If you've thought about giving bikepacking a go – multi-day touring on places touring bikes can't go – and you're on the look out for the necessary bags and packs you won't go wrong with Apidura's Saddle Pack.
Rackless luggage systems are all the rage these days amongst the lightweight touring crowd, with a number of different manufacturers both large and small springing up to meet the demand. One of these is Apidura, a London-based firm started in 2012 by Tori Fahey after completing the Tour Divide, a self-supported race along the off-road Great Divide trail in the US.
The advantages of a rackless system usually boil down to weight, as there is no need for a dedicated rack, and practicality, as you don't need a bike designed to take racks to use them. As such, these systems have opened up touring to lighter, faster road bikes and a whole new group of riders.
One of the key pieces of a rackless system is the saddlebag – essentially an oversized version of the thing usually used to store a tube and multi-tool. The Apidura seat pack tested here was the mid-sized version, with a nominal 14 litre internal capacity. Compare this to conventional rear pannier sets, which typically have volumes of 40+ litres, and you see that these saddlebags are very much designed for the minimalist crowd.
Starting with the technical specifications, the Apidura seat pack main body is made from VX21, a 200 denier laminate developed by sail cloth manufacturer Dimension Polyant. In addition to be light weight and tear resistant, VX21 is also waterproof to 200psi and is a staple fabric for higher-end backpacks. Hypalon, a synthetic rubber, is used in areas likely to see high levels of abrasion, such as the areas on the forward part of the wedge that rub against the saddle rails and the seatpost. Hypalon is also used for the compression and the saddle strap (see explanation in next paragraph) anchor points, as well as for the saddle rail straps themselves.
The bag is attached using 2 straps that loop up around the saddle rails and clip into female buckles attached to the underside of the bag, in combination with 2 very large Velcro straps that wrap around the seatpost (Note: you'll need at least 10cm of exposed seatpost to attach both straps). A roll top is used to close the bag, in much the same way as a typical drybag, except that the roll top buckles clip into compression straps rather than each other. The result is a very flexible system that can accommodate a wide range of loads – from the full 14l capacity down to around 6l – without too much excess fabric flapping about. Any less than this and the compression straps (which are neatly doubled back to prevent the tails from flapping about) bottom out. The saddle straps aren't doubled back in the same way, giving a bit more room to tighten things up, but it means that the tails hang down and can buzz the rear tyre. I ended up tucking these into the compression straps when carrying smaller loads – no biggey, really.
Rounding things off in the features department is some bungee cord webbing on the of the pack – useful for keeping a spar layer close to hand – and 2 rear light attachment points that can be used depending on how full the bag is. In order to use these, I found it was best to fold the roll-top closure downwards before compressing, as this placed the light attachment points more vertical so that light would be thrown backwards, instead of illuminating the sky. All in all, the quality of construction and the thought that's gone into the details is very impressive.
Despite being pretty light for a saddlebag this size, the areas of high stress and abrasion appear to be well reinforced and able withstand the rigours of life on the (off)road. The only small niggle I could find was that the short length of the saddle rail straps meant that I was often trying to fish around underneath my saddle for these, whilst supporting the bag weight with my other hand – quite a frustrating task with frozen hands at 7am. Just a mm or two longer and these would be much easier to clip at the expense of a small amount of adjustability.
One of the most challenging aspects of designing a large saddle bag is preventing the whole thing from waggling around when out of the saddle. Restricting this sway is achieved both through careful placement of the attachment points as well as strategically reinforcing the bag in certain areas to give it a bit of structural shape. To this end, the Apidura seat pack includes sheets of plastic reinforcement sewn into each side of the forward part of the wedge, in addition to a large, removable plastic insert which runs underneath and curves up into the seatpost region. This gives the bag some structure and dissipates the load from the saddle straps so that they support a much larger area and don't merely 'chop' the load in half. Even when empty, this reinforcement gives the bag a very defined shape and reduces the influence that one's packing strategy has on the bag's overall stability.
In use, there is a small amount of sway when the bag is fully loaded and heavy (filled with 4kg of xmas presents for a ride to the parents'), but it's not enough to negatively affect the riding experience. When packed lighter – around 1kg – there is no wobble at all. Unlike some bags which jut backwards near horizontally from the saddle, the Apidura sticks up in a happy dog sort of way. This reduces slightly the lever arm that any positioned at the end of the bag would have around the seatpost, and provides a little extra tyre clearance. The downside is that is makes it a little trickier to swing a leg over the saddle. Top tip: test out your personal level of flexibility before attempting a cyclocross style dismount in front of your place of work. Speaking of tyre clearance, there was plenty on my size L, 110mm travel full suspension bike, but it could be an issue for smaller frames as the bag is quite deep.
For most of the test period of 4 months, the bag was used to lug shirts to and from the office, which, although a daily activity, isn't exactly the greatest test of a bag's durability. However, in that time, it's also seen a couple of multi-day road rides in terrible conditions and recently, an overnight mountain biking trip in the Welsh Black Mountains (somehow dry but still soaking wet). So for, the Apidura seat pack has come through with flying colours and isn't showing any signs of wear and tear beyond some mud stains. Despite not having taped seams and therefore not being truly waterproof, I've yet to find any signs of water ingress despite several hours spent in persistent rainy conditions. For valuables that must stay dry such as electronics or that fancy down jacket, an additional dry bag would still be a wise precaution, but I'd be happy to chuck anything else in unprotected.
Overall, the Apidura Seat Pack is an impressive piece of kit that's well designed, built and isn't too expensive either. If a lightweight touring trip is in your future, or even if just you want a little extra capacity for commutes, it ticks all the boxes.
Well-thought out and executed high volume saddle bag perfect for rackless touring
road.cc test report
Make and model: Apidura Saddle Pack (mid size)
Size tested: Mid Size, Grey
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?
The Apidura seat pack is designed to "make full use of the space under the saddle, eliminating the need for a rear rack". It will appeal to those looking for a lightweight touring setup and/or those unable to fit racks to their bikes
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
14L maximum capacity - 6L very minimum (approx)
10cm of exposed seat post minimum
359g (360g claimed)
VX-21 fabric used throughout, with Hypalon for high abrasion areas and straps
Attachment via 2 saddle straps and 2 velcro seatpost straps
Roll top closure with 2 compression straps (Woojin Lion buckles used throughout)
Bungee chord webbing on top surface
2x rear light attachment points
Having attempted to make my own saddlebag (or holster in my case), I can appreciate just how well put together Apidura's offering is. Everything is very neatly stitched, featuring enough reinforcement to provide longevity without adding unnecessary bulk. The VX-21 fabric used to the same used for many high-end backpacks these days and manages a good balance between weight, toughness and weatherproofing. The Woojin buckles are very strong, but perhaps not the easiest sometimes to engage with cold hands.
The bag has minimal sway when fully loaded and is able to carry up to about 4kg of stuff without negatively affecting the bike's handling. The internal reinforcement has the added benefit that you don't have to get your packing perfect in order to achieve well balanced load. When more lightly packed, the compression system has enough range and adjustability to effectively manage volumes down to around 6L. In terms of waterproofing, despite being ridden in some torrential downpours, I've yet to experience any water ingress. That said, a drybag for items that truly must stay dry is still a worthy insurance policy.
After 4 months of daily commuting use in addition to a handful of multi-day trips both on road and off, the seat pack has yet to show any signs of wear beyond the inevitable mud stains. All the strap attachment points are still rock solid.
For an complete saddlebag (as opposed to a holster), the 359g weight is pretty good and, importantly, hasn't been achieved at the expense of durability
It sits around the middle of the pack in terms of bikepacking saddlebag prices, and offers good value when assessed against its performance and durability
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well - it's stable across and wide range of loads and looks to be built to last
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The lack of sway
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The saddle strap buckles can be a little fiddly to do up in the heat (oh the irony) of the moment when setting off after a freezing bivy
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes - it has put my own homebrew efforts to shame
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCR My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.