There’s a never-ending and vigorous debate amongst Brompton owners about the best way to travel with our bicycles when packing them is essential. No one method suits all, with minimalists going for slipping their Bs into IKEA’s Dimpa shopping bag or the equivalent, and maximalists going tor super-pricey hard cases — with many methods in-between.
Until my most recent trip, I have always travelled with Basil un-shrouded, but I knew the day would come when I wanted either more protection for him or stealth packaging, so that it wasn’t obvious that I was travelling with a Brompton. I was quite interested, then, when the Vincita company contacted me and offered to send their new made-for-Brompton Sightseer Transport Bag to me for review.
I found the Sightseer very easy to use. To place a Brompton in the Sightseer bag, you undo the zipper all the way, and fold the padded sides down, around the exterior. It was tricky dropping Basil in at first, but the second time was easier, and the third time quite easy. It’s helpful to grasp the folds at the top edge, and give a gentle shake as you settle the Brompton into the bottom of the bag.
A firm base supports the bottom of the bag, and extends up the narrower sides — something I particularly appreciated, as Basil’s rear rack benefits from the additional security the hard base provides. Hook-and-loop straps (that’s the X you see above) make it possible to secure the bike so that it won’t shift within the bag.
Basil’s bigger than a lot of Bromptons: I frequently take long rides with him, so I don’t remove his somewhat extensive collection of gear when we travel. My handlebars are customized so that they lean in toward me when I ride, which means that Basil is wider than usual when folded. He has a rear rack with Eazy Wheels, a saddle bag that I don’t remove, Ergons, Zefal toe cages, and a squishy water bottle holder that also adds a little bulk.
I wondered if my encumbered Brompton would fit into the Brompton-specific Sightseer; he did, perfectly. His handlebars do cause a slight bulge, though, which can be seen to the right, below. That wouldn’t be an issue for most Bromptons, and wasn’t a problem for the Sightseer, either.
The Sightseer isn’t just one bag, actually, but two: an outer case, and an inner sleeve that drapes over the folded Brompton. That’s the inner sleeve, below. There are three pockets: one on each side, and one across the top. When packed, the sides provide some protection for the bike. The sleeve drops down to about axle level on a Brompton, and I found that I was able to pack all my biking-specific clothing in the three pockets. The shoulder strap allows the sleeve to be carried like a garment bag, worn cross-body, or hung up in a closet.
I was not only able to wrap the packed sleeve over Basil, but also managed to tuck my biking shoes and a week’s worth of clothing — I’m a smallish person, your mileage may vary — in and around Basil’s lower bits, beneath the sleeve. (Featherweight packing cubes are perfect for this job.) Those stuff-able spaces meant that the Sightseer was the only bag I needed for my Brompton and all of my clothing. The packing cubes also provided more padding for Basil, though if I were gate-checking him on a plane, I’d do something more formal about protecting projecting parts.
The Sightseer rolls on large wheels, which are partially recessed. I found that it moves easily and well, but people my height (5’2″/157.5 cm) and/or with shorter arms like mine may find it inconvenient to roll the bag far, particularly if it is packed heavily, since the angle might not be maximally efficient for easy pulling. This would not be an issue for most people, though.
The pull handle is adjustable, and Dr. Diarist, with long arms and greater height, found it easier to roll than I did, as he was able to pull the bag at a more acute angle. Supporting struts along the bottom of the bag ensure that it doesn’t sag; they support the fully-packed bag and Brompton quite effectively.
Optionally, the bag can be worn on a shoulder; straps are provided, and tuck away into zippered pockets on each side of the Sightseer, so they are out of the way when not needed.
For maximum convenience, Vincita has added a buckle onto the shoulder pad, so that the two straps can be clipped together, preventing them from slipping apart when worn. Clever!
I’m quite impressed with the construction of both the bag and the sleeve. The zippers move easily and appear strong sturdy; stitching, and the stitched exterior straps which strengthen the bag are well-placed and neatly done.
There are thoughtful touches everywhere like tabs at the ends of the zipper, so that there’s something to grab onto when closing the bag.
The padded pull handle has a buckle, allowing it to separate so that the bag’s zipper can be more easily accessed.
The sleeve has protective corners, which help keep its shape, and should ensure long wear.
A selling point is that the Sightseer and packed sleeve can be ported on the back of a Brompton, held in place with bungee cords. There’s a loop on the back to hold the bungees in place.
That might be practical under certain circumstances, in a world where, for instance, security requirements might allow someone to ride right up to an airport. (That can be done in the USA, but it’s not common, and probably not possible at all airports.) It’s not a feature I’d ever use, but may be one that others would be pleased to exercise.
Here’s Basil with the Sightseer (and hidden sleeve) attached to his rear rack. The bag widens his profile a bit, but not hugely beyond his M handlebars; it would be important to remember that extra width when riding, though.
I wasn’t sure how useful I would find this system, but I was surprised at how much I liked using the Sightseer, and how simple it made packing and transporting my Brompton. As a stealth tool, and a solo bag which covered both my cycling and my clothing needs for the duration, it proved a great solution. It’s one I’ll depend on again and again!
One thing does need changing, though in my opinion: I don’t want to travel with an obvious bicycle logo on the side of my luggage. I’d like to see this bag made available without the (admittedly appealing!) bicycle graphic.
I feel so strongly about this that I sewed a flap over the logo before I travelled with the bag; I don’t particularly want to advertise that Basil may be alone in my hotel room on the occasions when I can’t have him by my side. (I left the Vincita logo, though; it’s discreet, and anyone who guesses what the bag is might be very happy to know where they can find one!)
The other suggestion I’d offer to Vincita is to include a card which explains the features of the bag. I didn’t notice the hook-and-loop straps, for instance, until I’d used the bag a couple of times. The Sightseer is feature-rich; I think Vincita should capitalize on all those details — and ensure that owners will use and appreciate them by spelling them out in detail.
The price, in US dollars, is a quite reasonable $159.00; Vincita is in Thailand, so shipping cost to some parts of the world could be an issue. However, Urban Bike Fitters, in
Oregon Fremont, California, is a Vincita dealer, so they might be a possible source for USA residents, and there is an extensive range of global Vincita stockists.
Disclaimer, and a Giveaway!
Vincita provided the Sightseer and its internal sleeve to me at no cost; keep this in mind if you think that may have influenced my review! Vincita also sent a second set so that I could give it away to a reader; I’ll be paying the cost to ship it to a winner within the continental USA. Details of how the giveaway will work will be posted tomorrow, and I will add the link HERE once that post is up.