By Ken Bonner
Cost: $29 on Distance Biker website
Colors: available in basic black; black with steel blue or black with red
How obtained: sample from company
RBR advertiser: YesTime tested: Several thousand kilometers
Compact, Light and Functional Top Tube Bag
There are a variety of top tube bags that have been on the market for a number of years. By and large, I have found them to be a bit floppy (even with stiffeners) and not particularly easy to access.
The best use I have found for these top tube bags is to use them to store spare tubes and tire irons, not on the upper side of the top tube, but on the bottom side (upside-down), either behind the steerer tube if it can be squeezed in, or more securely and accessible, under the rear of the top tube, attached to both the top tube and the seat tube. When the inevitable flat tire occurs, the spare tubes and tire irons practically fall into my hand when I release the Velcro cover — not really an ideal solution.
Recently, I discovered a light and very functional top tube bag, the eoGEAR Top Tube Century Bag, that holds a variety of energy bars, pens, keys, small batteries and whatever else a rider might want to stuff in it. It's designed and made in America by DistanceBiker/eoGEAR proprietor and long-distance cyclist Richard Stum.
Weighing in at 2.8 oz. (79 grams), and with 38 cubic inches (630 ml) of storage space, it's compact and light. But it's equally functional and very accessible owing to its upper side of top tube placement.
Pockets, Loops and Options Add Versatility
If you're packing a large supply of energy bars, they can be stored securely on end with the top zipper left open. Velcro or zippered side pockets are useful for secure storage of keys or a cell phone. And a small loop at the front of the bag can hold a pen (to write notes, or record license plate numbers).
The bag also accepts an optional brevet card holder ($13) with a fold-over poly-envelope for flat items, including but not limited to brevet cards. During the heavy rain on the Rocky Mountain 1200 km event during the testing period, my brevet card was convenient to access and stayed dry in the holder.
The attachment system holds the bag securely in place, and it features a reflective strip on each side for increased night-time visibility.
It's a visually attractive bag, but with the brevet card holder included, it starts to look a bit cluttered. And the optional hard plastic box insert is not really necessary. (The company website does carry this warning: "Some cyclists do not like having a bag on the top tube as it interferes with their knees while standing up to pedal.") Those minor shortcomings are about the only ones I noted.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a good-looking and functional top-tube bag, the eoGEAR Top Tube Century bag is worth trying out.
Ken Bonner is a marathon runner and renowned ultracyclist who holds the course record for the British Columbia Rocky Mountain 1200k and several UltraMarathon Cycling Association point-to-point records. Retired and living in Victoria, British Columbia, he rides about 18,000 miles a year.