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Best Saddle Bag For Sportive Cyclists

Carradice Originals Barley

I’ve bust my saddle bag. Which is a bit of an (under) arse (storage issue).

So, since I’m researching my buying options for its replacement, I thought I’d write a post to share my findings.

To be clear, I’ve not seen any of the following bags in the synthetic material flesh (or if I have, they’ve been in the background to other bike shop adventures). I’m not able to provide you with a hands on review.

Instead, this is something of a meta-analysis (a systematic review; a hedge fund of funds). In other words, I’m going to surf the internet, looking at saddle bags, choose and buy one and then report back.

What Is A Saddle Bag?

So a saddle bag is the little (though sometimes quite large) sack that dangles beneath your saddle, generally attached to the seat post. A dangle sack.

Frowned on by cycling purists*, who point to the perfectly adequate set of pockets on the back of your jersey, you generally use your saddle bag to store a spare inner tube, tyre levers, a multi-tool, maybe an energy gel, a brace of jelly babies and a small pork pie.

(* Luckily I’m not a cycling purist, and neither are you. Are you?)

What I’m Looking For In My New Saddle Bag

I’d say that my main considerations in choosing which saddle sack to plump for are:

  • Size – following the ‘Goldilocks rule’ (not too large, not too small, just right)
  • Build quality – it was the zip that failed on my old one; I’d like to avoid a repeat exercise
  • How the bag fixes to the saddle and/or seat post
  • Price – I’m not made of money
  • Brand / colour – because, you know, these things matter…
  • Any cool / useful / interesting features that I’ve not thought of yet

Once I’ve been through this analysis, I’m going to push the button on the purchase – there’s no point in delaying when you have a lack of sack.

If you’re in the market for a new saddle bag then you we can all purchase together, creating a strange demand spike for under seat storage that will have retail analysts a-guessing and a-theorising.

Actually, on that point, some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and buy summat, I might get a small cut (depending on the vagaries of their record-keeping systems). You’ll pay exactly the same price. If you do reward me in this way, you get the warm karmic glow (perhaps in your dangle sack) that you’re helping support the site and the costs associated with it (who am I kidding – you’re helping me pay for this fugging saddle bag).

Gladiators, READY! (Which Bags Am I Considering)

Lezyne Caddy (Medium)

Lezyne Caddy Saddle Bag MediumThe Lezyne Caddy is similar to the bag I own. It has velcro straps that fit around the seat post and the ‘under-saddle bars’ (I’ve no idea if this is the right term).

According to reviews, it is on the smaller side of medium, but can nonetheless carry two spare inner tubes, a multi-tool, chain tool and some tyre levers, as well as cash and keys. It is split into two compartments, allowing you to keep items apart from one another if you need to (I often wonder if having a multi-tool knocking around with the inner tubes is a good idea). At ~£16, it seems like a solid piece of gear at a reasonable price.

Lezyne also do a (‘semi-rigid’) bag that attaches to the under-saddle bars (ah, I just read, they’re called seat rails). It does like quite nice. I’ll leave you to read more about it here if you’re interested.

Fizik PA:K

Fizik Pak saddle bag mediumFizik appear to have gone to the Ikea school of product nomenclature (with extra classes in non-essential punctuation). Let’s try not to hold that against them.

The PA:K is £5 cheaper than the Lezyne Caddy. The saving appears to be down to having fewer velcro straps (2). Looking at the reviews on the Wiggle site, purchasers of the PA:K appear to be obsessed with what they can (or cannot) fit into it. Based on their comments, it is either massive or only just big enough. I can only conclude that it’s made of the same stuff as the TARDIS (or people have radically different views on how much a saddle bag should be able to carry).

If you’re interested in the PA:K make sure that if you buy the version without the velcro straps (called the Fizik PA:K ICS*) you have a Fizik saddle that you can attach it to. As far as I can work out, this is not a bag that you can fit to any old saddle (it has to be a Fizik saddle).

* ICS stands for ‘Integral Clip In System’, which gives you a clue why you need a compatible Fizik saddle. Also, I added in the ‘*’. That’s not the Fizik people going punctuation crazy – ‘punct drunk’ – again.

Topeak Aerowedge

Topeak Aero Wedge Clip On MediumTopeak have chosen to name their saddle bag after the classification of wedgie that occurs just before you move up to an uber-wedgie.

It also conveys a sense of aerodynamic advantage, due to it’s sleek (their word) wedge shape.

Enough cynicism. The Aerowedge comes in a number of varieties, attaching to the bike via the standard velcro method or by using Topeak’s ‘QuickClick’ bracket attached under the saddle (which still involves a velcro strap around the seat post).

What I like about the Topeak is that the medium is extendible (as are some of the other sizes). Unzip le zip and the bag capacity increases by 30%. The QuickClick mounting kaboodle also looks quite neat. Finally, if you’re an underwater cyclist, Topeak do a full waterproof version, with those foldover ‘roll closures’ that you see on North Face mountain rucksacks (and some bike panniers).

Carradice

Carradice Carradura Midi SaddlepackNow if I was in charge of this country, we’d all be using a Carradice Nelson longflap saddle bag. Sadly Thankfully I am not ruling the country.

Actually, I hadn’t heard of Carradice until I read an article on London Cyclist whilst researching this post. After initially not including Carradice in his short list, Andreas was forced to relent after a full-scale revolt in the comments section.

Whilst attractive and dripping with cool (in my warped mind), the majority of Carradice options are not what I’m looking for in a saddle bag (i.e. for training rides and sportive participation). That is, other than the CarraDura Midi Saddlepack (pictured). This one is made of ‘modern fibres’ (i.e. the same sort of stuff that the Lezyne, Topeak and everyone else uses) and comes in at a very reasonable £11.70 (currently). Or rather it would, if it wasn’t currently out of stock at Evans (May 2014).

As an alternative, you can go for the ultra grandeSuper Midi‘, which appears to be able to accommodate a mini-pump, a snack and a Goretex jacket, in addition to the usual puncture-repairing suspects. Or you could buy the Midi direct from Carradice, pay an extra £1.30 and avoid using one of my affiliate links (hey, it’s your karma, pal).

So What Am I Going To Buy?

Decisions decisions….

To be honest, all of these bags seem to be reasonably similar. They’re all grey.

Ok. [Pause. Serious voice.] I’ve made my decision.

In the absence of purchasing an old-school Carradice affair (which I can’t quite justify), I am going for…. [drumroll]…. [sausage roll]… the Topeak Aero Wedge Medium in a ‘clip on’ format. It’s extendible or shrinkable (depending on your starting point); I fancy trying an under-saddle clip (my last saddle sack used straps); it scores a marginally higher average rating from Wiggle purchasers (4.3/5 currently, versus 4.1 and 4 for the Lezyne and Fizik, respectively).

Monty Goes Wild With His Credit Card

With that done, I’m now off to trademark the name ‘Dangle Sacks’ for my new (to-be-designed) range of premium under-saddle storage accessories…

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Jack says:

    I have a Topeak saddle bag (not the same as the one you are purchasing) in a medium size. Mine fastens with two webbing straps and a bit of Velcro and is not expandable. Works fine. I did find that it was a bit small for what I eventually wanted – two spare tubes, tire irons, CO2 pump plus several spare cartridges, spare chain links, knife, multi tool pliers, electrical tape, chain breaker, spare section of chain, cleaning wipes, etc. I ended up getting a small “Bento box” from Banjo Brothers (great folks) which carries the stuff that doesn’t fit the saddle bag. The nice things about it are that they are small so they don’t get in the way and I use the top to carry a route sheet when necessary. I use my shirt back pockets for a spare tire and extra tubes (on long rides), wallet, cell phone, energy bars, sleeve and leg warmer storage.

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      “… knife…”
      Thanks Jack. The contents of your saddle bag could make for a fine episode of The A-Team. We could have a ‘Readers And Their Saddle Bags’ section on here. A bit like Reader’s Wives… sort of…

  • Paul Barnett says:

    I just made a small roll out of a cheese knife roll and a leather strap. ..cost no more than a fiver. Best I had

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks Paul. Good idea. Makes me think we should have a DIY section on the site where we can showcase home-made cycling innovations….

  • Keep your bike pure, and keep an eye on Halford’s Hydration Rucksac; the staff usually pinch bits to rectify faulty ones and end up throwing the outer sac in the Sale Bin. I got one for £15 and it’s the best small item carrier ever, up to a full Sunday Newspaper and spare tubes, Co2 canisters and a decent cable lock.

    On other bodges…

    Adapted a motorbike Garmin Zumo 220 Sat-Nav car windscreen mount to cable – tie onto the front drop’s stem; it looks completely crap, but is twice the size of a Garmin pedal bike navigator and easy to read. Got us through King’s Lynn on Cycle Route 1 which is an achievement in itself…! At end of ride you can drop the track into Garmin Basecamp or Mapsource or drop GPX routes onto it too.

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks Kevin. You are a man of contradictions. You keep your seat post/under saddle area pure, yet you affix a car sat nav to the front of your bike … ;-). Mind you, your desire for a sat nav for bikes that works as well as one in a car must surely be shared by many. I’m not sure Garmin have cracked it yet (he says, having never tried a GPS computer with maps).

      Anyway, re: hydration pack / rucksack, I point you to rule 32 whilst asking you to ignore rule 29 (the one that prohibits saddle bags…)

      • Touché 😉

        A sportive does not usually require or give time to carry the Sunday Times (or milk, eggs or croissants); so by strictly temporary use of a Ruck sac you can render your steed pure, whilst still being able to liven yourself up with a quick spin Sunday Mornings to pick up essentials, handy brownie points for later when your lady’s metabolism finally kicks in…When riding with me The Boss refuses to adhere to Rule#5 so ability to carry a folded waterproof supersedes all others, plus you can adhere to Rule#83 (although I break Rule#34)

        Zumo 220 almost breaks Rule#74 but is a compact motorcycle navigator and came in extremely handy on Route 1 (Norwich to Humber Bridge) section, which Sustrans haven’t yet got around to mapping out properly; at one stage we were stranded on the A15 and it pulled us out of the mire; in my defence the bracket can be cable-tied in place, and instantly snipped if any Velominati happen to be passing. Also accepts gpx and gdb files and works with Strava downloaded tracks and routes, plus records your achievements such as the charidee ride this weekend.

        You have a point though; perhaps I should devise a forearm mount, and point you at Rule#31 ‘spare tubes….should be stored in jersey pockets…’

        Cheers

        Kev

      • w00hoo says:

        > having never tried a GPS computer with maps

        The Garmin Touring + that we went for has proved very whizzy and took very little time to get used to following. The ‘beep’ prior to a route change being particularly handy. I will concede that the interface for using the maps on the unit itself (rather than downloading a route from the PC) is a pain in the backside if you’re trying to plot a specific route. Or at least has been so far.

  • kmcclean says:

    I’ve recently just started using one of these new fangled Bridge Street Saddlebags ( http://bridgestreet.cc/products/ ). Different sizes available, compresses easily with the straps, roll top closure (no zips), lightweight and seems waterproof – though I’ve yet to be out in the pouring rain with it. Fits easily to a clip on the seat post which seems as secure as you can possibly want. I’m impressed with it so far..

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Hi there. Looks nice. Very flexible. Reckon it would look great with my (future) steel framed touring bike (n+3)…

  • John says:

    Look around at any sportive and you’ll see that Topeak are by far the most popular saddle bags. The plus points are the quick release clips, and the fold-down zipped flap at the back (which means you can access the contents without having to remove the pack from the bike).

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks John. I’m looking forward to joining the Topeak masses. Should be here any day now…

  • ijbedds says:

    I’ve used the Topeak (or at a least a bag out of their range) on my mountain bike, for those who may be tempted, it’s a great sack with an excellent expandable nature, it really is a little like a tardis. I swap between that and a rucksack for off road duties, they have both the velcro strap attachment and also a clip system a la Fi:zik (pronounced physique for those who may be interested). This is a plate which is allen bolted onto the saddle rails and then allows quick mounting and unmounting, even during several 24 hour races the clip system didn’t fail so is more than enough for road duties.

    I’ve now got Fi@zik saddles on both road and mtb, the Fi:zik bag is excellent, I’ve got a medium and can get a tube, levers, multi-tool, small tube of chain lube, some nitrile gloves, a spare gel and house keys in without straining the zip. The attachment is also secure and even with the best efforts of poor welsh roads during a recent 100 miler, it didn’t come lose. The added extra to this unit is that the angle of it is adjustable, meaning it can be faced up or down on personal preference, something I’d not considered, but is a nice extra not i’ve experienced it

  • Kristian says:

    I’ve got one of these from Lidl last year, was cheap but can’t remember how much. Contents are slightly different now and its only for the bike repair accessories excluding my ninja Bo (XXL bike pump).

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crivit-Bike-Tool-Kit/dp/B00CNVTWAS

    Another one I occasionally take with me on some leisure rides is this one:

    http://www.pedalpro.com/bicycle-bags/other-bags/pedalpro-mini-phone-holder-bicycle-bag.html

    Easy to pack small-ish stuff in it (or someone elses stuff).

    And on top of that I got a pannier and a rear basket too. No wonders I’m slow on the bike with all that rubbish I carry with me 🙂

  • dr m.c. says:

    lezyn medium caddy- have a glueless patch kit, tube, folding knife, a few quid easily. the wee external neoprene pouch with flap fits the multitool easily as well. can also have a tyre levers in the bag if not in practice to use just your hands AND i have also fit an arbus retractable cable lock in there for the quick jump into the coffee shop for espresso and the loo. i use the twist on / off version rather than the velcro straps – faster to get off if planning a longer sojourn indoors w bike outside

  • Coolbikestuff says:

    Check out the Aeroclam from Cyckit.com, worlds coolest minimalist road bike saddlebag!

  • Jack May 24, 2014, 1:34 am

    I have a Topeak saddle bag (not the same as the one you are purchasing) in a medium size. Mine fastens with two webbing straps and a bit of Velcro and is not expandable. Works fine. I did find that it was a bit small for what I eventually wanted – two spare tubes, tire irons, CO2 pump plus several spare cartridges, spare chain links, knife, multi tool pliers, electrical tape, chain breaker, spare section of chain, cleaning wipes, etc. I ended up getting a small “Bento box” from Banjo Brothers (great folks) which carries the stuff that doesn’t fit the saddle bag. The nice things about it are that they are small so they don’t get in the way and I use the top to carry a route sheet when necessary. I use my shirt back pockets for a spare tire and extra tubes (on long rides), wallet, cell phone, energy bars, sleeve and leg warmer storage.

    • Andrew Montgomery May 24, 2014, 6:55 am

      “… knife…”
      Thanks Jack. The contents of your saddle bag could make for a fine episode of The A-Team. We could have a ‘Readers And Their Saddle Bags’ section on here. A bit like Reader’s Wives… sort of…

  • Paul Barnett May 24, 2014, 6:47 am

    I just made a small roll out of a cheese knife roll and a leather strap. ..cost no more than a fiver. Best I had

    • Andrew Montgomery May 24, 2014, 6:52 am

      Thanks Paul. Good idea. Makes me think we should have a DIY section on the site where we can showcase home-made cycling innovations….

  • Kevin Armstrong May 24, 2014, 8:57 am

    Keep your bike pure, and keep an eye on Halford’s Hydration Rucksac; the staff usually pinch bits to rectify faulty ones and end up throwing the outer sac in the Sale Bin. I got one for £15 and it’s the best small item carrier ever, up to a full Sunday Newspaper and spare tubes, Co2 canisters and a decent cable lock.

    On other bodges…

    Adapted a motorbike Garmin Zumo 220 Sat-Nav car windscreen mount to cable – tie onto the front drop’s stem; it looks completely crap, but is twice the size of a Garmin pedal bike navigator and easy to read. Got us through King’s Lynn on Cycle Route 1 which is an achievement in itself…! At end of ride you can drop the track into Garmin Basecamp or Mapsource or drop GPX routes onto it too.

    • Andrew Montgomery May 27, 2014, 7:22 am

      Thanks Kevin. You are a man of contradictions. You keep your seat post/under saddle area pure, yet you affix a car sat nav to the front of your bike … ;-). Mind you, your desire for a sat nav for bikes that works as well as one in a car must surely be shared by many. I’m not sure Garmin have cracked it yet (he says, having never tried a GPS computer with maps).

      Anyway, re: hydration pack / rucksack, I point you to rule 32 whilst asking you to ignore rule 29 (the one that prohibits saddle bags…)

      • Kevin Armstrong May 27, 2014, 8:54 am

        Touché 😉

        A sportive does not usually require or give time to carry the Sunday Times (or milk, eggs or croissants); so by strictly temporary use of a Ruck sac you can render your steed pure, whilst still being able to liven yourself up with a quick spin Sunday Mornings to pick up essentials, handy brownie points for later when your lady’s metabolism finally kicks in…When riding with me The Boss refuses to adhere to Rule#5 so ability to carry a folded waterproof supersedes all others, plus you can adhere to Rule#83 (although I break Rule#34)

        Zumo 220 almost breaks Rule#74 but is a compact motorcycle navigator and came in extremely handy on Route 1 (Norwich to Humber Bridge) section, which Sustrans haven’t yet got around to mapping out properly; at one stage we were stranded on the A15 and it pulled us out of the mire; in my defence the bracket can be cable-tied in place, and instantly snipped if any Velominati happen to be passing. Also accepts gpx and gdb files and works with Strava downloaded tracks and routes, plus records your achievements such as the charidee ride this weekend.

        You have a point though; perhaps I should devise a forearm mount, and point you at Rule#31 ‘spare tubes….should be stored in jersey pockets…’

        Cheers

        Kev

      • w00hoo June 4, 2014, 12:33 pm

        > having never tried a GPS computer with maps

        The Garmin Touring + that we went for has proved very whizzy and took very little time to get used to following. The ‘beep’ prior to a route change being particularly handy. I will concede that the interface for using the maps on the unit itself (rather than downloading a route from the PC) is a pain in the backside if you’re trying to plot a specific route. Or at least has been so far.

  • kmcclean May 26, 2014, 2:01 pm

    I’ve recently just started using one of these new fangled Bridge Street Saddlebags ( http://bridgestreet.cc/products/ ). Different sizes available, compresses easily with the straps, roll top closure (no zips), lightweight and seems waterproof – though I’ve yet to be out in the pouring rain with it. Fits easily to a clip on the seat post which seems as secure as you can possibly want. I’m impressed with it so far..

    • Andrew Montgomery May 27, 2014, 7:14 am

      Hi there. Looks nice. Very flexible. Reckon it would look great with my (future) steel framed touring bike (n+3)…

  • John May 27, 2014, 5:17 am

    Look around at any sportive and you’ll see that Topeak are by far the most popular saddle bags. The plus points are the quick release clips, and the fold-down zipped flap at the back (which means you can access the contents without having to remove the pack from the bike).

    • Andrew Montgomery May 27, 2014, 7:12 am

      Thanks John. I’m looking forward to joining the Topeak masses. Should be here any day now…

  • ijbedds May 27, 2014, 10:06 am

    I’ve used the Topeak (or at a least a bag out of their range) on my mountain bike, for those who may be tempted, it’s a great sack with an excellent expandable nature, it really is a little like a tardis. I swap between that and a rucksack for off road duties, they have both the velcro strap attachment and also a clip system a la Fi:zik (pronounced physique for those who may be interested). This is a plate which is allen bolted onto the saddle rails and then allows quick mounting and unmounting, even during several 24 hour races the clip system didn’t fail so is more than enough for road duties.

    I’ve now got Fi@zik saddles on both road and mtb, the Fi:zik bag is excellent, I’ve got a medium and can get a tube, levers, multi-tool, small tube of chain lube, some nitrile gloves, a spare gel and house keys in without straining the zip. The attachment is also secure and even with the best efforts of poor welsh roads during a recent 100 miler, it didn’t come lose. The added extra to this unit is that the angle of it is adjustable, meaning it can be faced up or down on personal preference, something I’d not considered, but is a nice extra not i’ve experienced it

  • Kristian May 27, 2014, 10:57 am

    I’ve got one of these from Lidl last year, was cheap but can’t remember how much. Contents are slightly different now and its only for the bike repair accessories excluding my ninja Bo (XXL bike pump).

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crivit-Bike-Tool-Kit/dp/B00CNVTWAS

    Another one I occasionally take with me on some leisure rides is this one:

    http://www.pedalpro.com/bicycle-bags/other-bags/pedalpro-mini-phone-holder-bicycle-bag.html

    Easy to pack small-ish stuff in it (or someone elses stuff).

    And on top of that I got a pannier and a rear basket too. No wonders I’m slow on the bike with all that rubbish I carry with me 🙂

  • dr m.c. May 27, 2014, 12:06 pm

    lezyn medium caddy- have a glueless patch kit, tube, folding knife, a few quid easily. the wee external neoprene pouch with flap fits the multitool easily as well. can also have a tyre levers in the bag if not in practice to use just your hands AND i have also fit an arbus retractable cable lock in there for the quick jump into the coffee shop for espresso and the loo. i use the twist on / off version rather than the velcro straps – faster to get off if planning a longer sojourn indoors w bike outside

  • Coolbikestuff December 5, 2015, 2:31 am

    Check out the Aeroclam from Cyckit.com, worlds coolest minimalist road bike saddlebag!

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