13 June 2011

Easy-On, Easy-Off Carradice Bag

Today I'm going to tell you about one of the DIY projects I did over the past rainy weekend.

Since September, Marianela, my old LeTour III, has sported a Gyes Parkside saddle.  On the whole, I've been happy with it, and given that Brooks prices are rising again, it's a good value.

It's very similar to the Brooks B-66 and -67 saddles:  The dimensions and shape of the leather top are similar, and so are the coiled springs.  Another feature it shares with their English forebears is its bag loops:

They are almost triangular-shaped, with rectangular cutouts for bag straps.  The bag loops on the sportier Brooks and Gyes models are more slit-like.  Also, the bag loops on B-17s, Swallows and the Gyes models inspired by them are integral with the carriage plate that's riveted to the rear of the leather top.  However, on the Parkside the bag loops are inserted between the top plate and the springs, and everything is bolted together.  I believe the B-66, B-67 and Champion Flyer have the same, or at  least a similar arrangement.

I decided that I want to start using one of my Carradice saddlebags--a Nelson Longflap--for commuting.  It can hold lots of papers and books and a layer of clothing, not to mention my lunch--and still have room to spare.  Also, I'd like to use it if I ever start to carry a laptop with me to work because there's plenty of room for it with a sleeve, and even more protection.  Plus, I trust the quality and construction of the Nelson more than most bags of any type on the market.

(I'm sure the Zimbales are excellent bags, as Velouria and other bloggers have said. But Carradice can still be had for considerably less if you order from Wiggle in England. And, I've read good things about Acorn bags, but they're next to impossible to buy.)

But, as much as I love Carradice bags, I found their mounting system troublesome, at least for a commuter bike that's parked outside for long periods of time in a marginal neighborhood (where my main job is).  Peter White--and Carradice, I believe--recommend looping the attachment straps so that they buckle inside the bag.  That makes for a more stable and secure mount, as it allows the top of the bag to sit neaerly flush with the bag loops.  But it doesn't make for easy dismounting.

So what did I do?  Well, I unbolted the springs and bag loops from the rear plate on the Gyes.  And I substituted keyring clamps for the loops:

Notice the tabs at the top of those clamps.  I push them toward the saddle, which opens them.  And when I let go, they close very securely:

I simply looped the regular mounting straps a couple of times through rectangular coupler links.  I screwed down the clamps very tightly after treating the treads with blue Loctite. (I gave the undercarriage bolts the same treatment.)

And, instead of attaching the bottom of the bag to the seatpost with the provided strap, I looped an old toestrap onto the bag and around the front of the rear rack:

I'm still thinking of other ways to make that connection quick-release.  I didn't want to use a clamp like the ones I used on the saddle because I thought the bag could sway too much with the bag mounted on such a small point.  Looping the strap around the front of the rack makes it much more stabe.  Plus, toe straps have a roller and clamp that can be adjusted--or allow the strap to be removed--quickly.  I think it will work well: Today I was surprised at how quickly I could mount and dismount the bag.  And it remained remarkably stable as poor Marianela got bounced over some stretches of streets that were more like the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Oh, one more thing:  I figured out a way to attach a shoulder strap so I could carry the Nelson off my bike:

All of the Carradice bags I've seen--as well as a number of similar bags--have leather tabs like the one you see in the photo.  They're usually at or near the top of the bag, on the corners.  I got two heavy-duty keyrings from a local hardware store and looped them onto those tabs.  Those rings allowed me to clip a padded shoulder strap from EMS onto the bag.

If you want to do something like this with a B-17, you could probably attach those clamps to the seat bag loops with hose clamps.  Or you could attach those clamps to the rails of a saddle that doesn't have bag  loops.  

In a few weeks or months, I'll write a follow-up to let you know how this system is holding up.


  1. Those keyring clamps are brilliant! And I've heard those Carradice Longflaps are nice bags. Good Luck!

  2. Great Post! I'm working on a new attachment for a second hand knapsack to attach to the back of my seat, so its great to read about your ideas and findings.