Updated: Sep 8, 2018
While developing our own brand of bikepacking bags called XCowl manufactured here in South Africa by hand, I also looked at alternative bag offerings and came up with this combination set as seen in the image above. Comprising of a bikepacking frame bag, a mini handlebar bag and a seatpost rack mount with expandable bag.
I tested the bags and rack over a four month period and decided to at last write a review on this set up that fits somewhere in between a bike touring and bike packing rig.
For this review I will focus only on the handlebar bag and the saddle rack and bag. Be sure to look out for my review of the XCowl bikepacking bag set that will be coming soon.
For the test I decided to not only test the setup on traditional bikepacking gravel roads but rather also to test on more technical single track.
For this Gordon and I set off one Saturday morning early to do testing at a local mountain bike park called (Wolves Creek) WolweSpruit MTB. Known for tracks suited to the more adventurous we loaded our bikes and gear to do some testing. As this is not terrain that most bikepackers will frequent I decided to keep the bags empty and focus on the integrity of the rack and bags. Specifically the fastening mechanisms to the handlebars and seat post.
We set off half expecting things to fall off the bike during the ride. The ride started out mild and we enjoyed the morning air and tracks that we have not ridden in quite some time. Soon the tracks started twisting and turning and I had to focus on the more technical sections.
The time flew past too quickly and I totally forgot I was there to review the bags I had fastened to my fatty :)
Nothing fell off the bike, I noticed no difference in handling and was satisfied in knowing I can with confidence suggest these products to any current or future bikepacker. The saddle rack has a 10kg weight limitation that is way more than you would ever need pack on a trip. Would I do the same test with a 10kg load on a technical track? Probably not, but for science sake we might do such a test in the future.
More about the bags:
Although small at only 7 litres this handle bar bag should hold a compact sleeping bag or bivvy bag. More versatile if combined with a 10 litre dry bag it makes for an attractive option even for longer bikepacking adventures.
The bag mounts to the bars with an easy to use bracket that is both strong and stylish. Included as standard is the mounting bracket and rain cover which is also effective in blocking dust and grime.
The bag has a translucent plastic sleeve for storing maps only. There are also two handy side pockets for storing your energy bars and patch kit.
Consider this handle bar bag if you do regular short trips or day rides. Combine it with a dry bag for longer adventures.
Saddle Rack and Bag:
Bike racks are normally synonymous with touring long distances where you need lots of gear and not something you would consider to buy for bikepacking. I am however glad to see that racks are now evolving into the bikepacking space. Although the rack has a weight penalty it brings some positive features with it.
The saddle rack is easy to mount to the saddle post with post adjustability up to 36.1 mm. It is very stable even on rough terrain. The rack also eliminates the tendancy of soft bikepacking saddle bags to sometimes sway due to the nature in which they tie to the saddle and post.
The saddle rack combined with this versatile saddle bag that can carry between 16 and 25 litres of bagage makes for an attractive option to consider if you have that extra bit of cash to spend on this more expensive option. In my mind something to seriously consider.
Some drawbacks are that the rack and bag are more difficult to clean and not as quick to remove. It also lacks to a degree the versatility to fold and compact as the load changes compared to soft bags, but these drawbacks are small enough to overlook.
The final decision will most likely be that of personal choice rather than a comparison of benefits.
That's it for Bags:
Any bag on a bikepacking trip is better than no bag on a bikepacking trip. Choose the bag that is best suited for your type of bikepacking trips and something that you can easily convince your wife was worth the money.