24 April 2013

My New Commuter Bags: Koki Bagatelle And Dilly

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that on most days, I had been commuting with my Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag.  On occasion, if I didn't have much to carry, I'd use bungee cords to lash my tote bag to my rear rack.  But, I'd say that the Carradice carried my books, papers, lunch, change of shoes and, sometimes, an extra layer of clothing (or, on hot days, clothes to change in to) on about 95 percent of my commutes during the past five years or so.

It's hard to beat the sheer, flat-out quality of Carradice's canvas bags. Plus, I love the way they look, especially on classic steel bikes (or modern steel bikes inspired by them) like my Mercians.  When I attached a shoulder strap to my green Nelson, it looked something like an old-school duffle, satchel or Danish book bag.

However, taking it off or putting it on the bike isn't quick.  I briefly used a quick-release Bagman support, but I found that the quick-release latches weren't very secure.  I understand that more recent versions of the quick-release Bagman have corrected this problem.  Still, I didn't want to take the trouble of attaching it to my saddle.

Before I started commuting with my Nelson, I used various panniers.  Because of their shape, I found that papers wrinkled and crumpled, and clothes wrinkled.  Also, I found that some panniers had a rather wide profile, which I didn't like when riding in the tight spaces of urban traffic.  The difficulty of maneuvering was further exacerbated when I used baskets that mounted on the sides of the rear rack, as they were even wider and boxier.  (I once snagged one of those baskets on somebody's bumper!)

I could have lived with the Nelson's idiosyncracies.  However, I got a really good buy on a Koki Bagatelle pannier.  i was buying something else on eBay, and the seller just happened to have the new bag, with its tags still on it.  At the price I paid for it, I figured that if it didn't work as a commuter or shopper bag for me, I--or someone else--could find some other use for it.

After two months, the Koki Bagatelle is looking more and more like a "keeper."  The Bagatelle is actually made for small-wheel bikes like Brompton and Dahon. So it is longer, but has a narrower profile, than most other panniers.  That means, among other things, that it protrudes over the rack platform, in contrast to most panniers whose tops are level with the rack platform.

What has surprised me is how stable it is.  It attaches to the rack with two alligator-type clips which are very strong.  

There is nothing to secure the bottom of the pannier to the rack.  Turns out, such a thing is not necessary:  The bag did not bounce, even when I ride on streets that bear more resemblance to the Ho Chi Minh Trail than to thoroughfares in modern first-world countries.  The mounting system also makes the bag easy to install and remove, though the latter is not a one-hand operation:  You have to pull the top of the bag, unclip one of the clips, then the other.  Still, removal is quick, which is particularly nice on a bag that's so secure when it's installed.

Once the bag is removed, you can set it down just about anyplace:  It has a "boot sole" rubber bottom that prevents wear and also keeps the bag from tipping over, even when it's unevenly loaded. 

Another reason I like this bag for my daily commutes is that I'm almost always carrying papers or manuscripts.  The bag's shape makes it very well-suited to this purpose.  I haven't tried carrying my laptop in it, but I would expect that, in its sleeve, my computer would fit very securely.

I happened to get my Bagatelle in a tan canvas material with brown leather trim. Personally, I think it looks great on Vera.  After using it for a couple of weeks, I bought a matching Dilly handlebar bag, which doubles as a shoulder bag.  

While it performs both functions quite well, I have two small complaints: 1. The length of the shoulder strap cannot be easily adjusted, and it's not easy to remove.  So, I have to bundle it up and tuck it inside the bag to keep it from getting caught in my brakes or spokes.  2.  There is no way to clip a light onto it, and the mounting bracket keeps me from using the light I had on my handlebar.  Plus, it's a bit small to use as a tote bag: It's more like a small purse or shoulder pouch.

Koki provides nylon rain covers with all of their bags.  I've ridden my bags in the rain and, while they provide a fair amount of water-resistance, they aren't as watertight as Carradice or, certainly, Ortleib bags.  But the rain covers will keep your gear dry and keep the canvas clean.

All in all, commuting with my Koki Bagatelle pannier and (sometimes) Dilly handlebar bag has been working out very well, and the quality of the bags seems very good.  I have been satisfied enough to take advantage of Koki's clearance sale on last year's models and buy another Bagatelle in another color, and a ""Budgie" handlebar/tote bag (which is a bit larger than the Dilly, but fits on the same mount as the Dilly).

For those of you who like ratings, on a scale from 1 to 10, I give the Bagatelle a 9.5 and the Dilly an 8.5.  My Carradice will return to the role to which it's best suited:  day and weekend trips.


  1. Nice bag! I may need one for my daily commute.
    I always wanted to commute by bike everyday, but I live so far away from my workplace. Therefore, I decided to get a Montague Folding Bike because I can park my car at some point and easily take my bike out of the trunk of my car, unfold it and ride!

  2. I’m fond of travelling but I’m having a problem about the bag that I’m going to use. I’m glad when I bought a personalized bag which suits my needs while travelling. I can see in your ratings that you’re fully satisfied with this bag. I’ll be waiting for more reviews from you!

    -Leonia Shearer-

  3. Anon--The bags I reviewed may be very good choices for you. Check Koki's website and click on to "Bottom Bracket Bargains." There, discontinued styles and colors are sold at substantial discounts. If there's one you like, you can get a Bagatelle for $42 instead of $70.

    Leonia--I plan to review other products. I've written some reviews in past posts. Perhaps I should set up a list of them on this blog's sidebar.