The Axiom Charlevoix is a functional rack-top bag that lacks frills, bells or whistles, but doesn't cost very much.
Rack bags like Axiom's Charlevoix are a good solution when you need to carry more than will fit in a little under-seat bag but not enough to fill a pannier. Day rides and audax are the obvious examples. A capacity of six litres is sometimes enough for utility trips around town or to work too. So how does it stack up against the traditional saddlebag, such as a Carradice Barley?
There are pros and cons. A saddlebag doesn't require a rear rack, only an SQR block (Carradice's quick-release bag carrying system), a bag support, or bag loops on the saddle. A load in a saddlebag is to some extent suspended rather than sitting on top of the rear wheel, so you won't bruise your banana (not a euphemism). But a rack bag is more aerodynamic and won't knock against the back of your legs. This Axiom one has another advantage: it's a lot cheaper.
The Charlevoix measures 34.5cm x 18cm x 15.5cm, just big enough for a loaf of bread to fit inside. There's a zipped pocket on the back that's big enough for tools and a spare tube. The main compartment has a two-sided zip running around the top, and there's a carry handle. It lacks an elastic cargo net or D-rings on the top, so there's no way to strap a waterproof jacket there. There's no LED light loop at the back either, although there are reflective patches. These things would add greatly to the bag's utility without, as far as I can see, adding to much to the cost.
The Charlevoix is made from 600 denier polyester. It's tough but not waterproof. I expected an elasticated waterproof cover in the back pocket to make up for this; there isn't one. The main compartment is well padded, with a foil-style inner face designed to keep contents cool (or warm). That will be handy for picnics and for audax riders wanting to tuck into a Snickers bar that's not a melted chocolatey mess.
Attachment to your bike's rear rack is a simple as it gets: there's a velcro strap at each corner. This has the advantage of being compatible with almost any rack, and actually worked okay. I found the bag stable and secure at all times. It feels a bit fiddly and primitive compared to Topeak's QuickTrack system, where the bag slides on and clips into place in less time than it took you to read that last phrase. Then again, a QuickTrack bag locks you in to using one of Topeak's racks too, so you'll end up shelling out a fair bit more for that slick, systemised convenience.
On the whole, the Axiom Charlevoix exceeded my expectations. It's simple but it works and it costs buttons. It's better than using a single pannier if you've got a small load, as the weight is carried centrally. I wouldn't swap it for my Carradice Barley, and if I were in the market for a rack bag I'd pay more for extra features and weather resistance; Axiom's own Randonee Trunk is a waterproof rack bag for just £33. But if you're on a really tight budget, the Axiom Charlevoix is worth considering.
A cheap way to carry day-ride, audax or commuting essentials.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Axiom Charlevoix Trunk Bag
Size tested: n/a
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?
Whether its a multi-day trek or an easy-going ride for a picnic in the park with friends or family, Axiom trunk bags are always close behind, literally. These thermal-lined bags tuck tightly onto our racks and are perfect for keeping food and beverages at the right temperature. Loaded with tidy pockets for dishes, utensils and other necessities, Axiom trunk bags add a little gourmet to every adventure.
Our Simple, proven velcro mounting system is lightweight maintenance-free and adjustable to any rack on the market.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
600 denier water-resistant polyester
Reflective thermal lining keeps food and drink at the right temperature
External rear pocket for easy access storage
Velcro attachment system fits most racks
Carry handles for off-bike use
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Stable and secure in use.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not waterproof. No cargo mesh, so unable to strap jacket on top.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? To day-riders on a tight budget.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 1.78m Weight: 65kg
I usually ride: Ridgeback Solo World fixed wheel My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track (with front brake)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,