I’ve searched for a bag to go on the front of my bike for many months now. everything I’ve looked at or tried has either had some type of interference issue with lights, been too heavy, too large or small, expensive, etc… REI had their ‘annual’ sale a few weeks ago and I went over to check their wares. After milling around the aisles for half an hour I finally broke down and bought 3 different bags with the intention of trying them out and returning what I didn’t like. At $37.50, this was the clear winner.
What I was looking for was something that had enough space for my point and shoot digital, a cell phone, 1 or 2 energy bars, a small notebook, pen, and a little room left over. Wishes were for something that wouldn’t get in the way of my light, quick releasing so I can pull it off the bike in 2 seconds, light enough to not mess with handling, mounts that didn’t look awful on the bike when the bag wasn’t attached, and super-classy appearance. I think it succeeds on all but the last point as it is a fairly generic looking (though nice) bag.
Inside it’s well padded with a few strategically placed pockets and a movable velcro divider for the main compartment. To create a pocket for my camera I stole a second divider from my camera bag stash to use. With my camera and phone up front there’s plenty of extra space for other things to the left and right of the camera.
Loaded on the bike it bounces around a little, but nothing annoying. The back of the bag where it attaches to the mount has a plastic reinforcement plate to stabilize the load. If it were me I would have made this a little stiffer, but the weight penalty for Topeak doing so would probably have most of their customers complaining about how heavy the bag is. Handling is barely affected, but as with all luggage, the more you pack in, the more you will notice carrying it around.
Two other features of the bag are a thin rain cover and a fanny pack conversion kit. The rain cover is very thin fabric, but looks like it would work well to keep your stuff dry in case you get caught in a shower. The fanny pack kit has a second strap which you can attach to the buckles in the front (visible on the first photo) and wear it around your waist when off the bike. One trip to Disneyworld was enough to convince me that the fanny pack in any form should be rid from the face of the earth regardless as to how convenient a carrying method it is, but the extra strap works well to lash my other small camera bag to the front rack on my folding bike. Double score for me there. The ‘fanny pack’ straps around the side on the bag leave you with 2 nice small pockets for little things. I have a backup set of aa and aaa batteries in the one, and the rain shield in the other. There are reinforced canvas tabs on either side of the bag that I’m going to sew a set of d-rings to in the near future so I can use an extra shoulder strap to carry the bag when off the bike.
The mounting went ok. Neither of the spacers supplied with the kit were just the right size for my handlebar, and I ended up digging a slightly longer metric bolt out of my basement stash to use on the right side. I torqued the mounting bolts to 20 inch-pounds and it hasn’t budged on the bars yet. I’m always nervous about small mounting bolts like this ever since I had a barrel nut break tightening down my Mini Arkel Bar bag several years ago. Arkel’s bar bag is a nice, albeit more expensive option. Mine has found a permanent home on the bar of my wife’s bike. The mounting brackets left the bag too high on the bar for mine.
Last but not least there was a small removable computer attachment that you can clip in the top of the mount. My first thought was “great, a place that I can put my light so it isn’t shining into the back of the bag”. On my first ride, the weight of my light made the mount bounce around so much on the mean Baltimore City streets that it nearly fell off. The height adjustment of the beam was thrown off drastically by the vibration as well. Fortunately they left the ‘bar mount’ portion hollow. I ran a nylon-web strap through the mount and tightened it underneath the entire assembly. This looks ok, is still easily removable, and dampens road vibrations enough that I can safely mount heavier accessories up top.
In conclusion, the Topeak bag doesn’t have that ‘tweed’ british look that I was really hoping to find, but aside from that I’m really happy with it. If it’s anywhere near as durable as the 10 year old Topeak wedge that’s gracing the other end of the bike then I’m set. I’m still on the hunt for some stylish luggage so I can dress my bike up in it’s ‘Sunday Best’, but for now this gets the job of carrying things from point a to point b done quite nicely.