Hill and Ellis Dorothy bag review

Post by Jude from Cycling with Heels.

Hill Ellis Bag

In my head, I have a picture of the kind of cyclist I’d like to be. Glamorous and perfectly styled, I would pedal effortlessly, arriving at my destination without a hair out of place and nary a drop of sweat on me.

While it’s unlikely I will ever achieve this completely, I can at least take one step towards making it a reality – thanks to the Hill and Ellis range of bags.

Launched earlier this year, the range was created by Catherine Ellis, a keen cyclist frustrated by the lack of attractive, well-made cycling bags that worked both on and off the bike. So she set about creating her own.

So far there are four bags in the range, in both women’s and men’s (or perhaps unisex) styles. They’re all made of high quality leather, and are designed for the discerning cyclist who wants a pannier bag that doesn’t look in the slightest bit like a bike bag.

These genuinely are beautiful bags. There are cyclist friendly features on them, but they’re discreet – such as the reversible reflective strips, the hidden pannier hooks, and the rain cover that packs away into a little matching case when not in use.

I’ve been trying out the Dorothy bag, and have had lots of admiring comments from friends and colleagues who were amazed that something so gorgeous was designed to use on a bike. I’ve taken it to work, to restaurants, to the theatre and even to an awards ceremony, and no one could have suspected it was anything other than a handbag.

Clearly it worked well off the bike, but what about on the bike?

Like all the Hill and Ellis bags, it’s designed to fasten onto a rear pannier rack. I found the hooks a little tight, which made taking the bag on and off quite fiddly – I took to pushing the hooks from underneath, rather than trying to pull the bag off – but newer versions of the bag have different hooks, with more of a gap in them, which should solve this problem.

Hill and Ellis Bag Review

Once on the bike, the bag felt very secure, and I never had to worry about whether it would stay on. It kept its shape very well, even with a full load, and didn’t sag at all. There’s a protective metal bar running along the bottom of the bag, to stop the leather from rubbing directly against the pannier rack. While this helps keep the bag looking its best, it does also result in a slight rattle while cycling.

You’d be forgiven for thinking such a beautiful bag isn’t designed for taking out in the rain. I was certainly reluctant to try it, for fear of damaging the leather. But I was perhaps being a bit over-cautious – the beauty of leather is that it looks great even when it’s weathered a bit. If you do get caught out in the rain, the bag comes with a removable rain cover, which is very effective at keeping the bag dry. It can be a bit of a struggle to put on – though this got easier with practice – but if it weren’t so tight it I suspect it wouldn’t work so well at keeping the rain out.

The one drawback for me was the size. At 12.5 litres, the Dorothy isn’t the biggest of bags. It’s designed for the cyclist who travels light, which I am not. There wasn’t enough room in it for everything I tend to carry around me with – although, that said, I did manage to fit a dress, pair of tights, shoes, wallet, keys, phone, lunch, small makeup bag and my bike lock in there!

Conclusion

The Dorothy bag is probably the most beautiful bike bag I have ever seen, and may ever see. While it’s clearly designed to work well off the bike, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked on the bike, too.

Of course, a bag like this doesn’t come cheap. At £154.99, the Dorothy is the cheapest of the Hill and Ellis bags. While that may seem a lot, bear in mind that you’re essentially getting two bags for the price of one – a smart handbag, and a pannier bag.

For some, the price tag may just be too high. But if you have the money and you’re looking for a bag that transitions effortlessly from bike to work and beyond without compromising on style, this may be the bag for you.

Pros

  • Doesn’t look like a bike bag
  • Keeps its shape well
  • Fastens securely to pannier rack
  • Rain cover works well

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Quite small
  • Fiddly to attach

Bag available from Hill and Ellis website.

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10 Responses to Hill and Ellis Dorothy bag review

  1. Vincent 05/11/2013 at 11:27 am #

    An alternative would be to install a porteur rack (www.google.com/search?q=porteur+rack&tbm=isch) so that

    1) the bag is less likely to get muck from the road, which is likely to happen when hanging from a rear-rack as shown in the picture

    2) it can be bigger since weight will then be more equally spread between the two wheels

    3) you can keep an eye on your bag, and easly grab things from it

    4) if you wear a long enough rain cape, it could cover the bag:
    http://www.cyclechic.co.uk/shop/outerware/rain-wear/rain-cape-navy-0

    • Alan Moore 08/11/2013 at 2:24 pm #

      A good point, and that’s pretty much what I use.. a front mounted box, sometimes in combination with an Ortlieb pannier.

      Given this bag is quite small, you could even just use something like the Handbag Hugger to hold an ordinary bag.

  2. Alan Moore 06/11/2013 at 9:46 am #

    My wife could use something like this, but are the clips really secure? She had the Basil equivalent which has plastic hooks and the bag falls right off when you hit a bump. These look worryingly similar.

    Ideally you’d want something like the Ortlieb clip system, but attached as here to an attractive leather bag. Maybe I’ll have to make one!

  3. Jude 06/11/2013 at 9:25 pm #

    The clips really were secure. My commute takes me through quite a lot of streets full of speed bumps and potholes, so I hit plenty of bumps while I was testing out the bag and it never once came off. Nor was I aware of it sliding along the rack, either.

    I know what you mean about Basil bag clips not being very secure, but these were a lot better. They’re a lot stiffer than the ones on the Basil bags, and the gap in the straight bit of the clip is smaller (do you know the bit I mean?), at least on the one I’ve been using. This did mean that it was quite difficult to get the bag on, and I know Catherine has changed the clips to make it a little easier to take on and off. But this shouldn’t have affected how secure the bag is. If you have any questions about the clips, I’d recommend getting in touch with Catherine. I’m sure she’ll be glad to answer them for you.

    • Alan Moore 08/11/2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Thanks Jude. So the small size and high price are the main problems then! :-)

      • Jude 08/11/2013 at 3:48 pm #

        The small size is only a problem if, like me, you tend to take everything including the kitchen sink with you on your bike :-)

        As for the price, well…

      • Catherine 11/11/2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Hi Alan,

        I am pleased it is something that your wife would like.

        I just wanted to say that the Dorothy is designed as a smaller pannier – at 12.5 ltrs it is designed for people that carry fewer things such as a laptop, book, change of top, tablet, and wallet etc. There is another bag in the range, The Birkdale, which is specifically designed for people that like to travel to work with a full change of clothes and/or more paperwork. It’s volume is 16.5 ltrs.

        I personally cycled the Birkdale all the way to Paris, and carried everything I needed for 3 days including a dress and heels so it can certainly carry a lot of kit. It also stayed securely on the bike.

        The price is due to the leather as well as the workmanship in the bag which is of very good quality.

        If you have any questions you want to ask me my email is hello@hillandellis.com

        Cheers, Catherine.

  4. alua 08/11/2013 at 10:16 am #

    For “some” this is going to be too expensive? I think for a lot of people.

    Even if it’s 2-bags-in-1, I wouldn’t spend nearly 80 quid on either a handbag or a pannier bag.

    • Alan Moore 08/11/2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Loads of people would spend £80 on a handbag. And most decent panniers cost that much, too.

  5. Franki 08/11/2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh, I LOVE this. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve walked around shops looking at bags going “if only that had a couple of hooks on it”. I’ve even contemplated fashioning some kind of attachment system so I can create DIY panniers (I’ll keep you posted if I manage!).

    £154.99 is SO expensive though. There’s only one thing for it: “Dear Santa…”

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