Dear Natalie Try the Brooks England Strand Bag

Ask Natalie Banner Dear Natalie: Who else does this?

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Let’s say I’m trying to ride a bike and carry stuff at the same time. What do I do?

Signed,

Trying to Grow Additional Arms

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Dear TGAA,

Certainly, you realize that you aren’t a Chia Pet. You cannot, simply by will, sprout new appendages. However, I do have compassion for your plight. This is a question as old as mankind: “How can I load as much stuff onto my person at one time without becoming a moving garbage pile and/or compromising my stability and injuring myself?” Of course, back in olden times, our ancestors were carrying, like, jaguar skulls and misshapen root vegetables. You, nowadays, carry several tiny computers and a wad of high-tech water repellent gym clothes. Same-same.

Anyway, I found a genius solution to this dilemma: The Brooks England line of bicycle bags. First off, even their company name sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? I imagined a bag that smelled of rich leather, displayed in a mahogany-panelled library of a shop, peddled by a man wearing a tuxedo and a monocle – wait! Or maybe this fellow!

Brooks England Strand Bag 1
John Boultbee Brooks, founder of the company. © Brooks England

 

Brooks also offers high-quality bicycle saddles (which come with a decade-long warranty!), apparel, replacement parts, helmets, and other bicycle accessories. They even put out an annual magazine called “The Bugle.”

Let me back up a minute. I used the phrase “genius solution” above to compensate for a mighty large oversight on my part. You see, when the kind folks at Brooks contacted us, I studied their line of well-made, fashionable bags for bicycle commuters. I focused in on the prettiness. My eyes filled with covetousness. Tiny, shiny messenger bag emojis began dancing in my irises.

I overlooked a key detail, that Brooks has created “the best [bags] for riding [bicycles] since 1866.” Yeah, right, and uh, I live in the middle of rural bumble-dump mountain country. And, uh, like, I don’t ride bicycles. But whatever! When the Brooks England strand bag arrived, I was determined to offer a proper review despite my lack of bicycle savvy. “Where there is a will, there is a way!” I exclaimed aloud, and I might have peppered that with a few motivational curse words, you know, to get hyped up and stuff.

First, I approached a colleague who commutes several dozen miles (er, 40-ish kilometres), by bike, to work each day. “Listen, bike guy,” I said. “I have to review this Brooks England strand bag, and it’s geared toward other bike guys.”

He looked at me wryly. “You’re not a bike guy.”

“I’m not even a guy, guy,” I replied. “I need you to give me your thoughts on this baby.”

He gingerly picked up the bag. “It’s sharp looking,” he said, turning it around in his hands, unzipping it and peeking inside. “Nice amount of room.” He tugged on the straps, saying, “It’s nice they have this waist attachment belt; sometimes just a shoulder strap makes things feel unbalanced.” Bike Guy then opened the front compartment and rammed his fist in it. “This part stretches out. You could shove a lot of stuff in there.” I nodded, thinking of the jaguar skulls and yams.

Brooks England Strand Bag 2
© Brooks England

 

“Wanna test drive it for me?” I asked. He immediately shook his head no and apologetically shrugged his shoulders. He explained, “I prefer backpacks.”

“Yeah, well I prefer Truck Guys,” I spat out angrily. Okay, that literally did not happen. I actually patted his shoulder and meekly said, “Thanks anyway for your thoughts,” and then walked down the hallway, silently sobbing (that didn’t happen either – I mean the crying part. I didn’t cry about it. I’m not some kind of Cry Guy).

“Well, it’s on to Plan B,” I decided, and one weekend, I escorted myself to the local bike rental rack. You might not have these where you live, so let me explain. At several key spots throughout my small city, there are stands full of brightly colored bicycles available for rental. Each bike has a credit card reader attached, and upon swiping your card, the bike breaks free of its rack-prison. You are then able to ride around town on a neon kaleidoscope-mobile, attracting gawkers, curious children, and a few hippies who might have taken too much LSD.

Brooks England Strand Bag 3
© Håkan Dahlström, 2009

 

Anyway, that phrase “it’s like riding a bike!” is true. You do not forget how to ride a bike. I rode a bike with the Brooks England Strand Bag for you all, and here’s what I learned.

 

Drawbacks

  • This bag is big. Or I am small. Either way, I ran into the size issue again – a challenge I had with other products I reviewed. In the cute graphic illustrating how to wear the bag, the bicyclist has the bag resting squarely on his lower back. In my experience, the bag hung below my lower back, even after shortening the straps as much as possible. Standing, the bag covered my bum. Riding, I needed to hang the bag to the side. It was perfectly comfortable, but I can see how it could become problematic if I had really filled up the bag.
  • I wish there were little compartments or holders on the inside, for pens (or lipstick – what?).
  • Price! Disclaimer: I purchase on a weak American dollar. Everything European seems expensive to me. This bag runs €170.00 / £145.00. That said, for a regular bicycle commuter, who can experience real physical problems from a poorly designed bag, this would be money well-spent. Plus, it qualifies for free shipping!

 

Benefits

  • It is very stylish and professional-looking, and more importantly, it is well made. The material is weatherproof, and there are reflective strips – super important while you’re commuting.
  • It is roomy! The interior offers plenty of storage space. Even though I lived on the wild side and rode helmet-less, I estimate a standard helmet could easily slip in the front compartment. The laptop sleeve is well-padded.
  • The straps are comfortable. The back of the bag offers padding without looking like rugby protective equipment.
Brooks England Strand Bag 4
© Brooks England

 

  • There is a little teensy pocket, perfect for credit cards or keys. For some reason, I found this little detail very cute.

 

Overall: Quite worthy of purchase! If I were to travel back in time, I would pay more attention to the dimensions of the bag, and I’d likely pick one that was more multi-purpose. Although Brooks specializes in biking, they offer a wide array of bags that could also serve well as airplane carry-ons, work cases, travel bags, and general carry-alls. And for what it’s worth, I’m recommending their backpacks to the Bike Guy.

See you next time,

Natalie

 

 

 

 

Resident Columnist and Reviewer at | Website

“Ask Natalie” host, Natalie McCarthy was born and raised in the urban American rust belts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio, in a not-particularly-outdoorsy family. She discovered the outdoors in her early 30s and now seeks out new ways to adventure.

Natalie earned her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work. She works as a licensed supervisory clinical social worker specializing in the treatment of co-occurring substance use, general mental health, and trauma-related disorders. While her professional practice is where Natalie spends most of her time helping people with their problems, she was an online advice columnist in the past.

In the early 2000s, she was the go-to answer girl on a now-defunct website called New Girl Order. Her column there led her to research a diversity of topics, from May-December romances to why on Earth plucking our eyebrows makes us sneeze.

45 thoughts on “Dear Natalie Try the Brooks England Strand Bag

  • August 23, 2018 at 12:58 pm
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    While your Bike Guy May have preferred backpacks, some of us prefer a strap bag. This Brooks England bag looks good. But I really want more than I tiny pocket inside. Aside from cosmetics, what about pens, cards, sunglasses? Informative review.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:54 pm
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      There is a ton of internal storage space! It just lacks the type of organizer lining that I prefer.

      Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 9:26 am
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    Wow made in England hopefully. Thanks for sharing A good product the Brooks England strand bag. The bag though has many benefits but is slightly expensive as per the size and use but a quality product and durable for all weathers. Thanks, for sharing pros and cons as well.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:54 pm
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      It is English through and through!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 8:32 am
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    These bags aren’t exactly cheap, but I find that everything that makes your life easier (literally) and helps staying fit and healthy is worth the extra money – in the end it pays.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm
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      I couldn’t agree more. I recall the back pain I had as a grad student carting around books and materials in a cut-rate canvas bag… ugh!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 8:05 am
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    Excellent review! Love your sense of humor. My question is, how comfortable is it is riding while carrying the big bag. I put my stuff mostly in the basket or in the side bags of the bicycle.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:57 pm
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      Thanks! Without a fully loaded bag, I found it comfortable – much like hauling a purse while bicycling. If it were filled up with stuff, I wouldn’t have been able to move the bag to my back and use the waist belt, which is meant to stabilize the bag and make it more comfortable. I’m too short for that – if you’re taller, you could wear the bag as intended and likely would not have any comfort problems!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 7:44 am
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    I don’t even need a bike bag, but I read your entire review because I found it very entertaining. (My favorite part: “I’m not even a guy, guy.”) Thanks for the humorous writing. Carry on!

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:57 pm
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      Hahahahaha thank you!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 1:18 am
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    What a gorgeous bag! I love the simple design, I bet this would be awesome for an outing!

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 2:58 pm
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      It is such a great looking bag!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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    Excellent product review! I giggled at you mentioning “weaker American dollar” – hello from India!!
    I can totally understand how the product would be helpful for all hitchhikers and bikers. I liked that your review was so honest and you mentioned both pros and cons

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:07 pm
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      Hahahahaha thank you! Hello friend in India! ??

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 5:03 pm
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    Ha! I’m definitely not a chia pet. I’m glad you gave an honest review. It is a bag that does look like it is really functional – and pretty, too.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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      Thanks Jennifer! I’d you ever figure out how to become a chia pet, please let me know. I think it could be useful for me! ?

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 11:09 am
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    Looks like a very high-quality bike bag. I’m not a bike guy either but if I”m ever in the market for a bike bag of such high quality, I’ll know where to look.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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      I think it speaks to the allure of this fancy bag that multiple non-bike-guys have decided to keep it in mind! ?

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 10:15 am
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    This post is SO timely for me. Yesterday I was riding my bike with a side body bag and it wasn’t quite right, but a backpack isn’t always right. Please give more options – I’m struggling with this issue for me and my boyfriend!

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:05 pm
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      Rachel, I picked up on your bag vibe! This one might-could work for you. I’d recommend looking at the dimensions of the bag on their website and comparing them to your height and torso length. This combines the side bag with a waist belt, so it has the stability of a backpack – and if you’re tall enough, it’ll sit on your lower back without interfering with your movement. I had no such luck!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 9:26 am
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    Thanks for sharing honest reviews on Brooks England strand bag. I never rode a bike with a strand bag but would love to do one day. This bag though has many benefits, is slightly expensive as per the size and usability. As it is durable in all weathers, then it has more brownie points for this feature.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:03 pm
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      It hits quite a few high points for sure!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 8:32 am
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    Since I am cycling quite a lot, also businesslike I know the struggle of having the right bag to carry all my stuff. Backpacks I do not really like that much, especially in the summertime. These bags here look truly appealing, also very suitable for business. The size I think would be ideal for me, since I like to have more space in general instead of too little. Great to hear that the material is waterproof, for me this is very important. Really cool bags, I will check them out.

    Reply
    • August 24, 2018 at 3:01 pm
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      Yes, this seems perfect for you! The professional and upper-scale look of this bag is, in my opinion, one of its best qualities. No one wants to sail into their workplace carrying a casual or super athletic looking bag – I mean, those might be great from a utilitarian perspective, but they certainly don’t scream “SERIOUS PROFESSIONAL!” ?

      Reply
  • August 22, 2018 at 12:10 am
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    Brooks sounds like a great company. I love the high-quality of their bike bags.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm
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      They do seem like a super sophisticated company!

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 11:56 pm
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    Love the second bag. Looks like something I would use. But honestly, I know that despite my bag, my body can only carry a certain load. Over than that, my bones would start to hurt, especially my back. 🙁 This just happened during my recent trip where I went alone. 🙁

    Reply
    • August 22, 2018 at 12:09 pm
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      Oh no! Aches and pains can really put a damper on a good trip ?

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 10:57 pm
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    I don’t ride (ever. I am too clumsy). But I would love this bag for general day to day I think. Would be great for work if you were an office worker!

    Jackie

    Reply
    • August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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      Yes, I agree! So many of their bags are useful off the bike, too.

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 1:32 pm
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    I’m really impressed with the look and quality of this bag. It certainly looks durable, as do the other types they offer on their website.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 6:43 am
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    That was a honest review. I feel it is quite expensive though the design is good.
    While it can be put to good use it may not be suitable for all categories.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2018 at 12:07 pm
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      It is pricey. I can see making the purchase if bicycling was my primary mode of transportation.

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 5:06 am
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    I really enjoyed the in-depth review of this bag! I have never done bicycling before but this looks like a great suggestion for those who are trying to find a sturdy and huge bag for that purpose.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 1:42 am
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    One of my problems too when buying a bag is the size! Although its great that this one is weatherproof!

    Reply
    • August 21, 2018 at 2:22 am
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      Ugh, size problems for days. It’s so big! I’m eyeballing a few smaller bags on their site.

      Reply
    • August 21, 2018 at 2:21 am
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      It is very high quality!

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 1:02 am
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    Great tips and backpack suggestions regarding this bag! I don’t ride that often, but when I’m ready I will know what to do.

    Reply
    • August 21, 2018 at 2:21 am
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      ?? I too am an infrequent bicyclist but if I werena regular commuter, I’d want a bag as well made as this!

      Reply
  • August 20, 2018 at 11:23 pm
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    I’ve seriously always had that problem! I feel like putting things in a basket can be stressful and it knocks the balance off :/ definitely going to try one of these!

    Reply

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