Lil’ Roy Saddlebags

Lil Roy BagsTrikes typically sit lower to the ground than other recumbents.  This creates a problem trying to use mid-ship panniers such as the Arkel RT-40. Besides the RT-40′s large capacity (2450 in3), it is easy to reach inside of them for a camera or munchies while pedaling along. The question then becomes, ‘what do I do for additional storage and easy access to items while pedaling the trike on down the road?’

The obvious answer to one part of the question was to add some type of storage on either side of the seat within easy reach. There are options for mounting handle bar bags on the side of the seat: I found them too big and bulky. There are options for mounting bags on the frame in front of the seat: I felt they were too difficult to reach while pedaling. There are options for commercially available bicycle saddlebags: I found them too small. Enter Red Oxx Manufacturing’s Lil’ Roy Bags.

Lil Roy InsideRed Oxx Manufacturing is located in Billings MT. They manufacture a premium line of soft sided bags in many different colors and sizes. Red Oxx is not known within the bicycling community because they don’t manufacture panniers, but I will say that the quality of their bags is Tony the Tiger grrrrreat. Personally, I have always been super impressed by the quality of Arkel pannier products. If you put Red Oxx bags and Arkel bags side by side you would think that they came from the same factory.

The Lil’ Roy bags (162 cu3 each) are 9″ long, 3″ wide, and 6″ high. They have a heavy duty zipper with dual pulls that run across the top and down each side. On the inside there are two mesh  pockets with a snap to hold them closed. On the outside there is a pair of handles to carry them with. The material is a heavy grade Cordura nylon. The bags cost $40 each, which was within my budget, but how was I going to mount them?

Saddle Bag SlingAfter some thought, I built a ‘sling’ out of heavy duty nylon canvas and webbing which could hang across the bottom of the seat and down the sides. The flaps consist of two fabric layers, double stitched, with the edge folded inside. The webbing is attached to the outside of the flaps at an angle so the Lil’ Roy bags will hang parallel to the ground.

Once the sling was constructed there was the problem of attaching the bags to the flaps. Several alternatives were considered before I settled on heavy duty snaps. Snaps allow the bags to be removed and carried individually and were somewhat easy to install without destroying the integrity of the bag. Heavy duty 3/8″ snaps and installation tools are readily available on the internet for a reasonable cost. Since the zipper on these bags goes around both sides and the top they can be pulled wide open to get installation tools in place. Total cost for the sling and snaps: $21.

BracketThe first time I hung the bags on the bike I noticed that rather than hanging straight down they curved in under the seat, and frequently they would swing in an out when riding. Due to the movement the bags were not so easy to get into or put items away.  Soooo, the next question was, ‘how do I stabilize the bags?’ I ended up using a Harbor Freight Tube Bender (#3755), a piece of 3/16″ x 3′ aluminum rod, and two hose clamps to fashion a bracket for the bags to ‘lean’ against. A small rubber tip on each end and a little black paint almost made the bracket look professional. Best of all, it held the bags perpendicular to the ground, and they no longer moved back and forth. Total cost for the bracket, including the bender: $10.

Velcro Center StrapOne problem down but another reared its ugly head. Unfortunately, I realized that opening and closing the zippers while riding was not as easy as I hoped it would be. I didn’t want to just leave the top of the bags open while riding for fear that something expensive, like the cell phone or camera, would bounce out if I hit a bump in the road. After a little thought some Velcro came to the rescue. I ended up sewing a small Velcro strap across the top of the bag. This allows me to open the zippers across the top but keep the opening closed. It is quite easy to peel the Velcro open, reach in to get some munchies or camera, and then pull the top closed and re-fasten the Velcro. Total cost for the Velcro: $1.

Rain CoversI may be paranoid, but I am a little concerned about everything getting wet if/when it rains. Sooooo, I decided to construct some covers to enclose the bags as much as possible. I made a 4 sided box out of yellow rip-stop nylon and added 1″ reflective material across the face. I sewed a pocket hem around the top of the nylon box; before sewing the pocket I installed 2 metal eylets where the bungee cords would exit. Next, I ran a small bungee cord (replacement cord for jointed tent poles) through one eyelet, around the pocket, out the other eyelet. The bungee cord was terminated with two cylinder cord locks. On the back I added a long strip of Velcro to minimize the chance of the cover slipping off in a high wind. Rip-stop nylon is not water resistant so I sprayed a coating of Kiwi Heavy Duty Camp Dry on the inside of the covers. Cost for the covers, including a can of Camp Dry: $23.

Bags Installed

The total cost for my ‘custom made’ saddle bags is $135. The total weight, including rain covers is 24.5 ounces.The total added storage space is 324 in3. The project took about 10 hours of work, not counting the time expended on shopping for the materials.

I was somewhat concerned about whether or not I could actually build something like this. Investing over $100 in a pipe dream is not something I can afford to do. It did prove to be easier than I anticipated, particularly since I was able to use some ‘ready built’ bags. Sewing multiple layers of heavier canvas plus heavy nylon webbing with a regular home sewing machine was also a concern but all went well using a #16 ‘jean’ needle and heavy duty thread.

Complete BikeThis whole set-up seems to work exceedingly well when out riding, and the bag handles make everything very easy to carry when off the bike. The bags look like they belong on the bike, and the bright yellow color adds to the visibility. The rain covers take up a small space when packed, and can be easily stored along with the rain covers from my other panniers.

My Well Appointed Trike

TerraTrike RamblerOn the 3,300 mile South From Alaska bicycle trip this summer I plan on riding a ‘trike’. I will be taking a TerraTrike Rambler instead of the Bacchetta Giro 20 that I used on the 3,600 Oregon to Maine ride last year.

Why switch bikes, you might ask, considering that I really loved riding the Giro 20.  Well, between some of the expected rough roads and significantly more hill climbing between Prudhoe Bay AK and Montana I decided to try a three wheeler this time around.

Trikes are somewhat lower to the ground and a little more compact so preparing one to carry all of the gear can be challenging. Some people use a trailer to carry their gear, however, trailers add additional ‘things’ that can go wrong and tires that can go flat, so I decided to try and carry everything on the bike. Well, let me present what I now refer to as My Well Appointed Trike.

Well Appointed Trike

“Wow”, you must be saying right about now, “what is that in the picture, and is there really a three-wheeled bicycle buried up underneath all of the stuff?” Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Binder Clips#1 – Safety Flags: Safety on a bicycle is of prime concern regardless of the type of bicycle that you ride, and visibility is one key component for safety. I was concerned that car drivers might not see me since this trike sits a lot lower than the Giro 20, sooooo, I decided to add some height and movement with two sets of safety flags. The bright colored ones on the ends of the poles are Hi-Vis Safety Flags. The other flags add some decorative bling fluttering in the breeze. I used Office Max small Binder Clips on the fiberglass poles in order to separate the flags and to keep them from coming off the ends of the poles.

Goal Zero Nomad 7#2 – Solar Panel: Electricity may not be readily available on many sections of this trip, so I elected to add a Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel. Last year I carried a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus power pack, which came in very handy, but required a wall outlet to recharge. Hopefully the solar panel will work its magic and keep the Guide 10 charged up between electrical outlet stops. The panel is held in place on the trunk bag by three small bungee cords looped around the rear rack. The power pack is plugged into the solar panel and then wedged between the panel and the trunk bag when riding.

Arkel RT 60#3 – Rear Panniers: Arkel RT 60 panniers worked well on my trip last year, and I plan to take them on this trip, also. The panniers are very well constructed, have numerous compartments to separate things, and easily lift off the rear rack with the included handle. For those looking at panniers sizes, these have 3,650 cubic inches of storage space. The RT 60 model comes with 2 storage tubes attached with Velcro to the back of the panniers, however, I found that I didn’t need the additional space so I am not taking them along. I will be taking the optional Arkel rain covers for this trip.

Bladder Bag#4 – Water Bladder: I am taking a Camelbak Lumbar 2.0L water bladder this time around. Water bottle locations are not near so accessible on this bicycle, so I opted to carry a bladder. I decided on the lumbar style because it sits horizontal instead of vertical which fits better behind the seat and rests on top of the rear rack support straps. I made a custom heavy duty nylon ‘bag’ to protect the bladder and incorporated nylon straps on the top which are attached to the headrest bar. I will make a separate post to discuss the custom bladder bag and tube clips.

Radical Design#5 – Side Panniers: Radical Design Racer panniers were added to increase the storage space by 1,500 cubic inches. The two bags are ‘tied’ together with two adjustable straps (in the middle and at the bottom) which go across the seat (I added a third across the top), and a smaller adjustable strap which, in my case, goes around the headrest post and holds the bags up and in place. Overall I like the bag design and the way they fit; the single large compartment in each bag easily stores larger items like a tent and sleeping bag. The bags stay in place while riding, the seat straps don’t affect my back, and the bags can be easily removed by grabbing the top strap and them lifting off. The fabric material and zippers are not as heavy as Arkel’s bags, but they seem to be of quality materials and incorporate a rain flap over the zipper. Radical Design does not make any sort of rain cover for these bags so I created ‘custom designed’ nylon covers for them. I will make a separate post to discuss the bag and rain cover modifications.

Bear Spray#6 – Bear Spray & Bear Resistant Container: Riding/camping in remote Alaska/Canada has the very real potential to involve bear encounters. I installed a UDAP brand bike mount on the right handlebar upright using two Minoura LW standard clamps. This mount allows me to carry UDAP bear spray within easy reach while riding. Some areas, particularly along the Dalton Highway, in Alaska, have few trees for suspending food bags, so I am also carrying the smaller style UDAP bear resistant container which I keep stored directly behind the seat using two bungee cords.

Red Oxx Lil Roy#7 – Seat Saddle Bags: I wanted to carry smaller items such as my camera, wallet, munchies, cellphone, and other ‘stuff’ close at hand while riding but did not find any ready made bags that worked for me. Soooooo, necessity being the mother of invention, I purchased two Red Oxx Lil’ Roy bags and fabricated a bag carrier which is slung across the seat in a similar fashion to the Radical Design bags. These two bags add an additional 325 cubic inches of easy to reach storage. Red Oxx Manufacturing is not in the pannier business, but they do make many different high quality travel bags and carry products. I will make a separate post to discuss the ‘Lil Roy bag system and rain covers that I fabricated.

Arkel TailRider#8 – Rack Bag: Under the solar panel is an Arkel TailRider Trunk Bag. Arkel makes some great products, and I elected to use their trunk bag on this trip. Besides adding an additional 700 cubic inches of storage it fits nicely behind the reclined seat/headrest, and it provides a soft platform for the solar panel. The bag has a built in rain cover which will go over the solar panel, as well as the bag and the zippers have rubberized self sealing closures. There is a carry handle on the bag top. If additional space is required the top will expand to add an addition 200 cubic inches of storage. The TailRider is attached to the rear rack by reflective Velcro straps.  Arkel also provides a reflective strap on the rear of the bag, and I decided to attach an additional red blinky light there. One can never be too visible.

TerraTrike RamblerThe bicycle: The original trike was a base model TerraTrike Rambler. I elected to modify/upgrade it in such areas as gear ratios, tires/rims, lights, brakes, and rear rack. The finished product is now very similar to the GT Rambler model. I will make a separate post about the TerraTrike Rambler bicycle and the modifications/upgrades that were done.

I am comfortable pedaling this stuffed to gills three wheeler around town and look forward to putting on the mileage during the upcoming trip.