Irene Joyce – super woman, artist, student, ballerina, seamstress, mama – rocking the Vaya Black Tea up Boulder Canyon
PRODUCT REVIEW: Vaya Black Tea Pannier/Backpack
by Adam Perry & Irene Joyce for IronVelo.com
For the last couple months, Irene Joyce – who I am lovingly tackling Ride the Rockies with this summer – has been using Vaya’s beautiful “Black Tea” pannier/backpack around Boulder, Colo., on and off her Bianchi Volpe. Irene and I take setting an example for our daughter, Sidney, seriously. Part of that is not taking life too seriously; part is trying to bike Sidney to and from school as much as possible. Vaya’s handmade (in New York City) Black Tea has helped make that intention a reality, and generally made Irene’s training for Ride the Rockies (by biking between school, work and home and doing longer rides with me and solo) smoother as well.
Becoming more accustomed to commuting and touring by bike over the years, trying out panniers and backpacks and pannier/backpacks has made it obvious that designing a pannier/backpack is incredibly difficult. It seems as though they always work better as a pannier than a backpack, or vice versa. As for the Vaya Black Tea ($215), it’s no doubt one of the best as combos go. Irene “all-around” loves it. When we both leave by bike in the morning, seeing the joy with which Irene prepares things for her day inside the Black Tea is inspiring as someone who took about four years to find a pannier/backpack (the Vaude Cycle 22) to his satisfaction.
Specifically, Irene loves the Vaya Black Tea’s “overall look and design, the industrial sleekness; the waterproof inside and bottom; the big buckles; the fold-over or expansion potential on the top closure; the front pocket and its reliable Velcro,” along with the pannier/backpack’s size, which is perfect for just about any adult. The Black Tea’s rear reflective stripes and U-Lock holder help keep Irene and our daughter safe and secure, too.
the Vaya Black Tea as pannier
Irene is not so in love, however, with “the D-rings from the crossed buckles when [the Black Tea] is a pannier.” She says they occasionally get caught in the spokes of her Bianchi.
She’s also frustrated sometimes with “the difficulty of securing [the Black Tea]” to her rear rack “when it is heavy [full] and one hand is holding it while the other fumbles with the two sides of a buckle.”
“The thing that seems like a toss up,” Irene concludes, “is the totally boxy bottom. It is wonderful for economy of space and for books and for setting the [Black Tea] down without it toppling over and all your stuff falling out. However, it is often in the way of my heel when I am pedaling to the back.”
On a bike with a large chainstay, such as a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the heel-kick problem Irene describes would probably not be a problem. But the Bianchi Volpe she rides is not really meant for fully loaded touring, though I did camp with it successfully across Switzerland two summers ago.
On that subject, it’s clear that the Vaya Black Tea will be perfect for our week-long Ride the Rockies tour, which will not require that Irene and I carry our own camping gear. The Black Tea is incredibly stylish; it’s very functional as a commuter bag, and as a light-touring bag we’re sure it will excel in carrying snacks, accessories, tools, clothing, etc., and look damn good doing it.
Adam & Irene training for Ride the Rockies on the Boulder Creek Path