I happened to be in the right place (the bike store Adeline Adeline), at the right time (a sunny spring afternoon), when someone from Freitag, the Swiss messenger bag maker, came along looking for gals in bike stores to appear in a promotional video for a new, bike-specific bag. I jumped at the opportunity. Ten minutes of riding a yellow Bobbin Birdie with a fancy Go-Pro camera rig became one clip in a clever montage of women around the world sporting the Freitag F60 JOAN.
You may recognize a few NYCers toward the end of the video (hello Sheryl Yvette!):
Ever since that happy coincidence, I have been compiling notes on the JOAN.
Inspired by Trucks Tarps
Freitag, based in Zurich, was launched in 1993 by graphic designer/brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag. As is often the case among entrepreneurs, their own need — for an attractive, but tough and water-resistant messenger bag — inspired a business. The two constructed their first bags from colorful, re-purposed truck tarpaulins, seat belt webbing and bicycle tire tubes. Today, Freitag employs 130 in the manufacture of messenger bags, laptop sleeves, wallets, backpacks, totes and a number of odds and ends — all made from vivid, graphically bold truck tarps.
Handlebar Bag as Handbag
At about 14 in. long by 5 in. deep by 7 in. high, the F60 JOAN, which is water-proof, is about standard purse size. It’s got a strap that’s just long enough to fit over your arm, but short enough to grasp as a handle. Two straps help compress the bag when you’re carrying only a few essentials; they loosen to expand for bulkier loads, as well as to strap on extra-long cargo (think yoga mat, flowers, beach towel). The brilliant bit that makes the JOAN bike-specific is the zippered pocket on the back. Unzip it, and pull out two small straps that attach by Velcro to your handlebars.
The Bottom Line
So here’s my assessment: The JOAN is cute enough to wear around town, but maybe not quite cute enough for a date night with matching pearls. The bag holds a ridiculous amount of stuff (water bottle, book, notebook, umbrella, phone, lunch…) making it great for bike-riding as well as other city adventures. I’ve also put mine to use as a day bag to accompany a pannier for a weekend trip to the beach.
The drawback for me: The Velcro straps need to be a bit longer to fit around my pink-taped handlebars. In addition, for those like me who have a bicycle with a short stem, the JOAN may drag on the front tire when fully loaded. A front rack obviates that problem. I’ve skirted this issue by attaching the bag to my rear rack using the Velcro straps, plus a bungee. So, ultimately I’m a happy camper.
Freitag F60 JOAN Bag, $210