I have spent hours reviewing the bike saddles online working out which one is the best. There was a clear winner in terms of manufacture and that was Topeak. The others are catching up fast but are not quite on par yet in my opinion.
Top 5 Bicycle saddle bags
Topeak in my opinion has been leading the market in saddle bags for a long time. They’re made from denier polyester making them tough, wear and water resistant.
This saddle bag comes in four sizes, micro (0.41L), small (0.66L), Medium (0.98L – 1.31L) and large (1.48L – 1.97L). The medium and large have the ability to expand by 20% and 30% respectively.
The small bag I’d recommend for a daily commute to work. This is just big enough for a spare inner tube, tyre levers, a multi tool some change and your ID.
The Medium bag I’d recommend for all other rides. It’s capable of carrying two spare innertubes, tyre levers, several tools, change, ID. If you expand the bag to its full capacity you can even get a rain jacket in there if folded small enough.
It comes with two different mounting systems, a clip on strap or a seat mounting bracket. The clip on strap is great if you need to move the bag between bikes all the time.
The seat mounting bracket system has a quick release system on the top of the bag. Allowing you to remove the bag quickly. This system is cumbersome if you have to keep swapping the seat bracket over.
One of the smallest bags reviewed. The capacity of this bag is not generous, and there’s no expansion.
There’s a quick access pouch on the bottom for your multi-tool. If you’ve got a large multi-tool I have doubts it’ll fit. I liked the quick access to the multi-tool; it helps not having to empty the bag to find it.
The main compartment can fit either one mountain bike inner tube or two road bike inner tubes. A separate internal compartment holds your tyre levers, co2 canisters, and applicator. You’ll be able to carry no more than two canisters.
The last internal area is for money. It’s large enough to carry a few coins, and either an ID or credit card.
The material used for this bag is woven nylon, neoprene internal pockets, and waterproof zips mean no ingress of water.
The internal storage area is large and hasn’t been divided up. By unzipping the back of the bag it provides a large opening, allowing for bigger items, like your large smartphone or a bike lock.
There’s a pocket on the opening, allowing you to store money, credit card, or ID. A downside of it being here if you forget and open the back all the way your coins will fall out.
The bag’s made of Cordura nylon material giving you excellent weather protection and durability. Safety features include a reflective strip and a mounting point for a light on the back.
Velcro straps are used to attach the bag to the bike through the seat and around the post. If you’ve got a small seat post you could have problems securing the strap as the velcro isn’t on the whole strap.
The bag comes with a single attachment strap for under the seat. The quick release buckle makes it the perfect bag for commuting to work.
The small capacity means you can get an inner tube, co2 canister, applicator, keys credit card, and/or ID into the bag. Once removed it’s not cumbersome to carry.
I’d have preferred a strap on the front to secure it to the seat post, to my surprise it doesn’t move that much. I’m not sure how long the bag will last given that it’s rubbing against the seat post.
The material used is Cordura nylon, giving you a durable and waterproof saddle bag. They have added a safety strap to the back of the bag for a light.
I currently have an early version of this bag that I’ve used for the last 10 years. The tools that came with the bag originally are long gone and to be honest most were never used.
The compartment on the top has foam cut outs for the tools. This stops them rattling around and easy to find. But if you replace the tools then the foam cut out is useless unless you find the exact match.
The bottom compartment is large enough for one innertube. The bottom compartment expands by 30% again giving you room to put in everything you need for a long ride.
The material used is hard wearing and showerproof. If you are caught out unexpectedly in prolonged rain then you will need to put the rain cover on.
There is a reflective strip all the way round the bag with an attachment point on the back for a light.
Attachment to the bike is done via a click in dock, and if i’m honest i would prefer a velcro strap. I swap this between my mountain and road bikes and it’s a hassle taking about 5 mins to swap over.
Saddlebag Attachment types
Manufacturers of bike saddle bags have standardised the way you attach them. Either by velcro strap or a bracket and quick release clamp.
You could be mistaken for thinking that the quick release clamp is the best, this is not the case. If you ride more than one bike, swapping the seat bracket is an inconvenience and requires tools.
If however, you are swapping between bikes with a velcro strap it takes less time and no tools. As I mentioned above, I have a quick release system bag and it’s a pain when I swap between my bikes.
Choosing the right bag is down to personal circumstances. You need to consider the ride distance? What do you think you need in an emergency?
Protection from the elements
Not all bicycle saddle bags are made well or out of waterproof material. Depending on the price and materials used, should give you a good indication if it’s waterproof.
- Nylon’s used in most high end bags for its quality. The material is waterproof and very durable.
- Polyester is not waterproof on its own but is known for being tear resistant. Normally combined with nylon to create a bag that lasts a long time.
- Leather is not used as much these days, it’s mainly used for the classic look. Leather can be waterproof if treated right and will last when looked after.
- Synthetic materials can be waterproof like neoprene. They not durable so don’t last very long.
Generally speaking, the top end saddle bags will be waterproof. Most are made out of a coated nylon that’s waterproof. The cheaper bags on the market offer a waterproof protective cover of some kind.
It’s important to ensure you keep the contents of your bag dry otherwise this can lead to rusty tools and patch failures. Make sure you go through your bag before each ride.
This will help ensure you’re not surprised by rusty tools or failing patches when you need them.
Which saddle bag is right for you?
There are four types of riders: Leisure, Enthusiasts, Racers, and mountain bikers. Choosing the right type of bag is important.
Leisure riders can benefit from a good saddle bag. Not having to carry any spares in a rucksack or on you personally. Packing the bag only once until you need it. It gives you the piece of mind that you have some emergency spares when you need them.
Enthusiast riders can make their ride more comfortable by not carrying the spares in their jersey. This gives you the added benefit of being more comfortable on your back. It’s also safer as you’re not distracted.
Racers, here the division on using a bag is divided the most. Some like to carry very little spares, others like to carry more. Whichever your preference you can benefit from a saddle bag. If you carry very little then use a small bag, it gives you more space to carry bars and gel’s if you use them.
MTB when your off road it’s important to ensure you have enough spares for any emergency. Getting caught short in the middle of a trail is no fun when you have to try and push your bike back. The larger saddle bags is a must for this type of activity.
Are bike saddle bags worth it?
The short answer is yes. We all know that you need to have a puncture repair kit on you if you plan to go on any length of ride. But you need to have the tools to be able to use the repair kit.
Having the ability to fix your bike at the side of the road or in the middle of a trail means that you don’t walk anywhere. Having the ability to fix several emergencies on a longer ride to me is common sense.
Not having your spares in your jersey means you’re more comfortable and safer especially if you ride on the road.
Deciding which size of saddle bag to buy?
I wouldn’t recommend buying an extra large saddle bag. Buying this size and filling it up will add weight to your bike in the wrong place. Remember a saddle bag’s for emergency reasons.
There are lots of sizes available, some are ridiculously large and these will hamper your cycling. Others could be too small for your needs. As a general rule, a medium bag should fit everything you need to carry.
I use the following as a general rule of thumb when choosing a new saddle bag
- Small bags, carry essentials like Tyre levers, patches, keys, ID and some money. I would recommend this type of bag for a short ride to work, less than five miles.
- Medium bags fit all the above plus a spare inner tube or two if the bag expands enough. Should be suitable for all rides short or long.
- Large bag fits all the above and a bike lock or a large mobile phone if you’re not using a phone mount.
What are the essential items to carry?
The items I would consider to be a minimum are A new inner tube, two tyre levers, a puncture repair kit, and some cash.
Depending on what type of pump you carry. You may want to pack a couple of co2 canisters and applicator, a good multi tool, and a chain breaker.