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Thoughts on Western Flyer for a First Time Tom Bihn Buyer?

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    Thoughts on Western Flyer for a First Time Tom Bihn Buyer?

    I'm new, so excuse my ignorance.
    I'm looking for a commuter bag and a one bag travel solution. My first thought was to get a Synapse (probably 19) and an Aeronaut 30. But after looking further I am drawn to the Western Flyer for its more conservative/briefcase-like style and for its goldilocks size as these might combine to make it one bag for both jobs. I have grown frustrated using an over-large messenger thats really easy to pack, but which doesn't offer effective organization leading me to switch to other solutions at least once on many days (nesting a small camera bag and then completely changing out when the day ends with a jaunt out of town).
    I often commute by bicycle so being able to carry with backpack straps on the way but then have a highly functional and high class briefcase sounds ideal. Plus I think that the organization on this bag would make it great for carrying my complete (and newly down-sized) camera kit. Does anyone have any experience they can share about using the Western flyer as an everyday commuter bag?

    Thanks!

    Here's a quick description of my usual kit:
    Change of Shirt, Socks, (sometimes shoes)
    Ultralight Windbreaker
    ULock + Tire patch kit
    Fujifilm x100s + Wallet of batteries, memory cards
    27oz Klean Kanteen (or 8oz insulated)
    Pocket sized Moleskine and pens
    Wireless headphones
    15" MBPro Retina + Charger
    Portable hardrive

    Sometimes:
    2 Speedlite Flashes with wireless triggers
    2 Focal length adapters for x100s
    Lee Filter Wallet
    Folding Reflector/diffuser
    Double-fold shoot-thru umbrella and swivels

    #2
    Welcome to the forums, @jeffgallo. I'll try to take a stab at answering this post, but the difficulty is that I don't know how your usage rates the relative importance of "looking like a high class briefcase" vs. the use of as an everyday commuting bag which you can use while biking.

    It would help to know details of how long/frequent are your biking commutes, etc. The issues aren't the capacity of the bag, but the convenience of use. For example, with a Synapse backpack, you'd be able to carry a water bottle balanced in the center of the pack, and also even run a drinking tube through the hydration clip on the backpack strap that you could use to drink while cycling. The Western Flyer does have backpack straps, but won't be nearly as comfortable to wear while cycling, and if you use the water bottle pocket it will basically carry your bottle horizontally at the "top" of the bag when carrying the WF in backpack mode.

    I could see doubling up the functions of WF as briefcase and travel bag if you weren't planning to use this for a regular commute via bicycle. Another thing is that the Synapse (and other backpacks) are better designed to carry, protect, and easily access your laptop inside the bag.

    Hopefully, other forum members can give their suggestions for usage, and we'll also find out how you envision using these bags. Depending on both your height and other planned usage details, you might prefer either Synapse 25 or 19. (I think you can fit a 15" Retina MB Pro in the S19, BTW)

    HTH moriond

    Comment


      #3
      Hi Jeff

      I'm afraid I only use my WF for travel - for my daily commute (walking about 1 mile, then 20mins by bus) I use a dedicated backpack as it's so much more comfortable. In summer I use my S19, but I don't find it comfortable when it's very full, so as the weather gets colder I switch to my Smart Alec. I do have a Synapse 25, but I found I prefer the Smart Alec's ability to swallow bulky items - the weather here is very changeable in autumn, so I often end up carrying a jacket and scarf to work in the morning because I'll need them come evening.

      I also use the SA for casual travel in summer, and add the upper modular pocket when travelling as it gives a bit of extra capacity and organisation. (For commuting, I use my SA as-is, with no modular pockets.)

      TBH I think you'd find the WF unwieldy on a bike - if you only want to buy one bag (at least to begin with), a Synapse 25 or Smart Alec would be a better all-rounder.

      Hope this helps!
      Collections:
      Work EDC: SE + S19
      Leisure: SCBs, FJN, Swift, lots of YSSs
      Travel: WF + Pilot or SA, with SE/SCB
      General organisation: More pouches, stuff sacks and cubes than you can shake a keystrap at!
      Favourite TB colours: aubergine, forest (sniff!), linen, wasabi, UV
      Hoping for: A new dyneema colour for YSSs; a Linen Side Effect; the return of Portable Culture!

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by scribe View Post
        Hi Jeff

        I'm afraid I only use my WF for travel - for my daily commute (walking about 1 mile, then 20mins by bus) I use a dedicated backpack as it's so much more comfortable. In summer I use my S19, but I don't find it comfortable when it's very full, so as the weather gets colder I switch to my Smart Alec. I do have a Synapse 25, but I found I prefer the Smart Alec's ability to swallow bulky items - the weather here is very changeable in autumn, so I often end up carrying a jacket and scarf to work in the morning because I'll need them come evening.

        I also use the SA for casual travel in summer, and add the upper modular pocket when travelling as it gives a bit of extra capacity and organisation. (For commuting, I use my SA as-is, with no modular pockets.)

        TBH I think you'd find the WF unwieldy on a bike - if you only want to buy one bag (at least to begin with), a Synapse 25 or Smart Alec would be a better all-rounder.

        Hope this helps!
        I absolutely agree with @scribe. I use my WF exclusively for travel. Tried it as a daily EDC laptop bag to see if it worked but greatly preferred my Synapse 25. The S25 is an excellent EDC bag and it's great for biking in my opinion, if it's not overpacked. My S25 is black/wasabi so it definitely works in my corporate environment.
        Family, Guitar, Design, Travel....get after it!

        Comment


          #5
          Perhaps an S25 and Western Flyer may be good combination for a more business oriented solution to your original S19-A30 thought.

          As an example:
          In my last 3 day work trip, I used an S25 and TriStar and it worked perfectly in the smallest of those CRJ-100 commuter jets - everyone else had to gate check their main carry-on. The airline would only allow briefcases. My TriStar looked like a briefcase (carried using my absolute shoulder strap) so I got by! They did not even look at my S25 which can be personal carry-on sized if not overfilled. I think that a Western Flyer would work perfectly instead of a Tri-Star as well.

          The S25 is good to use on a bike and has the extra space if needed to boot - as @Jeff A wrote, it looks very professional in black exterior and is comfortable on a bike. If needing more businesslike option, you can use the Western Flyer and bike with it (I have not tried it on a bike but it should not be bad - it has padding and is comfortable to wear normally).

          Hope this helps

          Cheers!
          Last edited by tpnl; 10-29-2014, 11:05 AM.
          TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

          Comment


            #6
            I know its possible to use a Western Flyer as a commuter bag, but I just don't see that use myself. It could pass as a briefcase but the two main compartments are just too big in my opinion to be practical. And just think about that large space if you turned the bag sideways to use with backpack straps, every loose thing would shoot around inside. I use mine for clothing/travel to fill the volume and briefcase bits get added on top/in the pockets.

            I have a S25 and think thats a great option for you. Big enough to fit your stuff and everything won't move around inside with good packing/compartmentalisation. It is super comfy and looks the part in an office environment.

            Good luck.
            Aeronaut 45 (Navy/NWS), A30 (Black/Island), Tristar (Steel/Island), Western Flyer (Steel/Island), Pilot (Steel/Island), Synapse 25 (Mars Red/NWS), Synapse 19 (Black/Island) & (Burnt Orange/Steel), Ristretto 11 (Navy/Steel), Small Cafe Bag (Navy/Steel) & (Mars Red/Dawn), Daylight Briefcase (Cloud/Dawn), Side Kick (Mars Red/Dawn), Travel Cubelet (Mars Red)

            Comment


              #7
              Thanks for your thoughts everyone, very helpful!
              @moriond my bike commute is very short, just over 2 miles. Comfort is always relative.

              I've ordered a WF and when it arrives I'll evaluate for myself. I have some travel coming up and from what everyone has shared I know it will do both a briefcase job (when the load out is large) and definitely the travel job. I'll be giving it a test run on the bike before I decide to throw down for a backpack. When I do, I'll be sure to post my thoughts

              Comment


                #8
                Hi all,
                I wanted to offer an update. My Western Flyer arrived yesterday and I am thrilled! I've owned some nice bags, or at least I thought I had... Crumpler, Think Tank Photo, some Tustings Leather, Timbuk2, and Mission Workshop, but Tom Bihn truly is in a hole separate category from everyone else, (except maybe for Tustings but thats apples to oranges). This bag is beautiful and finished brilliantly.

                I spent some time packing it (and over packing it) last night. And it really does an amazing job of retaining its shape with a busload of stuff in it, still I'm really glad that I spent the extra money to get a bevy of backing cubes and a packing cube backpack, and all manner of pouches and stuff sacks. I recognized after reading the forums here that I really wasn't buying a bag, rather, I've bought into a system, a modular platform and its attendant lifestyle. I'm not convinced by the packing cube backpack, and my camera kit is not perfect in the bag, but all is brilliantly executed. I was able to pack for a photoshoot today with my ONA Bowery Camera insert (more on this later) 3 speedlites, laptop and some flash modifiers and I still had room for my water bottle, lunch, sweater, and t-shirt to wear to my second job! Even if this load was a bit tight and a little heavy for this style of bag, it handled it well, and I have no fear about travelling with it.
                I'm so pleased with it that I already have a Synapse 19 and Side Effect on their way to me. My hope is that the SE will help me solve the problem of the ONA Bowery. That little bag has been just perfect in a few scenarios, and I love carrying it alone, but its 7" tall and 4"deep making it quite imposing inside the svelte Western Flyer. In some other bags its been pretty comfortable, but in the WF its bulging significantly into the rear compartment and preventing any meaningful use of the pockets at the very front. I'm looking forward to the day when TB makes an organizer or insert specifically for today's very small camera systems like my Fujifilm setup. But for now I will be giving the SE a shot at carrying the camera, and its most essential accessories. I think the X100s I'm using should fit vertically inside an SE and thereby lay parallel to the bag instead of being transverse and this should save significant space. Still I would definitely have to move some accoutrements to a 3D organizer or such like, and I think the SE will be a less effective daily carry bag in destination cities than would be the Bowery. Perhaps there's room in my closet for a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag?
                Anyhow, speculation aside, I'm thrilled to now be officially a part of the tribe and I want to thank everyone here for their opinions and stories!
                Pictures and triumphs to follow!
                -Jeff

                Comment


                  #9
                  Here's a couple snaps of my new partner in getting away, with the complete load out I described above:




                  Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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