CARRADICE KELBROOK SATCHEL
1405g (as tested) £130
The Carradice Kelbrook Satchel is, in many ways, a traditional take on the messenger bag. However, it is larger than many, eschews, for better or worse, some of the regular features, embraces others, and sometimes goers its own way in the best Carradice tradition. The result is large, robust, traditionally stylish, and a little bit quirky. On the whole I have been charmed, with one or two grouses. As Carradice say, it will go from bike to boardroom, old school.
Pros: robustly waterproof, large capacity, adaptable space.
Materials and manufacture 5/5
Waxed cotton duck is a traditional as black pudding in Bury market. It promises durability – a promise fulfilled after a several weeks of use in all weathers and a few scrapes on overgrown undergrowth and, clumsily, canal company brickwork. The northern grit does not stop there, with a leather base, buckles and straps of leather and steel, shiny press studs, and a “military grade webbing” shoulder strap. In addition, there’s a strap to stabilise the satchel when riding.
A leather light loop maintains the mix of function and fashion.
Stitching - in our case by Andrea – is impeccable, with shiny nickel-plated steel rivets and rings finishing the job in style.
Harness and back 3.5/5
Strangely, some might feel, the shoulder strap is pad-less. I’m not keen on carting hefty loads in courier bags, but adding much weight above the normal commute made for a, temporarily, sore shoulder. Provided you don’t overload, there’s not a problem.
Likewise, there’s no back pad, or venting. At gentle speeds this is not a problem, but faster commuters will arrive with sweaty back syndrome. That’s not to say that you can’t adjust the harness to leave space for airflow, whilst keeping things tight enough for stability. Keep in mind, we are strictly in commuting territory, at 10-14mph.
The shoulder strap is easily adjustable, depending on how high you want it to sit on your back. Having said that, it has required frequent re-adjustment after periods off the bike. A bit of a pain, but not a deal-breaker, in my opinion, as changing loads require a bit of strap-fettling in any case.
The stabilisation strap, with plenty of adjustment in its length, can be positioned where comfortable on the chest, held to the shoulder strap with a supple leather loop and twin press studs. Old school style, giving options compared to single-point fasteners. A definite plus when swapping between café racer and sit-up-and-beg.
Off bike, the strap clips to two rings, to keep it out of the way. I did try to fasten it there whilst on the bike – around my thirty-four inch waist, but it was fiddly and, though quite comfortable, only made a difference with heavy loads: weight taken on the hips, as per backpacking rucsac.
Capacity and load 4/5
It isn’t as large as its vast Carradice Super C 24 litre sibling. Having said that, it has more space than most, even coming close to some cycling backpacks, such as Tucano Urbano’s Beak Pack and Chrome’s Urban Ex 18, twenty and eighteen litres respectively. To my eye it looks larger.
At the back is an open slot. Load-wise, I.ve found this of limited use, although a folded tea-towel places strategically has made a comfortable contour for the back. Inside there’s a zip pocket capable of taking the basics of modern-day commuting – purse or wallet, phone, keys ect. There a soft laptop pocket, which can be removed. I’ve used it as a laptop sleeve for my MacBook Air, but it will take the larger MacBook Pro. Indeed, it will protect anything up to 37x28x4cm. the whole inner is lined in contrasting grey.
There’s a front pocket, too, for ready access.
I’ve easily packed in spare tube and tools, laptop and lead,Proviz CRS Plus Jacket, spare shoes, note book etc. Even managed a take-away on the way home.
Loading weightier items put a bit of strain on the un-padded shoulder, but I usually opt for panniers if things are likely to get heavy. The stabiliser strap has held all loads firmly.
OK, in best old school style, the main compartment and the front pocket are covered by flaps, rather than sealed against the elements. However, the cover is generous, so in real terms there’s little risk of ingress, short of hurling it in the cut.
Care is needed, although this is not an overwhelming burden or time consuming. Cotton duck and leather are both rugged. However, both benefitted from a good wipe after an outing on the mudguard-less single speed. In the long run, there’ll be a nourishing of the leather with something like Proofhide, and maybe a protectant like Leather Lacquer from Carnakalicious. Worth keeping the metalwork shiny, too. Frankly, at this price you’d expect to put in some basic maintenance. Sling-it-in-the-corner cyclists won’t get so much out of it, although it will put up a good long fight.
As mentioned above, we are strictly in commuting territory here. I’ve found the Kelbrook Satchel very stable, even when loaded to bulkiness. The strap would benefit from a bit of padding with heavier loads, but I’d go pannier if expecting to be loaded with weight.
Rain has had absolutely no effect, other than to make the outside wet. April showers and the power shower have been impotent, but ensure the flap is suitable fastened.
£130 is a good deal to lay-out for a bag. The Super C sibling is less than half the price, waterproof and larger (how much gear do you want to carry on your back?). Perhaos the key point here is image – although there’s no doubting the Kelbrook’s functionality. I like its old-school …. well … old school satchel. Modernists may well prefer the angular ingenuity of Chrome’s Modal Vale Sling Bag – although they’ll need to travel three litres lighter. The latter is cheaper by £20, but is not fully waterproof or, in my view, as robust. I have seen the Kelbrook discounted on-line.
You might regard this as either a commuting classic or an unnecessary throwback. That’s a matter of opinion. Whichever it is, the Kelbrook is tough, waterproof, spacious, and can cope with a bit more than many messenger bags.
Verdict 4.25/5 As bomb-proof as you’ll get and should be an heirloom, with a bit of care.
PUBLISHED MAY 2019