Large & Small Cafe Bag + Side Effect
I must give big thanks to Tom Bihn and crew for the great products they have designed, made and shipped. I finally got my order and have been field testing all the bags for a few days.
The Large Cafe Bag:
I was nervous about the steel colour being to green and just too dull in general, as I tend to like brighter colors. Now that I have it, I'm very pleased. It's down-to-earth and subtle without being boring. Matches with a lot of different colors and is thus a very versatile bag for me -- which is something I hoped from my EDC.
I had also been initially weiry of the size being too big, but now that I have used it some, it feels absolutely perfect. It fits my medium organizer pouch with emergency bike repair tools, camera (a very small DSLR), Side Effect with essentials (phone, money, travel card, sunscreen), small pen holder, foldable leight-weight shopping bag + extra sweater/scarf/change of clothing. When I'm not by bike, the bike-kit pouch would be removed and could easily fit in a water bottle. The bag could be stuffed even more, but this is perfectly enough for me, still leaving room for something small to be added if I do light shopping etc.
I have been using the LCB with the Q-AM strap. At first I thought this strap was way too bulky. I had expected something with a light profile, but the padding is pretty hefty, reminding me of a strap of an old hiking backpack I had. I thought this would be too clunky in every day use. However, the first time I rode a bike with the bag, the strap tightened well and connected to the waist strap -- I was convinced. It really makes the load transfer nicely to my whole torso instead of just one shoulder. When just walking around with the bag, I find it a bit much, but I will probably get used to it there too. I also got the Absolute strap and will have to test that one out with the LCB as well to make final call. So far, though, I'm already very impressed.
The Small Cafe Bag:
So cute! In Plum, it's really the prettiest thing on earth. Perfect size for the essentials that I would want to carry around when going out around town on the weekend or catch a late night movie at a moments notice. Enough room to fit something besides just a wallet + phone, but not enough that carrying it would hinder any movement or hurt my shoulder. It can even house the fully loaded Sife Effect with my camera, which was a surprise. Really like this bag for a stroll around town, quick field trip or casual dining out.
With both the Cafe Bags I find the straps a bit long. I am not that tall and am pretty lightweight, but even more than that I think this comes down to my preference of wearing cross-shoulder bags pretty tightly in the small of my back -- not hanging low at my hip. With the Q-AM strap I somehow handled the situation by tightening it from not only the quick-adjust pull but also from the ends, so that none of the extra strap ends would be too long. With the SCB, when I wear it close to my back, the rubber shoulder pad doesn't even reach my shoulder (it gets pushed to the front/back). I have now used it hanging between my lower back and hip, with the suede shoulder strap wrap just about landing on my shoulder. This is good but don't know if I could find a solution for wearing it even higher. I also feel like I should prob cut away the rubber pad, as it does nothing for me, but haven't gotten the courage yet. I'm still figuring this out and need to think about it a bit more. Any ideas would be appreaciated!
Last but not the least, The Side Effect:
Such a powerhouse in a small brick. Fits my giant wallet (3 x the size of my travel wallet), iPhone, small tube of sun screen, mini pouch with travel pass + 2 sets of keys. Could prob fit even more. Enough pockets to get organized, not too many to add weight.
As much I would've loved the aubergine, I purchased the Side Effect in black/steel as I wanted it to be the most versatile of the three: a pouch within bigger bags, waist pack to do a small hike with, a purse with regular work/free time clothes and a clutch with dressier events when travelling or otherwise need to be multifuntional. For this, the black seemed like the best choice. It is a bit more .. manly perhaps it's the best way to describe it .. then i thought, but at the same time the non-flashy desigm makes it very low profile and unnoticable, which in my mind is a bonus in something that will carry all my valuables in it. The robustness that causes the slight bulkiness is also the source of durability, which is a trade off I'm willing to accept.
All in all, I think the Side Effect is really a great little pouch-purse-pack.
Here is a picture of me, a 5"7 / 170 cm woman on the skinny side, wearing the three bags cross (the cafe bags both have the messenger stabilizer attached to the waist strap buckle) -- I was missing clear references of sizing when I was making my order so it might be of some use to someone else:
I must say I am very pleased with my purchases. Along with the bags I got three pouches (1 clear mini, 1 clear small, 1 dyneema medium) which the TB crew picked in perfect matching colors to my great delight! Mini pouch holds my travel pass, small pouch holds other important items and medium pouch my bike-kit (bike tool set, wheel repair kit + small pump). The one purchase I regretted a bit was getting a medium padded pouch. It doesn't actually fit anything I thought to put in it, and seems too big for other things. I will likely use it to put my Kindle in while travelling, to put it inside a bigger bag, but I do slightly wish I would've just opted for another dyneema pouch. However, all my usual EDC items seem to be very well in order with the 3 pouches I got + the bag pockets, so I shouldn't worry. Plus I got enough key rings to even make a couple new pouches of my own if seriously needed (I couldn't justify the shipping cost to Europe for just a couple pouches).
Just look at how prettily they all go together! Thank you Tom Bihn people and a big thanks to the forum members who helped me out when choosing my bags!
Nice collection and great amount of detail which is very helpful, should / when I decide I need something else. Looks like you have all the bases covered.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! These are exactly the photos I needed!
I've got the SCB and am finding it a bit too small for every day. I logged on tonight to start researching the LCB... and here it is!
Now, where's my credit card?!!
Thank you so much for the detailed review and the fantastic comparison picture. I already have both the LCB and the MCB, along with a couple of SEs, but I've been dithering about the SCB; couldn't quite get a sense of its size compared to the bags I already have. Your review and photos have helped me so much.
Great to hear that the photos are coming in handy for others! I was missing something like this when ordering to confirm the sizing so thought to share now that I have the chance.
In the past 24 hours I have already learned new things about my awesome bags:
1) The Q-AM strap on the LCB is really fantastic also while walking, when tightened right. I took the LCB to a short hike in the woods (just to see how it would feel, I have another more hiking-oriented backpack that I usually use) and it carried 1 L Sigg bottle full of water, the SE, my camera, a spare jacket and some snacks like a breeze. Not hindering movements at all like a normal shoulder bag would have. I tried it with the waist strap too but the Q-AM with the stabilizer was an even more balanced feel for me.
2) Today I went to the zoo and didn't want a lot on my shoulder. I had the SCB with my camera, a small money purse, small sun screen tube, keys, metro card AND a light cardigan stuffed in the bottom + 0,75 L Nalgene OTF bottle (plus 2 smart phones at times). Incredible that it all fit, but it did. And with the suede strap it was effortless to carry.
Such great bags I can't get enough of them. I'll be ditching all my other shoulder bags and just sticking with these. Even my worst backpack pales in comparison when it comes to carrying comfort so that can go too. Really love 'em, I'm a Tom Bihn convert now for sure. Great to be able to help others with deciding as many people on this forum helped me!