Saddlebags. Now there’s a marmite issue for road cyclists. Some swear by them, but there are many who would never contemplate corrupting the aero lines of their bike or the stealth profile of their saddle, preferring instead to cram all the accoutrements needed for a ride into their rear pockets!
Saddlebags, or seat bags, come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s surprising how many essential accessories you can get into even the smallest looking bag, freeing up valuable pocket space for those things you will need to access whilst riding, like gels, bananas, your phone. Conversely, more room in your pockets allows you to offload arm warmers or neck buffs when you are nicely warmed up.
Below are Five of the Best currently on the market and though they differ in price tag and design, they all share one thing in common: they are on the smaller end of the size scale and also relatively discreet, so that they complement the lines of your bike, rather than dominate it.
Unless otherwise stated, the storage space of all five saddle bags featured in the group review was tested using the following specific accessories: Lezyne Classic Patch Puncture Repair Kit, the Lezyne SV-11 Multi-tool, 2 x Park Tool Tyre Levers, Inner tubes (Continental Race 28) and 1 x gas canister.
Scicon Soft 350 RL 2.1
Integrated tyre levers and a detachable mechanism make this bag from the Italian brand, Scicon, a great option. At 115g (including the clamp that fixes to the saddle bars and pair of levers) it is surprisingly lightweight and compact. The integrated levers slot neatly into the fixing bracket.
Scicon, legitimately, suggest you buy another clamp, allowing you to quickly swop the saddlebag between bikes. Not a bad idea if you are fortunate to have more than one bike at your disposal.
The zip runs around three sides, making access easy, and the cuboid shape of the bag provides a great deal of room and the following items could be stashed away: I x inner tube, Lezyne SV-11 multi-tool, 2 x Park Tool tyre levers, 1 x Lezyne patch puncture kit, 1 x gas canister. There was even enough room for a flapjack, though another gas canister would have easily fitted in too!
The bag feels very robust in the hand and is well constructed with a decent zip. A wide strip of reflective detailing that extends down the sides ensures you will be lit up on the road, but the Soft 350 also has a rubber loop on the rear, perfect for attaching a bike light for additional visibility in dark or murky conditions.
Retailing at only £16 the Scicon Soft 350 RL 2.1 Saddle Bag is available to buy online, including Wiggle. More information on the range of saddlebags and their full range of cycling accessories can be found on the Scicon website.
Lezyne Pod Caddy
The US based company, Lezyne, always strive to marry good looks with excellent functionality and this design ethos extends to their Pod Caddy range of saddlebags.
This detachable, durable bag has garnered several favourable comments from other cyclists and, for this tester at least, the way that this bag does not impinge on the shape and silhouette of the saddle is an added bonus.
The Pod Caddy attaches to the saddle via a clamp, which sits tightly on the rear saddle bars. A simple push down and pull mechanism releases the caddy and access is easy, thanks to a zip that encircles the lid.
A useful mesh compartment allows you to separate smaller items (see picture below) and a robust reflective strip rounds off a well-designed and great looking take on the saddle bag.
Despite the hard shell casing, the Pod Caddy (in small, as tested) weighs in at only 124g and it takes a good amount of accessories too: an inner tube, the Lezyne SV-11 multi-tool, 2 Park Tool tyre levers, a Lezyne patch puncture kit and one gas canister. More than enough for most needs and, on longer rides, I have appreciated the reduced weight in my rear pockets.
The Pod Caddy comes in two sizes, small and medium, which retail at £23.99 and £25.99 respectively, and both are available in grey of black.
The Pod Caddy is available to buy online, including Evans Cycles and you can also visit the website of Lezyne’s UK distributor, Upgrade Bikes, for a full list of Lezyne stockists.
Zéfal Z Light Pack (small)
This tiny looking saddlebag from the French brand, Zéfal, is like Dr Who’s Tardis! It may not look like it can take much, but it easily accommodated and inner tube, the Lezyne SV-11 multi-tool, 2 Park Tool tyre levers, a Lezyne patch puncture kit and a single gas canister.
The bag is fixed to the saddle in the more conventional way, with a velcro strap that runs over the bars, which is then tightend on the sides. There is no velcro fastening for the seatpost, which was initially a concern, but the saddlebag was clamped tightly to the base of the saddle and there was no movement when riding, which the tester anticipated, which may be due to the stiff inserts on the top and bottom of the bag that provide stability, whilst also stopping the bag from compressing and losing its shape.
Compact, roomy, with sufficient reflective detailing and a waterproof zip to guard against water ingress – the Z Light Pack packs a big punch and at only 50g, the weight weenies will love it too!
The Zéfal Z Light Pack (small) is also one of the cheapest saddle bags on the market, retailing at only £14.99. It is available to buy via online retailers, including Evan Cycles and Chain Reaction, and you can visit the Zéfal website for more information on the Z Light range and their full range of cycling accessories.
Pro Medi Saddlebag
The Dutch brand, Pro, have an enviable reputation for manufacturing high quality accessories and components, which are used by many of the leading UCI World Tour teams, including Team Sky and Orica GreenEdge.
The Medi is a lightweight (73g) minimalist looking bag, with the conventional velcro fastening around the saddle bars and saddle stem, which keeps it securely in place and negates any movement.
For its size, it takes a huge amount of kit: two, yes two, inner tubes, the Lezyne SV-11 multi-tool, 2 x Park Tool tyre levers, 1 x Lezyne patch puncture kit and a gas canister and inflator and even a sun screen stick! That’s a lot of accessories and frees up a huge amount of rear pocket space, especially on those long, hot days in the saddle.
It also ticks other boxes too – the fabric is water resistant, there is some good reflective detailing and piping on the rear and sides and tucked away inside there is a useful little pocket for smaller items.
The Pro Medi Saddlebag retails at £19.99 and is widely available to buy online. For more information on their full range of saddle bags, accessories and components, visit the Pro website. You can visit the website of their UK distributor, Madison, for more details on UK stockists.
The New Zealand based manufacturers of the AeroClam have approached the design of their unique looking saddle with the simple aim of ensuring that there is as little interference with the aero lines of your saddle. The innovative result gives the impression that the bag is an integrated extension of the saddle itself. Clever.
It may not appeal to anyone who has invested £200 on a sleek carbon racing saddle, but the AeroClam offers a viable solution to those of us who don’t want to have an unsightly bag hanging off the back off their saddle.
The ‘clam’ mechanism is another area where the AeroClam parts company with the norm. It is hinged at the front, with a plastic fastening at the rear, which keeps it tightly closed and weather proof (so long as you don’t overload).
The AeroClam comes with two small tyre levers and weighs in at 130g. The downside is that the AeroClam cannot accommodate as much as the other bags on test.
An inner tube, the AeroClam tyre levers, the Lezyne patch repair kit fitted in fine, but there was no room for a gas canister and the small Lezyne SV-11 multi-tool just squeezed in!
The AeroClam comes in two profiles, the P1 and the P2, which will accommodate most saddle shapes – a total of 81 saddle brands and models at the last count – but contact the very helpful team at Cyckit to ensure you select the correct profile for your saddle. Correspondence and delivery, despite the fact that they are based in NZ, is super-quick!
The AeroClam is available to buy online directly from Cyckit in New Zealand, so do allow a few days for delivery. It comes in either a black or white option (the top and bottom can be white or black if you wish) and retails at NZ$49.90, about £23.50 in today’s money).