Friday, October 7, 2011

Hunt for Saddlebags: Rivendell's Brand V Review

Soon after picking up the Surly Pacer, I realized that not having racks or bags at all on the bike was going to be an issue. I wanted to keep it stripped down as much as possible, but I also need to be able to carry some things with me (like a patch kit, a tool, and so on). I wanted something that was large enough to actually hold a few items, but not so large that I'd throw everything into it (as I tend to do with my Carradice bag on the Hillborne) and weigh it down.
I had a few adventures to local bike shops, trying to locate an appropriate saddlebag. Most of what I found were bags on the small side. Certainly, they would house a tool and patch kit, but I was hoping to find something that, if I should desire, would also hold my wallet, my phone, keys, lights, or small items of that nature. They were all, in my opinion, odd shapes, and I couldn't imagine fitting all of the things I wanted in these bags. I know many who use them and are quite happy, but I was determined to find what I was looking for... enter Rivendell's Brand V saddlebag.
The dimensions of this bag (8"L x 5"W x 4.5"T) seemed perfect for my needs. Small, but not overly so, and large enough to fit everything I need to fit into a bag while riding. The canvas material is tough and sturdy, and the zipper closure is perfect to keep things contained inside.
The bag contains no leather or other animal products, so it's considered vegan (obviously, this isn't a huge issue for me, as I do have leather saddles, but I prefer to save the animals when possible). The attachments to the seat post and saddle are made of velcro. Rivendell has some specific and lengthy instructions for attaching the velcro which worried me some, but it turns out that it works perfectly and there was no need for concern.
Typical contents of the Brand V saddlebag
The neutral color is also appealing to me. I have found that most bags I've seen are either black, or bright colors/super girly... all of which are fun and great options, but I really wanted it to blend more than stand out.
Attaching the bike taillight is a snap
One of my favorite features (because I lack a rear rack on this bike) is the small strip on the zipper cover of this bag. It allows a taillight with a clip to be slid through and held in place. It's been a great asset on rides in the dark, allowing me to be seen easily, even with the bag covering the seat post. There's also a reflective strip on the back of this bag, allowing for extra illumination when car headlight hit the rear of the bag.
I will admit that the cost of this bag is a bit much, particularly when compared to other locally found saddlebags in the $15-40 price range. But, I had a gift certificate to use at Rivdendell, and even had I not, I think it is worth the price (which I just noted actually went up to $65 recently with Rivendell's 'across the board' increase in prices). I believe the bag will be long lasting, and it's definitely doing what I need it to do.  I'm impressed with it's durability and structure, as it seems to create the best use of space. I should also note that for those who ride smaller frame bikes (as I do), there is no issue with the bag dragging on the rear wheel, as is the case with some larger saddlebags. The bike pictured is a 46cm frame with 700c wheels and you can see that there is still clearance (not much-about an inch or so-but enough).
I'm pleased with this bag, and other than my concerns with the cost, I am extremely happy with its functionality. I would definitely purchase it again.


  1. I really like this bag, but I think it would look out of place on my road bike. That makes me a little sad!

  2. Cecily, that is one of the down sides of this bag. Since it only comes in one color, it could be a potential issue for some. I think it's nice that it's a neutral (so it will work with more bikes), but on some, it still might not be a good option. I also tend to carry more than I probably need to (I often times carry an extra tube and a cable lock as well - somehow it all fits in this bag, amazingly), so some people might find this bag overkill as far as the size. To me, it's really that perfect size. Your bike is red, white and black, right? I know I've seen a couple of decent looking small, black saddlebags. I also have a small Sherpani bag that holds an "okay" amount of stuff, but it's definitely smaller than this bag. I'm trying to think of anything else I've seen that might work.


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