Saturday, June 7, 2008

Manhattan Portage goodies: First impressions

As previously reported in this space, there are some bike-related companies with unerring business acumen and a finger on the pulse of the merchandise-buying community. The two I know of are Manhattan Portage and Xootr (maker of the Swift Folder bike) , and the reason they have earned this designation from me is simple: They are my official bike commute sponsors. Both answered my call for free stuff in exchange for clear-eyed reviews andpublicity, and now both have come through: On Thuersday, I got a delightful care package from Manhattan Portage, and on Friday, one came from Xootr. I haven't gotten to photograph the new bike yet, so after the jump, I'll hit you with some first impressions on the bags. Check back for updates as the bags get used and abused.

Lauren Hoffman of Manhattan Portage, the greatest champion of all time, sent two sweet bags and a bunch of promotional red tote bags and lanyards (a lanyard, I recently learned, is a fat shoelace fashioned into a necklace with a clip on the end). You can see the whole spread of goodies, arrayed attractively in my living room, below.

On the left is the Wallstreeter, a briefcase-type bag with hideaway backpack straps that I specifically requested for my cyclist/lawyer lifestyle. More on that below. In the middle is an orange New York Bike Messenger bag (I capitalize and add a hyperlink because I'm not just being descriptive; "New York Bike Messenger" is the name of the model). Lauren said she sent the orange bag because it is the exact opposite of the Wallstreeter, which is true. What that means, unfortunately, is that I can't really integrate it into my everyday routine (dayglo orange bags being too risque for even a public interest lawyer). So . . . the rest of the Beat Bike Blog crew will take turns using and abusing it for the benefit of you, our loyal reader(s). On the right is one of the handsome red tote bags and in front of it, a lanyard. Want one? Drop a note in the comments - I have plenty.

As for the Wallstreeter, I haven't gotten to give it the full, exhaustive field test yet (my very selfish four-year-old son insisted on being driven to pre-school on Friday, so I didn't get to bike to work). I did take some pictures, though, and can give you some first impressions.

There's what the public sees - not bad, I think, in terms of professionalism. (Maybe not worthy of a white shoe law firm, but I'm not in a white shoe law firm, I work with poor teenagers, so this is fine.) Also, lawyerliness aside, the bag is cool looking, in my opinion. I've always been a fan of the Manhattan Portage style, with one color and the black accents - it just looks sharp, dontcha think? Lauren told me Manhattan Portage was out of stock on all but the olive green, but I think that's a blessing in disguise: given my druthers, I would have gone for black (it's slimming), but now that I have the green, I like it.

The strap, as you can see, is of the two-buckles adjustment type, which I tend to scorn, preferring the one-buckle messenger style, since it makes for easy, one-handed, on-the-fly cinching up. I recognize, however, that the two-buckle arrangement is probably better for people who mostly walk around with the bag slung over their shoulder while walking as opposed to riding, and that I'm looking for a bag that will bridge the bike-office divide. So I resolved to give this strap a fair shake (especially because on longer rides, I will bust out the hidden backpack straps). Surprisingly, the shoulder strap wasn't half bad for a two-mile jaunt by bike - the shoulder pad, which is another thing I usually scorn, does a really good job of keeping the bag from flopping around, which obviates serious cinching.

Also, for my lawyering steez, the top carry handle is a good thing.

So what's inside?

Here's the front, under the flap: two big pockets with snaps (perfect for the old U-lock, as you can see) and a large, document-sized zippered pocket, then the voluminous main compartment . . .

. . . then two more, smaller zippered pockets at the back of the main compartment, then one more large, unzippered pocket behind those - oh, and there is another pocket across the back of bag, and one more zippered one across the front. That is a lot of pockets! I like pockets! Very much!

The main compartment, as the above photo amply demonstrates, is pretty damn big. Obviously, it is not as big as a messenger bag, but it comes a lot closer than other businessy shoulder bags I've looked at. It is big enough for a fat stack of important legal documents and two tupperwares (arroz con pollo and salad). I later added my seventeen-inch laptop into the large inside pocket, and it fit snugly with all the other stuff still there, and the bag still closed fine (although it weighed a ton, because my laptop is too damn big, and thank god I have a work laptop that is smaller).

Because of stupidity, I neglected to photograph the backpack straps, but the internet is a many-splendored thing:

Lauren warned me, when I was deciding what bag I wanted, that the backpack straps on the Wallstreeter were sort of half-assed, unpadded, etc., and that I might prefer the Commuter. I almost went that route, because carrying comfort is key - schlepping the laptop in the messenger bag is one of the main things that has made me seek two-strap support. But at the last minute I decided to give the Wallstreeter a chance because the Commuter seemed too small. Well, it turns out I find the straps pretty comfortable. I put the full bag, with large laptop, on my back and did some household chores, then rode my bike around the block, and it was comfy. The true test will be the next longish ride I take, and I'll report more then. But so far, I feel optimistic. If there's any problem with the straps, it's that the clips at the bottom press against my sides a bit until I remember to turn the straps so the clips don't touch me. That's pretty minor, though, and probably wouldn't be a problem for normal people, who don't have my broad, muscular physique. (Ha ha. I'm actually just large, not muscular.)

So that's all I have right now. The bag seems great, I'm eager to put it through its paces, and thanks again to Manhattan Portage for the hook-up. Stay tuned for further updates.


Anonymous said...

Oh geez I'm checking your blog on a Sunday night when I'm completely not on the clock.
One thing you forgot to mention is that the bag is expandable for when you have more stuff.
Anyway, enjoy and get back to the end of your weekend.

El Presidente de China said...

Patience, dear Lauren. One does not get to know a bag overnight, nor does one remember properly to detail all its facets in one try. More details will follow when I've further used and abused it. For what it's worth, I'm halfway through my first workday with the new bag, and so far it has performed admirably.

Anonymous said...

Patience? I guess you don't know me very well.
That bag has a lifetime warranty on it, if it didn't last through one little day of bike commuting and laywering we wouldn't be around for 25 years now, would we?