I come with baggage
This post is about a subject which both fascinates, yet also disturbs me. Longer distance cycling tends to be easier if you can stash ‘things’ on your bike. The trouble with the three back pockets on your jersey is that anything heavier than a mobile phone tends to bounce about disconcertingly and cause a gnashing of teeth. Therefore a saddle bag or, for longer rides, rack and/or handlebar bag, is a useful accoutrement. But I have an uncomfortable image in my head – it’s just a cyclist’s version of the WAG’s infatuation with Mischa Barton handbags, surely????
Yes, at the end of the day, both are bags – designed both to carry things that the user requires for their chosen activity, but also in both cases, let’s be honest, to make some kind of statement about ‘who I am’. In cycling terms, many companies make very good cycle luggage – Topeak, Altura, all sensible and well made kit. But of course, like the Brooks saddle argument I have referred to many times already here on FR.co.uk, there is one make which infatuates cyclists of a certain age/mindset. Carradice of Nelson, based up in’t sooty red brick mill landscape of Lancs.
Now my personal experience of this luggage is limited to a small collection of two saddlebags, a Junior and a Barley. One is black with white straps, the other is a lovely olive green with honey coloured leather straps. Both are of a design that has changed little if at all since their first inception a hundred years ago. Both have a label that tells me they were made by Sue. And, although the leather straps and buckles can be a pain to open in the winter when you have gloves on, they are lovely and tough.
I find that the Barley, one of the smallest bags in the range, fits everything I need for up to a day ride. These bags are not made of the latest hi-tech fabrics, nor do they make claims to be waterproof, nuclear bomb proof and so on. However, the cotton duck fabric will last for years and there are some concessions to modernity, such as a nylon inner which is pulled tight with a drawcord to give a good seal.
I also use the SQR quick release system, which is a neat fixing solution – one of the problems (and, like the Brooks saddle, there are certain compromises to be aware of when you step into the world of Carradice ownership) is that on many saddles, the bag will end up sitting almost horizontally due to the fact that it loops round the two saddle mounts and then ties round the seatpost. If the saddle is long or quite far back, then this tips the bag backwards. No problem, except that the ones with side pockets have been known to subsequently discharge their contents on the road as a result.
The great thing about SQR is that, as well as keeping the bag more or less vertically aligned, you simply click it out and carry it when you leave the bike, thus meaning that there is no fiddly removal of the actual bag’s mounts each time. And there is even a handy loop for carrying the whole thing around with you, which in a way makes it look a bit like a muddy, olive green handbag. And that takes me back to where I started……