Friday, April 14, 2006

Carradice Barley Saddlebag

I've been hankering for a good bag for daytrips for a long time (ever since I got my Raven, actually). I've usually ended up using my Ortlieb shopping pannier (okay, but no structure thus very floppy) or an Altura rack bag (which my Tubus rack doesn't accommodate well, requiring a web of bungees to get it to stick).

So last weekend, I ordered a Carradice Barley. Carradice is a venerable English company that specializes in cycle bags and other cycling bits.

I got a chance to test it out today, and it's fantastic! It fastens on very securely, with leather straps that fit perfectly through the mounts under my Brooks saddle and around a wooden dowell inside the bag; and another strap that fixes the bag to the seapost. My initial concern was that my legs would hit the bag when I pedal. It turns out that my thighs do actually touch the bag on the downstroke, but it in no way hampers movement. Strangely, it feels quite comforting to have it there - being able to feel it replaces my compulsion of reaching down to make sure my panniers are still there.

The seven litre capacity is perfect for a day's ride. Today, I packed a big bag of DIY trail mix, a couple bananas, my toolkit, some tissues, and my big Minolta digicam - and there was plenty of room left over. There are two side pockets, into which I put my saddle cover, a bunch of faux fig newtons, and some Frusili bars. I wasn't sure how I'd use the side pockets since they don't close as securely as one might like, but it turned out that the loose-ish flaps do hold stuff in, but it's easy to pull goodies out without unbuckling, while riding!

Inside the main compartment, there's a drawstring that closes up the opening some, but not all the way. I'm not tremendously keen on this feature, but it works okay. It would also be nice to have some compartments inside for keys and change; I ended up hanging my housekeys from the plastic loop using a mini carabiner.

And despite what I'd read about the cotton duck fabric many of the Carradice bags are made from, I sort of doubted that they'd actually be waterproof. And I got ample opportunity to test my skepticism today! For much of my ride, it was very wet, but the bag kept everything bone dry. The bag itself never got a proper drenching because of its position behind me, and the mudguards kept it protected from below. I remain optimistic for my next full-on drenching, though!

This bag is a design departure for Carradice - most of their cotton bags are black - but if they start producing other bags to match this one, I could be pursuaded!

View more pictures on my flickr photostream .

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