect for cycling from A to B and then going about your day with your laptop, lunch and more. 

Vaela Discount⚡

To help reduce the financial burden for Discerning Cyclists, you can get 10% off at Vaela when you use promo code DISCERNING at the checkout.

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