Thursday, May 2, 2013

In Praise of the Saddle Wedge

The majority of my road rides are around 100 km or less, and done in stable weather conditions. On rides like these I want to keep the bike light, but still carry the essentials - such as a multi-tool, spare tube, band-aids, and an extra snack. My mini-pump is attached to the bottle cage, and anything else I prefer to store in my jersey pockets. This is why I love the basic saddle wedge. Also called a seat pack, this style of bicycle bag attaches to a saddle's rails and does not require bag loops. It is small enough to sit underneath the saddle without any part of it sticking out beyond the saddle's profile. And for those times when you want to attach a full-sized saddlebag, the wedge is quick and easy enough to remove.

My ideal saddle wedge is just large enough to fit the essentials. It is lightweight, easy to open and close, and attaches securely. I also like it when the bag has a loop in the back for a tail light attachment. There are lots of options for this type of bag. Here are the three I use on my bikes.

Hurricane Mini Mountain Wedge
On my main roadbike I've been using a Jandd Hurricane Mini Mountain Wedge for the past year. As far as this style of bag goes it is on the larger size, but still very compact and light. Dimensions are 6x10x20cm, volume is 2L and weight is 104g. Made of vinyl-lined cordura, this bag is water and abrasion-resistant. Price is $26.95.

Hurricane Mini Mountain Wedge
There are several features I really like about the Hurricane. For something this small, it sure fits a lot. In addition to the essentials listed earlier, I can usually stuff small tubes of chamois cream, sun screen, and even an article of clothing inside the main compartment. There is also a second compartment - a shallow pocket on the underside of the bag - for keeping money, ID, a brevet card, or similar. The reflective strip in the rear doubles as a tail light loop.

Hurricane Mini Mountain Wedge
The Jandd Hurricane attaches with an adjustable strap that threads over the saddle rails, then closes with a side-squeeze buckle on the bottom, threading through a lash tab on the underside of the bag. This makes for a very secure attachment system, especially compared to some bags that use only small strips of velcro. A secondary, velcro attachment point wraps around the seatpost. The Jandd Mini-Mountain wedge is available in several versions and lots of colours, as well as in leather, suede and waxed cotton (though the latter will increase the weight of the bag and reduce its waterproofness).

Inertia Designs Cargo Wedge
On my dirt road/ camera bike I carry the Cargo Wedge by Inertia Designs as a supplement to my handlebar bag. This is a smaller style of wedge, with a pyramid-like shape to reduce its width. Dimensions (measured at widest parts) are 10x10x14cm, volume is .7L, weight is 70g. Made cordura lined with truck tarp, the bag is water and abrasion-resistant. The bag is US-made. Lots of colours available. Price for the version I have (embroidered with Harris Cyclery's logo) is $21.95.

Inertia Designs Cargo Wedge
The cargo wedge has a single compartment with a surround zipper. It attaches via two straps that thread through the saddle rails, then velcro to the side of the bag. The velcro surface is sufficiently long to keep the bag secure. A second loop goes around the seatpost. A reflective strip in the rear incorporates a tail light attachment. The tail light shot should give you an idea of how narrow this bag is.

Soma Noe Wedge Seat Bag
Smaller still is the Soma Noe Road Wedge, which I typically affix to demo bikes that I test ride or have on loan for review. Soma does make larger saddle wedges, but the "narrow aero" Noe is truly minuscule and will fit just the essentials. Dimensions (measured at widest parts) are 15x9x4cm. Volume and weight are not stated. Made out of a hemp and cotton blend fabric with a waterproof coating, it is water resistant. Available in black and khaki, as well as in an all-reflective fabric. Price for the standard version is $12.99.

Soma Noe Wedge Seat Bag
The Noe is so narrow that it can literally be wedged in between the saddle rails. Attachment via two velcro straps threaded through the rails, with plenty of adhesive surface, and secondary loop around the seatpost. Single compartment with surround-zipper. A reflective strip in the rear incorporates a tail light attachment. Note that the space for the tail light clip is a little tight here; mine squeezes in just barely.

If you browse through the saddle wedges offered by different companies, you will notice a pattern to their shapes, sizes, closure systems and other features. Some are flat, others pyramid-like. Some use buckle attachments, others velcro. A good way to determine which works best for you is to visit a bike shop that stocks different models and buy the bag there. Also talk to riders who have used specific bags for a while and in different weather conditions. After destroying the Fizik wedge I initially had on my roadbike, I was steered toward the Jandd by a local rider, which has since endured heavy use and bad weather without a mark on it.

When you don't want to carry a lot on your bike, the saddle wedge is a great little bag that keeps things simple and functional.

38 comments:

  1. +1 on Jandd bags. Other than a Garneau trunk bag and handlebar "box" bag we got for free in a raffle, and a Topeak handlebar bag I had given to me, we exclusively use Jandd bags. The construction quality is unsurpassed, the materials durable, and the designs fit the use in an elegant manner.

    I recently retired a Jandd Mountain Wedge seat bag after using it since the late 80's/early 90's (I had it so long I forgot exactly when I purchased it!), and the only reason I no longer use it is because I finally cracked the interior plastic stiffener after stepping on it when I had it off the bike when it was in a stand and I stupidly put it on the ground.

    That bag weathered use under the seat of several mountain bikes, a few commuter bikes, a tandem, and a road bike, facing any condition you can think of. Always came through doing what it was supposed to do: hold my stuff securely and not remind me it was there while riding.

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  2. Under the saddle has always been the perfect place for carrying necessities durning road/recreational rides and the manufacturers of these bags come and go but the system is simple. I've used Specialized and Cannondale for a couple decades and they're still perfect. The Specialized in sorta banana shaped (2"x10") and originally designed to fit a spare sew-up, along with a couple extra zippers for extras...I love it...and the Specialized is your run of the mill tiny wedgie for spare tube, tools, whatever else one might need in a pinch. Of course alternatives which were easy and available and used by the hardcore were simple stuff sacks and a leather toe clip strap to hold it under the saddle...I guess that's called vintage.

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  3. Jandd.

    Everything else is suspect.

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  4. I've been using the Timbuk2 "Bike Seat Pack" for a couple of years. The small version is perfect for the 23c tube and minimal tools I keep on my road bike. The large version is what I use for the 28-32c tube and tools that I carry with my long distance and commuting bikes. I have three bikes and I keep one hanging on each bike at all times.

    I don't tend to use them for carrying other things. I'll go to the jersey pockets with ID, CCs, and snacks rather than to the seat bag. I guess I consider mine strickly tool bags.

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  5. One feature of a saddle wedge I consider essential is a strap or stretch loop to hold a rain or wind jacket.

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    1. I prefer to stuff mine in a jersey pocket (it fits!); I'd be worried about it coming off, strapped to the outside of the bag.

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    2. Yes, but I have two wind jackets, one for warmer temps and one for cooler temps. The one for cooler temps is too bulky to fit in a jersey pocket.

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  6. What happened to the Fizik? Did it wear out, or did it meet with an unfortunate accident?

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    1. A hole wore through the underside for reasons not entirely clear. Also, the velcro began to lose its grippiness and the bag would occasionally start to detach mid-ride. Finally, the water resistance was only so-so in serious rain.

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    2. Fiziks were for the PRO-mimics. They're junk.

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  7. Are there any wedges you'd recommend that are larger? I recently did the unthinkable and switched from a B-17 with bag loops to a Selle Royal with no bag loops and now I can't use my old saddle bags (A Caradice Cape Roll and one from the guy at Out Your Backdoor) with the new saddle since they hang too low. I have an old expandable Cannondale wedge that works well enough but I'd like something a little closer in size and appearance to a Caradice, but that works with a rail mounting system instead of bag loops. I might go back to the OYB even though it sits on the back brake. The Carradice is out since it sits too far forward on the rails and hits my thighs. If you've got any better ideas for a decent size rail mount wedge I'm all ears.

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    1. mattr, most bags designed for bag loops will also work on rails, but they will hang lower and the rear will dip down more. The VO croissant bag is a bit bigger and may fit your needs. I've used it with and without bag loops and it's worked fine, although I prefer it being perched up higher with bag loops.

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    2. Dill Pickle bags, like the ones shown here, attach to rails and a larger but use a similar design and don't stick out much beyond the saddle's dimensions.

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    3. Jandd Mountain Wedge III: http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FMW3

      I have used this for two years on my road and mountain bikes. It expands a ridiculous amount. It comes with bungee stabilizing ties to connect to the dropout area/rear braze-ons if you want to limit sway, but I have done almost all my riding without the stabilizers deployed and have not had any trouble with sway, even when loaded to the gills. And that has been on some pretty good singletrack descents.

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    4. Thanks everyone. Decisions, decisions...

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    5. I second the VO Croissant... but not if you plan to frequently remove it. It buckles on the inside and not as quick to remove and replace as velcro or other exterior buckles. You could get the first strap nice and tight around the rails for very little sway but if you have a narrower seat post (less than 27.2) you may need to shim the strap or punch a few extra holes to get it tight around the post (I shimmed my post with cotton bar tape.) It'll hold plenty more than the essentials and the top strap can also be used to tie down a rolled up windbreaker, etc. should you run out of room

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  8. In my experience, the weak spot on these wedges is always the zipper. I believe Ortlieb makes a roll-up type of closure but I wonder if there are other solutions to this problem.

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  9. Of all things I've used or attached to my bikes over the years the least worrisome was the seat bag. Well, I worried about color from time to time, but all worked until they were either misplaced or transferred onto one of the kid's bikes....I guess I prefer velcro over buckles and attachments for lights don't matter since the seat post always has a light attached to it and is easier to aim it properly.

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  10. Mine are attached to my bikes permanently. Commuting, whatever, they're there. Very convenient...Like a back pocket.

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  11. Have you lost touch with your DIY audience? How does one carry something easily under the saddle? So many options.

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    1. It's easy enough to attach individual things under the saddle, such as folded tires. Making your own bag, less so. There are easy ways to make DIY tool rolls. But any items placed in those are not as easy to access as the saddle wedge. Also, I've been on rides with people where a DIY (or even not so DIY) tool roll would come undone and spill its contents. So... I love to DIY, but when it comes to saddle wedges I'll stick to what's available.

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    2. YMMV...Still love to hear from those who have created workable options to everything:)

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    3. There's always the custom option, like Ruth Works SF. You basically give Ely your dream specifications and he builds the bag for you. I did that for my large-ish seat wedge bag:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/8652268953/sizes/h/in/photostream/

      Expandable snap closure, uses bag loops or saddle rails, waterproof cotton duck, external elastic straps for a jacket (shown with jacket, below):

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/8652287471/sizes/h/in/photostream/

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  12. I think Imelda Marcos was found to have something like 10,000 pairs of shoes, but I've always liked Banjo Brothers saddle wedges and have actually settled on their huge Waterproof Saddle Trunk, no zippers, easy to deal with. It isn't elegant, though.

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    Replies
    1. So which saddle wedge did she use for her shoes?

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    2. It was a wedge shaped mansion.

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  13. what is the name of the saddle pictured with the jandd?

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    1. It is a Rivet. Not my saddle, I have it on loan for review.

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    2. ah yes, i've heard of rivet (and the owner's relationship to tom of selle an-atomica), but have yet to see a saddle in person. i look forward to the review.

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  14. I thought waxed cotton supposedly offered better water resistance than non-waxed...is that not the case?

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    1. Yes, compared to untreated cotton. But nylon cordura with waterproof coating is more water resistant still (and lighter in weight).

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    2. On my road bikes, I use regular saddle bags -- Carradice Barley or Rivendell Little Joe for everyday and the Rivendell Adam or Medium SaddleSack for major hauling. But on my mountain bike, since I sometimes have to slide off the saddle (and I hate the sweatiness of a hydration pack), I use Acorn's Tubular Bag. It mounts like a wedge bag, but because it snaps and rolls, it can hold about twice as much: tools, windbreaker, even a cable lock if I'll be riding in civilization and want to stop. Highly recommended.

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  15. I never heard of Jandd before but after checking out their site, I think I might already have one.

    I got an old rusty Rockhopper at a yard-sale for 15 bucks or something once, I think it had a crank or some brakes I wanted, but it had this beat-up wedge pack that I threw in a box when I dropped the rest of the bike overboard for the poor unfortunates lower in the foodchain than myself. I eventually pulled that pack out when the METAL buckle on my old Cannondale tubular "tiresock" fell apart(SOOO old there wasn't even the ubiquitous Fastex plastic buckle let alone a velcro strap). It's great.
    It started out black but now is this mottled grey and there's only the stub of the tattered tag that I scissored off so it's like something Grampa Joad might have brought out from Oklahoma,but it sure looks like the Mountain Wedge One (without the embroidered logo though).

    I've used it for probably 8 or 10 years now and it's big enough to hold all kinds of crap and doesn't sway or come loose. My only complaints are that the zippers are a little stiff now and I wish that wherever the mouse got in, it could have gotten out of as easily.

    I unzipped it to put my wallet and phone in before a ride last fall and heard something crinkling when I zipped it back up but didn't think anything about it. Went on a club ride and while stopped at the turn-around, unzipped the bag to get the Payday bar out(Mmmm, Payday, so delicious...) and this freaking mouse, all jacked up on Payday and Crystal Meth or whatever, leaps out and runs up my arm and down my back as I let out a shriek like one being burned at the stake( a fantastic shriek, from the diaphragm, sustained and full of rich tonal variation and old fat lady vibrato).

    So undignified.

    Someone who really likes to tell this story says that pants were peed, but, while that is a viscous LIE, it doesn't really make any difference, I released my inner alto out there and no one who heard will ever forget.

    That's my wedge pack story.

    Spindizzy

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    1. This needs to go in their catalog, surely.

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  16. I suppose I've become a more cautious cyclist, although I label myself as the "Boy Scout" type, preferring to "Be Prepared" (within reason). I roll with an Arkel small-size handlebar bag (the old version, not the new one that's vertically steroid-enhanced). It holds CO2 cartridges (6) + head, a compact Allen wrench set, two inner-tubes, tire levers, chain tool + pins, cable + lock, Ultima Replenisher packets, first-aid stuff, glasses, digital camera, and towel. I particularly like the handlebar brackets, which place the bag 2-1/2" out from the bar and give me room for my hands 'n such. It's certainly heavier than a saddle wedge, but at 250lbs I can afford to _not_ be a "weight weenie" with this.

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    1. 6 CO2 cartridges?!? How many punctures do you get? Wouldn't 2 plus a lightweight pump be a better option?

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