Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Acorn Bag Review (and comparison to the Ostrich)

I've had my Acorn Boxy Rando Bag for a few days and I've taken it on a few rides with different kinds of loads. I haven't taken it touring yet, but I think I have a good sense of how it will perform.

Initial Impressions
Opening the box was followed by "oooh's" and "ahhh's". The bag really exudes high craftsmanship. The tan colored bag with the dark brown trim and light leather accents, I think, is a rather handsome color combination (and seems to be custom made for my Surly :). The canvas is thick and stiff and holds its shape rather well. The metal turnbuckle clasps have a nice positive feel to them and closes more precisely than elastic cords.

Overall, the bag holds its shape rather well. There is a solid formed stiffener (with radius edges so it won't abrade the bag) that runs from the side-bottom-side of the bag. This keeps the bag standing tall and also allows it function well without the use of a decaleur by minimizing lateral movement.

Decaleur or No Decaleur?
When Acorn first announced they were going to make a boxy rando bag, they mentioned they were putting great effort into designing it so it wouldn't necessarily need a decaleur. Why is this important? Well, for one, decaleurs and all the hardware is expensive (per VO prices, decaleur's run $59 and bag mounts $19, not counting the front rack!). When you buy these kinds of bags it's not just the bag you're buying, but a lot of hardware that can add up!

Did they succeed in creating a decaleurless design? Yes.

With a combination of several mounting points and an excellent stiffener, they've been able to make a bag that only needs a front rack. First of all, on the bottom are 4 velcro fasteners that wrap around your front rack's tubing, preventing any side to side movement. This is more effective than having a strap that wraps around the whole rack, since it would have a tendency to rotate around the rack. With 4 opposing connection points, the bag isn't going anywhere.

Secondly, there is a large leather pocket that slips over the back of your front rack. It is stouter than a single leather strap and holds the bag more securely in place (see the second photo on this post..that leather patch with slits, slides over the back of your front rack).

Thirdly, there are the two cords that wrap around your handlebars from either side. This further prevents any side to side motion. The end result is a bag that is well secured and won't budge despite having a lot of weight in it. I have stuffed this bag full with a journal, my camera, 6 foot OnGuard cable, large Kyrptonite U-Lock and a sweater and the bag remained perfectly still.

The downside, of course, is that there's a bit more too it when you put on and remove the bag. It's not quite "slide it on" and "slide it off" easy, but it's not brain surgery either. You're talking another extra 20 to 30 seconds if you're slow.

Some Niceties
There are lots of great little details that make this bag a superb piece of bike luggage. First, there are the turnbuckle clasps on the rider side of the bag. They're easy to turn, easy to open and easy to close...even with gloves on. It is much less finicky than elastic cords.

Another great touch is the map holder. It is sealed on 3 sides. On the side it does open, it has really aggressive velcro. Nothing is escaping the map holder. This is a bit of a weakness on the Ostrich bag. The map holder is open on the sides, which means every time I lay the bike down to take photos, my maps would work their way out.

My only other rando style bag is the Ostrich bag from Velo-Orange so I'll compare the two here. As you can see from the photos, the VO bag is slightly bigger. They are both roughly the same width and height, but the Ostrich bag is about 2 inches deeper. In practice, this is actually quite a noticeable difference.

When I'm using my Ostrich bag, I usually keep my BikeBurrito in there with plenty of room to spare. With the Acorn Bag, I have to economize a little more and I'll put my BikeBurrito somewhere else to make room for my camera, gloves, arm warmers, etc.,

If you absolutely need the room, then the Ostrich bag is the clear choice. If you can economize your space a bit, then the Acorn bag is no big sacrifice in terms of capacity.

-Awesome craftsmanship. Well made. Durable materials.
-Super secure even without a decaleur (saves you $80 in additional hardware...not including front rack)
-Great stiffener that helps hold up the shape of the bag.
-Very usable and functional turnbuckle clasps that can be operated even with gloved hands.
-Excellent map holder that keeps the maps INSIDE!
-Buckles to use with a shoulder strap for off the bike use.
-You can open the bag while you're riding :)

-Slightly smaller capacity than other bags out there (Ostrich, Jitensha)
-Availability. Acorn is a small cottage industry and their output is limited. However, if you can get one of their bags, it is well worth the price and wait.

Overall: Highly Recommend++


Bill Meadows said...

nice!!!! sounds awesome!!! are you going to get one of their newer larger saddlebags to review????

Dominic Dougherty said...

I'm wondering if your problem with the map falling out on the Ostrich bag could be solved with a... paperclip?

That is one pretty bag, I may have to get one to keep up with you!

RussRoca said...

paperclip would probably work, but for a $125 bag, it would be nice if you didn't have to do that.

cindy said...

is it waterproof? It looks gorgeous otherwise.

RussRoca said...

cindy...i haven't tested it in the rain, but I suspect it will perform like other Acorn bags that I own..

Which is to say, that it isn't waterproof like Ortlieb, but more like a Carradice. When the canvas gets wet, the fibers swell and prevents more water from entering. The exterior may feel damp but the interior is dry.

My gf uses an Acorn handlebar bag when we go touring...the last three weekend tours we went on we experienced heavy rains and the contents of her bag stayed dry (camera, journal, etc.,)

That said, if you have something that absolutely/positiively MUST stay dry...put it in a ziplock bag then put in the bag.

akahn said...

Cool! I'm curious what your setup is when you are carrying tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Do you use a bag like this with a fully loaded rear? Do tell.

mike said...

"...My Acorn bags have arrived. Tonight I did a quick install of the Boxy Rando Bag on the IF. The bag is mounted up front on a Nitto Mark’s Rack. More pics and a review after I get some ride time in - and if I can find the time I’ll compare it to a friends’ Gilles Berthoud, a local shop’s Ostrich, and my Ortlieb..."