19 November, 2008

VO Saddle Bags

We've been considering making some larger VO saddlebags. We currently sell five models of saddle bags. The first two are the small Brooks Challenge a D-shaped bags, these are small bags for tools, keys, or other small items. We also sell the VO Croissant and Baguette bags which will soon be available in a new style in black and with more leather trim. These bags are the perfect size to leave on a bike all the time; there is room for tools, wallet, mini-pump, a banana, a rain shell. Finally we have the Ostrich bags which approaches the practical size limit for saddle bags. This size bag is useful for the commuter and for short inn-to-inn tours.

So what do we want in a VO saddle bag? We want a larger bag that matches the look of the upcoming VO handlebar bag and new versions of the Croissant and Baguette bags. That is it will be black waxed cotton with brown leather trim. We also want it to be sturdy and reasonably priced. Finally, Carradice bags are almost impossible to get these days and it's time someone filled that gap.

As for size, Both Tom and I own Carradice Longflap bags. I think that that model is simply too big; Tom uses his every day. We both agree that there is a practical weight limit for saddle bags that is too often exceeded. I think it's 5-6 pounds; Tom says about 10 pounds. In any case, we agree that an overloaded saddle bag severely and negatively effects a bikes handling. If your plan is to go grocery shopping, panniers, not a large saddle bag, are what you need. So something of about 8 to 10-liter capacity is what we're after.

As for shape, I prefer a more square shape like the Berthoud and Ostrich bags. A saddlebag this big really needs to be used with a support such as the ViVa support or the Bagman support (are those still made?) The square shape is better suited to use with a support and better suited to laptops, books, and other loads that are often carried in saddle bags. Tom argues that the round shape with expandable collar offers more capacity, perhaps too much capacity.

So we'll open the floor to discussion. What would you like a larger VO saddle bag to look like?

Speaking of bags, we just listed three interesting panniers on E-bay, still working to get rid of lots of samples and display items.

48 comments:

Steve said...

I don't have an opinion on the saddle bags, but I'm curious if you allow for combining orders from e-bay and your web store. Also, is your next run of montmarte bars on schedule? I'd like to make one big order, so I'd be willing to purchase certain things and wait until the bars come in for you to ship it...

patates frites said...

I like simplicity. That means no special additional support brackets, etc. I like the way Carradice bags attach with two straps for the saddle and one for the seatpost. What I don't like about them is that due to their shape, the seatpost attachment rotates them down, so that when you open the flap the contents could spill out.

I would say make them squarish if you like, but shape them so they are "upright" while attached in the Carradice fashion. Rivendell did that with some of their own models. BTW, I didn't know Carradice bags were getting hard to get. What's up with that?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Steve, We want to keep the E-bay stuff separate. It's not linked to our regular inventory or shipping or ordering systems. One reason we have good prices is that we are efficient and entering a bunch of stuff manually takes more time.

The Montmarte bars will be here soon.

Michael S said...

I have a Carradice Longflap and Bagman and the main problem is that the bottom of the bag could use a stiffener like Berthouds have. The Bagman supports it, but the Carradice is all bunched up at the bottom, minimizing space.

Loaded it definitely does affect the handling. The Bagman is really heavy, too. I wonder, if you made a square bag with integrated support, would it would be lighter overall?

Brian said...

I like the Ostrich bag and am getting ready to place my order. Not olny do they look great, they do not have straps & buckles. I have found the straps and buckles on Carradice bags etc. to be a bit of a PIA when your fingers are cold and wet

Ian Dickson said...

Carradice bags are hard to get through U.S. retailers, but very easy to get through Carradice's website.

I agree that handling suffers when a saddlebag is overloaded, but it's nice to have a rackless bike that can hold a lot of stuff in a pinch. Usually I just carry my tools, lunch, and clothes, but a big bag can carry those unexpected acquisitions. I'd rather have bad handling once in a while than have two commuting bikes.

The Carradice-style long flap is very handy. If your bag doesn't have one, it would be nice if it had metal loops for lashing bulky things (jackets, sleeping pads, etc.) to the outside of the bag. You might not use them 95% of the time, but they'd really increase the bag's usefulness.

A few factors could convert me to a VO saddlebag. The black-and-brown color scheme sounds very nice--certainly nicer than Carradice's black-and-sort-of-light-blue. The pockets on the Carradice could be improved. And if you could come up with a bag that would stay away from the rider's thighs without the help of a saddlebag support or stand-off, you'd really have something.

I wouldn't go for a ten-liter bag. Most of the time it would be large enough, but I like the versatility of a larger bag. Maybe you could make two sizes?

Thanks for working on this.

C said...

I'm a fan of the big Carradice bags. I commute using an Overlander (same size as a Camper) supported by the SQR mount. It's the best method I've found for carrying a full-sized laptop and change of clothes. A rack and panniers won't work for me - I want something I can quickly remove for my non-commute rides. The SQR also eliminates the rubbing your legs and dumping cargo problems.

zman said...

I like the look of the bag in the picture (the Carradice) a lot more than the Ostrich, but I agree with both of you on size and weight carrying. I find 10lbs max is about it but the Longflaps are too big. If that well-worn 'dice in the pic could just shrunken down by, say, 25%, that might be just right. I like the pockets too, and the ability o strap a rain-jacket, for instance to the flap, but I feel they stick out a bit too much. My .02 anyway.

Brian said...

If yer gonna make bags, Please Please Please don't just copy the existing carradice models. The carradice bags were designed, what, 100 years ago? and while their look is great and basic form and function is good, you can't strap them under a modern (or even a brooks) saddle and seatpost without them hitting your legs. And, they're hard to get on and off the bike.

If yer gonna do this, think about re-thinking how a giant saddlebag works. Maybe some kind of decaleur attachment to the saddle for good bag support and easy removal/installation. It would be so very nice to have an easy to remove bag with built in stiffeners and an attached shoulder strap.

And finally, I like roundish bags for the back of my bike.

Thanks for listening!

Anonymous said...

I am interested in what you come up with. I agree with some of the other posts regarding a decent sized bag that doesn't need an extra support, but still straps to the seatpost for stability. If it had a couple side pockets for phone/keys and an internal shape stiffener to keep it from spilling out when opened as well as holding a nice profile when not full, then put me down for one.
Also, Acorn Bags (www.acornbags.com) has some nice stuff. Their production quantity is very small, but maybe they could ramp it up as a VO supplier.

David said...

I agree that a heavily loaded saddlebag affects the handling of virtually any bike, but I have a hard time thinking that a heavily loaded anything doesn't affect handling somehow. The biggest handling issue I've experienced was when the saddlebag was left to swing side to side. I used a regular Bagman, and it worked very well stabalizing the load and keeping it off my wheel (I'm short).

I got the Bagman Quick Release Saddlebag Support as soon as it became available, and it's one of my all-time favorite thing. The QR part is what makes it so great. In fact, I've removed the support loop in favor of a rear carrier at various times.

I use either a lowsaddle longflap or a Barley for commuting and errands, and I lock up outside year-round (out of necessity). I HATED buckling and unbuckling the bag--it's hard to do when the bag is full, with cold hands, or with the impaired fine motor coordination I often have at the end of a ride. Also, you can't really get the straps tight with the buckle outside the bag, which is the only reasonable way to do it if you have to take it off every time you lock up (this is the big city after all). The Bagman QR is a spectacular solution: well-designed and well-made.

The flaw of the Bagman, in my view, is that the support loop doesn't have anything to tie onto, the way the ViVa does. Lashpoints would allow a bit of string to solve totally the "soft-bottom" problem, and would also allow the rack to be used w/out a bag--something I've tried to do with limited success, and occasional spectacular failure.

I believe Carradice bought the Bagman brand/company, but I don't understand why Wallbike never has them in stock (or why Carradice isn't make enough of them).

David said...

Oops. One more nice thing about C'dice bags is that their simple boxy shape allows them to be used in other novel configurations-- I've used both sizes I own as handlebar bags, on a front rack, and as panniers.

Jeremy said...

I would like a large-capacity (roughly equivalent to the Nelson) saddlebag that mounts and is stable without any extra hardware. The thing that attracts me to these bags is the ability to carry a load without a rack of any kind. I would also agree that the mounting system needs to not rely on carradice/brooks-style bag loops which are hard to find and drastically limit saddle choice. It should strap directly to the saddle rails and seatpost.

XO-1.ORG said...

The Bagman Uplift has not been available, at least here in the states, for a few years. I don't understand why. And frankly, I don't understand how anyone uses a saddlebag of any significant size at all without one! As Brian has pointed out, using a saddlebag on any modern bike causes one to rub the back of their legs on the saddlebag. And don't even try to suggest I use one of those stupid mini-racks to support the saddlebag. First of all, talk about over-kill: If I'm going to use a rack, I might as well have panniers and a rackpack. Plus, those mini-racks only support the bottom of the saddlebag, they don't really push it away from the legs, which is the main issues.

Chris, PLEASE put out a VO version of the Bagman Uplift! I'm sure you can make a better, lighter, and more functional version. I will buy a few the second you make them available! Thanks in advance.

PS I've even written to online stores in the UK which purport to sell the Bagman and they didn't even reply! Is this a conspiracy to make us all have saddlebags which rub on our legs, or what??????? (Actually, it's a conspiracy to have us leave our saddlebags in the box in which they arrived, since they are useless without an uplift. Watch for my Riv bags - unused - to appear on eBay soon.)

Chris Kulczycki said...

XO-1, The ViVa bag support is fine substitute for a Bagman. It's a better design and it's half the price. I can't see any reason to make a VO Bagman.

Ian Dickson said...

X01, I think you can get the Bagman directly from Carradice now. I picked one up a while ago, but I only used it for about a month. I can see why people would like it, but I thought it was heavy, and the bag draped over it in kind of an ugly way. Right now I'm just using a spare tube as a standoff between the post and bag, and that works for me.

Tom said...

I was using the Bagman for years and the same issues always came up. IT attaches to the seat rails and limits fore-aft positioning. The bag doesn't nest or is allowed to drift towards the seatpost so it often flops between the rails and rubs the tire or compresses the fender which rubs the tire.
Then I started using the Viva support. It allows the bag to scoot under the saddle just a little bit more and is better supported, and it's independent of the saddle so you can alter how high or low the bottom of the bag is in relation to your wheel. A nice bennie when there is not a lot of room between the saddle and wheel.

Tom said...

I had the barley for about a year. I was always trying to cram too much stuff in it- lunch, rain jacket, u lock, keys, little random thing.s The Longflap was perfect for my commuting needs, and these days it doubles as a grocery getter. There;s enough capacity for a couple days of food and produce within reason. I'd lean towards a larger capacity bag and then offer a smaller one. Shape wise, I like the british style rounder bags over the French breadbox type. But the breadbox is a more useful shape. you don;t have to tug and pull and lash stuff on the outside to make stuff fit.
The caradice side pockets are poorly laid out. I like the drawstring under the flap to keep out wind and rain. i use the lashing points on the outside of the bag all the time. I'd like to keep that feature on allt he bags.

Anonymous said...

I like big bags and I cannot lie!

8.2 litres is pretty small.

Longflaps with drawstring skirts win for my needs of utility and touring.

Bag supports mounted at teh saddle are asking for trouble on the larger bags. Either they break (ViVa) or they break the saddle rails (Bagman).

Supports such as small racks are needed with heavier loads.
But the saddle mount supports provide suspension which is great.
I thought the ViVa to be a better design but the material and finish isn't nearly as good.

With a broad front rack low over the front wheel and a messenger bag (or basket/sack), panniers are never needed.

I happen to like the handling on my bikes.

And it's a "matte" finish on the Zeppelin fenders. It's of Old French derivation, just your thing.

Bagman

Marge Stotts answers emails. Lack of VAT covers the shipping.

superfreak said...

i've never met a saddlebag that was too big. i've met plenty that were too small. thx superfreak

Anonymous said...

please consider making decent panniers for your front racks such as the courier.

Justin said...

I love my baguette and croissant bags, they are awesome for the price and features.

HOWEVER, I am severely bummed that I won't be able to get a matching huge-ass VO saddlebag since you're changing the colors.

reverend dick said...

+1 on the lash points.

Joshua said...

I'd glad you're considering this. I really want a large saddlebag and was disappointed to see that VO doesn't make one. Here's what I was looking at instead.

Like one of the previous posters, I really like the Acorn bags - they seem like a pretty great value for the quality/appearance you get. Another new entry into the fray is Minnehaha Bags, made by Minneapolis' Banjo Brothers. It seems like they're going a super-affordable route, which it most my style.

I'd really like something at this price-point (definitely LESS than $100). Any higher, and I'd just buy an established bag like those made by Rivendell or Carradice.

Anonymous said...

Your idea sounds great, I agree with you about the shape. At present I am running an old karrimor from england circa 1976, hey what can I say the things still got a little bit of life left in it. It is a fairly large rectangle shape, which seems to look a little bit more pleasing to the eye than a carradice. The model is called the lowdale, if you care to look it up. As usual it sounds like you have another great VO product in the mix.

CFG WHEELS

Tom said...

anyone have a vintage Karrimore catalogue they would be willing to scan?

Eoghan said...

Any large bag with shoulder strap would be great, as would a quick release function and somewhere to attach a blinky.

All necessary commuting in a big city I think.

Looking forward to what you come up with.

Anonymous said...

I have a Carradice Barley, which is 7 liters I believe, and use it a lot. My only real problem with it is the angle--as patates frites noted, stuff spills out when you're loading it. I would even like a little more capacity, maybe 10 liters. And I definately prefer NOT having to use a suport.

Mark G.

Andy M-S said...

Something around LSLF size, but...

I had a Schwinn-branded vinyl bag that was rather interesting...sort of like the Ostrich in shape, it was more wedge than loaf (loaf being the general shape of Carradice). It had a broad flat bottom that was stiffened. Worked pretty well.

These days I've gotten used to the rack idea, but I can see a bag like that being popular.

OTOH, I do wish sometimes that somebody would say "hey, this is what nylon is made for" and just make one of these out of ballistic cloth or cordura...

david_nj said...

If you want a Carradice bag, just order it directly from them. I recently did and it came in just a few days. The amount you save by not having to pay VAT is about equal to the shipping cost, so it's a wash. Also, I finally got one of those Bagman racks -- never used one before -- and they work great.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I prefer round, although I could be converted to square. The thing I can not stand about Carradice bags is all of the damn branding on them. You can read those labels half a block away, and bikes are already covered in branding as it is- Shimano, TruVativ, SRAM.....it makes me crazy. I also think that too many buckles is an issue, too much time to get in and out and frustrating when you pick the wrong pocket.

dorina said...

I like the Acorn Bags, those are nicely done. Glad to see someone is doing the strap.

I also like the Minnehaha grocery bag; that's a good idea.

I used to have the problem of my Carradice hitting my legs until I got a frame properly my size. One way to solve this is to use a spacer between the post and the bag, then cinch it tight.

Let me bring up an issue, though. There's some items I am uncomfortable purchasing from Velo-Orange because I feel like it undercuts established producers of fine equipment. Why not get Carradice to produce an 'improved' bag? One with internal support? One that quickly hooks to the seat instead of buckling?

Forgive me, Adrienne, but I'm not sure what you mean about overly branded Carradice- My Nelson has only a little discrete grey metal plate with Carradice stamped into it. Perhaps you're referring to other models?

Bicycle Quarterly did an interesting comparison of handlebar bags. Interestingly, I think the nylon Arkel was heavier (and I think leaked?) than the canvas Berteau ones.

Anonymous said...

I may be the odd man out here, but I really like the Carradice bags a LOT, and there is very little I'd want to change. I've had a Lowsaddle Longflap for seven years, and used it a bunch. The 15 liter size is great, and the longflap is very handy to have. I don't think it is too big... the weight is right under your saddle, and pretty centered. Handles fine. I've always used it with a Brooks, so I don't have any saddle attachment problems. Also, although I live in an urban area, I leave the bag on the bike all the time. I use a cable lock on the Brooks, and loop the cable through an aluminum tie-down on the Carradice. Also, I route the straps inside, rather than outside. So, the thief would have to cut the leather holding the tie-down off, AND get into the bag to undo the attachment to the seatpost. In other words, I'm not clamoring for a quick release. Also, I don't mind if the bag brushes my thigh. There are only a few changes I'd make. First, I'd try to incorporate some sort of stiffener, or at least fitting inside for one. I use a piece of chloroplast to help the bag keep its shape, but the piece moves around a bit inside the bag and tends to get in the way sometime. Maybe some tabs inside to hold it in place.

The other thing would be to make it a little more vertical, rather than at an angle. As it is, things don't fall out for me, but still, one worries. I like the internal drawstring the later and bigger Carradices have, but I will say that the coated nylon lost all its coating after a couple of years.

Otherwise, thumbs up for all the traditional Carradice features: three strap mounting, tie-downs, heavy waxed canvas, buckles, longflap.

Tom said...

Carradice is at or near capacity. Their US dealers cannot get enough product. Wall bike has more bag models out of stock than in stock. That may be an issue of wall poorly anticipating demand, or having cashflow problems, but I think that's' a minority opinion. If VO could actually get in touch with carradice- and we would need to talk to someone other than a customer service person- that would be a great new change.
I also think Wall Bike and Peter White Cycles would be a little annoyed by the competition, if Carradice could actually accommodate additional production capacity. From my discussions with Carradice over the years, they are perfectly happy with the US sales and see no need to change anything about it.

Tom said...

We also want to have a bag that is of that quality available to bike dealers. there is hardly any room for dealers with carradice as it is. berthoud too, if you can get them.

There is plenty of room out there for a decent waxed cotton saddlebag line and have it sold through dealers worldwide.

Adrienne Johnson said...

@Dorina-
Here is an example of too much branding (IMO). I have seen many Carradice bags like this one. I really dislike tags.

Tim D said...

I have had a Carradice Nelson Longflap for about 20 years. Slung under a variety of saddles, usually from Cyclo hoops, with no thigh problems. My vintage does not have the extra draw string bit, but I've never had issues with things falling out. It is just about the right size for my use, commuting with a butty box, change of clothes and occasionally a laptop, or trips to the library. It held a 5 litre petrol can this morning when my car ran out of fuel. I like the side pockets, one has a cable lock and a small fold up bag, the other a spare tube, some tools and in winter an emergency spare light.

I've just bought a new one (over the interweb from Spa Cycles) together with a Bagman. Not tried it yet as it is a christmas pressie.

QR is of no mind to me as it stays on the bike at all times. I usually put my stuff in a carrier bag and put that inside, rather than have stuff loose.

Long flap is a definite plus. External loops are useful but not essential.

Tom said...

From alex Wetmore:


My only comment is that a large bag doesn't mean it needs to carry a
lot of weight. For lightweight camping there are three bulky items
which fit nicely into a saddlebag (and not into most handlebar bags). They are the tent or hammock, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.

A Carradice Camper sized bag is borderline small for holding those
three items. In my setup the three items total 6lbs including the bag
(made by Custom Cycle Fitments back in the 70s or 80s).

The only saddlebag that I'd buy at the moment is a replacement of my
CCF bag. I'd prefer one made of Cordura (for weight).

My most used (not very often still) saddlebag is a Baggins Little Joe.
I think that one is about the perfect size for most day riding and light commute loads.

alex

Tom said...

From Robert:

I have a Karrimor and a Carradura [synthetic fabrics , still alive 20 years on]
the first has a stiffner pocket to slide something stiff into from the inside side
the other has a minirack and a pocket in the bottom to slide the bag over..
sway = zero

Karrimor a has a zip pouch on the flap
and the side pockets have a smooth curve to close its on 2 sides of the pocket

combining those + a sleeve to over fill and still have it held in there

and a reflective rear end of the bag..

fmackay said...

Carradice also do their SQR bags (eg) which are more like super-sized seatpacks than saddlebags, but which solve many of the gripes noted above (QR as standard, clear of thighs, no buckles etc). Not really in keeping with the VO ethos, but would probably be my choice if I was commuting on a racing bike.

Jim G said...

Perhaps this bag conversion might provide some design inspiration...

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have a good sub-$100 saddle bag for day trips, commuting, picnics, and so on. Right now, I've hacked a military surplus bag, but it's a kludge, and it's not waterproof. I think this is an open spot in the market. It will be very exciting if VO carries these.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom, for your excellent response. It helps me understand why the Carradice "knock-off" people are able to make a living at it.


"From my discussions with Carradice over the years, they are perfectly happy with the US sales and see no need to change anything about it."

So, are they going for the luxury product angle? No reason to evolve at all? Even if your competition is going to outpace you? I like their traditional aesthetic and values, but it's just stiltifiying to not add loops for a strap, or some internal support, or quick release hooks that aren't cumbersome. If this is their attitude, it doesn't bother me if they get added competition.

I'd like to see multi-colored bags. Here's an idea; talk to those people that make the messenger type bags. Their logo was the little swirl. Their popularity has been waning, maybe they'd be happy to start making saddlebags with the features people want. :)

Anonymous said...

I am already satisfay with Croissant bag, but yes, I stay tuned about a bigger saddle bag...
The same canvas will be great.
Gerard.
France

patrick said...

i like the ostrich's look and shape. I am thinking about using a saddlebag to replace some panniers on my city bike, since all i carry is a lock and toolkit. Since the lock weighs a bit, rigidity and stable mounting would be important, and it looks like the Ostrich "style" covers that pretty well.

As with so many things, I am glad to see there are more choices now than before.

Tom said...

anon 23:43-

I've been thinking ot contacting some of the smaller bag makers. Maybe there is time for that soon. Timbuk 2 bags are waning inn popularity among the messenger and bike people, but their sales are skyrocketing across the larger population. Believe it or not, Middle america looks at a messenger bag and goes -wow- why is a man wearing such a large purse? Even in Annapolis, I get that reaction. Timbuk 2 is one of the few bag companies able to get their bags to a wider audience through bigger retailers and distributors. Chrome is like a distant 3rd.
Minihaha makes a nice canvas bag but it's not waxed cotton. Same thing with Acorn. Acorn bags are made in the states and are crafted in small batches when they can.
If we talk to a bag maker with the intent of making nylon bags, it's gonna be a smaller one, and they will not be cheap.
Anyone have suggestions or connections?

Wheelsmith91 said...

Thanks for taking this project on, Chris - I'm sure you'll come up withn something cool :-)

If this bag is targeted for commuters you might consider the minimum width required to carry most laptop computers (here in Silly-con Valley most people have to schlep one). I have a Nelson Longflap that fits the width of my 14" screen IBM just perfectly. With a change of clothes, my laptop, and a coily cable lock for quick stops by the market it weighs in the neigoborhood of 10 lbs, which rides pretty well even without a bag support. In fact, I think the PC rides better w/o a support, since it dangles and does not come down hard against a rack if I hit a pothole. I'm honestly not sure if it hits my legs or not when I ride; if it does I don't notice it (but I'll think about this on the way home today). Good luck!

WillemJ said...

I am not so sure we really need another saddle bag. The only exception I can think of would be a superb high tech Ortlieb variation on the theme. If done in their black cordura it could look sufficiently restrained.
What we do need is one or more better supports. It would need to have the convenience of the SQR support, be slightly more stable, and have Nitto looks. Or, alternatively, an easily removable small rack that is supported by the bike frame rather than the saddle rails (as that puts even more strain on the seatpost).