Monday, January 5, 2015

Vincita Sightseer Bag Review

Travel: Plane from Seoul to Osaka. Bus to Kyoto.
Duration: 4 days (end of November)

It was time for a new biking adventure. I was in search of a bag that would cradle my Brompton through the turbulence of airport baggage and keep my mind at ease while flying overseas.  After looking at various options online, I found this protection in varying degrees.

There was everything from soft cases on various Korean sites to the extra-cushy hard cases that, while I’m sure they provide excellent protection in travel, pose a problem when wanting to travel around a country and not having a central hub to keep your bags. 

We came across Vincita which can meet a variety of your bagging needs from daily commuting to long distance trips. This is site also provided us with a few options of bags that were not only affordable, but looked like they provided enough protection for our travels. After contacting the company, we were excited to be offered Sightseer bags for free as long as we completed a review (See their promo video and the link to the sightseer bag).

We were so excited when a giant box arrived with Thailand postage stickers and the Vincita logo arrived.  The box arrived with the Sightseer bag, which includes a garment bag (The two come automatically together).

Upon unpacking, these bags looked solid.  I was very excited to think of all the places this bike would help be travel to, especially the upcoming trip to Kyoto, Japan.  I took the bag to my local Brompton guy at bb5 ( He’s been my go-to guy for all things Brompton and supports many other Bromptoniers in Seoul.

Packing the Brompton
Rating: 5/5
The bike is quite easy to put into the bag. There are Velcro straps at the bottom inside the bag, which help to keep the bike in place. Strapping the bike into the bag also helps make rolling the packed bag much easier. The first time we packed the Bromptons, we found ourselves dragging the bottom of the bag and it was cumbersome to roll; but, this was all because I didn’t strap the Velcro bits on the bottom to the bike. After attaching everything properly, it was much easier to roll the bag around.

Garment Bag
Rating: 5/5

The garment bag also packs and folds quite easily on top of the bike. It adds a lot of added protection to the top and sides of the bike, keeping clothes away from greasy bike parts as well as protecting the bike from bumps and drops.   That being said, we were not expecting to be doing any camping as we were staying at an Airbnb place and hotels so the majority of what was packed was clothing.  If you would need more space, there is plenty of room in the Sightseer bag to pack anything extra. It was really a pleasant surprise as to how helpful and useful the garment bag was.  Just looking at the website, I thought it was just another thing to “buy” and even unboxing it wasn’t too impressive. But, it REALLY worked well! Added piece of mind to cradling the Bromtpon, a nice way to organize and divide up clothing, and so easy to slide in and out of the Sightseer bag.

Ease of Carrying/Rolling
Rating: 10.5/15

1. Rolling
Rating: 3/5
This is one area that I think the bag can improve on.  You have to tighten the carrying strap quite tight in order for the bag not to drag on the ground. I think if the bag was made with the strap a bit lower and closer to the ground, it would give enough space for the bag to be lifted upwards to give enough space for it to be dragged.  Not that the packed bags were exceedingly heavy, the buildup of carrying them through terminals and bus stations made muscles tired and posture hunchy. It became more and more difficult to carry and the dragging resulting from anatomically being closer to the ground, did not help the situation. We felt this more at Kyoto train station, as there were no carts to use and we had to walk around a bit to get to the information desk and find our way around. The plastic handle on the front pinches the fingers a bit, but could be easily remedied with a bit of material even with a cycling glove. Again, if you find that it's dragging too much, make sure that you've strapped your bike on the inside to the bottom of the bag. 

2. Shoulder “side-bag” straps
Rating: 3/5
There is an option to pull out these two straps on the top of the bag in order to carry the bag on your shoulder.  This is a very good idea and helped to make it more comfortable in carrying the bag when the hunchy rolling situation became cumbersome.  That being said, there are two changes that could make this shoulder carrying a bit better.  Michael was less of a fan of these straps than I was (See recommendations at end).

3. Lifting from Transport
Rating: 5/5
The bag comes with additional handles to help lift it from a horizontal position. Brilliant. Various grips and handles around the bag make so easy to lift and handle the bag, something I’m sure that airport baggage handlers must have also been unconsciously grateful for.

Riding Storage
Rating: 5/5

This was SUCH a pleasant surprise! It was very easy to fold and roll up the bag to attach to the back rack of the Brompton.  Being a long-footed lady and having had attached various boxes to the back rack, I was a bit worried that I would have to ride with the pedals at my heels; however, this was not the case at all. If you fold up the bag properly and make sure that it is shifted back away from the pedals, there is no problem with having your feet hit the bag.  Although the additional garment bag with all of my clothing made the bag a bit bulkier to strap to the back rack, it was still very easy to bike with. The promotional video shows heavy duty straps that attach the bag to the back rack, however, these are actually not included and the straps on the Bromtpon did the job. Out first ride from Kyoto station to the lodgings was about an hour ride, but I did not feel at all hindered by the extra baggage behind me.  A slight bump here or there just helped keep me mindful of the additional perimeter I had to keep in mind. I would even be comfortable taking this for much longer trips where you would need to take all of your stuff with you.

Padding & Protection
Rating: 5/5

Upon first inspections, I was pleased to see so much padding on the bag! It has a thick layer of plastic cushioning EDIT that would be easy to clean if anything were to explode inside… There is still quite a bit of space outside of the garment bag and around the bike to add additional clothing and items, need be.  I have read that it’s a good idea to take off the seat if you have a pricier one such as the Brooks saddles, but, we left our on as they are the original seats and they made the whole bike fit quite snugly into the bag.  It felt like that would be a safer bet than to take it off and have the post sticking out. I had absolutely no worries as to the safety of the bike with all of the padding and the added protection provided by the garment bag.  I just pictured the bag being thrown about by baggage control. Not a bead of sweat.

Overall Rating:  31 / 35


Ware & Tare
From pervious experience, I added bubble warp padding to the fold-over peddle on my Brompton. The clothes in the garment bag which lay on top added all of the necessary extra protections needed for the sharp bits of the Brompton.  My bike and bag arrived in one piece.  Michael, on the other hand, was not so lucky. In hind-sight, we both could have used maybe a piece of cardboard to help give added protection to the bikes.  Michael’s bike arrived in one piece, but the hinged corner where the bike folds in half and that sticks out quite significantly, must have had a significant bump on the way.  A bump big enough to leave a hole through the bag but, thankfully, no mark on the Brompton. I wouldn’t say this is a defect for the bag, as that corner would pierce through most soft-case bags, but more our own misjudgment in not enforcing the pointy bits of our bikes.  Besides that one hole, there was nothing. No marks, kinks, dents of any kind left on the bikes. Task accomplished. The bags and bikes arrived intact.

Note of Caution “A bike is a bike”
We had an unpleasant experience travelling back to Seoul with Peach Airlines; more on that infuriating experience soon. I have read many blogs that discuss checking the bike as a bike or as a bag. I’d like to stick with checking the Bromtpon as a bag since it is always under weight and under size restrictions even for regular luggage. That being said, even after all the chaos that happened through check-in on our way back, a big give away (or should I say WARNING SIGN) on our bags were the large, bright, happy bike symbols on the outside.  There is an option to order these bags without the symbol and I would strongly encourage doing so if you are hoping to get these on the flight as a regular piece of luggage.

Vincita Recommendations – wish list
1. Back-pack straps
I wish the bag had the option of pull-out back-pack straps. A friend of mine once lent be a bag that had the option of pulling out straps to carry the whole thing as a backpack. Although, that particular bag was NOT comfortable, I’m sure there are ways to make this a comfortable option. I think I would also prefer it to the single shoulder strap option.

2. Shoulder “side-bag” straps
The current straps make it a bit difficult to carry the bag for longer periods of time and could be improved in two ways.  The first is to put a handle that you can hold on to at the bottom of the bag to help with the weight. Carrying that much weight on one shoulder is definitely not good for your back. Being able to help support this with your arm would ease the weight. And, the second, is to make the straps that sit on your shoulder hold together more firmly. Although there is a velcro bit that connects the two, they shift apart quite easily, making it more difficult to carry.

On the way out of the Tori gates we were just hopping back on our bikes as we heard someone calling our names. For a moment I thought there was no way this could be directed towards us since no one we knew had mentioned coming to Kyoto that weekend. We stopped, looked around, and there was a girl coming towards us, "Are you Maria?" You know that moment when someone approaches you and seems like they completely know who you area, but you're panicking on the inside that you have NO idea who this is? And you start feeling so bad that you don't recognize someone who obviously you should know? Well, this was one of those times. Turns out, we had bumped into the Vincita representative, Gem, who we had been in contact with about the bags. Not only her, but her entire family. What are the odds! It was such a pleasant surprise! They were were extremely friendly and the kind of people you'd love to visit with and share stories for a few hours.

Thank you for helping making the trip to Kyoto so much easier, Vincita!

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