Trikes 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.
Red 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?
After 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.
The 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.
One 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.
I 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.
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.
This 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.