North St. Route Nine is the bag you want for commuting


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Curtis from North St. Bags was kind of enough to let beta test his new Route Nine Convertible Bag. As an enthusiast of bicycle backpacks, panniers, and handlebar bags, I was very excited to test out this new product. After spending 2 months of commuting everyday to the train station with the Route Nine, I can safely say that this is the best bag I’ve used for commuting to work by bike.

Benefits of a convertible pannier

The biggest benefit of having the a convertible pannier was being able to stay highly mobile when I parked my bike on the train or went into the grocery store. All the while, being able to arrive anywhere on a bike without a sweaty back. Why choose between a backpack or a pannier when you can have both?

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Wearing the Bag

The first immediate thing I noticed about the Route Nine bag is that it was comfortable to wear. North Street uses a seat belt style strap that has a similar tightening mechanism to my favorite messenger bag company: Bailey Works. It is incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is pull on the loose end and it tightens. You can even tighten the strap with just one hand (important if you’re riding a bike or holding a beer). Also the mesh pad at the bottom of the bag is very comfortable on the back. When I went camping, I used the bag for a short 2.5 mile hike and did not have any issues with it as a bag.

Mounting the Bag

The trickiest part about North Street’s Route Nine bag was learning how to use the type of hook strap system. I’ve used Axiom’s hook & bungee system for about 2 years and now I use Ortlieb’s QL2 system for now 2 years, and I find these both very safe, secure and easy to put on. However, the beta version of the Route Nine Bag that I used reminded me of the older style Jandd panniers with just a non stretchy strap and a manual way to tighten the pannier to the rack. I initially thought this was a major flaw in the pannier’s design, but learning how to secure the pannier to the rack twice I was able to do it quickly without any problems.

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Bag Size

The size of the Route Nine is a perfect size for commuting to work. It’s not at all bulky, but can fit all the essentials plus more. On a normal work day I carry: 15″ Macbook Pro (in a neoprene case), charger, headphones, iPad, sketch books, Klean Kanteen thermos and some other little do-dads. When this is already in my bag, I can still fit some groceries or an extra change of clothes in the bag with no problem.

Bag Design

The Route Nine has an enjoyable functional look to it. As a messenger bag, it reminded me of a Chrome roll top bag I once owned. I didn’t feel awkward at all carry into a store as I sometimes do with having multiple Ortlieb panniers hanging from my neck. The reflective paneling is large and visible to cars. This is a nice touch considering that this pannier will probably used for commuting in the city at all times of the day. I found the cordura style texture of the bag to be very nice and and casual as well as completely waterproof. Like other North St. Bags, the Route Nine keeps your stuff dry during a down pour. I was fortunate enough to test it in the rain multiple times and my valuable and electronics have always stayed dry.

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I liked the design so much, that I drew it one day on the train

Summary

If you’re looking for a bag that holds just the right amount of stuff that will look good on and off the bike, the North St. Route Nine is an amazing option. The pannier mounting system could be updated for a little faster mounting, but I think the pros outweigh the cons hands down. It is stylish, durable, comfortable to wear, easy to use, and made in USA! Great job on the bag Curtis.

UPDATE: 

Use coupon code: NSBboyz for 15% off (good until 4/30/14)!

4 thoughts on “North St. Route Nine is the bag you want for commuting

  1. I’d like to see how it mounts to the rack. I’ve seen a few different types of mounting systems so I was just curious to see how this one worked. I really appreciate your review and this looks like a great weather-proof bag and a great alternative to Ortlieb’s offerings.

    Thanks!

  2. I second that request!

    Also wanted to point out that messenger bag ≠ backpack. Over the years, I’ve realized my back, shoulders, and neck suffer a lot from messenger bags and I’ve recently switched to using the Ballard Market pannier (Detours) for my daily commute because it has both tote bag and backpack options in addition to a relatively quick pannier mounting system (though not nearly as secure as I’d prefer).

    The messenger straps on this North St. bag look pretty great, but I would appreciate a shot from the front to see the full strap in action and the seatbelt mechanism you mention in the review.

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