Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saddlebag as Buffer Zone

With most of our bicycles fitted with saddlebags, we've noticed a welcome secondary benefit: They provide an effective buffer zone. Should a bicycle fall or come into contact with an abrasive surface, the bag can protect the frame, components and saddle from getting damaged. 

When a bicycle is on its side, it essentially rests on the saddlebag, without the saddle itself touching the ground. If the bag is large enough, it can even provide enough of a buffer so that the drivetrain does not suffer from impact.

The saddlebag is also helpful when you need to rest the bicycle against a rock or a fence. Even if you have a kickstand, sometimes it is too windy to use it, or the ground is not stable enough, and you are better off resting the bike in a position where it can't fall. On the picture above you can see that the saddlebag allows for almost the entire bike to avoid contact with sand or rock. While the primary purpose of a saddlebag is, of course, to carry stuff, the "buffer zone" it provides is tremendously useful. I have scuffed the saddles on every bicycle I've used without one.

26 comments:

  1. While I agree the saddlebag works well as a buffer when setting a bike down, I think they'd be irrelevant in a fall.

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  2. I had the pleasure of testing that theory, a couple of times. The Carradice with a wooden dowel inside keeps the saddle off the ground.

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  3. I've had several be-saddlebagged bikes fall with no resultant damage, due to the bag taking the fall. The side of the saddlebag is the first thing to hit the ground, protecting other parts of the bike from the brunt of the impact.

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  4. Wonderful point! I had never considered this side-benefit of saddlebags before. I'll make sure to pass this on to my wife as well - she recently bough a shiny new Brooks saddle and, not 10 minutes after leaving the shop, her biked bumped into something and the saddle was scratched. Luckily the damage wasn't very server, but I think a saddlebag could have prevented the damage all together.

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  5. When I used to ride motorcycles I always had full set of crash bars on the cycle I rode at the time.

    It's a small effort to add crash bars to a bicycle if the owner really wanted to protect the bike if it went down. Crash bars on a bicycle would also give it a whole new look!

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  6. my ever present panniers do the same and with no kickstand i've not had a single scratch after the occasional, accidental, fall.

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  7. You have to have the large saddle bags in order to have that kind of effect. Mine are smaller, because I personally think the large ones look kind of unwieldy.

    But I agree it's nice to have options.

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  8. As a long time Carradice bag user and not very good bike proper-upper, I can confidently say that a saddlebag will not protect your bars/bar tape when the bike topples over.

    I've always assumed that the leather corner pieces on most Carradice bags are for propping your bike up against lamp posts.

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  9. Janice - I have the Carradice Barley and Zimbale 7L bags on my bikes, and those have helped. But I imagine the way a bike falls is also a factor.

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  10. Yeah, that's true bars/tape/brake levers get scraped up on road bikes. Mine are.

    Tape fares surprisingly well for me: I can usually shellac over the scrapes and it's almost as good as new. I wish the rest of the bike was as easy to restore. :)

    I tried to apply black nail polish over some frame scrapes on my DL-1 and initially it looked awesome but some time later the nail polish turned powdery white, just like super glue. Doh! I guess auto enamel is the thing to use.

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  11. On Friday I parked my new/used Pashley to take some photos in front of a pretty little pond and as I backed away and took some photos she all of a sudden tipped over (my fault for not securing well enough) and fell. I almost had a heart attack. Luckily she tipped over unto packed dirt and grass and not the concrete side of the road, so no damage done... nice to know though that if I get a saddlebag it serves as a buffer :)

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  12. I've dropped every single one of my bikes except for the (knock on wood) Rivendell and Royal H. On my Pashley Princess there wasn't a scratch either, because it was on grass. But either way, the powdercoating is pretty durable, so it's mostly banging up the components I worry about. When it's windy, I don't trust the kickstand and will lay the bikes down on the grass instead.

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  13. Oh, man.

    Dropping bikes.

    So, my Pashley had a twin legger Pletscher kickstand at some point, and in the middle of July that thing pushed through hot asphalt and the bike fell into a bush. I was so glad it didn't fall the other way.

    Now I am back to the wonky and unstable fold-down "kickstand" and the bike took a spill into grass more than once.

    Over two years I've accumulated a few scrapes here and there, but so far so good... knocking on wood.

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  14. I think this whole subject should be looked at in a different way. A bike that is laying down on it's side can't fall any further. Period. A kickstand is for when you are stopping in a pub parking lot paved with broken glass and used beer or displaying a bike indoors at a show. OK, that statement sounds stupid enough that it must BE stupid. But really, I have had bikes fall off kickstands from the wind, being parked on a hill, soft ground and so many other things, so many times that I just don't use em' except as a last resort. I will lean them against a wall, put them in a rack, lean it gently against another bike and let them spoon awhile, whatever. and unless there's a load in the rack or something that makes it impractical, I just lay them down.

    Fast roadbikes shouldn't have a kickstand in any case. Loaded tourers won't stay up on one most of the time and probably appreciate the break. A kickstand weighs roughly the equivalent of a good meal or hearty beverage anyway so let's just take one of them along instead. The bikes I have put kickstands on still get leaned against the strong shoulder of the building I'm going in, the tree I'm stealing apples out of or the porch I'm laying wheezing and moaning on that was the destination of the trip in the first place.

    I'm not saying that they have no place but I think that most of the time there are better options.
    Like fanny packs worn backwards, or Trucker Wallets.

    Spindizzy

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  15. Aha! You've discovered my secret! Now you know the real reason I like saddlebags. LOL

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  16. Oooh! Follow up post about Lovely Saddle bags? We've had some about panniers....

    Also, is it generally standard to bring your saddle in with you when you park for a long time? I've seen some people who do that and wasn't sure SOP was.

    Thanks

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  17. Hello all,

    I have a few comments.

    1) Are powder coated frames really durable and do they stand up to scrapes, bumps and falls? My impression was the hard porcelain finish would chip easily. It might also be subject to "crazing" or cracking if there was a sudden temperature change. (maybe a hot building to very cold outdoors..) Paint might be more durable if you are going to be mistreating your ride, intentionally or not.

    2) In the top image you see a bike laid over on the "drive side". Even though there is a chain guard, I would think you would want to protect that and the mechanisms of that side of the bicycle. I'm trying to get my 10 year old nephew to quit dumping his bike as he gets off and to especially not dump it onto the ground with the chain side down. Making him clean the chain a few times should help with that.

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  18. Anon--powder coat is like a plastic coating. It will scrape if you drop the bike and expose bare metal underneath. I mean, no matter what kind of paint you get, you'll still get scratches--eventually. But powder coat does seem more durable than liquid coat. It doesn't chip of you drop a wrench on the bike. It may crack if you bend the steel, like around the seat post collar, or painted fenders or chain guard, but it still stays on solid. It's a durable, long-lasting and rust resistant finish.

    Having said that, I don't like powder coat on "nice" road bikes. Liquid finish on those for me, please. Powder coat is for tools, trucks and transport bikes. Others disagree, I'm sure.

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  19. Spindizzy said: "I will lean them against a wall, put them in a rack, lean it gently against another bike and let them spoon awhile, whatever. and unless there's a load in the rack or something that makes it impractical, I just lay them down. "

    Fast roadbikes shouldn't have a kickstand in any case. Loaded tourers won't stay up on one most of the time

    I agree on both counts. I generally dislike kickstands with the exception of double-leg kickstands. Regular kickstands don't seem to keep my bikes stably upright. My bikes are more stable being leaned against a rack or wall. Maybe it's because my bikes are really tall, I dunno... But yeah, I just lean them against a wall, or if it's on soft ground, lay them down.

    That said, my wife really likes double-leg kickstands, but 99% of her bike use is for utility cycling, so a kickstand makes sense for that.

    MDI-- I would tend to agree that on a very nicely finished bike, liquid paint is probably nicer, but powder coating techniques are getting more advanced. The better powder coaters can achieve a finish as smooth and thin as liquid, with the added benefit of better durability.

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  20. Erin B said...
    "is it generally standard to bring your saddle in with you when you park for a long time? I've seen some people who do that and wasn't sure SOP was."


    I've seen some people do this, but they have typically have quick release seatposts. I've also seen saddles locked to bicycles with thin cables. However, I (and most cyclists I know) do neither; it's just too much trouble. Locking up my bike is not something that should take forever.

    Spindizzy & somervillain - I've had pretty good luck with kickstands, but bad luck leaning bicycles against walls: They tend to slide down.

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  21. Anon 12:00 - In my experience, the difference is that powdercoat gets scuffed and scratched, whereas liquid paint chips off. The durability of the former is undeniably better. The drawbacks to powdercoat is that it is thicker, so lugs don't look as crisp, and it is much more difficult to do 2-tone paint jobs, panels and the like.

    If a bicycle has a full chainase - particularly a metal one - it absolutely does not matter that you rest it on the drivetrain side. There are no exposed mechanisms.

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  22. Panniers are useful on bikes that don't have a dressguard. I thought I'd need to install one on my Retrovelo but I haven't had to because it's either panniers or baby seat protecting my dresses and skirts.

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  23. Panniers do protect as well, though I wouldn't want mine to serve that function as it usually houses my laptop! Typically I remove my pannier from the transportation bike as soon as I get off the bike.

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  24. Velouria,

    Thanks for the reply.

    RE: "In the top image you see a bike laid over on the "drive side". Even though there is a chain guard, I would think you would want to protect that and the mechanisms of that side of the bicycle. I'm trying to get my 10 year old nephew to quit dumping his bike as he gets off and to especially not dump it onto the ground with the chain side down. Making him clean the chain a few times should help with that."

    I was trying to convey the idea that things outside the chain guard might get dirty or dinged. I'm thinking of the chain indicator for three speed bikes and maybe the three speed shifters on the bars for said same bikes. Also things like brake handles and maybe lights or generators hanging on that side of the bike. (Though they could just as easily be on the other side.) Even the chain guard itself could get tweaked and start rubbing on the chain, sprockets, chain rings or crank arms & pedals. As an old "tin knocker" I can appreciate the hassle of getting sheet metal straightened out after getting bent . It's hard to ever get it back to original. Often there is flapping or clanking that just never goes away.

    I found this...From the comment section of the "Component Porn... Film Noir Style"

    Peter Ludwig said...
    I liked the damaged indicator chains in my childhood.... (the bicycles used to fall on them all the time).

    There you go. This may be an eternal truth of bike riders from the dawn of time. (Or at least childhood!)

    Thanks for a great continuing discussion and blog.

    OKB

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  25. I'm surprised that no one has asked about scene in the last picture. I sure won't be the first one.

    My tweed saddle sack is on its way from Rivendell any day now. But seeing as how it's probably worth more than the frame it's going on, I wonder if it will see any of the action that your saddle bags have in the pictures above.

    Great post.
    Thanks

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  26. D. W. McClain said...
    "I'm surprised that no one has asked about scene in the last picture."


    Ha, I see what you mean : )
    The picture is borrowed from this post last summer. We cycled to the beach and then I went in the water. In a swimsuit.

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