By Ed Pavelka
In the 1930s, money and automobiles were scarce in England. A vacation often meant a bike tour. Cyclists could stay at inns or hostels so they didn’t need racks and panniers to haul camping gear.
But they did need a way to tote 10 or 15 pounds on a bike used for other types of riding during the week. And so, the transverse saddlebag was born. For 50 years, few serious riders in the Blessed Isles were without a canvas bag swaying gently from loops in their leather saddles.
Since the 1970s, racks-and-panniers have ruled North American touring. Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bicycles has single-handedly tried to change that, first by importing Carradice bags from England and recently by designing his own in-house brand, whimsically tagged “Baggins.”
Baggins come in three sizes, named after the characters on the old Ponderosa TV show: Hoss, Adam and Little Joe. I used the mid-size, 780-cubic-inch Adam on several day trips and also loaded it for an overnighter on a touring bike equipped with front panniers. The Adam is 6 in. tall, 13 in. wide and 9 in. long.
Baggins aren’t for the modern style-conscious rider. Their combination of ???waxed cotton duck??? fabric, leather and brass buckles makes them look like something from the ???30s, which, in terms of design, they are. But the Adam is an effective solution for an overnight motel ride on a bike without rack eyelets. Petersen says his customers do weekend tours on their titanium or carbon racing bikes simply by strapping a Baggins to their saddle rails.
Attachment is easier using a saddle with loops such as the Brooks B17. Without rack support, my loaded Adam swayed in time to my pedal stroke. I quickly stopped noticing this, but if it bugs you, Rivendell offers a minimalist rear rack made by Nitto that doesn’t require frame eyelets. It eliminates the sway and holds the bottom of the bag well clear of the rear tire even on small-frame bikes.
The Adam is bigger than it looks. I stuffed in a lightweight down sleeping bag, a three-quarter-length pad and assorted clothes. A rain jacket straps easily on top. Side pockets held my camera, tools, tubes and other small items.
Bike handling was surprisingly unaffected by 15-20 pounds carried high and attached to the saddle. Petersen argues that bikes are designed to carry weight right there. After the few minutes it took me to adapt to the slightly increased top-heaviness, my bike felt normal again.
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