Thule took us down to the waterfront in Friedrichshafen last night and plied us with pasta and wine, which was nice. Oh, and they also showed us their new luggage range, Pack'n Pedal.
"We're good at smart, flexible luggage solutions and there's a lot of keen cyclists at Thule, so we thought - we should be able to apply that expertise to cycle luggage", Thule CEO Magnus Welander told us. "We got together and talked about what it was that we didn't find in the bags we used, and set out to create a luggage range that addressed those problems. We have put together a smart system of products with different bags for different needs, and they will all work just as well on the bike as when they are carried around. As always with Thule, we have focused on ease of use, safety and quality. And of course, the well-recognized and stylish Thule design"
There's lots of interesting tech on show in these bags. Thule have bought the rights to use the Freeloader rack design; if you haven't seen the Freeloader it's an alloy and plastic racking system that can be fitter to the front and rear of practically any bike using webbing straps rather than mounting bolts. The front and rear bags fit to the racks using a clever twisting closure. The mounting points spin to attach to the bar, and when in place they snap back to hold the bag on firmly, although it's still free to rotate. A rare earth magnet holds the bag against the rack, and there's lots of fore/aft adjustment for people with big feet; Thule even make a rack bar extension so you can set the rack even further back if you need to.
When you're not using the bag on the bike the mount flips into the back of the bag, leaving a completely smooth back plate which is handy for carrying the bag around; a messenger-style strap is included. One very neat feature is a rear pocket made from translucent fabric: you can just stick your rear light in it without worrying about how you're going to mount it. Clever.
At the front Thule have developed a circular mounting system that allows you to fit two different bags in two positions. There's a forward-facing bar bag as well an iPad case. One of the most interesting bags is a handlebar wallet that features an iPhone sleeve and a main compartment with a magnetic closure that allows easy access when you're riding. All the bags are rated as weatherproof rather than waterproof, but Magnus told us that the Cordura fabric works well in the worst conditions Sweden has to offer. And those are probably pretty bad.
There's a well-thought-out saddle bag too. "The main problem with saddle packs is that when you have a problem with your bike you basically have to tip everything out to find what you want", Magnus told us, "so we designed our pack with a tool roll on the inside. That way you can find the tool you need easily." It works a treat, too, with the tool roll stuffing easily into the circular pack and an elasticated cover keeping everything in place.
The bags have been 18 months in development and Thule are launching the most fully featured bags first, with other, cheaper bags coming later: to begin with there's two sizes of pannier, a bar bag, iPad case and bar wallet. We don't have UK pricing at the moment but they'll be at the luxury end of the price range for bike luggage...
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.