While the notion of carrying luggage on your bike for adventures has long been the norm the traditional panniers and saddle bags are being replaced with frame packs like this Topeak Midloader, a well built, sensibly designed load carrier.
The Midloader comes in two size options, a three-litre version and this four and a half litre option, which holds a surprising amount of kit securely and sturdily.
The whole thing takes just a couple of seconds to fit thanks to its hook and loop fasteners with two large straps on the top tube and thinner straps for the seat tube and downtube. The straps will fit round down tubes from 38mm to 70mm in diameter, 45mm to 66mm top tubes and 28mm to 60mm seat tubes there isn't a huge amount of extra Velcro strap left flapping around even on a narrower-tubed frame like the Specialized Allez.
It was a spot-on fit on any bike I tried, though they were all frames with 54 to 55cm top tubes, not the larger model you can see in the photos.
When the straps are tightened the bag stays firmly in place and they keep it taut too which reduces its ability to bulge out towards your thighs when fully loaded.
I used the Midloader for the Dirty Reiver plus plenty of gravel training rides and wooded singletrack before. Even when the going gets really rough the bag didn't move one bit and didn't affect the handling of the bike at all except in really strong crosswinds where having more material in the side profile meant you would catch the breeze a little.
The Midloader is 12cm deep, which just about left me with enough room to get at my down tube bottle when fully loaded. Removing a seat tube bottle was a little more faff, but you could just swap your empty down tube bottle for the full one anyway.
Access to the Midloader is via a long zip on both sides which is protected from the elements by a storm flap. When closed the zips sit at opposite ends either side so as long as you can remember where you packed things you can get easy access without having to fully open the bag.
Inside is just one large chamber and this is probably the only negative thing I'd say about the Topeak Midloader. It would be nice just to have a separate compartment for essentials as occasionally things like gels might vibrate themselves towards the back. You could pair the Midloader with the Toploader though as the top tube straps have been positioned so the two are compatible.
The Midloader is made from water repellent and stain resistant polyethylene. While prolonged road spray could start to make its way through the fabric I had no real issues even when blasting through calf deep muddy puddles up on the gravel tracks.
There is a board which runs along the bottom internally to help the bag maintain its shape when loaded and this also helps keep water out.
Compared to the £49.99 Altura Vortex the Topeak fits better even though it's nominally not as waterproof. I didn't have any issues with water ingress, so to me the cheaper Topeak bag is better value.
The Topeak is double the weight too but I'd rather have the extra bulk in return for a reliable, sturdy piece of kit when are out in the sticks or half way through an event.
Well designed, hardwearing frame bag for bikepacking and long events
road.cc test report
Make and model: Topeak Midloader
Size tested: 4.5L capacity / 46x12x6cm
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?
"Epic offroad bike tours require you to bring all the essential tools and gear to keep from being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Designed to employ the unused space in your fame, MidLoader carries the heaviest items for your bike adventure. Constructed of lightweight, highly water resistant and durable materials, it mounts and removes quickly with hook and loop fasteners. Two water resistant zippered openings provide easy access to all your gear from either side."
I think the Midloader is a well designed and thought out piece of luggage that comes in at a sensible price.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
CAPACITY: 3 L / 183 ci, 4.5 L / 275 ci
MATERIAL: Polyethylene / nylon Lightweight, durable, water repellent and stain resistant
BAG ATTACHMENT: Hook and loop fastener
TOP TUBE DIAMETER: Fits ø45 - ø66 mm
DOWN TUBE DIAMETER: Fits ø38 - ø70 mm
SEAT TUBE DIAMETER: Fits ø28 - ø60 mm
SIZE: 37.5 x 12 x 6 cm / 14.8' x 4.7' x 2.4' (3
46 x 12 x 6 cm / 18.1' x 4.7' x 2.4' (4.5
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great for carrying the essentials without affecting the bike in any way.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The ease with which it fits to the frame
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Separate compartments would be nice.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Topeak Midloader is an ideal solution to be able to carry the essentials for a long day on the bike or a mini adventure. Well thought out design and solid, durable design makes for a great product.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
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.