Repair Kit Carry Bag

Bag On Bike I wanted some type of small bag to carry my tools and repair items on my cross country bicycle trip.  I wanted the tools easily accessible instead of being buried somewhere in the bottom of my panniers.  On a recumbent, a logical and out of the way spot to mount a bag is up under the seat support tubes.

It turns out that there are not many small tool carry bags designed for recumbent bicycles.  After looking around I decided to adapt a SunLite Utili-T Handlebar Roll Bag.  This decision was based on several factors:

  1. it was large enough to hold everything
  2. it had existing straps that could be used
  3. the large zippered opening offered easy access
  4. it was light weight
  5. the cost was affordable

The first step was cutting a 3/4” x 6 1/2” PVC pipe to hang the bag on.  The existing straps on the bag were tightened around the pipe.  Then the bag was mounted to the seat support tubes on the bicycle:

  1. the pipe was pulled out of the straps
  2. the bag was placed up under the seat supports, with the looped straps sticking through the opening between the seat posts and rear rack
  3. the pipe was inserted through the looped straps , thus locking the bag to the seat support tubes
  4. a 2” x 32” Velcro strap was used to secure the bag to the support tube to minimize movement during bike rides

Velcro Strap On BagThe bag is easily removable when the contents are needed: undo the Velcro strap, pull the pipe out, and remove the bag.

Here is a list of all items plus the weight (in ounces) of the items I am carrying in the bag:

  • Sunlite Utili-THandlebar Roll Bag – 3.4
  • 3/4″ x 6 1/4″ PVC pipe – 1.7
  • 2” x 32” Velcro strap – 0.7
  • 2 – Q-Tube 20” x 1.25-1.5” tubes – 7.1
  • 2 – Q-Tube 26” x 1.5-1.75” tubes – 10.9
  • 2 tire levers – 0.8
  • 3 Velcro tie wrap straps – 0.1
  • mini-crescent wrench – 1.6
  • 4, 5, 6, 8 mm allen wrenches – 3.8
  • 3 screwdriver tips from a multi-tool – 1.4
  • Topeak chain tool – 2.4
  • Park Tool black spoke wrench – 0.6
  • 6 tie wraps & 2 velcro straps – 0.6
  • 1 small section of old inner tube – 0.3
  • 2 – SRAM 9 spd quick links – 0.2
  • 3′ electrical tape – 0.1
  • 3′ duct tape – 0.2
  • 3′ bailing wire – 0.3
  • 2 extra brake pads – 2.4
  • spare nuts & bolts – 2.2
  • spare Garmin Edge 800 mount & 4 O-Rings – 0.4
  • small container lithium grease – 0.5
  • small bottle 3-in-1 oil – 1.0
  • 1 small towel – 1.1
  • total weight – 44.3 ounces

Items Carried

A few notes:

  1. Several people have asked why the Velcro tie wraps are carried with the tire repair items.  I use Schwalbe Marathon tires which have very stiff beads.  When removing the second bead from the rim, I use tie wraps at the 3, 6 & 9 o’clock positions to compress the tire tightly against the rim.  This allows sufficient slack at the 12 o’clock postion to begin removing the tire.  Working the opposite way allows sufficient slack to mount the second rim when putting the tire on.
  2. Some people have asked about all of the plastic bags.  I tend to bag almost everything to miniize moisture from corroding/rusting things.  Also, should the oil or grease leak other items will not be gunked up.  By putting things in different bags I can easily retrieve the particular item needed.  The bags are ‘jewelry’ bags purchased from a local hobby store.

Note Added 10/22/2013: This summer I completed a 3,600 mile bicycle ride using this carry bag.  The bag worked very well and kept repair items together and out of the way. The downside, of course, is getting to the items when they are needed.

Arkel Panniers

Bike With PanniersHow to carry ~40 pounds of ‘stuff’ (my target weight for gear, not including fuel, food, & water) that I will need while bicycling across the good ol’ US of A was quite the question.  A little internet research revealed there are typically three ways to get your gear cross country: SAG (support and gear) car following along, a bicycle trailer, and panniers (bags carrying your ‘stuff’ attached to th bicycles).

The SAG car idea went out the window immediately; our wives have their own agenda while we are gone and our friends quickly disappeared into the woodwork when asked.  I didn’t particularly want to use a trailer for several reasons: pulling the added weight, extra maintenance from one or two additional wheels, and the extended length.  That left me with the third option: panniers.

Bike Front With BagsNext, I made a few assumptions: the panniers needed to be somewhat substantial for a 3 month trip, 4500 – 5000 cubic inches was probably adequate for this type of trip, I would not be able to use a handle bar bag because of visiblity, and I would not be able to use a set of front wheel panniers due to the type of bicycle I have.

These assumptions left me with three options: underseat bags (designed specifically for recumbents), side panniers for a rear rack, and bags to go on top of the rear rack.  I decided to skip the bag on top of the rear rack if at all possible so I could use that spot for lightweight and odd shaped things.   This configuration of panniers keeps the gear weight as low to the ground as possible and spreads the weight out over 2/3 the length of the bicycle which will (hopefully) ease the stress on the individual tires and rims/spokes.

Bike - Rear With BagsThe internet is a great resouce for information;  I found opinions, both good and bad, about almost every bag out there.  Everyone’s opinion is valid for their needs and particular situation.  After looking over many (many, many, many) comments I finally narrowed my selection down to Arkel brand bags designed for recumbents: RT-40 panniers for under the seat and RT-60 panniers for the sides of the rear rack.  This brand seems to receive lots of good reviews and has been used by people for long distance trips.

  • Cons:
    1. the bags are a bit on the heavy side: both sets with rain covers weigh in at 13.9 pounds (weighed on my digital scales)
    2. priced on the high end of available panniers unles you can find them on something like Craigslist, eBay, or something similar (I was fortunate), but you generally get what you pay for
    3. the underseat bags require a special rack made by TerraCycle (all underseat bags require some type of special underseat rack
  • Pros:
    1. 6,100 cubic inch storage (3,650 rear, 2,450 underseat)
    2. made from a heavy grade of water repellent canvas material
    3. heavy duty quality zippers
    4. larger zippers have ‘rain flaps’ covering them up, smaller zippers have a water repellent coating
    5. utilize an adjustable locking system to attach to the carry racks
    6. made with multiple pockets to separate ‘stuff’
    7. inside straps to secure gear to minimize ‘fall out’ when opening bags
    8. inside support rods to keep the bags supported whether closed or open
    9. multiple mesh outside pockets to carry wet ‘items’
    10. rear tubes on the RT60s for carrying additional items
    11. optional rain covers
    12. the bags ‘breathe’, so if the gear does get wet the moisture can evaporate which should prevent/minimize mold and mildew

Me With The Bike & BagsThe bags seem to be made very well.  There doesn’t seem to be any raw material edges to fray, the various zipper sizes seem more than appropriate for the compartment sizes, and the larger compartment have double zipper pulls.  The material is not quite the bright yellow seen on Arkel’s website.  Rather it is more yellow/orange; I didn’t find it objectionable, it just isn’t a bright safety yellow.  The combination of ‘yellow’ and reflective material should provide an additional warning flag to motorists.  All in all, I am looking forward to loading the bags up and trying them out.

The panniers are about 1000 cubic inches larger than needed, but this should allow me the opportunity to pack without cramming.  I also hope to remove the rear tubes, thus saving ~11 ounces.  It would have been nice if the rear tube attchments were on the tubes instead of the bags so as to save some additional weight when removed.  The multiple storage pockets should allow me easy access so I don’t have to dig to the bottom of a large, one compartment, pannier.  Also, by having some extra space I plan on putting heavier items lower to the ground, thus improving overall bicycling stability.

Time will tell whether or not I made the right decision, yes, time will tell.

Note Added 10/22/2013: This summer I did a 3,600 mile bicycle ride using these panniers. I elected to leave the rear tubes home. I also left the rain covers at home and packed each group of items in lightweight Sea-to-Summit dry sacks. The bags were ‘water resistant’, even in some steady rains even though the bags themselves did get wet. Arkel has a very good product in these bags, and they held up very well; other than some general dirt and wear marks they bags are as solid today as they were before the trip. Would I by them again: yes I would.

Bacchetta Big Bag

Rear BagRear Bag – Since the bike didn’t come with a rear rack I purchased the Big Bag, an accessory designed for the Bacchetta re-curved seat.  It slips over the top of the seat and has two straps that clip in place around the seat rear support posts. The bag has a handle that allows it to be carried around.

Note added: I have not particularly cared for this bag.  The top of the seat has a slight curve to it which puts the bag zipper and top in tension.  As a result, the top doesn’t open fully and the inside pouch is somewhat difficult to get into.

Another downside to this bag is that it covers up the top of the seat.  At this point I am considering getting a head/neck rest and will need the opening to mount the unit.

Bottom line:  Would I buy this bag again.  No!  Not because the bag is not well made, rather, the bag does not suit my overall needs.

See the later post on the Topeak rear rack and bag.