Novara is REI’s house brand of bicycles and bicycle accessories. I bought this bag about this time last year. While I don’t use it every day, it is holding up remarkably well. Since it’s a thoroughly functional, all-around kind of bag, I thought I’d give it a little review here.
This is your basic rack-top “trunk style” bag. It attaches securely to the rack with velcro straps at each end. The straps are a bit short for my Topeak-brand rack, but it’s easily solved with a different strap routing. I’ve had trouble with some rack-top bags, because I’m short. This means my saddle and my rack aren’t all that far apart. The tapered edges of this bag allow the bag to fit properly with no adjustment. It’s still a bit tight, as you can see in the blog header, but it fits.
The bag has one large main compartment. I’ve pictured it here with some fairly representative contents to give a sense of scale. That’s an inner tube, still in the cardboard box, a pair of gloves, and a large sunglasses case. And, for all I know, a few other items underneath. As you can see, the bag still has considerable space available. The black mesh you can see along the side is an interior pocket; there is a similar pocket on the other side. These pockets are subdivided into smaller compartments. These are excellent for keeping the smaller things you might want to carry from getting lost in the main area. At the front of the bag is a key clip.
At each side a compartment holds a fold down pannier. These have a simple bungee clip to attach at the bottom of your rack. I’ve found them secure enough for my purposes, and I imagine that the simplicity of the attachment makes it viable on a variety of rack styles. The panniers aren’t as large as purpose-built bags, but they are a useful size. I’ve used them most frequently for bringing home produce from the farmer’s market, and I’ve always been able to fit as much as I could carry. On my particular bike (small, but with long chain-stays) there is ample heel clearance.
The top zipper of the bag holds a removable rain cover. I’ve only used the bag in the rain once, but my contents were still dry after at least a half hour. I will admit that it looks a little odd with the rain cover on. If you removed the rain cover you could stash a few small items here, but the pocket is fairly small. (You can also see here that I was taking advantage of the nice weather to get all my photographs at once. I just finished knitting that tea cozy.)
The strongest negative of this bag is the aesthetics. The high-visibiliy yellow may not be ideal of every cyclist, and the bag only comes in one color. I, myself, would have preferred another color if I hadn’t found the bag on a phenomenal sale.
(Note: My version of this bag is an older version, hence the sale. I believe the current version is similar in all the features, with the only change being the fabric. The newer version is a brighter yellow with a darker grey.)