Manhattan Portage might be new to you and yet another name in the already over-stuffed messenger bag market, but it's one of the originals, having been going for nearly 30 years from its home in New York City. It does a whole range of messenger, shoulder, laptop, mini, backpack, tote and travel bags and a bunch of accessories to match. It says it was the first company to use Cordura brand nylon and high quality plastic Delrin buckles to ensure that its bags remain "New York Tough", and the NY Messenger Bag does have the simple rugged feel of something born of mean streets and a 'don't-mess-with-me' courier heritage.
Although classed as medium size, this particular NY Messenger Bag is quite small when it comes to the courier bag genre and the carrying capacity isn't great. Whether that's going to be an issue for you depends on how much you need to lug about on a daily basis.
That's not to say it doesn't succeed in being a useful bag, as the 17 litre main compartment is supplemented by a handy brace of pockets. There's a small pocket on the outside of the front flap that's handy for keys, a small wallet, travel card, whatever you might need to get quickly on the move, while on the back there's an open ended sleeve that you could fit a magazine or small book in.
Under that front flap on the body of the bag hides a large zipped pocket, and delving deeper inside there's an additional zipped pocket lurking in the main compartment hanging loosely against the rear.
The main flap is held down to stop flapping with two wide and tenacious Velcro strips that hook and loop onto a single band on the bag body. On its own this can keep things pretty secure, but there's a pair of straps and buckles for extra security and to cinch everything down tight.
As well as the standard courier adjustable shoulder strap, there's a handle on the spine of the bag for traditional one-handed bag carrying away from a bike.
The carrying capacity of the NY Messenger Bag is more suited to the lightweight commuter rather than anyone who tends to haul a lot of stuff around with them. If you ride to the office and back with a laptop, a couple of files, maybe a waterproof, a D-lock and the usual day-to-day bobbins then you'll be fine. If you want to stop on the way back home and pick up more than just a few bits and bobs for supper then you might start to struggle. It is, however, the perfect size to fit some limited edition vinyl albums in.
You're clever enough to work out the bag size you need for your workaday requirements aren't you? If this isn't enough cargo carrying capacity for you then the large version of this bag has a hefty 26.1 litres to fill, and if even that's not enough then Manhattan Portage has more capacious cycle-friendly bags to choose from than you can shake a taxi driver's fist at.
The NY Messenger Bag sits quite comfortably on the back thanks to its size, contents depending (a tin of beans can still dig in the kidneys), but it does require frequent nudging to keep it in place and it would benefit from a cross-strap across the chest to prevent it from slipping around if you're going to be using it on the bike a lot. To be fair, this isn't a moan unique to this bag. And you can buy a Manhattan Portage stabilising strap separately.
While the Cordura construction makes it a tough bag that shrugs off the rough and tumble life of a messenger bag that's snuggled on sweaty backs, discarded in corners, casually chucked in cupboards and kicked under desks and café tables, the NY Messenger Bag is only tagged as being water resistant. The material will bead water for a short while, then wet out, though dampness doesn't immediately seep through.
Only having got caught out in just standard light rain for a bit during the testing period, where contents stayed dry, and not having to endure any heavy downpours that can properly test both a bag's resilience and your resolve in riding a bike, in an extreme test I loaded the NY Messenger Bag with heavy things and dunked it in the bath to see what would happen. It didn't take long for water to breach the fabric. Be prepared to maybe get some damp contents in proper commuting rain.
If you wanted to be picky you could complain that while the all-black colourway of the bag might be cool and maybe even allow you to take it into the office looking like you haven't just fought your way across town, it does little for a cyclist's visibility, as does the lack of anything reflective. The NY Messenger Bag is available in alternative colours – blue, grey or camo – but none of those are particularly eye-catching either. Other Manhattan Portage bags come in a brighter range of colours, some with reflective bands across the back or light-catching tabs on the straps, so look there if you want the peace of mind of a little visibility from the rear.
The messenger bag market is an overly packed one, so if you don't like what the medium NY Messenger Bag has to offer then you don't have to go far to find something that might fit your requirements better. You could do worse than browse the vast collection of messenger bags that Manhattan Portage itself does to find something suitable. You could also check out the rucksack options below if they might suit you better.
The NY Messenger might seem a little pricey but it's a rugged little bag that should last a while and look good while doing so. It's backed up by a limited lifetime warranty, which helps.
There's not really much to set the Manhattan Portage NY Messenger Bag apart from all the rest, but as it is it's a tough, simple but well-thought-out courier bag that should be good if you don't need to carry all your worldly possessions around with you and maybe not make you look too much like a grubby courier.
Tough, tidy looking courier bag for those with not too much to carry
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Manhattan Portage NY Messenger Bag MD
Size tested: Medium
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?
Manhattan Portage says its NY Messenger Bags are great to use as an alternative to a school bag or traveling bag. Perfect for hauling heavy loads.
I'd agree with that in that this bag is better seen as an alternative to one of those bags, adapted to be more useable on a bike.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Manhattan Portage lists these details:
One zippered pocket on the front flap (good for keys, small change or metro card)
Zippered pocket underneath the flap
Large roomy interior compartment for books, folders, laptop, or clothing
Additional small zippered pocket inside the main compartment
One open pocket on the back for magazine and newspaper
Both hook & loop, and buckle closures
Double reinforcement on the corners for durability
Water resistant coating
Soft shoulder strap and handle on the top for carrying it by hand or across the shoulder
WIDTH - Bottom 11.75 (top 15.75) inches / Bottom 29.8 (top 40) cm
HEIGHT - 11.75 inches / 29.8 cm
DEPTH - 7.5 inches / 19.1 cm
WEIGHT - 1.16 lbs / 0.53 kg
VOLUME - 1035 cubic inches / 17 liters
FABRIC - 1000D CORDURA® Classic fabric
WARRANTY - Limited Lifetime Warranty against manufacturing defects
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a bag for carrying a few bits and bobs on the bike, it did okay. The fabric was rugged and yet smart looking, and there were enough pockets to keep daily paraphernalia well organised.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tough, and pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Size, no cross-strap, no reflective bits, water resistant only.
Did you enjoy using the product? If I had to do a trip that required not much to be carried, it was okay.
Would you consider buying the product? No, purely because it's too small for my daily needs, the large might be more my, um, bag.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they needed a small commuter bag I'd advise them to add it to their look list.
Use this box to explain your score
It's a good, tough little courier style bag whose medium size should suit you if you don't need to cart too much around on your bike or your commute.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I'm on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.