The Hill & Ellis Professor is a beautifully made satchel you can attach to your rack, and it performs as well off the bike as it does on.
Confession. I'm one of those normal people who cycles (mainly) in normal clothes.
Another confession. I've been looking for the perfect bag for cycling for years, and I may just have found it.
Rewind. Since moving to Cambridge a couple of years ago, I've loved riding around the city on my Elephant Bike with the dog in the basket, but the perfect bag has eluded me.
And I've tried lots of them, from a Chrome messenger bag to Ortlieb panniers.
So, a very smart looking leather satchel that also has pannier clips? I am more than interested.
I must admit, though, that when the Hill & Ellis Professor arrived, I was disappointed (and not because the navy blue is deliberately chosen to match that of Oxford – I've lived there too and don't have strong Varsity loyalties either way).
Yes, it looked gorgeous, but my first thought was that it seemed way too small for my needs.
Those needs? Well, 15.6-inch laptop, inside padded sleeve. Laptop charger. Mouse. Phone charger. Notebook. Moisturiser (so...?). Bike lights. Dog blanket. Dog treats. Dog water dish. Dog bags for what dogs do.*
Plus a (very) lightweight jacket for those days when you're never quite sure if it will still be warm when you ride home.
Oh, and the potential deal-breaker: the Saturday edition of The Guardian would need to go in there, too.
Now, day one, the laptop went in, and that was about it.
But, as the leather became more and more supple, and as I learnt the optimal way to pack everything in there, I slowly fell in love, because I could get all of that in there.
Yes, I wish it were bigger – maybe half an inch on width, and an inch or so on length, the same size as the satchel I already own but which isn't bike-specific, so I have to sling it over my shoulder and it has an annoying habit of swinging round when I'm riding.
That's not an issue with this bag – it has pannier clips so you can attach it to the rear rack of your bike, which is a big plus in my book.
You do have to make sure you stow the shoulder strap away before you ride off – you wouldn't want it to get caught on something you're passing – which is a slight faff.
When you're off the bike, those clips are hidden by leather flaps secured by stud fasteners.
It would be nice, though, if there were similar studs to secure the lower of the flaps when the bag is on the rack (or at least, the one on my bike). A couple of times it rubbed up against the rear wheel, making a horrendous and alarming sound, all the more so when you can't work out what it is at first.
None of that should detract though from how gorgeous this bag is. It may seem pricey, but the workmanship justifies it, and it looks terrific on and off the bike.
It also comes with a high-vis rain cover that stows away inside a sleeve – maybe not everyone's cup of tea, and it does bring a rather different aesthetic to the bike, but it does do the job of keeping the satchel and, more importantly its contents, dry. There are also reflective tabs on either end that you can twist around for extra visibility.
So, is it for you?
Well, if you're commuting and need to take clothes into work – a spare shirt, say – there could be space issues, depending what else you need to take with you. But at the same time, it really is a piece you could take off the bike and straight into the boardroom, as the saying goes.
Me? Well, I've finally found something that I find entirely practical on the bike, and that satisfies my fashionista criteria when I'm off it – and despite the odd misgiving, I really cannot offer higher praise than that.
*People without a dog or bomb-proof tyres on a bike where it would take forever to change the inner tube so it's easier to pay someone else to do it are welcome to swap the dog stuff for a puncture repair kit and multitool. Hill & Ellis, meanwhile, puts it this way: 'This bag will fit a 15' Laptop, A4 Booklet, iPad, Jacket, Make-Up/Brill Cream, novel and a puncture repair kit or a similar combination.'
A beautifully made, practical satchel that looks gorgeous on and off the bike
road.cc test report
Make and model: Hill and Ellis Professor Bike Bag
Size tested: 38 cm (W) 28 cm (H) 10cm (D) Capacity: 10.6 litres
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A stylish, classic satchel with clever features that make it ideal for cycle commuting or just pootling around town if you have things to carry.
Hill & Ellis says: 'As well as striking looks this bag is designed for the bike with hidden patented pannier hooks they attach securely and effortlessly to any pannier rack', and describes it as 'The perfect bike accompaniment to the stylish city rider.'
I can't argue with that – it looks lovely, it's practical, and looks great whether on the bike or off it.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Here's what Hill & Ellis says:
Crafted in durable dark navy leather, coated to protect the leather against marking, with full grain beige leather straps and finished with nickel coated brass buckles. This bike bag is embossed with our logo in silver to match the metalware.
The patented pannier clips are German manufactured by one of the industry's best pannier hook producers. The pannier hooks are spring loaded so they adapt to secure to any pannier rack from 6mm - 16mm and includes a security bar which holds it firmly on the bike rack.
Made in Britain.
It's beautifully made, with the stitching, the shoulder strap, the buckle fastenings and the pannier attachments all doing their job.
Cannot fault it, with one exception. It carries everything I need for the day and looks fantastic on and off the bike. But the stud fastening on the shoulder strap has popped out once or twice when I've slung it over my shoulder, with the satchel crashing to the ground (without killing the laptop, thankfully).
I think this will last for years and years.
I've used lighter bags, but find that with those, there's a trade-off with durability and functionality, so little room for complaint.
On the rare occasions it's off the bike, the only gripe is remembering to re-fasten the studs on the leather panel hiding the pannier clips.
It's not cheap, but well-made leather goods aren't, and you could very easily spend a lot more on something that isn't designed with cycling in mind.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfectly. A smart satchel that carries everything I need and that I don't have to carry on my shoulder while cycling because it snaps onto my pannier rack? I'm in.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It looks stunning, it's practical, it got comments, and goes well with pretty much anything, whether you're dressed smartly or really casually.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'm not a big fan of the high-vis rain cover, but needs must and I really don't want to get my laptop soaked. Also, I wish there were something to secure that flap when the satchel's on the bike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much so.
Would you consider buying the product? Absolutely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Of course.
Use this box to explain your score
A stunning-looking, beautifully made satchel designed specifically for cycling but which looks equally good off the bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: Elephant Bike My best bike is: Colnago Arte
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, my bike is my main way of getting around
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.