I’ve been riding around for months with a jacked up messenger bag (torn inner lining, busted main zipper), but couldn’t bring myself to rush out and replace it with just any old bag. I’d made several trips to REI and tried on countless bags, finding nothing that worked. I’m not picky. I just want a comfortable bag that’s not enormous. Lots of compartments is a bonus. In my poking around, I discovered Seattle-based TOM BIHN. More than just Seattle-based, the bags are actually made here in Seattle. The factory showroom/retail store recently moved buildings and didn’t have regular hours when my love affair with the company first started, but now you can visit every Wednesday 11am-2pm, certain Saturdays, or by appointment at 4750A Ohio Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134.
There are several messenger bags choices, but perfect for me is the $90 Imago. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I’ve been in five times now and ask every time and simply can’t remember. It’s nice and little and prevents me from carrying too heavy a load. If fits perfectly in my bike basket, but is also comfortable to wear while riding. TOM BIHN says: “The main compartment can carry a spiral-bound notebook, a medium-sized book, a light wind/rain shell, and your lunch.” In my world it holds: four cloth diapers, a wet bag, four Calico Critters, two wooden train toys, two aircraft toys (seaplane and helicopter), two bananas, an avocado, two cereal bars, and a package of honey grahams. And a to-go coffee mug or water bottle in a pinch, but then it’s not as comfortable to wear.
I had to wait six weeks for the cocoa/cocoa/wasabi Imago (so cute!) to be ready so I got the much bigger $170 Super Ego for my recent trip to Chicago. Here’s a proper review of the bag that just came out on Gear Patrol. I got it to use as my underseat airplane carryon in place of the wheelie bag I never bother to access from the overhead compartment. It worked great and was even fine as my every day bag while I waited for my Imago to arrive. But the thing really should have a warning label. Something to the effect of: Even though you can fit a week’s supply of cloth diapers, snacks, toys, two changes of kid outfits, a book, and a laptop computer in this bag, you don’t need to do so!” It barely fit under the seat in front of me stuffed to the brim, but the real problem was in the lav. It’s already a tight squeeze for me with a four-year old and almost-two-year old, but the Super Ego literally filled the room. I hung it from the hook on the door and had to duck down under it. Next time I stow a small bag in my big bag.
I love the water bottle holders on the sides and the size of the two main compartments. I haven’t figured out the perfect use for the small non-zippered compartments on the front, but it will probably involve small rocks or trains. When I bought the Super Ego, I also got an extra strip. $5 for regular or $10 for the seat belt and you have to get the seat belt. I’m not sure if I’ll ever take the seat belt off and use the shiny yellow one. For my laptop, I got a $30 Cache laptop sleeve. It’s very trim and the fit guide on the website led me easily to the right size (actually, Tom himself ran the fit guide for me because I forgot to make note of my size at home).
For both bags I invested in the Absolute Shoulder Strap for $20 extra (or $30 if you order it not as part of a bag order). It’s really nice. It has a little bit of stretch that really lightens the load. It makes my shoulder a little sweaty, but here in Seattle that’s only an issue a few weeks of the year (har, har).
The forums provide a lot of great information from the company’s loyal fans. A lot of the posters own multiple bags–and the pricier ones, too!–so I don’t feel excessive with my two messengers. Plus I’m convinced my husband will commandeer the Super Ego at some point. Oh, and check out the treason tag they used to have!
It’s a long ride to get down to the SODO showroom so hopefully I won’t feel the need to buy another bag too soon. I haven’t yet figured out the easy route to Magnolia so we started our morning with a bike-on-bus ride to swim class and then biked south along the waterfront and 1st Avenue South (Google Map). I had trouble finding a nice quiet spot along the way to stop for lunch, but we did OK pulling over at Safeco Field for a quick, if loud, bite.
The best part about coming down here is the 1st Avenue South bridge over the train tracks. We also ran into Seattle’s scariest pedicab on the way home. The baby loves owls and was drawn to the owl on the back of the rig. The driver said it was from the Owl N’ Thistle (stolen? borrowed? retired?). Fortunately, the baby thinks skulls and crossbones are also owls.
After our run-in with the gothmobile, we cleansed our palates with more trains by visiting the King Street Station. It was also nice to cheat away one hill by catching the elevator up to look at the train tracks from the walkway.
And since the day had turned really nice, our last stop was South Lake Union Park for our first frolic in the new spray park. Good thing we started out our day at the pool so I had swim suits with me. I don’t normally tote swim wear around, but a TOM BIHN packing cube sure would come in handy to hold two kid swim suits and a towel and fit perfectly at the bottom of my bike basket…