Bags, Gear, Reviews

Review: Pelican Porteur bag

Swift Industries– born in Seattle, is housed in a plain, non-descript building in Ballard sharing space with a number of other artists and craftspeople.  Predominately focusing on panniers, Martina and Jason have branched out their line to include a variety of bike baggage including tool bags, handlebar bags, saddle bags and even fanny packs.

The Pelican Porteur is a bag designed around a rack that is becoming more and more common on everything from randonneur bikes to “sweet fixies”: The “5-rail porteur rack.” Born from the needs of newsboys and couriers of old, it’s got a base that is roughly the size of a record sleeve- or a newspaper (go figure.)  There are many companies that are offering these porteur racks- each a little bit different.  Cetma, Paul and Pass & Stow to name a few.

The platform that Swift Industries used for their Pelican is the Cetma 5-rail.  A great rack- I’ve owned one for a number of years and still love it.

The Raleigh Port Townsend made the voyage to Alaska in the hold of a fishing boat and was my transportation for the summer.  After riding it a bit up there, I wanted to make some changes to the front end of the bike- namely the bars.  With that came the brake levers that matched the curve of the bars (fancy.)  And with that came the elk handlebar wrap.  Might as well get one of those dutch locks too… And what the hell, better get a nice shiny new porteur rack to round out the old man hot rod.  I placed the order at Velo Orange and went fishing.

I’d seen the Pelican Porteur a while back and loved it from the start.  There are lots of options for carrying items when you have a front rack, but not many are waterproof.  Cordova is a town with a substantial amount of rainfall (110” a year,) with Seattle getting it’s fair share as well.  A bag that fastens to the rack base, and is waterproof seemed to be just what I needed- and of course it would look great on the bike- quickly becoming a beautiful townie bike well equipped for anything froom city riding to gravel roads.

I talked to Martina to get it going.  I let her know that I would be using a different porteur rack- the Velo Orange.  This was important info, as the fastening system was a little different for the individual designs.  I picked the colors and it arrived a couple weeks later.

I rode with the bag for the remainder of the summer while in Alaska and it’s been a fixture on the Port Townsend since my return to Seattle.  (The bike got to fly home with me, not travel in the belly of a boat)

The Pelican is durable, with a similar construction to a messenger bag. With a trucker tarp lining and Cordura shell, it is highly water resistant. It has a roll top closure and a large flap that goes over that- secured by two plastic buckles in front.  It’s flap is even waterproof- which may even be a little excessive. On the front of the flap there is a strip of reflective ribbon, as well as a place to clip on a light.  Unrolled, the bag is about the size of a square bucket.  The base is  12″x12″ and when unrolled it sits about 23″ high.  When you roll it down and close the flap you have 12″-18″ of height.  In nice weather I often roll the top down inside of the bag, tucking the flap in as well- which makes something of an open top- milk crate sized basket.

With no divider inside- and the rolltop being so tall, it’s sometimes a little difficult to find little things that may have found their way to the bottom of the bag.  There is a small pocket on the front of the bag where I often keep lights or a small tool bag.

The Pelican fastens to the rack by a strap on each side, and a larger buckle in back.  Very easy to clip on- and because of that (as well as my untrusting nature) it’s easy to pull off and take with you.

There are two D-rings on the bag- one on each side. When a strap is clipped into these D-rings and you lift it off the ground, the bag flips over on the front.  No bueno.  When you wear it over the shoulder- it does rest on your back, but it’s still not very comfortable.  I have taken to carrying it by the flap with both hands.  Not excellent if you need your hands for anything else.  The other strap, which is on the back of the bag and looks like it should be a strap with which to lift does the same thing.

Something else to consider with this bag, is whether or not you have a handlebar mounted light.  If so, you will likely need to relocate it.  I made a mount that sits at rack level and now there is no issue at all.

When it comes down to it- the only real issue I’ve found with the bag is how awkward it is to carry.  In Cordova it’s not a big deal, I can leave it on as I go to the store, into the bar, wherever.  In Seattle- not so much.  I don’t like to leave it on if I go to the library just for a minute for fear of returning and fiding my tools, camera, whatever else I’m carrying inside, gone.

The Pelican retails for $150.  A cost that’s reasonable for what you get- a well built bag that does what it’s designed to do.  It’s also made in Seattle by a great company.  As with many handmade products by small companies- turnaround time varies, with holiday season a busy time of year, so if you want one for your tour or as a gift for someone, be prepared.

See more at Swift Industries


  • Michelle

    January 20, 2012

    That thing looks massive! It would be a great bag for shopping as well as light touring. The color scheme is shnazzy too!

  • Inside Line Equipment

    June 7, 2012

    check out our porteur rackbag as well!

    This rack bag increases the functionality of a porteur rack, and is ideal for hauling groceries, but is quite versatile. Detach the buckles, and clip the shoulder strap, and It can be worn as a messenger/duffel bag. A simple roll-top closure keeps cargo dry and allows easy access. A small zippered pocket doubles as the roll-top closure, can hold small items or even a u-lock and keys.

    Handmade in California out of the highest quality materials

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