Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

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frank9755
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Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby frank9755 » 22 Oct 2009, 6:52pm

I've commuted for about 8 years using panniers. This week I've started using a Carradice saddlebag, and it has been a revelation.

The main thing is that bike just feels so much lighter. I don't know if it's weight distribution, or what, but it feels more like having no luggage than having panniers. A couple of times I've had to feel down to check the bag is still there!

The second benefit is that it is so much easier to use. I leave the saddlebag on the bike and just transfer in and out plastic bags with my clothes and other bits in them. No more carrying around awkward panniers, and the saddlebag is so much handier to slip things in and out of.

One reason I suppose is that Carradice saddlebags are probably just about the best cycling accessory and the worst marketed one. I've wanted one for ages but put off buying one for a year because I couldn't work out from their website which one to get. Then there is the question of how to fix it on to the bike, which they don't make easy to work out, if you don't have bag loops on your saddle. I finally got a Nelson, which is a good size and holds a lot, and i fix it on with two cable ties to the saddle rails. Very easy!

The only small downside is that it partially obscures the view from my mirror. I can still see straight behind me ok, but not across the rack to the left.

Obviously the racers use their rucsacks, but people who put practicality above image enough to use panniers should consider trying a saddlebag!

tatanab
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby tatanab » 22 Oct 2009, 7:44pm

Mid 80s, as I remember, there was a sudden rash of cycling magazines for the recent "green or trendy" interest in cycling, especially commuting. Those magazines told people that saddlebags were old hat, useless, and the only thing one could possibly use was a pair of panniers.

Much more recently, riders of MTBs and modern "road" bikes don't have much option in carrying luggage on the bike so they have been sold the rucksack idea. I admit for some MTB use this really is the only way to go.

Truthfully, whilst I always used a saddlebag, for many people it was not a practicality. Saddles had no bag loops and there was nothing by way of quick release fittings as there were in the 60s. New quick release fittings have made a big difference, as has the revival in interest in leather saddles many of which have bag loops. I note you leave your bag on the bike. Many people will not have that option, so a quick release fitting (or a pannier) is the way to go. I use quick release saddlebag fastenings on all my machines, I certainly would not leave it permanently attached - I know we are talking about commuting, but what happens on tour - you want to take the bag off.

So, the reason ordinary commuting cyclists don't use saddlebags is because they do not know of these recent re-inventions and if they do they probably stick to what they have simply because it is what they have.

thirdcrank
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Oct 2009, 7:52pm

I think a lot of this is ultimately down to the bag loop thing. It's something I've gone on about so much in the past I'll not start again except to say that Carradice seem to have devoted as much effort in the last 40+ years to solving the no bagloop question as they have to their core business. IMO a Carradice saddlebag on a Karrimor Uplift is ideal for carrying nearly anything.

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rbrian
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby rbrian » 22 Oct 2009, 9:08pm

I bought panniers because they were cheap, could take 42 litres between them, didn't obscure my rear light, and wouldn't hit my legs. I have no idea if a saddlebag would hit my legs, I've never tried anything bigger than a tiny seatpack. The reason I've never tried one is because I've never seen one in a shop. I suppose that probably also had some bearing on my purchase of panniers...
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CREPELLO
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby CREPELLO » 22 Oct 2009, 10:03pm

Such is the vagaries of trend and fashion. I can see your case for saddle bags exactly Frank. My only reservation would be if I removed the rack that I would have slightly less capacity for carrying stuff, unless I bought one of the big ones. I suppose I could have two for that flexibility - a Barley say (which I own and love and have extensively modified to my needs) and one of the bigger ones, like a Long Flap Camper. Well worth it for a bike with no rack braze ons.

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby mercurykev » 22 Oct 2009, 10:41pm

For my commute | use a longflap Nelson and a SQR block (the same set up I use for +400km audaxes). It can carry a change of clothes, shoes, packed lunch, flask plus papers for work. If you stop off at the shops on the way home, the longflap allows you to pack even more stuff. It's one of my most used pieces of kit and the SQR block makes it really flexible and easy to move between bikes.

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Oct 2009, 10:54pm

Some of the advantages of a Camper Longflap:

D rings on top - originally intended for a cape, mean you can carry all sorts strapped on top.
Side pockets mean that you can keep smaller stuff separate - eg tools together in one side. (Although I'd not necessarilyrecommend it, it has been said that the side pockets can be accessed on the move.)
Horizontal configuration means stuff in the main compartment is a lot easier to find.
Flap can be opened on those rare occasions when the main compartment is inadequate.
Depending on what else you are carrying, documents can be carried in the lid, under the folded longflap.
Beacause it is behind the rider, the bag tends to stay completely dry and clean. (I think saddlebags and mudguards tend to go together.)
When used with an Uplift or similar, it can be removed by undoing one strap and the using the Uplift as a handle.

Potential disadvantages:

It will carry so much stuff that there is a tendency to carry unnecessary cargo (same probably true of panniers)
Prevents seatpost from being used for rear lamp (but it does not obscure the pedal reflectors if anybody using one has a bike young enough to need them. When saddlebags were the norm, rear lamps fitted on the chainstay or the side pocket strap.)
It's tempting to prop the bike against walls, which wears holes in the side pockets.
When full of heavy stuff, getting on the bike can be tricky (in my early days, I ended up at the bottom of a thankfully dry ditch.)
You still need some sort of frame-fitted carrier unless you use something like an Uplift or Bagman. (Bikes of a certain age have the tell-tale handlebar tape wrapped round the seatstays just above the bridge where the clamp-on carrier used to fit.)

In the last ten years or so, I've tended to use panniers (Super Cs and Ortleib roll tops) quite a lot but mainly because it's such a pain to mess about when there are no bagloops. I've only ever once used panniers on a tour, which was when my riding companion was recovering from major surgery and I carried most of his stuff as well as mine. Apart from that it was always a Carradice saddlebag. In fact nearly all my teenage touring, which is nearly all my touring, was with a second-hand Camper without a flap. This was stolen by a discerning thief in my student days and replaced with the current Longflap. I really do think that panniers are nothing like as good as a decent saddlebag.

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby rapidfire72 » 23 Oct 2009, 12:30am

I use my Carradice Camper Longflap nowadays for going to work, shopping and anything in way of cycling. I originally got it for short touring trips in the way of youth hostels, but I thought panniers were best for that.

The Camper Longflap has been a faithful friend and has never let me down, it just amazing what you can carry.

I gave it a new coast of Duck Wax and did gave it a new lease of life for a short while.

I have the SQR Block for ease of carrying the Longflap, infact I've 2 blocks, one for the other bikes if needbe. So do get a SQR Block, for easeness.

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andrew_s
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby andrew_s » 23 Oct 2009, 1:03am

thirdcrank wrote:I think a lot of this is ultimately down to the bag loop thing. It's something I've gone on about so much in the past I'll not start again except to say that Carradice seem to have devoted as much effort in the last 40+ years to solving the no bagloop question as they have to their core business. IMO a Carradice saddlebag on a Karrimor Uplift is ideal for carrying nearly anything.


But does not a karrimor uplift require saddlebag loops on the saddle?

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby byegad » 23 Oct 2009, 8:33am

I use one on the back of my Hase Kettwiesel recumbent trike. It sits behind the seat and carries everything I need for a day out and has been said above, will expand with the long flap for a bit of shopping on the way back.

I suspect it is all down to fashion, lets face it people ride through the winter without mudguards so they can look cool (and get wet), so why should they let the bike carry everything when they can get a sweaty back with a rucksack?
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thirdcrank
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby thirdcrank » 23 Oct 2009, 8:37am

andrew_s wrote:[But does not a karrimor uplift require saddlebag loops on the saddle?


Exactly.

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby eileithyia » 23 Oct 2009, 9:19am

When I first commuted I used my saddle bag as it was attached to the bike I used, the same bike I used for most of my club runs. It was a camper long flap and great for carrying everything, However;
It was the bag I used for club runs and touring, attached to the loops was my waterproofs, in the side pockets were my various other things I needed to be in the bag all the time, puncture repair kit, spare inners, tools etc.

I was locking my bike up outside the hospital with over £100 worth of stuff attached to it that could be nicked. The saddle bag was just too complex to unfit and refit at the end of a long shift when all I wanted to do was to get home.
When I started using a different bike I began to use other systems of carrying kit and kept my touring bike and saddle bag equipped for just that.
Fortunately these days we enclosed bike lockers where kit can be safely left on the bike cos it is out of sight and reach of curious fingers.

Many modern bikes are not designed to have a saddle bag or pannier attached and most of the commuters I see have a rucksack, the advantages are obvious, nothing left on the bike to be nicked and the bag goes with you with no complexities of fiddling unclipping bits n pieces.
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Si
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby Si » 23 Oct 2009, 10:15am

I gave up using one for commutes for some of the reasons already stated -

my bike is left locked up outside and I need to carry stuff around the offices, so I need a bag that will detach from the bike easily. If I use the saddle loops it won't. If I use an SQR it will but then I end up with the frame stuck to the bag and making it unwieldy.

Also, the angle of the opening isn't great - invites stuff to jump out on rough roads.

And I need a rack anyway to stop it hitting the top of the rear tyre.

But for general riding where I am not going to detach it often, and carrying such stuff as coats and sandwiches, on a bike that has a rack anyway, it's great.

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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby MikeL » 23 Oct 2009, 11:58am

I've just switched from saddlebag to pannier(s) for the winter just so that I can affix a rear light.

How do the saddlebaggers manage riding in the dark?

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Si
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Re: Why more commuters don't use a saddlebag?

Postby Si » 23 Oct 2009, 12:04pm

sewn a loop on the back so I could clip my rear LED on in, plus had another LED mounted to the back end of the rack.