In a cycling world full of carbon, electronics and gps the rebirth of handbuilt steel frames has shown that we still love a bit of retro and you don't get much more old school than a Brooks leather bag. The Challenge Tool Bag, to give it its full name, was first designed and patented back in 1896 and although I don't have the original to hand I'd take a guess that it hasn't changed a whole lot.
If you want to mount it to a saddle you're going to need a saddle with bag loops as it uses buckles and straps for attachment. The straps actually pass through the inside of the bag itself which gives a secure hold and should return better durability as the buckles are kept out of the worst of the weather. There are plenty of holes in the straps giving plenty of adjustment to get a nice tight fit.
The main closure also passes through the inside of the bag and acts as a securing strap to stop the tools rattling around loosely inside, ideal on those not so perfect road surfaces.
The leather is around 3mm thick and as you'd expect is pretty stiff and taut when the bag is new but like all Brooks stuff it doesn't take long to start bedding in and softening up. The quality is high with tidy stitching and secure straps and metalwork. This is what you're paying eighty quid for mind: the craft, the material and above the longevity. It's made in England too.
Internal measurements are 168mm (W) x 40mm (D) x 70mm (H) which easily swallowed up a couple of tubes, tyre levers, track nut spanner, multi tool and phone with room to spare. Thanks to the way the Challenge sits crossways on the bike you don't feel the weight swinging around behind you when out of the saddle.
Brooks' range of colours now are pretty extensive with Challenge available in royal blue, red, apple green, black, brown, honey, brown aged or ochre which is a kind of mustardy colour all, with silver coloured metalwork.
Overall the Challenge Tool Bag is a beautiful bit of kit especially as our test model has started to soften up and shape a little. The design is well thought out and while the initial outlay may seem steep you aren't going to be replacing it in a hurry. There is also the option to use it as a small bar bag so it's pretty versatile too.
Functional, high quality, English made tool bag which'll stand the test of time and fashion
road.cc test report
Make and model: Brooks Challenge Large Tool Bag
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's got a job and it does it well. The strap layout is a good idea in keeping things in place and rattle free.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Width: 175mm 168mm
Depth: 45mm 40mm
Height: 78mm 70mm
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly, no rattling of tools.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The smell of new leather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The solid leather makes things difficult to tighten up when new although this gets better as the leather softens.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course! My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.