A leather saddlebag is a classic cycling accessory that my grandad would have found familiar. That said, it's hard to avoid the phrase 'Gucci manbag' when trying to describe this offering from Spa Cycles.
Spa Cycles are well known for selling all sorts of things to the audax and touring market but they've branched out recently into the world of own brand products, with a well received titanium audax bike and a range of leather saddles that appear to offer all the benefits of a Brooks but at a significantly lower price. I've got an Aire (think Brooks Swallow) on test at the moment and things are looking good. The Derwent is a stylish addition to the family, it's hardly essential, but it's a nice accessory for the old steel racer in your life.
Spa don't specify the source of the leather used and my wife, who knows a thing or two about leather from her horse wrangling days, was less than impressed. In her view the leather looks cheap, the straps are plasticky and the suede inner surface is actually artificial and bonded on. I'm no expert, so I'll give Spa the benefit of the doubt and to my untutored eye it looked smart and rather classy. It's also only £30. To be honest, unless you know what you're looking at it's probably not a big deal.
I realise that this is the leather goods equivalent of saying that a cheap BSO is just as good as bespoke steel, but we're not all fussy about the same things and wouldn't it be a dull old world if we were all alike? For what it's worth, Brooks (and you'd surely trust *their* leather) make a very similar bag, the Challenge, and that retails at double the price. Reservations about the leather aside, the stitching looked tidy and the bag feels robust and well made.
The twin buckle closure looks smart and very retro, but they are mostly for show. You can lengthen the straps, but the bag actually closes by magnetic catches attached to the back of the straps. It's more secure than I expected but means that you can't use the straps to compress down a bulky load, say a bundled up rain cape or a big fat sandwich. It's a shame really; the magnets don't add much by way of convenience and they hamper the practical use of the bag. You can't fit much in it anyway, a few tools, an inner tube and a cereal bar or three. Enough for a modest day ride (of course you'll have a frame mounted pump) but not much more. There's no light mount either, just a metal Spa plaque.
I quite liked this bag, wifely suspicions about the leather and annoying catches aside, but it's best suited to short day rides. It feels more like a fashion accessory than an essential piece of kit.
A clutch purse for your bike. Nice, not essential.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Spa Cycles Derwent Leather Saddle Bag
Size tested: Brown
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?
Nothing. No marketing bumf, no blurb, nothing.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Sold as being leather but we have a few reservations on that score.
Leather quality aside, feels well made.
Proper buckles would add a point here.
When the students and hipsters of 2050 are digging grandad's old bike out of the shed, this bag will still probably still be attached.
£30 for a leather saddlebag seems like reasonable value, but the materials aren't the best quality.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a perfectly usable bag for high days and holidays.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks and price.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Magnetic catches and slightly suspicious quality leather.
Did you enjoy using the product? Mostly.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, it's a bit too small for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Stylish but small and if you know your leather you might want to spend more on something better.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....85kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides