The explosion of bikepacking has resulted in an explosion of small custom sewing shops making gear to outfit bikes so they can haul gear into the backcountry. As the sport has grown, some of these outfits have moved away from one-at-a-time custom work into production, while others have ventured into the very high-end of custom, built-to-order gear.
Bike Bag Dude is actually a dude and his dudette. Kedan and Kathy Griffin operate the small custom sew shop from New South Wales, Australia, and cater to the very high end of discerning, custom bag users. Building from premium materials, all the bags are completely custom to order, and even have a selection of colors available that can be mix and matched to satisfy every OCD bikepacker.
We checked out the Frame Bag and Handlebar Roll from the duo for a little winter travel…
Once the Bike Bag Dude kit is mounted up, the first thing that is really noticeable is that they look good, really good. A pretty big contrast to the typical black of most other frame bags, the ability to choose a custom color (I chose blue), and then have a matching handlebar harness, really makes the bike look a step above.
Starting with the Handlebar Roll ($190), it comes as two parts, which is already nice so that you can leave the sling mounted to the bike, but at camp easily release your gear. Typically used for a sleep kit, the front handlebar roll bag is constructed of taped-seam Dimension Polyant X Pac VX21, so you will always be assured of sleeping dry. This is usually one of the hardest areas to figure out, as a bike has lots of cables and other items in this area, and you want this kit to remain relatively stable, and not bounce around. I have tried slings from other companies, as well as more solid racks, and also just cinching a drybag on as tight as possible.
The BBD sling is really well built, and essentially creates a mounting surface for the bag. The straps are adjustable with cam-lock buckles, but also use Fastex buckles to release the load easily, and re-connect with the exact same adjustment as before. The Velcro One-wrap attachments are really easy to use, and once mounted this thing is solid.
Always thinking, Kedan created the Handlebar Roll to open at both ends, and is a roll-top with Fastex-buckle closure like a dry bag. Opening on both ends can make it easier to pack, but also lets you adjust the size of the bag from both ends, ensuring the load will always be properly centered on the bike.
From behind, its easy to see how the sling mounts to the handlebar, and how the Chaff Bag($60) mounts to the bar and stem, so it doesn’t slide around.
While the Handebar Roll is a really great product, it is the Frame Bag ($280) that really shines in the BBD line. It is significantly more expensive than other items on the market at $280 AUD, but with real reasons why. The most interesting thing is that even before being installed on the frame, the Bike Bag Dude bag held its shape. From a combination of sturdy 3-panel construction, and nice, rigid VX21 fabric, the bag doesn’t flop around like others, or sag when loaded full. With two full-length zippers, and a Velcro-adjustable false floor, it is malleable enough to hold a lot of different objects.
All the frame bags that Bike Bag Dude makes have fully taped seams with a super-sticky, clear material that seals around stitching to keep the water out. On the frame bag panels, one unique feature is that he makes the panels that contact the frame from 3 layers, the black Cordura material that is against the frame, a neoprene layer in the middle to help the bag hold its shape, and then a bright-colored coated ripstop nylon for the inside that helps make things visible in the finished bag.
Bike Bag Dude products are made of a very strong fabric, yet keep the weight down pretty low. When preparing to load these up with 20 to 40 pounds of gear, the weight of them is usually not important, it’s also nice to know they wont be adding anything unnecessary.
Bike Bag Dude also makes Anything Cage Bags ($85), Half Frame Bags ($180), and sells the slings separately ($60). Ordering BBD products is also somewhat like ordering a custom bike, before anything else, I spent a good bit of time talking with Kedan, telling him about my bike, and how I would use the gear, and he helped me decide what optional features were needed. And while the complete kit reviewed costs a pretty stiff $530 AUD, these bags continue to prove the old adage, you get what you pay for.