• Clotaire Mandel

Frame bag review : Custom merit gear

Needless to say I've adopt the full frame bag as a solid piece of my set up. Very convenient and clever way to use the space that the bike offers, I'd hardly get rid of it. As the old one was mouldering, I had to change. The previous one was a cheapish one, with zip and cordura 1000D made. But well, cheap things are rarely good when coming to long term and harsh conditions. So I cycled from Kenya to South Africa with it when it started to crumble. Mostly the bloody zip. Had to fix it a few times and ended up struggling every day opening and closing it. I just gave up at the end, waiting for a new one to come with in mind a few changes. Why such a long review ? Well, good question. I'd say because we all struggled too much with cheap piece of kit, and when something is good, worth the time sharing. And this is a good trade, helping each other to grow through our respective projects.

Time for a change. So few things I was in search for : - Custom/Home made - No zip at all - Water resistant - Strong and reliable - A bit more jazzy than the classic options - Roll top closing - Wider, for more space ! - Precision in the fixation system Just that yeah.

The process : Needless to say that I scrolled for hours online to find the pearl. And finaly, no idea how, I found a bag which looked quit cool and could be the one I want. Digging a bit, those bikepacking piece of kit are home made by two guys in the Netherlands in small scale. Got to say I quite love it. Not having the eternal same bag as you can find on every single bike you come across.

More than 50 emails were needed, from a first talk to the reception of the parcel. As a total custom frame bag, everything is possible. Which does open quite a lot of doors. So we worked together. What do I want, and what they can do. First contact : Keen to receive it ! Made its way all the way across the world and I can finaly vigorously open the box, and mount it.

First photo of the first kilometers with the brand new bag on a old set up. First contact, first impressions. I love it. Seems to be strong and reliable. Love the colour, love the materials. Strong stitches. Every piece, every part seems to have been under the same serious attention. Let's just mount it and see. Mounting process : As we were working for ages together, I wasn't expecting less than what I finaly have : velcro fastening and bolts are at the exact place. They use both photos of your bike combined to a software to calculate exact location of your bolt, brake and speed fixation. Which basically leads in a perfectly accurate measurments, to fit both your bike and your expectations. This is what for me makes the difference between a custom made, craft by passionate people, and what big company can offer : a strong and important communication process, attention to expectation and details. And eventually a unique piece of kit.

So I got a bolt fixation system which fits into the normal bottle cages location.


Fits perfectly as the measurements were good enough indeed. The bag would almost hold on the frame with those 4 bolts... Pretty impressive. And is everything structured by a rigid plastic piece on the back. Which reinforce the global mounting system, and also gives a rigid shape to the bag. A good thing overall considering it's width. That could have been floating, sagging, and at the end being unpleasant. But this plastic piece holds everything together and in place.

And above and under, velcro system.

This is how mine works. But more or less everything is possible. Note : I would go for a elastic string system next time. Or even a velcro system but smaller and with a molle system to be more versatile. But here it's more my conception fault as I could have think about it and precise ! Width : As I wanted a wider one, it also means that I have those fixation straps coming way around the tube. Which is a good thing in my humble opinion.

Still can figure why nobody thinks of building wider bags. The only point would be no touching it while pedaling, but even wider, we're far from it.

About the fixation process, can be a struggle when you have to juggle with the brake and speed cables. But here, it just goes around it because of it's width, which doesn't bother at all the cable sliding.

Wider bag mean wider straps as well. So far I only see positive things about it. The bag doesnt move at all. And to be fair, considering how efficient the bolt system is, I could even get rid of this straps system. BUT (always a but..) With a bit of clearance, you can also sneak some stuff in. A tube, lube, pump, whatever. Which I did for a while, but on a serious gravel road I did lost my spare tube due to the vibrations, so nothing else anymore. Was planning on reinforce the system with a strap, but then needless to use the velcros I reckon. Note : I would probably give a try to a higher molle in order to fix it somewhere high between the fork tube, above the cable stopper. As every frame is different, good to give a particular attention to all those details who makes mounting a pain and the bag's tension harder. Inner space : Coming to the inner volumer, it's just nuts. I've been stuffing craps in with a sort of admiration. How the hell this bag can hold this much ? Had at some point two lunch boxes, coffee, pair of shoes, pump, spare food, tubes, bits and pieces.

Hard to take photos of the inside, but well, trust me : it's massive. Let's give a try tho. This is what I can easily cram in :

A few days worth of food, hammock and suspension, mecanichal kit, pump, clothes... Without "tetrising", everything fits in easy peasy.

The bigger the frame is, the bigger the bag is, indeed. But when you're small and want to have more room, always more, two ways : playing with the width or having less. Simple. Overall, the more the merrier. Doesn't engage more weight, but can sneak a couple of kilos of spaghettis ! Opening configuration : Two things : Roll top system and lenght of it.

The roll top system on a frame bag is the only way to be. Where zips are too quick to fail, needless to say I don't see much weakness on a roll top. For me, makes the whole bag stronger and more reliable. More water resistant as well. And mostly, what I suffered from with the previous bag with a zip system, it's mainly the fact that I can't really stuff more than the average capacity as it will get hard to close, and even tho you can close it, that just pressurize the zip too much. Which leads in ruining it even quicker. In the other hand, this extra space the roll allow by having a longer flap and the lack of pressure on anything, expect the bag itself obviously, makes it, again, a perfect solution for me. While riding in dusty/sandy area, you also have to extra care about you bag (and every single thing you own with a bloody zip). Roll top keep it dust proof and don't need extra attention. Length wise, I think that would have been more handy to have a full lenght open. This few centimetres on both sides keep it quit tight and hard sometimes to stuff in or out some bigger objects. Which affects a bit the fact that you can actually sneak some bigger things in due to it's size. A longer entrance would ease the bag tension and ease the actuall stuffing process. Seems like some other brands are doing full lenght open roll top, and seems like it does the job. So yep, something here to improve.

Few things about the buckles closing system : Quick and easy while not riding. Slack enough to unroll the bag in order to carry extra stuff. The slack allows also extra out space to pass the tent pole inside for exemple. Will this touch your knees while cycling, an other story. This actual system, material wise, is perfect. Strong and efficient. Easy to tight or untight. Easy to close, and stays close.

But when riding, it's getting a bit trick to close on one hand. I've done it, it's doable, but not really really convenient. Some say I could also stop for a sec and close it properly. True. Don't know if is any perfect solution tho. Can't figure what would be great to have to be able to open and close while riding. But this roll top system make it qui tricky to use while riding indeed, so that's maybe just a fussy detail and I should maybe learn to be more patient, step on the floor, close it, and crack on again. Solidity :

Time will tell. I've cycled just a couple of thousand km with it, so hard to say. But well, so far so good.

I don't see any weakness in stitches or any sort of problem so far. But I don't really see how it could hapen anytime soon. You know this things that you can guess in a blink : "That's gonna crumble from here at first I'm sure. Just a matter of time" Not any thought like that at the moment. Everything is going strong and I don't see any potential problem. Let's talk more about it in a few months. Waterproofness : Well, it's clearly not waterproof. Xpac is not. But it's water resistant.

But I had a few showers. Either continuous or strong. Or both. And dont ask my how, but not any single drop of water went in. Doesn't necessarily means that I would leave my laptop with no dry bag in, but I'm fairly surprise. Xpac seems to be the perfect balance between resistance, weight and water resistance.


Accessorization : No much specificities on mine. No pocket, nothing inside. Doable tho, and it's the interest of a custom product. But at first I didn't know what to do. Always a big deal when you got to start from scratch. But well, remains a frame bag, so I didn't necessarily see the point having some special features inside. Maybe imagining a proper system to fix the tent poles somewhere under the frame. What I would change : After having using it, I'd say is a few things that I would change : - An elastic fixation system instead of scratch - Maybe an other couple of elastic inside to sneak pump and tripod. - A small and discreet mesh pocket - Longer "opening mouth" I'm clearly 100% satisfy, and this is just for the sake of changing a few details. Other than that, it's a rad bag. Where to buy : Nothing easier, just contact them through their website : Here ! Pricewise, would cost around 179 euros for a fully custom bag. And from the moment were the design is valid on both sides, it's about 3 or 4 weeks time to receive it.

So yep, you could spend less and have your bag in a couple of days from a bigger shop. But as everything else, it's just about what you really want. What you pay for is mainly a bag made following your wishes from the scratch. And that's the reason I came to that point. With this bag as with anything else, I'll always pay more for a better product, ethically made and make sure my money goes to the right pocket. Coming to bikepacking pieces of kit, lotsa options online. Cheaper, but not that cheap either. Fora decent full frame bag, you rarely go under 120 euors. But mostly, none of those would tick all the boxes on my list. It's the price to pay for a bag from an other small company, but it's not necessarily a la carte. You can have a Apidura one for the same price. But again, it's a specific model and that's it. And I don't honestly see how it could give more satisfaction than the one I have. So a bag nobody else has, for which I choose every details, supporting two awesome students crafting with love in the Netherdlands. Yep, I'd surely pay 50 euros more instead of having a classic and finally no that good (apparently) Orllieb one. I love it. Le pedalistan

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