The Hill & Ellis Rusty Charcoal and Copper Canvas Cycling Bag looks like a stylish and casual tote bag for around town and leisure use, but it's also a rugged and well-made pannier with plenty of well-considered design features for regular bike use.
Intended to be a practical but stylish bike bag, this is spot on for anyone wanting a useful way of carrying stuff about on or off the bike without looking purely like a sporty or functional cyclist.
The bag is available in a variety of colours, and is made from heavy-duty, fully-lined, water-resistant cotton canvas. A sturdy zip opening with a long glove-friendly tag at the top keeps everything secure and protected from the weather, a generous zipped pocket inside is ideal for keys and the like, the bottom of the bag is reinforced and padded, and there's an optional adjustable cotton webbing shoulder strap.
The rear side of the bag is slightly padded, more so at the top where the pannier attachment clips are hidden away behind a zipped panel, making them virtually invisible, and – possibly more importantly – not intrusive when carrying it as a shoulder bag.
The rugged build and the lightly padded back make the bag effective at protecting a laptop (it's designed to carry up to a 15in laptop) although I'd definitely still have it in a protective sleeve.
The bag is claimed to have a volume of 16 litres, and there's certainly plenty of space for laptop, shoes and compact change of clothes for commuting, or for shopping or bits and bobs for about town use. It's a very practically sized bag rather than an 'emergencies only' option.
It's sturdy and made from high quality materials. The rugged water resistant canvas outer keeps out the worst of the weather but I'd not want to be out for hours in a monsoon. With this particular pattern, road dirt and water splashes are virtually invisible, though they brush off very easily once dry anyway. It's also available in plain colours, navy and black.
The high-quality Rixen Kaul clip attachments are designed to work with the majority of rack dimensions, from 6-18mm, and attached smoothly and easily to my rack.
The attachment was pretty secure anyway, but a clip adds extra security and is easily moved over to prevent the pannier coming off the rack.
There's no lower clip, which some panniers feature, but the weight of the bag, even when empty, meant there was no bouncing or movement.
At £98 it's far from being a cheap bag, but it's not designed to simply be just a practical pannier; it is effectively a designer tote bag. When compared with other independent label, small designer tote bags, it's comparably priced. When compared with other bike bags and panniers, such as the Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier, it again compares reasonably well. Yes, the Chrome is fully waterproof, but the Hill & Ellis is more versatile. The Ortlieb City-Biker QL3 serves a similar purpose, at a similar price, but is far less stylish and not as well designed for its job.
So, price-wise, it's definitely not looking over-expensive, particularly taking into account the fact that Hill & Ellis is a small, independent, British company focusing on high quality and sustainability.
Overall, the Hill & Ellis Canvas Cycling Bag is pleasingly well made and practical, looks good and should deliver years of faithful on and off-bike service.
High quality, stylish and versatile bag with a British pedigree that works well on and off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Hill & Ellis Rusty Bike Bag
Size tested: 16L
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 high quality tote bag aiming to be as useful off the bike as on.
Hill & Ellis says: "Our canvas bike bag collection is perfect for everyday cycling. These panniers securely attach to the bike with patented pannier hooks which hide away behind a zipped pocket when not in use. Crafted in a range of chic print designs, this range is water-repellent and designed for life on and off the bike."
Incredibly well made and does everything it is intended to.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Hill & Ellis lists these features:
Internal zip pocket for keeping everything tidy.
Adjustable pannier clips hide behind a padded zipped pocket to ensure the hooks do not dig into your back when worn on the shoulder.
Patented pannier hooks adjust to most standard pannier racks from 6mm-18mm and come complete with a central locking bar to secure the bag on the bike.
Removable adjustable shoulder strap to carry the bag easily off the bike.Should be removed when cycling for safety.
Charcoal canvas base to protect the print against marking.
1 year guarantee.
The patented pannier clips are German manufactured by one of the industry's best pannier hook producers- Rixen Kaul. The pannier hooks can be adapted to secure any standard pannier rack from 6mm - 18mm and come with an extra security bar to hold the bike bag firmly to the bike rack.
The hooks are set at 18cm apart (hook centre to hook centre). The bag will hang 28cm below the pannier rack.
Silicon coating has been chosen for water-resistance so not to cause harm to the environment.
Small batch produced and hand checked.
Superb quality and excellent materials. Incredibly well made.
Did just what it was intended to, very effectively.
This isn't going anywhere in a hurry. Very rugged and durable build and materials.
Not the lightest bag, but it's designed to be durable and rugged rather than superlight.
Very comfortable to carry, thanks to the padded pannier clip cover and the broad adjustable canvas strap.
Pretty good value for an attractive, high quality and versatile bag from a small British company. And it will last for years.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Style, versatility on and off the bike, quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Comparable to similarly stylish non-bike tote bags and also compares well to many bike-specific panniers, such as the Chrome Industries Urban Ex Pannier and the Ortlieb City-Bike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – though I'd probably ask for it as a gift.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, particularly a stylish one.
Use this box to explain your overall score
An extremely well-made and attractive bag that serves its purpose well on and off the bike, and will do so for a long time.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.