Have you heard? Bikepacking is the new hotness. No need to load up the car or worry about plane tickets – just start pedalling and have all your adventures on two wheels! However, you’ll still need to take some of the essentials with you, and that’s where BBB’s new range of bikepacking bags come to the fore.
Front Fellow Handlebar Bag (BSD-141)
The Front Fellow is typical of many handlebar bags for bikepacking, as it’s a simple cylindrical bag weighing 305g, designed to fit to your handlebars through a series of adjustable nylon straps. The bag itself consists of an outer nylon bag (BBB call it a ‘harness’) which is strapped to the bike, while an internal weatherproof carry bag attaches to the inside through some strategically placed strips of Velcro.
While this may seem fiddly at first, it allows you to access the inner bag without having to completely undo the straps on the harness just to access the contents – a definite plus when you’re packing up and need to double check that you’ve remembered all your gear.
On the bike the nylon straps do an excellent job of holding the Front Fellow steady, and there’s very little in the way of side-to-side motion when climbing out of the saddle.
The listed capacity for the bag is 10L, but if you were to fill it the whole way and install it on a road bike, you’ll struggle to fit your hands onto the drops without the bag getting in the way.
It’s for this reason that flared handlebars are so popular among bikepackers, as it allows them to fill their handlebar bags to capacity, as well as allowing for greater stability and turning leverage over a heavily loaded bike. If you don’t have a dedicated set of wider bars, we’d advise filling the Front Fellow around halfway and packing something squishy on each end (a rain jacket works well) in order to utilise the full range of hand positions that a set of standard drop bars can give you.
Cost: $80 AUD
Middle Mate Frame Bag (BSD-142)
The Middle Mate is a great companion to its front and rear mounted brethren, and is a 4L bag weighing 155g ideally suited for housing the little items that are good to have close to hand – snacks, basic tools, and of course your phone for all the great views you’ll be taking in!
The bag attaches to your bike via 5 Velcro fasteners, and inside you’ll find 2 pockets for storing your goodies. The separation of pockets may not make sense at first, but given the number of gels we’ve had leak over the years the ability to separate food from vital electronics is a very good idea.
Speaking of good ideas, the interior material of the bag is a bright blue colour, making it much easier to pick out items at a glance (and maximising the time you can spend watching the road). A mix of style, practicality and safety – we hope there was a promotion for whoever thought of that!
Cost: $60 AUD
Seat Sidekick Saddle Bag (BSD-143)
The best way to think of the Seat Sidekick is like your normal saddlebag, only bigger. Like the Front Fellow, the Seat Sidekick is a 10L bag made up of a nylon ‘harness’ housing a compressible weatherproof bag, and attached to the bike through three nylon straps – two around the seatpost and one under the saddle. Like the Front Fellow, you can remove the internal bag on its own to minimise the amount of unstrapping and restrapping needed.
However, whereas the Front Fellow’s size can be curtailed depending on your handlebar setup, the compression system at the rear of the bag means that despite only weighing 450g the bag doesn’t sag over your back wheel, meaning you can fill the Seat Sidekick to your heart’s content with little worry about it all fitting inside. Just make sure the items at the top aren’t prone to being squished – we lost a couple of bananas that way!
Common bikepacking wisdom recommends storing the things you’ll use the least in the bottom of your seat pack, as once they’re stuffed down there the odds are good you won’t need to access them for the rest of the day. We found the bottom of the Seat Sidekick a great place to store non-essentials like toiletries, bulkier tools and sleeping gear – things that most likely won’t be needed during a day’s riding.
When looking at new products such as these, it’s often the little touches that most strike a chord. In the case of the Seat Sidekick, we were thrilled to find the underside of the bag was made of a durable plastic material that makes cleaning off road grime as easy as can be. Likewise, the shoulder strap made carrying a breeze once the internal bag was off the bike – very much appreciated at the end of a long day’s riding.
There are only two real gripes when it comes to the Seat Sidekick – options for mounting a rear light are somewhat limited, and the bag has a tendency to sway slightly from side to side when fully loaded, even with the straps fastened tight. If you were to only buy one bikepacking bag, we’d recommend this one, as it has the greatest practical carrying capacity and versatility outside of a bikepacking situation – we’ve found it’s the perfect size for a work commute, allowing you to arrive at work without the sweaty back that often comes from commuting with a backpack.
Cost: $120 AUD