Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zimbale vs Carradice

I bought a Zimbale 7L saddlebag a few weeks ago from Harris Cyclery, and have been receiving questions about how it compares to my Carradice Barley.

The bags are indeed very similar, with the Korean Zimbale (left) being intentionally modeled upon the English Carradice (right), in response to the increasingly limited availability of Carradice bags. Because of the similarity of the two designs, it makes more sense to describe how the Zimbale bag differs from Carradice, rather than review it from scratch. A thorough review of the Carradice Barley is available here.

The Zimbale 7L bag is as handsome as the Carradice Barley and seems to be made with the same degree of quality. The stitching is excellent and the leather has a nice feel to it. The colours are slightly more saturated than on the Carradice: the fabric is a deeper and brighter green, and the leather is a darker and redder brown.

Structurally, the Zimbale 7L bag differs from the Carradice Barley in several ways - the first being its folded long flap. The folded flap design allows the bag to expand when over-stuffed. Carradice offers this flap on some of its larger models, but not on the 8L Barley. Another difference is the Zimbale's two "D-rings" (those black plastic clips on the sides), that allow the attachment of a strap, so that the bag can be removed from the bike and worn over the shoulder.

Finally, unlike Carradice, Zimbale has a closure system where the metal buckles are supplemented by an eyelet-and-rivet system (is there an official name for this?) that makes opening and closing the bag faster and easier.

I must admit that the eyelet system is easier to use than the buckles. My only concern is that the leather in that area might fray over time - will see how it holds up in the long run.

The inside of the bag is identical to Carradice, with the exception of the plaid lining of the top flap. The 7L Zimbale is just a tad smaller than the 8L Barley and this is more apparent when loading the bag than when looking at it. The next size up Zimbale offers is 11L, and that is the size I would get for proper touring. For shorter trips though, the 7L is sufficient.

One nice option offered by Zimbale in both the 7L and the 11L size is the camera insert. I often carry one or more of my film cameras on the bicycle, and this usually involves complex swaddling of the cameras in hats and sweaters. I have now ordered the camera insert and am looking forward to trying it. Hopefully, it might also be compatible with our Carradice bags. [edited to add: I have now been told that the camera insert is not available in North America. Very sad, I was looking forward to it!]

One final thing to note about the Zimbale, is that the loop we like to use for tail light attachment is positioned higher than on the Carradice, reducing its suitability for this function. When the longflap is folded under, the tail light placement is okay. But when the flap needs to be expanded, the light points up and can no longer be mounted in that position. This has reminded me that we really need lights that mount on fenders - saddlebags just aren't ideal mounting points.

Overall, I like the Zimbale 7L bag as much as the Carradice Barley. I am at once uneasy about Zimbale's copying Carradice and grateful that more of such bags are being offered. Origin8 is also copying the Carradice design (in black only) with its "Classic Sport Saddle Bag" - so clearly there is a great deal of demand for such bags. For additional reviews of the Zimbale bags, see EcoVelo and Suburban Bike Mama.

44 comments:

  1. I like the look of it overall, but from my deft and rapid internet searches - it seems to cost more than the Carradice Barley...

    ...why would one buy the more expensive imposter when he could get the original for less expensive?

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  2. david - The retail price of the Barley is slightly more, but a few resellers have it on clearance. Problem is, that it is out of stock even on most sites that list it as available. Also, notice the extra features that the Zibale offers, such as the long flap, the extra rivet closure, the D-rings and the plaid lining.

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  3. The site for expert saddle bag reviews! Any chance you'll review the Minnehaha or Acorn Saddle Bag? Acorn are actually made in the US.

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  4. Just getting started outfitting my bike, so I appreciate this review a lot. I hadn't thought about adding the tail light to the bag, so another great tip to use.

    Thanks so much!
    Laura

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  5. Regarding the most important placement of rear lights, having a rack on the rear of your bike makes possible the wonderful Busch and Muller, Spanninga, etc rack-mounted generator and/or battery powered lights!! Of course you know this from your Pashley ownership... and I realize you probably have the dual-vertical-LED-stripe on these saddlebag equipped bikes - I just love the B&M lights and their functionality. Thanks for the nice review. Also Ostrich of Japan makes some nice bags in this style...

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  6. Steve - I am pretty sure EcoVelo has reviews of all of the bags you mention. I do not receive samples from the manufacturers, so I can only review the bags I happen to buy for myself. I did look into getting an Acorn last year, but recall finding the process extremely complicated: I think you have to order at a specific time, or they are all sold out.

    Mike - I am actually now planning to re-think lights on several of my bicycles. Once I determine which bikes I will end up keeping in the long run and which selling (one or more will probably go), I will try to have generator set-ups on all the remaining ones.

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  7. Steve: I have the medium Minnehaha and it is clearly inferior once seen in person. While it is quite a bit cheaper due to a recent online sale, I would normally choose another option. The leather seems just a bit thinner, there is no way to attach a light, and the leather straps cannot fasten to the bag, causing them to hang down to rub on the tires. At $27+shipping, I am happy. If I had paid the full $60 or so, I would have been pretty disappointed.

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  8. I must say both bags are very handsome. Congratulations on your bike bling.

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  9. anonymous: i think i have the same minnehaha bag, which i got during that sale (see my shogun in velouria's previous blog post. i agree about the thin leather and lack of a light strap. in addition, the buckles are placed way down at the bottom of the bag, requiring you to bend down to see them as you try to work them.

    but on the other hand, the bag is a nice shape, has large capacity (10L), is fully lined and supposedly waterproof, has a built-in stiffener panel on the bottom, and the canvas quality seems ever bit as good as the carradice. importantly, it *fits* well on my bike. my other bag is the carradice pendle, which is similar in size (11L) to the minnehaha. it's definitely easier to use the buckles, and i like the side pockets. but unlike the minnehaha, it has a hard time keeping still on my bike. it sways left and right, and rubs on my leg. the minnehaha stays put and doesn't interfere at all with my leg movement.

    for $27 the minnehaha was a bargain, and i think that at regular price it compares reasonably well against the carradice pendle. however, they are two very different animals.

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  10. I saw somervillain's medium Minnehaha saddlebag in person, and actually found it nicer than what I had expected after seeing it online. It is quite large and attractive. What stopped me from getting it was his description of the too-low closure, plus the fact that it only comes in black - I prefer greenish bags.

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  11. @ sommervillian - I bought a Carradice bagman sport for my 11L zimbale bag. It has really improved everything about using the bag. It doesn't sway, it sits level and it does not hit my legs. I can load it full for my commute and it won't negatively effect the handling anymore.

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  12. I don't think I've seen these before. This bag is gorgeous and matches your and your bicycles' aesthetic so perfectly. Canvas and leather has never looked so classy :) The camera insert sounds great. Speaking of cameras, were these photos taken with a new digital camera?

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  13. Thanks Dottie - We got "proper" digital cameras over the winter holidays, so the pictures taken since then have been markedly better than last year's.

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  14. Velouria, you must be reading my cycling notes. Wait, I don't have any...

    Well, somehow, you seem to know what purchase decisions I'm facing and enlighten me about them. A little while back, I was perplexed about which Brooks to get when along came LB's primer on just that! Lately, I've been tormenting myself over Carradice or Zimbale, 7l or 11l, black or green -- and here you are again!

    I think I'm going with Zim's 7l black. I prefer green on its own, but I think black will do a better job of being switched between a half-dozen bikes.

    Many thanks for another timely illumination!

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  15. I've had very good experience the Carradice bags but they do seem harder to find now. I have the Camper Longflap bought several years ago (also made by Christine). The long flap is very convenient with large loads; I've always been able to carry everything I want. I've used a shoulder strap with the metal attachments on the top and had no problems .

    Rivendell was exaggerating a little when they said the Carradice bages will last 20 years; after about 10-12 years of books, laptops, pots, etc. it had enough holes that I decided to buy 2 new ones (green and black) rather than adding more patches. This is still far longer than I've had nylon bags last.

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  16. Just wanted to note how gorgeous Marianne is looking these days! Although it does rather make me regret the fact that when I came upon a beautiful orange Peugot mixte at Cambridge Antique Market last year, it was still too early in my search for me to know what I was looking at or for. I've learned so much about bicycles in the months since, and a lot of that comes from your lovely posts. Still-- the one that got away!

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  17. Would it be a faux pas (or even possible) to have a Brooks tool satchel and one of these bags attached to the Brooks seat?

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  18. Stephen - Do you mean that Rivendell used to sell Carradice at some point? By the time I arrived at the "scene", they were already discontinuing their Nigel Smythe bags and introducing the Saddlesack line... We have 2 Carradice Barleys, both purchased last summer, and they look almost no different from new after close to a year of use. Will see how the Zimbale will hold up!

    Mike - glad I can help : )

    margonaute - You can always go back and see what they have out on the floor these days : ) I try not to, for fear of adopting more bikes.

    Mr. Haramis - I like the idea of those delicious little tool bags, but they are impractical for me. I usually carry at least a lock, jacket, hat, book, notebook, and camera(s) on the bike.

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  19. Velouria - On second searches it seems you're probably right about the Zimbale being comparable, perhaps a bit less in price. You say that resellers have the Barley at clearance; I'll take your word for it, as I don't have any personal knowledge as to whether they're being sold or resold.

    And you're right that the extended flap on the Zimbale is a selling feature. I, like Sommervillan, bought the Minehaha on sale - For 1/4 the price of a Carradice I received a bag with 1/2 the craftsmanship and features of a Barley. But I purchased it expecting to soon upgrade to a Barley. Now the price breakdown on the different Zimbales as well as the plaid lining and elongated flap now have me wavering between it and a Barley.

    Hmmmm...

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  20. That's a "Sam Browne" style closure, as introduced (or popularized) on the Sam Browne sword/pistol belt.

    Good for flaps, securing strap-ends for Really Important Things (like combat belts), and the like.

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  21. Sigivald- thanks for that insight!

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  22. Many excellent comments, validating my faith in this place as THE source for expert seatbag reviews. This is doubly relevant, as the "site" still has a few of those closeout Minnehaha seat bags for sale, and my commuter bike is getting ready to "strip down for spring." These things get MUCH more important when the rack and fenders go into the closet for the warm season.

    FWIW, if someone bought one of those Minnehaha bags at deep discount, and regrets it, I imagine Velouria can get that person and myself into contact, creating a "win win" situation.

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  23. I am a little miffed that everyone is copying Carradice, but Zimbale's closure system is a definite improvement.

    For the record, I still prefer the look of my slightly worn year-old Carradice bag that's been with me through the salt marshes of Cape Cod and toured Walden Pond, withstood the rainstorms, sunscreen, sand and dust of Provincetown dunes. And it has a better light attachment. :)

    So, put me down in the Carradice camp, but with due credit to Zimbale for their "Sam Browne" system and extended flap.

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  24. Steve - Your rack and fenders go into the closet for the warm season? Oh my, the smelling salts please!

    All this talk of the deeply discounted Minnehaha bags makes me want one of my own. And I suspect that all those who got them and are "disappointed", are not disappointed enough to give them up : )

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  25. Is that the co-habitant in new Chrome shoes? Were those from the 2-day trade in?

    Styling bags...

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  26. nope, not giving up the minnehaha, and i'm even considering getting another, as it looks from the website like they've changed the design to move the closure buckles farther up.

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  27. I want one just so that I can say "Where's my little Minnehaha?"

    /Have you seen my Minnehaha?
    //My Minnehaha, where is it?

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  28. Not going to give up my Minnehaha, but probably won't be grabbing another.

    For what it's worth, they're still available for $26 at clearance, same place I bought mine - Restoration Hardware: http://bit.ly/ajSPSp

    If anyone is considering buying one, you won't find one at a steeper discount (unless someone decides to sell theirs).

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  29. A bit off topic - but another thing I like about a Minnehaha saddlebag, is that there is a matching handlebar bag available (see VO). The handlebar bag is not available on clearance anywhere as far as I can see, but if you buy it from VO and then the saddlebag on clearance from Restoration Hardware, you'll have a complete touring set-up for $100. Just a thought! Wish I had a bike that needed black bags.

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  30. velouria, the problem i see with the minnehaha front bag is that it's designed to sit high up, attached to the handlebars. i don't like bags that sit high up, as they raise the center of gravity and just don't look balanced. i wish minnehaha would design a traditional randonneuring bag to rest on a front rack. however, if you're looking for an occasion to buy a set of black minnehahas, my raleigh comp GS wouldn't mind being a recipient. :-)

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  31. Nice bags indeed but the problem is that these 2 products are difficult to found in Belgium (Zimbale said to me that they are not distribute in our contry). I'm looking for same product made in europe (in the maintime it reduce the lengt of the journey to come to my bicycle). Some suggestion?

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  32. Thanks for mentioning the Origin8 black bag. I had seen them, but not realized what I was looking at, and yes I need/want a black bag.

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  33. Velouria,

    Yes, I bought a Camper Longflap and a rain poncho from Rivendell around 1997 or so. Cleaning my house, I found a 2002 Rivendell catalog where they are moving to Baggins bags from Carradice (Rivendell still sold Carradice online, and said Carradice was unknown in US before they started carrying them in 1995 and sold zillions).

    Again some exaggeration on both the date and the sales. I have some Brooks bags from the mid 70's from my uncle; they may not be Carradice, but they are still good saddle bags, with quick release skewers yet. The Brooks bages are smaller than the Camper, but have stiffer sides to keep their shape better.

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  34. After researching a bit about both these bags, I decided to go with the Zimbale. Both were the approximate size I'm looking, and style-wise very similar, but the MAJOR selling point for me was the two features the Carradice didn't have: D-rings and the extended flap.
    As a frequent city commuter (read: fair-weather biker!) being able to hook on straps to throw this over my shoulder to carry like a messenger bag is absolutely vital when I make stops on the way to/from work, or if I'm just out shopping. And the longer flap is a nice touch too - it lets me squeeze in a bit more cargo when I need it - a very efficent design to my mind.

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  35. I'm about to spring for a Zimbale bag, but am still not sure about the whole leg rub problem. Is an 11-liter bag more likely to rub than a 7? Will both be likely to rub against my legs, at least fairly often? I see mention above of a "Carradice Bagman Sport" helping the sway of a Zimbale bag...what is that?

    Any help most welcome...

    scot

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  36. Do you think the 7 liter bag could fit a kryptonite lock? Mine looks like it is about a foot long.

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  37. I recently ordered the 7L Zimbale from Harris Cyclery and I can say that it is a very well made bag and it was cheaper than many of the others I was looking at. I don't think you can go wrong.

    @ Carina, I am not in front of my bag right now, but I think that the lock would fit

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  38. Carradice is the Original, can be repaired if required and is a far better product in long term use. I have had a Zimbale for nearly a year now and I have had many issues with the straps I don't no where to get these repaired without sending it back to south Korea. This is the deal breaker for me. Also not sure how long these will still be available in the UK????

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  39. So both bags attach to the bike with three buckles? The reason I ask is that the Zimbale site shows a shoulder strap which suggests that the bag is intended to be used off the bike as well. Unless you use one of Carradice's quick releases, isn't it a bit of a pain to undo three buckles every time you leave the bike?

    Seems like a very nice bag otherwise, especially if you don't have a rear rack, such as on many folding bikes.

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  40. I've found this:
    http://portapedalbike.com/products-page/zimbale/zimbale-camera-protect-case/

    They're based in Tempe,Arizona.

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  41. Approximately how much will fit in the Zimbale bag? Could I fit a krypto mini lock, seat cover and some minimalist rain gear in the 7l version? Thanks.

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  42. Zimbale has discontinued it's canvas bags.

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  43. No info. on how Zimbale performs under heavy rain. I will stick to Carradice.

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  44. I have 2 of these bags and I like them but 1 weak area that has failed on both bags is the screws that mount the canvas to the wooden beam on the inside does not hold and separates over a short period of time. It is a simple enough fix but could be avoided by drilling all the way through and securing it with a screw and nut or 2 sided rivet rather than just a small wood screw. besides that minor complaint I am pretty happy with the bags and have had them for about 2 years.

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