(Laura has been the main user of the saddlebag over the last few months, so she has a really good user perspective of it. It has been on a few tours with us, so here are her impressions. A little late for Women's Wednesdays this week but early for next :)
I used to have a really ugly saddlebag on my bike. Totally functional and made out of some black rip-stop material, it held most of what I wanted to carry and kept it all dry. But when I got my new touring bike up and running, the ugly saddlebag just had to go away.
Luckily for me, Russ had recently gotten a hold of a small Minnehaha Canvas Saddle Bag and he was happy to let me give it a whirl. This simple black canvas bag with leather straps looks much better on my bike – and gives me an air of sophistication as I roll down the road. It attaches with one leather strap around the seat post and one leather strap through the rails of the saddle. A third leather strap provides the closure.
What I discovered with the Minnehaha bag is that I can carry so much more than I could with the aforementioned ugly bag. I feel like Mary Poppins, in that I can just keep stuffing things in. There’s even a small inside pocket and a clip for your keys. On average, I carry two spare tubes, a patch kit, two tire levers, a multi-tool, two rear blinky lights, a granola bar, plastic bag (to cover the Brooks in case of rain), cargo net, kleenex, ibuprofen, chapstick, and a padlock (a lighter-weight locking option when touring, just pair it with a cable).
There’s much talk of the benefits of “over-stuff-ability” – and this bag certainly expands to allow you to carry more and more. Simply stuff as needed and then use a different notch on the leather strap. In fact, I’ve found that the more I stuff in the bag, and thus have it cinched up more tightly, the more I feel assured that everything will stay put inside. (Just beware the pack-rat tendencies that this might encourage.)
The bag has two flaps on the sides of the opening that are meant to fold over the goodies inside and keep them from falling out. (They also feature grommets, which I assume would allow you to lash something to the bag if needed.) Most of the time, this design works with no problem. But, as I’ve taken it on more trips (including laying the bike sideways under a bus and standing it up on a hook on a train), I’ve started to become a bit wary of the strength of the flaps to actually do their job (I’ve even had to scramble after a few smaller items that have fallen out when orienting the bike in a not upright position). As much as I disliked the ugly bag I started with, its zipper closure always gave me the peace of mind that my stuff would stay put. My solution has been to stuff way to the back all of the smaller items that would be more liable to slip out, and then put something larger (like my cargo net) at the opening as a sort of block. And, as long as I don’t get too lazy with my stuffing, this works out just fine.
In all, the Minnehaha bag has been a great addition to my touring bike. It’s a lovely and very well-made bag. And the strap closure provides an excellent spot to attach a rear blinky light. I would simply recommend putting a lot of loose stuff in a separate bag inside or stuffing small items to the back to avoid anything rattling out if you plan on orienting your bike in anything but a normal riding position.
A quick note: In looking at the Minnehaha site today, it appears as though they have modified the bag design slightly. It now features two loops on the top of the bag, allowing you to strap it to the tabs on your Brooks saddle, instead of attaching through the rail. This would effectively tilt the bag so that the opening is facing more upward, and would hopefully help items stay inside better. A definite improvement.