We’re always on the lookout for new ideas and products that enhance our capacity for hauling gear on our rides – especially when we’re not that far from home. For most situations, a multi-tool and flat repair kit are enough to keep us going.
When Specialized announced the SWAT door on their carbon frames we might have been a bit jealous. It looks like a pretty neat way to stow gear. Our bikes don’t have cutouts we can cram stuff into, so we hunted around and came up with a few alternatives for carrying the essentials without a pack.
The Kargo Cage
The Kargo Cage was designed as an alternative to carrying gear in a saddle bag. Hand made by Ron at King Cage in Durango, Colorado, the Kargo Cage is a bottle cage designed to fit a small bag with the essentials. Bags are available in two sizes, one for a 700c tube and tools and one sized to accommodate a 29er tube and tools. The bag can fit a tube, tire levers CO2 cartridge with inflator head, patch kit, small mini tool, patch kit and a key and since its a tight fit.
When we came across the Behold and Kargo Cage, we were quite intrigued. Though most of our dual suspension bikes lack the room to mount one, they also make a variation called the Behold, which is the bag holder without the cage. (though you can mount a cage to one) It would be a great option for my hardtail, road bike or commuter though, which have multiple bottle mounting options, and would match the existing King cage I already have.
Backcountry Research Awesome Strap
The Awesome Strap is significantly more minimal that a saddle bag, and less of an eye sore. It also plays well with dropper posts. We once used zip ties to secure a tube under the seat rails and while it was secure and barely noticeable, it was a bad idea. One, you’d need a tool to remove the zip ties. Two, the ties cut into the tube rendering it useless when we actually needed it. (Fail.)
I did lose a tube once on a rocky descent though, so you do need to check how snug it is from time to time. (new versions of the product appear to have new features that make them more secure) It also doesn’t protect the tube from crap flung up from the back wheel. I found this out the hard way when I actually needed the tube; turns out a season of dirt, rocks and mud had the same result as the zip ties, and I had to patch the tube to make it useable. Thankfully I had a patch kit on hand. I started wrapping the tube in a sandwich bag, which looked like crap, but Backcountry Research now has another option called the Tube Tarp, which is a abrasion resistant Neoprene to protect your tube.
I’m currently using it on my Santa Cruz 5010 to strap a tube to the inside of my front triangle, where its better protected from the elements. It’s a step up from black electric tape, and doesn’t leave behind the sticky residue.
We’ve mostly used them to strap a tube and a tire lever to the bike, though it’ll also fit CO2s. It paired well with the Specialized SWAT Top Cap Chain tool and Zee cage with the integrated multi-tool reviewed here.
The Awesome Strap starts at $13.00 or so and is available in bundles to save on shipping; the Tube Tarp will set you back $7.00. Check it out at BackcountryResearch.com.
The Speedsleev is another interesting alternative to the saddle bag, with a similar design to the Awesome Strap, though it takes it up to the next level. Originally a tube wrap, the original Speedsleev was offered in two sizes, with one sized to fit the top tube, stem or Cannondale Lefty fork, and the other sized to fit seat posts and smaller tubed bike frames. They’ve been used to stow gels, energy bars, multi-tools or the battery for your lights.
The product that stands out to me though, is the nylon Seatsleev. It’s essentially a tool roll with a slot for a tube that can be strapped to the seat rails, but I’d personally be interested in a version that would fit under the top tube and in front of the shock mount on bikes like my Santa Cruz 5010 or Nomad.
It’s designed to fit:
- 2 road tubes or one 29er tube
- 2 16g Co2 cartridges
- 2 tire levers
- 1 air chuck inflator
- Can accommodate contents of a patch kit
The original Speedsleev sells for $20.00 and the large Nylon Seatsleev sells for $40.00.
If you’re a roadie, an obvious solution to carrying your stuff is to stuff your jersey pockets with the necessary items. While this can get you by on the road, we find it can be a bit of a pain, especially trying to get to stuff while riding. This option doesn’t work as well off road if you’re riding bumpy trails. I lost a rather nice pump once when it disappeared somewhere in the Tahoe area.
Enter the Sticky Pod. This handy little pouch comes in two sizes, and is an easy way to organize your ride essentials. The small size fits neatly into a jersey pocket, though recently I’ve taken to using the large one more as it will accommodate a small mini-pump. If you’re regularly changing up between a pack, waist pack or toting gear in a jersey, this pocket organizer is great as you’ll never be without your basics.
Camelbak Palos 4LR Waist Pack
An old idea that is new again, waist packs, AKA hip packs or “bum bags” are becoming vogue once again for riders wanting to ditch the pack while retaining some of the storage capacity. Ok, fanny packs have never been “in vogue” but they’re practical as hell and an easy way to carry your crap. We’ve been experimenting with waist packs designed for trail running for sometime now, but the CamelBak Palos 4LR takes it to another level with insightful features specifically designed for mountain biking. It’ll hold up to 1.5 liters in its included reservoir and featuring an integrated tool organizer, lumbar compression straps, dual waist pockets and magnetic tube trap, the Palos offers hydration capacity as well as storage for the essentials (with an overflow storage option) that keeps the weight of your gear centered around your waist. No more sweaty back or sore neck and shoulders. We currently have one in rotation now with a review in the works; here’s a spoiler — it’s great.
The Camelbak Palos LR sells for $70.00. Get one on Amazon.com
We’re not big fans of saddle bags, but they’ve been around for a long time, and would be remiss not to include them in any listing of options for stowing gear on the bike.
That said, we tend to avoid using them for trail riding as they often don’t play well with dropper posts, and tend to move around and can be noisy. Larger models can come in contact with the rear tire on dual suspension bikes with dropper posts as well. They are quite functional though, with a large range of sizes, shapes and colors available. We primarily use them on commuter bikes and road bikes, pre-packed with a tube, tire levers, patchkit and a mini multi-tool, making it that much faster to get out the door. Simply fill some water bottles and top off the tires and you’re on the road.
We’ve been using the Bike Seat Pack XT saddle bags from Timbuk2 and they’re bombproof, and just big enough to cram a flat repair kit in it. Commuter friendly details include a reflective light mount and easy to remove buckles.
Like just about everything they make, it has a lifetime warranty, and goes for $25. Check it out at Timbuk2.com.
Ok, that’s six ways. But we’re not counting the seat pack, and who’s counting?