As the name suggests, the Blackburn Grid Small seat bag is designed to carry the minimum of kit. A compact multi-tool, vacuum-sealed spare tube, two tyre levers, CO2 inflator and an energy bar perhaps. It does its job well, though, and arguably that's all you'll need for a pared-to-the-essentials tarmac-centric plaything.
In common with others of similar capacity (Blackburn cites 0.4L), it hugs the saddle's contours. Some suggest this has some aero advantage but without wind tunnel facilities it's difficult to quantify such claims. It certainly gave a sleeker look to my fixed gear TT build than others have.
Build quality is impressive: it really feels bombproof. The main material is PVC-coated rip-stop nylon, with welded seams and a shrouded zipper to keep the elements out. The zipper tag loop is another small but significant plus, making it easy to whip it open/shut with minimal effort even in full-finger gloves.
The nylon is impregnated with a clever 'dark-proof' retro-reflective technology which is increasingly common on clothing and accessories. Stealthy grey by day, the whole section turns a brilliant white when graced by vehicle headlights.
Continuing the safety conscious theme, there's a sensibly proportioned LED tab emblazoned with the retro-reflective Blackburn logo. One surprising disappointment – out of kilter with the quality narrative – is the LED tab. It's surprisingly thin and better suited to lighter models of rear light. Though ejections weren't a problem, models such as Moon's Nebula and Shield X Auto tended to slide and bounce about. Some clothing clips also proved a baggy fit, so check beforehand.
The bag attaches to saddle rails and seatpost via two beefy Velcro straps. Being picky, I'd prefer the buckle type (as used on my long-serving Zefal Iron Pack XL) since these make adjustment and sway-free tensioning that bit quicker and easier. That said, swapping between bikes or whipping it off when parking in the street is hardly a drama.
Delve inside the bag and although the padding consumes some useable space it serves two purposes: shape retention and, more importantly, insulation – the sort that banishes annoying tool-kit percussion synonymous with riding across uneven washboard tarmac.
Attached to my fixed gear TT build and hurtling across washboard tarmac at 30mph, everything remained blissfully quiet.
To my surprise, I managed to fit in my big mini-tool with 15mm wrench, single spare tube, CO2 inflator, spare chain links and three tyre levers. These were tucked into an elasticated flap within the main compartment.
I was also able to persuade a second spare tube and mini-pump to ride shotgun on the outer shell, held in place by relaxing the Velcro straps slightly. On longer outings when I needed to carry more I simply paired it with a top tube bag.
Wet roads have been unusually scarce this summer, but chasing through some refreshing storms without mudguards resulted in some grotty spatter. This was easily dismissed with a damp cloth, and the contents have remained bone dry. Both the shell and zipper have passed my garden hose torture test with flying colours, so – bog snorkelling aside – chances of electroplated tooling succumbing to the dreaded orange taint are slim.
Price-wise, it's at the steeper end of the market although it's not alone, with Lizard Skins' Cache also £19.99, for example. You can, of course, spend less: among those we've tested on road.cc, the Passport Frequent Flyer is £14.99, and the 0.7L Medium Lotus SH-6702 saddle bag is £11.99, while the 0.5L Small version is £10.99.
Overall, the Grid has performed well, as I'd expect from Blackburn and this end of the market. The brand's lifetime, no-quibble warranty also adds value. However, there are areas for improvement: the LED tab was disappointing and a buckle type system would make it easier to tether to seatposts.
Generally well made and with some nice touches but room for improvement
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn Grid Small Seat Bag
Size tested: 0.4L
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?
Perfect for road cyclists. Fits 1 road tube, a multi-tool, 2 tire levers and a CO2 inflator w/cartridge. 0.4L
* Sleek and minimal design
* Plenty of space for essential tools
* Reflective material
* Padded structure keeps its shape
* Coated zipper, tail light clip, inner pocket
* Anti-chafing mounting straps
I'd say that it meets the design brief and very competently, though the LED tab needs revising.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Grid Small is stitched, with a water resistant zipper and full length black retro reflective side panels. Primary external material is ripstop nylon with PVC coating.
The bag has sandwiched foam construction to protect internal contents and glows like a lamp when shined upon (as with car headlights for example). There is a light loop on the door and an inner pocket for a tool, etc. The strap is adjustable to fit the bag tightly to almost any saddle. The zipper pulls are rubber coated nylon cord and ergonomic for easy opening and closing.
Good quality, no less than I'd expect from Blackburn or for this price point.
Well designed for speedy installation/removal. Zipper loop is also really well designed and easily commanded in gloved hands.
Under normal circumstances, I can't see the lifetime warranty being called upon. Nonetheless, it adds confidence.
It's expensive relative to capacity, but nonetheless is generally well made, using high quality materials, so should last.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Blackburn Grid small has met its design brief. It is very compact but will swallow the basics. Being highly water resistant, any enclosed electroplated tooling shouldn't taint and the well-padded inner compartment prevents that slightly irritating "jingle" over lumpier surfaces. Its retro-reflective coating is another nice touch. However, I would like to see a sturdier LED tab.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Ease of use, refined sturdy construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
LED tab was a little under-built and merits revision.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's at the steeper end, though it's not alone. Lizard Skins' Cache is also £19.99, while the Passport Frequent Flyer is £14.99, and the 0.7L Medium Lotus SH-6702 saddle bag is £11.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? One of its bigger siblings, quite possibly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Worth considering if they wanted a super-compact model.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Generally excellent design and build, but a couple of things bring the score down slightly: the LED tab merits revision, and although it's not bad value for the quality, there are cheaper counterparts out there with a similar spec.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
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: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)