Union 34 Rucksack Pannier hybrid bag review

Union 34 Rucksack Pannier

A little while back we posted a picture on Facebook that caused a little bit of a stir. The picture was of the Union 34 bike bag. It got a lot of likes and I was looking forward to testing out this new, innovative product.

Is it a backpack? Is it a pannier? Is it a plane?

It’s a all of the above, apart from perhaps a plane.

The bag solves an issue most cyclists have. They like to carry more things than they probably need to. In most cases, this ends up in a rucksack on your back. The solution works, but it’s a much nicer feeling to have your shoulders free and no weight on your back.

Not quite a pannier

You can attach the Union 34 bag using the Seatpost fixing system (£26.99, Amazon). The first time I tried to attach it to my seatpost, it took me 23 minutes. That’s because one of the rubber shims, that allow you to adapt the bag to your seatpost diameter, was too small and the other was too big.

However, after having a better read through the instructions, I realised you could use an Allen key to adjust the quick release.

Now that I know what I’m doing, I can attach and remove the seatpost fixing system in a couple of minutes.

Union 34 bag clipped on to bike

With the seatpost fixing system in place, the bag slides and snaps in to position. I found this a little fiddly. Especially because I was using the included waterproof bag cover. This generally kept getting caught in awkward places. It was one of those scenarios where you wished you had three arms. One arm to hold the bike upright, the other to press the button that allows you to slide on the bag and a final one to hold up the bag. Unfortunately, having not been blessed with a third arm, I settled with leaning my bike against the nearest post.

Ultimately, after practise you should be able to get this on in about 30 seconds. However, I did find myself wishing it was a little less fiddly.

Taking it for a test rideBike light attached to bag

With the Union 34 bag in place, I took it off to on a test ride to the recent Street Talk.

At first, I was a little worried it would be wobbly and cause problems with the centre of gravity on my bike. However, these proved completely unfounded. I barely noticed the bag was there. What I did notice was the lack of weight on my shoulders, which felt very refreshing.

The bag had a position was fixing my rear bike light and it shone brightly through the waterproof bag cover.

And now it’s a backpack

Union 34 bag on back

Once I reached my destination (after noting a few envious glares from fellow cyclists), I locked up my bike. Then, I quickly unclipped the bag and brought the straps round so I could turn it in to a backpack.

It works great as a backpack and looks really good. The part that slides on to the seatpost fixing system is not noticeable and there is an attachment for you to cover it up if you are that way inclined.

Room for your laptop

Union 34 bag opened up to show inside

The bag inside is very well thought out with a striking orange interior. The wide opening angle means you can easily organise and access your gear. There’s zipped pockets as well as a separate case for keeping your laptop protected. There’s also a quick access pocket at the front, with separate compartments and a space to store any loose change.

In all, it’s clear a lot of though has gone in to the bag and it should be excellent for commuters. The 30L capacity is enough for your bike locks, laptop and office clothes.

7 kg max weight

The Union 34 bag has a 7 kg (15.4 lbs) weight limit. To put that in perspective, your laptop probably weighs around 3.5 kg and a strong D-Lock weighs around 1 kg. If you know you’ll be carrying something heavy, you’d be better off with the bag on your back.

It makes sense to have this weight limit, as most seat posts have a limit to how much weight they can carry.

The bag isn’t suitable for those with carbon seat posts.

Who this bag is for

  • Cyclists who would like to take the weight of their bags off their back
  • Cyclists who don’t already have a pannier
  • Cyclists who likes the idea of a bag that can be used as a backpack and can also be attached to your bike
  • Anyone searching for a smart looking bag

Who this bag isn’t for

  • Anyone who regularly carries more than 7kg on their back
  • Cyclists with carbon seat posts
  • If you have less than 6cm of clearance on your seat post for the fixing system

Review

Overall, I’ve been really impressed by the Union 34 bike bag. It’s a great feeling to finally remove any weight off my back and the mount feels sturdy and secure. It’s not the cheapest of bags, but its certainly very well thought out. It would make an incredible Christmas gift for a lucky cyclist.

The Union 34 bike bag is available from Amazon for £71.99 and the seatpost fixing system costs an additional £26.99.

For more information on the Union 34 products see their Facebook page.

Review summary:

For those who want a halfway point between panniers and a backpack, the Union 34 bag is an excellent choice. Whilst expensive, the features are well thought out and the attachment mechanism is sturdy and secure.
Union 34 bag
Date published: 11/08/2012
4 / 5 stars

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20 Responses to Union 34 Rucksack Pannier hybrid bag review

  1. Barton 08/11/2012 at 4:38 pm #

    It looks cool, but I tend to sit off the back of my saddle a bit (depending on conditions or terrain), so it appears this bag would keep me from shifting around the saddle comfortably.

    Not sure how else to phrase this, so just going for it: did you find that your bottom hit the bag as you rode? Especially if you moved into an aerodynamic position as you would in the face of strong winds?

    Admittedly, it wouldn’t work for me for the reason that I do carry about or more than 7kg when I commute (what with lunch, dress clothes, makeup, purse & electronics). But the rear clearance is what I really wonder about.

    • Andreas 09/11/2012 at 9:40 am #

      Barton – excellent question. It didn’t hit the back of the back as I was cycling. However, my legs on a couple of occasions touched the attachment that goes on to your seatpost. Though, not in a noticeable way.

    • K 09/11/2012 at 11:32 am #

      There are some very nice lights now which cast a bike lane on the road. They ONLY mount on a seat post (ie they have no other clip). This rucksack ONLY mounts on a seat post. A large wedge saddle bag ONLY mounts on a seat post.
      The people who design these gadgets need to consider other options. You can’t fit everything on a seat post.
      ie The lights should come with a rucksack or rack clip or both.
      The bag should be able to mount on a seat post a rack top or side.
      Design the whole system including the mount don,t just stop at the gadget.

  2. Joff 08/11/2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I’m not sure I’d like my bag (normally containing a change of clothes, laptop, etc) that high up but I really like the idea of being able to convert it to a rucksack.

    Are there any other hybrid bags available that use the more traditional side pannier style fixings?

    • adventure! 09/11/2012 at 4:27 am #

      Joff, there are. Ortlieb has a few models that convert from pannier to backpack or shoulder bag. I use a bag made by North St. Bags here in Portland, Oregon. (US) They specialize in convertible panniers-backpacks.
      http://northstbags.com/woodward/

      And yeah, the Union bag looks a bit…unwieldy to me in its “on bike” setup.

      • Joff 09/11/2012 at 9:40 am #

        Thanks for the tip, I’m not sure the Ortlieb bags are really for me as I’m not keen on the styling, but good to know what else is out there still!

  3. Tom 08/11/2012 at 10:01 pm #

    I use this: http://www.carradice.co.uk/products/range/sqrtrax

    It’s really good to get the weight off your back, this one site lower than the Union, meaning it’s less in the way, it also doubles as a mudguard. It’s very easy to clip on and off and has been 100% waterproof so far, and it got plenty of rain testing over the summer! The interior is much more basic than the Union one, but then it is quite a lot cheaper as it includes the quick release seat post mounting.

    • Graham Stewart 09/11/2012 at 10:10 am #

      +1 for Carradice: I use the Carradice SQR Slim, not as deep as the Trax that Tom suggested, but wide enough to easily take a laptop, change of clothes and tools (29cm wide x 36cm high x 15cm deep).

      It doesn’t magically turn into a rucksack, but it sits in a better position, doesn’t need a separate rain cover, takes more weight and is cheaper too (£66 from wiggle including the seatpost mount).

  4. union34uk 09/11/2012 at 9:34 am #

    Hi there,

    Union 34 also have a rucksack that can be attached to a pannier with a pannier fixing system included in the price at a RRP of £79.99 for a 30 Litre or £89.99 for a 40 litre bag.

    We also have a shoulder bag that again, can be attached to the pannier with the fixing system. All bags include a laptop case and integral space for clothes, cycling essentials and work necessities.

    To view the full range, please head to our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/union34uk or follow us on twitter @union34uk

    Any questions you have we will be happy to answer!

    Thanks,
    Union 34

    • Joff 09/11/2012 at 9:43 am #

      Hi, the Stripe Rucksack – Pannier looks ideal, do you have any high st stockists where I could have a look at the range?

  5. union34uk 09/11/2012 at 9:47 am #

    Hi,

    Yes we have many, locations are available on the facebook page or to save time, let us know the area in which you want to find one and we’ll give you a list on here.

    Thank you
    Union 34

    • Joff 09/11/2012 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks, I hadn’t spotted the where to buy tab! I’m in Cambridgeshire so Ben Hayward in Cambridge will do fine. :)

  6. union34uk 09/11/2012 at 10:09 am #

    Great, let us know if you need anything else!

  7. Kathryn 09/11/2012 at 10:35 am #

    Me: oh that’s very handy, very spart, rather capacious, HOW MUCH???!?

    I cycle because I am POOR!

    Hah.

    • Art 09/11/2012 at 10:55 am #

      My thoughts exactly! Seriously, 75 quid for a bag?!?

  8. Nico (@nfanget) 09/11/2012 at 11:25 am #

    As a geek I am impressed by the thought that went into this bag, as a commuter cyclist I am not impressed by the capacity or the price.

    My solution to the pannier/backpack problem was to buy a cheap back pack (30L, £8 at Tesco) and a big double pannier with a handle and clips (about £20 online). Ta-daa I leave my lock in a pannier, use the second pannier for the back pack, and it all comes off in 2 minutes flat.

    But you know, whatever rocks your boat.

  9. Hannah 09/11/2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I doubt this will meet the style requirements of the gentlemen cyclists commenting here, but I have a rear basket which has CHANGED MY WORLD!! I wanted a handbag/pannier bag, but they were a) expensive and b) too small.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Basil-Milkbottle-Basket-Nylon-Handle/dp/B007XJK0G0/ref=sr_1_43?ie=UTF8&qid=1352467405&sr=8-43

    For £20 this basket is perfect. I take any handbag I want, and I’m away. I use a padlock to attach the basket to the rack and leave it behind. I also lock the bag and basket to the pannier rack when I’m cycling, just in case. It means I can use whatever handbag I want, I don’t have any clips on my bag and it’s also great for shoving in a coat etc for the other end. A strong recommend!!

    (I still use a boring pannier bag most days, for getting to work etc – this is just for when I need to look “normal” at the other end).

    • Graham Stewart 09/11/2012 at 2:12 pm #

      Hannah: how do you stop someone just lifting your handbag out the basket as you ride past?

      • Hannah 12/11/2012 at 1:53 pm #

        As above, I padlock my bag and the basket to the pannier rack when I’m riding….

  10. Gizmo 13/11/2012 at 11:59 am #

    How on earth do you swing your leg up high enough to get over that bag? Or do you lift your leg over the top tube?

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