By Stan Purdum
- Roomy bag that hangs from saddle and holds nearly double what my wedge bag does
- Absence of hinged lid means contents do not work their way out during ride
- Has strap for attaching tail light
- Sturdy zipper
- Bright reflective strips make rider more visible
- Available in several colors
- Only works on saddles that have saddle loops
Available here: Rivendell Bicycle Works
How obtained: Purchased from Rivendell
RBR Advertiser: No
When I recently purchased a new lightweight bike, I didn’t want to add weight to it by attaching a rack and trunk bag or, alternatively, a large bikepacking bag, but I also found that the under-the-seat wedge bag I had on hand was too small for the few things I do like to have with me on long rides deep in rural areas — a couple of spare innertubes, a small sack of tools, a patch kit, a light cable lock and a few other small items. Plus, I like to have a place to stuff my arm warmers and skull cap after a cool morning start becomes a warm midday slog.
If the wedge bag I have were adequate in size, I’d happily continue to use it. It’s a Topeak Wedge Pack II and I especially like the quick-click clamp that mounts to the saddle rails which makes it easy to remove the whole wedge when I want to. And the clamp keeps the bag very stable, so it doesn’t wobble around when I’m riding.
I considered purchasing a larger wedge bag, but I couldn’t find anything that was very much larger than what I already had. Even wedge bags with larger mouths taper down so quickly — both horizontally and vertically — that the deeper end of these bags can’t accommodate much cargo. (This reminded me of the time back in 2013 when Ford introduced their redesigned Escape. At the time, I owned a 2010 Escape that worked great for carrying two or even three bikes inside in an upright position if you removed the front wheels.
But the 2013 Escape— and every model year since — has a lower roof and less side-to-side room. No hope of fitting the bikes in. I mentioned this to a friend who happened to be a Ford dealer. He said, “Well, Ford will tell you that the new model has as much cargo room as the old one, but they determine that by filling it with ping-pong balls. If they can get the same number of ping-pong balls in the vehicle, they say it has the same cargo space.” So maybe wedge bag cargo space should be determined by how many BBs they will hold?)
Finally, it occurred to me that I needed something not limited by the shape of the saddle. And for a bag like that, I needed to look for one of the suppliers that doesn’t build their product line based on what the bicycle road racing industry is doing.
That brought the U.S. company Rivendell to mind. They make bicycles and related products but seem to take glee in being independent thinkers about how to approach cycling. For example, all their bikes are made of steel (they call carbon fiber “dangerous”) and still come only with rim brakes. “Lycra” doesn’t seem to be in their lexicon when it comes to bicycle clothing (“All you need is wool,” they say, “plus a little seersucker”) and they suggest using hemp twine instead of electrical tape to finish off handlebar wrap. “Our mission is to make things that wouldn’t be made if we weren’t here,” is how they put it. And frankly, I’m glad there’s room for contrarians in the bicycle world.
Anyway, they had a bag in the configuration I was looking for, and, naturally, being from Rivendell, it was made of canvas with leather straps rather than from some high-tech material with fabric straps. And it’s designed only to work with saddles that have saddlebag loops on the back — as all current leather saddles and some plastic saddles do.
Fortunately, my Selle Anatomica leather saddle has such loops. (I experimented with the bag and connected the straps over the saddle rails instead of the loops. That worked, but when loaded the bag swayed a bit.
Sackville is Rivendell’s in-house bag brand, which includes sacks in several configurations. I purchased the smallest of the four behind-the-seat bags Rivendell has on offer, but though labeled “XSmall,” it is much roomier than my wedge bag. Interesting, both the Sackville and my wedge bag weigh the same — 6 ounces — but the Sackville has 2.3 liters of space while the wedge has 1.25. The Sackville is shaped like a box approximately 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall. It has bright reflective strips to make rider more visible.
The “box” has no hinged lid; rather you access the cargo area through a zippered slot on the top front edge that is protected from weather by a leather flap. (There’s a strap on the flap for attaching a tail light.) Because there’s no hinged lid, items in the bag don’t fall out, and water doesn’t get in. The fabric is a tightly woven rot-proof cotton imported from Scotland, which Rivendell says is waterproof (see the Saddlesack Spash Test video about halfway down on the this page). The zippered slot opens wide enough to easily reach in and grab the items you want.
Rivendell says that treating the leather with some leather goop every couple of years is sufficient to maintain it. I’ve not had the bag long enough to see how well the straps hold up, but the fabric straps on every high-tech bag I’ve had that hung under the saddle sooner or later broke. At least with Rivendell, replacement straps are available from their website.
So far, I like this bag a lot.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.