I.From a rational point of view, bikepacking is similar to trying to convert a Formula 1 vehicle into a mobile home: a racing bike or, more often, a mountain bike, is not only given big tires for practical reasons. Bags and receptacles have to be attached to every possible place on the bike frame, enough for spartan camping equipment with bivouac sack, stove and everything you need in the wilderness behind Bad Salzuflen. This luggage, of course, optimized down to the last gram, and this point is particularly important, everything has to be packed onto the bike without using a luggage rack. After all, everyone has it on their bikes, so it’s pretty uncool. To repeat the essentials in the advertising language of the manufacturer Ortlieb: Bikepacking is “experiencing breathtaking places in the middle of the great outdoors and packing everything for your trip on your bike”.
Originally, bikepacking was a matter of specialists: The self-caterers who crossed North America initially tinkered their own equipment. Business-minded hobbyists opened up the smallest manufactories and supplied the less skilled with frame, saddle and handlebar bags – often at horrific prices and with long ones Delivery times. A style of its own developed from the handicrafts, which established suppliers had to adopt when niche products became fashion. For example, a roll-up bag (burrito) that is simply strapped to the handlebars at the front of the bikepacker’s bike often replaces the cyclist’s usual handlebar bag. Probably the most noticeable are the long bags, which are attached to the saddle bridge and support and which use the empty space above the rear wheel at an angle upwards. In the back of the cyclist, they are also a hopelessly filthy substitute for a mudguard. The position of these bags is not new at all, but their size is. Such a Topeak backloader can hold 15 liters, around three times the size of conventional saddle-mounted bags.
When bikepacking, the central space in the triangle of the frame above the bottom bracket is also used. This was also done with flat leather bags of smaller and larger types in the early days of the bicycle, but it didn’t really catch on. On the one hand, different and constantly changing frame shapes require very differently shaped pockets. On the other hand, the space above the down tube is used by bottle cages or, today, by the batteries of electric bikes. So it remained with small triangular pockets and pockets that can be attached flat under the top tube.
If you look at the Bikepacking series by Ortlieb, which is designed in gray and signal orange, a manufacturer of a wide variety of bicycle equipment, you can see that the bags, which are specifically aimed at bikepackers, are in the same places as other bicycle bags. They do without the luggage rack, which doesn’t make them seem more practical. The total payload is significantly less than that of a touring bike with bags that are mounted on carriers. Apart from the hefty prices, bikepacking equipment differs from conventional bags in that it is lighter and has a different style: more visible functionality and robustness that is insensitive to dirt.
It seems natural that Ortlieb, with its core competence waterproof, as it is written on practically every product, offers storage space especially for bikepacking. At Topeak there are individual suitable bags, Vaude offers 39 liters of volume with “3 x Trail” on the handlebar, frame and saddle. Evoc Sports in Munich, best known for its bike and winter sports backpacks equipped with spinal protectors, has also launched a bikepacking series. The fastening of the pockets at the front and back is something special: Evoc cooperates with Boa, the manufacturer of the twist locks, which are mainly known for winter sports shoes.
The series is available in different sizes and two colors, Carbon Gray and Loam, i.e. in anthracite and a yellow tone reminiscent of Mustrich, and is extremely expensive. If you equip your bike with the larger bag on the handlebars and under the saddle and add a “multiframe pack” that can be placed in different places, you get a mere nine liters of storage volume (5 + 3 + 1 liters) for 325 euros. Only the multiframe for 45 euros was reasonably convincing, because it has a carrier tape slit at intervals around its oval shape. So you can attach the three Velcro bandages in different places. However, you have to accept that the zipper does not always fit in such a way that the warm little pouch can be opened practically.
A number of points annoyed the Handlebar Pack Boa and Seat Pack Boa (each 140 euros). On the one hand, both bags are much too small for real bikepacking. In addition, the brittle rigidity of the material is annoying in practical use. Evoc – like Topeak and Ortlieb, while Vaude uses an exoskeleton – gives its bikepacking bags an internal frame. The outer shell, however, is difficult to wrap, so that real tightness, especially on the saddle bag with its only one strap sitting in the middle and the fiddly closure, was hardly possible despite a sealing lip with Velcro. It is true that the fastening with a wedge-shaped clamp on the handlebars as well as on the seat post and with the Boa twist lock fits universally and is bombproof. The point of Boa in shoes, namely that the tension and thus the fit can be adjusted at any time, i.e. increased and decreased, does not play a role in the fastening of the bags.