Back at Eurobike this summer we ran into UK-based Apidura who makes a series of roomy handlebar, frame, and saddle bags intended to support riders on bikepacking (read: backpacking on the bike, get it?) adventures. Their concept is to build lightweight, durable, water-resistant packs to carry your gear on the bike with out the need for the additional weight of or requirement for front or rear racks. At the show we got to talking about the possibilities for some interesting short trips over the next six months or so on and off road, and maybe even a little fat touring, so decided to give them a try and report back.
Read on for some more details and to see what our first thoughts are on the packs…
Apidura seems pretty excited about the idea of lightweight bikepacking, as something of an alternate to loaded touring. They have some interesting stories on their website, including ride and race reports, bios on some of their company team and sponsored ‘ambassadors’, and some inspirational info to get you started and hooked.
Talking with Apidura, we picked their just introduced 14l Mid-Size Saddle Pack, and combined it with their Compact variant of the Handlebar Pack. This combination gives us one of the lower total carrying capacities of their offerings, but should swap easily across different bikes while still carrying enough to support some weekend trips. There is a huge size difference between the regular and compact bar bags: 20l vs. 9l. The big issue there, is the bigger bag is much harder to fit between a road handlebar, so we picked the smaller for more bike versatility.
The 356g mid-sized saddle bag still feels pretty gigantic, and costs 85£. It is certainly a huge step up from even the biggest traditional saddle bag. Open back the roll-down closure, and the bag has an opening 23cm/9″ in diameter and is more than 60cm/24″ deep. That gives plenty of room to stuff a lot of clothing down there. So far I have only used it to carry extra clothing to and from cross races, to cross practice across the city, and for a bit of forest trail riding. I’ve managed to put a spare pair of knickers, baselayer, warm jersey, jacket, and sock in and still get it to compress down to what I photographed. I’d say this is probably the minimum you can put in the bag and still get it to cinch down tight. I’d guess there is room to put maybe 4-times as much clothing in there. Apidura saddle packs use some internal structure when needed, in much the same way internal frame backpacks exist relative to traditional external frame backpacks, with this one having a ~30cm long strip of plastic in an internal sleeve to give the bottom a bit of structure.
The saddle bag attaches around the seatpost with 2 big velcro straps which fit my 27.2 post with enough strap left over to probably fit even big aero posts. The bag then straps over the saddle rails with 2 buckles and adjustable straps; the more the bag is filled the more securely it attaches. Apidura says you need 18cm between saddle rails and tire to prevent damage, but I had the issue of not having enough exposed post on one bike I tried to fit it to. With only 13cm of seatpost exposed, the loaded pack pushed down on the cantilever brake cable on one cross bike interfering with the brake. While that is a CX-only issue, even on this bike with >16cm of post showing, the bag touches the post binder bolt and could wear a hole over time. I don’t think its a big issue, but I’ll keep my eye on it here.
The 65£ 198g bar bag has a relatively small 14cm/5.5″ across opening, which made it a bit harder to pack. While it is more than 50cm/20″ deep when it is open, to fit it in between a drop handlebar you have to roll it down to about 30cm/12″ deep inside. Again, I just was stuffing clothes in to fill the thing. I got another jacket, some heavy socks, gloves, and a cap in there, almost filling it. On a 42cm bar, there wasn’t a lot of extra room around the levers, but I still had enough to comfortably put my hand anywhere on the bar. Interestingly the smaller diameter of the compact bag and the two simple straps let the bag sit below my Barfly and just off the bar enough that my fingers could wrap the handlebar, even on the tops.
We have the packs on the start of a long-term review here in Prague now, so we’ll be testing them whenever we can get out for some extended trips and will report back in the spring how they fare. So far we’ve been pleased with the quality and ease of getting them on the bike. The saddle bag stood up to some quick post-cross pressure washing without the contents getting wet (which was impressive.) And even though the saddle bag looked to be moving around quite a bit when it wasn’t very full, we never once felt it against our legs pedaling. The smaller bar bag may be a limiting factor for more intense touring, but should work well-enough for what will be essentially credit-card touring. Time will tell.