Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carradice Barley: a Lovely Saddlebag

Carradice bags have been made in England since the 1930s using traditional designs and methods. The bags in the traditional series are hand-sewn, with the name of the person who made each bag written on an inside label. Ours were made by Christine. I find the Carradice Barley ideal for daily use, because it is classic, attractive, durable, compact, and versatile.

Classic and Attractive
When buying a classic bicycle or restoring a vintage one, it is difficult to find a suitable saddlebag. The timeless elegance of the Carradice Barley makes it perfect for this purpose. With its traditional construction and subdued colour schemes (available in black or olive-green), it is beautifully understated. The Barley looks as great on a sleek and minimalist diamond-frame roadbike, as it does on an exuberant loop-frame lady's bike, as it does on a mixte. It will match any frame colour and will complement any set-up without overwhelming it. It does not sag when empty, and does not bulge when overstuffed.

Durable
The bag is made of strong, waterproof cotton duck with leather straps and reinforcements, a light wooden attachment plank under the lid, and a protective double layer of cotton duck on the bottom. The materials and craftsmanship are of high quality.

Compact
One thing I love about the Barley, is that it is small enough to use as a daily saddlebag without feeling bulky or looking like you are touring, and at the same time it is extremely roomy. The smallest saddlebag from Carradice's traditional "Originals" line, it measures 8" vertically, 8" horizontally, and 16" across including pockets -- and has a 7 liter capacity. (If you are looking for a larger bag, the next steps up are the Nelson and the Nelson Longflap; those are for proper touring.)

Inside the bag as pictured on this photo, I have: a rolled-up cable lock, a rain poncho, a saddle-cover, a hat, a cardigan, a pair of flip-flops, sunscreen, baby powder, bandaging tape, a paperback book, an apple, a small bottle of mineral water, 2 small packets of peanut butter, a digital camera, a set of keys, and a mobile phone. The side pockets are especially convenient for storing the mobile phone and camera when I am on my roadbike (which has no front basket) for easy access without getting off the bike. A small waterbottle and candybar will fit in the pockets as well.

Versatile
The Barley allows two different attachment methods (the photo above shows them both). If your saddle is adjusted fairly low and you have a rear rack, you can install the bag so that it sits horizontally on your rack. To do this, the leather straps at the top are connected to the bag loops at the back of the saddle, and the strap on the bottom is connected to the rack.

Here is the attachment to the bag-loops at the back of the saddle.

And here is the attachment to the rack.

If your saddle is raised fairly high and/or if you do not have a rear rack, the bag can also be installed at an angle, where the top straps connect to the bag-loops at the back of the saddle, and the bottom strap wraps around the seating post, as shown on the photo above. The bag is designed to accommodate either method and looks great either way.

Drawbacks?
My only cautionary note, is that the light attachment loop (the black strip of material under the Carradice logo) is awkwardly placed: When the bag is installed in the horizontal position, it points too far up, while in the angled position, it points too far down. So instead, we attach our tail light to the leather placket above the black loop. That serves as the perfect attachment point; the angle is just right.

Where to Buy
You can also buy online from  a variety of shops or from Carradice directly. Stock can be limited at times, but hunting these bags down is worth the effort.

29 comments:

  1. Interesting..when searching the Harris site they say they no longer carry the bags. I purchased mine from Wallingford Bike Parts. The bags are great but hard to get in the states for some reason. I suspect they have a limited production run and are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

    Aaron

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  2. hmmm. Maybe I need to invest. I have little "private space" on the sorte. I do have a freebie neiman's tote hanging from my handlebars for stuff like my coffee mug and glasses and hat. But it would be nice to have some of the staples like you mention in a bag that is closed. I wonder if it would fit on the sorte. I don't have a rack- but the sorte has a long bar after the seat that the rear wheel is on. I'll swing by Harris and see if they have some.

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  3. 2whs3spds: Good point; I see that on their website now and will change my post accordingly. We may have bought the last two! Peter White Cycles states that they have them in stock as of July.

    MamaVee: If your saddle has bag loops in the reae, the bag should fit!

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  4. Filigree, love your writing style. This reads like a Mad Men episode. I got the Millbrook saddlebag for my Sprite. Found a 1979 Connecticut bike licence plate on eBay too. The potential accessories never end! But the more personalized it gets, the more fun it is to ride.

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  5. The Harris saddlebag is truly elegant. I like it as much as the wonderful large basket on the Pashley.

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  6. I do hope you also carry a spitting cobra, or a hissing cockroach :-), in those bags or they might miraculously disappear very soon. Wonderful stuff!

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  7. Forgot to add...we have; several Caradice bags. The Nelson on my Raleigh Superbe, Barley for my bride's Raleigh Colt. And I ordered but it is now Backordered :-( a Pendle for my Raleigh Twenty.

    I love a durable, well made product, made by people with a name. ;-)

    Aaron

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  8. Aaron -- do you know whether any of the traditional bags will fit a laptop? I can't tell for sure from their website. I desperately need a nice-looking laptop hauling set-up on my bike.

    Fritz B -- good point, and this is true with any saddlebag, pannier, handlebar-bag, etc. Whenever possible, I park my bike where I can watch it from the window. Otherwise, I try not to leave my diamonds, collection of Rembrandt etchings, or wads of $100 bills in the bag.

    She Rides a Bike -- Thanks! The colour of the leather straps on these bags matches the basket, which nicely ties together all the colours of the bike.

    J. Emery -- I have never watched Mad Men, though I keep hearing about it and being told that I look like Peggy Olson. I understand about accessories, and the license plate sounds enticing. 1979 is my birth year, go for it!

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  9. Hi....I was wondering about the leg clearance on these. I would be afraid that my hamstring would hit the bag. I've had my hamstring hit my Catseye rear light attached to my seatpost. Is this not an issue ?

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  10. @Filigree

    I know my netbook (10" screen) will fit in the Nelson with no problems. I suspect my Dell D630 should too. I will check when I get home later this week and see. I bought the Nelson as it was the biggest available at the time. It will hold a 12 pack of beer ;-)

    Aaron

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  11. Anon -- Leg clearance is not an issue. The Barley is too compact for any part of your body to come in contact with it while cycling.

    Aaron -- I have a MacBook Pro; the screen is 15". I saw a Nelson at the Broadway Bicycle School, and it did not look large enough to fit it, but maybe I'll have a closer look. A 12-pack of beer is impressive!

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  12. I also have the same Carradice bag, but mine is positioned in a more traditional way, not resting on the rack but rather hanging on to the seat post. In that position, you may occasionally feel the bag come in contact with your legs whilst you pedal. This becomes more of an issue if the bag is overloaded or if you don't have a rack at all.

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  13. One way to avoid the leg strike on the bags is to use a longer strap where it comes to the seat post, and fit a spacer. A short piece of PVC pipe with the strap threaded through works well, or you can use the Sheldon Brown Method, of a small wooden block. I only have a problem when my bag is overstuffed.

    Aaron

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  14. Chris from Richmond-
    I wanted to chime in as people here seem to love this bag and are looking to buy them. I have a Carradice Barley on my commuter and love it as well. I got my bag from Wiggle in the UK. I ordered it on the web for $39 dollars! plus shipping of like $15 to Richmond VA from england. It was like $50 cheaper than anywhere else PLUS shipping.
    Now it looks like the price is $51.00 usd. I think they were having a @0% off sale or something. Check with Wiggle you could save some money.
    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/cycle/7/Carradice_Barley_Saddle_Bag/5360042583/

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  15. I love my Carradice camper longflap, it has been in daily use for 20+ years and is still going strong. I can fit a lot in the longflap, it is massive and can accommodate music books and a concert ukulele!

    I have carried a 17inch laptop in a case in my saddlebag, however it is rather ungainly and takes up all the space in the bag and on the rack. A better laptop solution is a side pannier.

    The Barley looks really great. It has the little metal loops on top, these are really useful as you can tie bags, coats and the like on top of the bag.

    Best
    Nipper

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  16. Chris from Richmond, thanks for the tip! That website has all sorts of bargains. The Barley is listed as sold out until the end of the month, and hopefully they will have it back in stock then.

    Nipper, thanks for the info! I remember now that I did not order the Camper because it only came in black, not green. I wonder whether that was just temporary. I have not been able to find an elegant side pannier that will accommodate my laptop. The Arkel is supposed to be the best, but it is just too sporty/techie looking for my bike. I would really love something like the Brooks roll-ups, but for some reason none of those are designed for laptops.

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  17. @Filigree

    I checked :-D

    My Dell D630 fits in the Nelson in it's padded case, it is not a neat fit, but it fits, and there is a bit of room left for smaller odds and ends. FWIW my Dell is a 14.1" screen.

    Aaron

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  18. One reason why Carradice bags are sometimes hard to find is that they make not only bicycling bags, but also bags for the British postal service and military as well as for some EMS units. They make all those bags by hand, individually.

    Harris Cyclery cites supply problems as their reason for dropping Carradice.

    You may want to order from some of the online British retailers, as the pound is weak against the dollar. Plus, their listed prices usually include the VAT, which is 17 percent of the price and applies only to shipments to EU countries. If your order is shipped to North America, that will be deducted.

    I have had excellent experiences ordering from Bikeplus UK and Wiggle. In fact, Wiggle is offering free standard shipping if your order is 50 pounds sterling (about $80 US) as part of their 10th anniversary celebration. So I was able to get a Barley, a Bagman support and a CTC embroidered patch (OK, I added it to the order to bring the total up to 50 UK pounds!) for less than the Barley along would have cost from a US dealer.

    And, yes, I love the look of the olive canvas bags with the honey-colored straps.

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  19. Here is link to website that carries various Carradice products http://www.velofred.com

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  20. Lovely bag, in fact I splurged and ordered one from Wiggle.com in the U.K for 71.80 which includes shipping. I think the colours will look good on my brown 73 Sports. Next the cream Schwalbes!

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  21. Yes, it is great to buy from UK, but you forget that when Carradice bags come to the US, importer pays Customs fees plus they have to pay tax plus shipping which is also expensive. How do you expect the same price as in UK? Do you think it is really patriotic to support other countries economy?

    On top of that Wiggle is almost always out of stock and they do not have green bags. One more news, there will be no Bagmans anywhere till March 2010 :) see you...

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  22. Anon 1:09 - patriotic?... That is not a topic within the scope of this weblog. Besides, it is not as if there is an identical, US-made product that competes with the Carradice Barley. Some Rivendell and Acorn bags are similar, but not the same. Plus some of us - myself included - may have connections with England. I agree that Wiggle is often out of things; I myself have not made purchases from it but bought my bags locally.

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  23. Anon 1:09 says:
    Acorn bags are very competitive and if you never saw them that yes, you may say that they are not as good as Carradice bags. I have three Acorn bags and one Carradice Nelson. I love all of them, they just different and somewhat Acorn has better design and quality but I do not think I should blame their competiters. The most important that people still make these bags for us who like retro style.

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  24. What about other bags? Zimbale bags made in Korea are very nice too. They are distinguished from Carradice Bags, even though they have a lot in common.

    Zimbale bags are also available on www.velofred.com

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  25. I've got a Camper long flap and it takes my 15" Macbook Pro nicely.

    I don't normally ride with a rear rack and I've got my saddlebag attached with the SQR quick release system (which is superb; higly recommended). As a result the bag is able to hang freely, unconstricted by the presence of a rack or a wheel. I think this helps me to fit both my laptop and a bunch of other stuff in the bag, as I suspect that a rack would get in the way. If the bag sat on a rack I'd also be nervous of transferring jolts from the road straight up the rack and into my laptop. The SQR system provides a bit of natural suspension/dampening.

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  26. I am curious about how waterproof the Carradice bags are. Would everything get soaked if you were caught in a downpour?

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  27. The Nelson is not the next step up in size from the Barley. The Pendle is in between them.
    Barley: 7 liters
    Pendle: 11 litres
    Nelson: 15 litres

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  28. Excellent summary and just what I was looking for. I use a Brooks saddle but wondered about the need to support the base of the bag. Your article exlains the option well.

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  29. I just got this bag from Clever Cycles in Portland for my SOMA San Marcos with B17 saddle.

    It mounted at an angle (as I anticipated it would) and this is not a problem for me as nothing seems to fall out. Access into the bag is easy, but not so easy that someone spotting it on a rack parked would be as likely to try and get into it.

    Also mounted without a rack on my 52CM frame, it doesn't hit my tire nor is rubbing on my hamstrings an issue (there is rubbing but very slight. It is a beautifully made bag and the perfect size for my purposes.

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