We have been cycle touring for eight weeks now and it felt a good time to review the Apidura bike packing bags and the small Axiom panniers carrying our touring kit.
Apidura Bike-Packing Bags
I was fortunate to have used and tested the full Apidura set up on this trip.
Here are my general thoughts:
Firstly the build quality is universally excellent on the bags, stitching is strong, the fabric tough and they have been impressively tough wearing after two months solid use. I have used all the items that Apidura make and below are my thoughts in each bag:
THe Apidura Bar Bag
The bar bag is deceptively huge and super robust, so it’s a great way to ditch the traditional heavy rack and front panniers but still spread the weight around the bike. It has done this really effectively and I’m stoked to have gone down this route.
The straps that hold it to the bars are pretty simple, strongly sewn to one point not wrapped around, they are also adjustable. It does fit really well on my 60cm Tripster and also slots nicely between my standard 44cm wide drop bars that surprised me as it looks like it wouldn’t!
The pack does have some issues for me:
Iit isn’t waterproof despite looking like a dry bag. On a full on rainy day the inside will be wet from the constant wheel spray and there was also fine grit from the road that has seeped through the untaped seems or through the ends. It is the sacrifice to pay for going lightweight.
The bag always hangs a bit awkwardly low and is always hanging straight down however I strap it. Therefore you need a tall head tube to accommodate it with out any wheel rub, it doesn’t fit on Marion’s 17″ frame because the short top tube means the bag catches on the wheel.
The accessory Pocket
The accessory pocket looked a great addition, it clips cleverly on the bar bag and is neatly designed, I wanted to put valuables in it, but decided it’s just a bit flimsy without any padding. I am sure it would be fine for waterproofs and other non electronic kit, but I needed a space for my DSLR and this wasn’t the right option for me. The standard ‘waterproof’ zip that’s not really waterproof for critical items like a camera put me off. The clips also didn’t inspire great confidence after one accidentally unclipped when I was testing, but like I say for non critical items like clothing it would be super useful just not £2k cameras!
I opted for my Ortleib aqua zoom pack with a strap around the bars instead and left the accessory bag at home. As I’ve mentioned before this is the best DSLR bag for touring available, in my eyes at least!
The Apidura Frame Bag
The frame bag is another neat way to spread the weight without front panniers. Mine is loaded with dried spaghetti, spare batteries and other small but heavy kit. It is a total fit and forget item. The straps are excellent meaning the bag stays in place and out the way. It’s lightweight but again at the cost of waterproofing, the seams let water seep in, as does the unneeded hole for headphones at the front on the top. When fully loaded up the waterproof zips are stretched too much for the seals, further letting water in. Its a shame as otherwise it’s a great bag, but it has literally had a puddle in it some days and unlike the bar bag it’s not as compatible with a dry bag. The answer is using dry items like sealed bags of food and tent pegs etc and since doing that the weather has been better but I now have no issue with it. As you can see in the pictures, I also store the tent poles above it which works great.
Cross bar Bags or Gas tank bag
The frame top bags again are a great way to spread weight and use for accessible items. We used them to start with for sun block, and a few other bits. However we found on the seat post they rubbed our legs so we switched to the stem where they fitted fine, in the end though we decided they drew too much attention to prying eyes in rougher feeling towns and cluttered up the bike as we didn’t really find a use for them, so we sent them home in Hungary. If you have a purpose for them then they are well designed neat bags that will last a long time.
Apidura Saddle Pack
Unfortunately I have too much kit to go totally pannier-less but not enough to justify the big saddle pack so I sent this to Georgia with the hope I can go even lighter for the Asian leg. The theory being that in Asia if I can cover the distance quicker I can suffer without some luxuries like clean clothes, in return for less effort up the epic mountain climbs! My initial impressions testing the Apidura saddle pack in the UK were entirely positive with a sturdy design and a good fit and great hanging position for my bike. I am excited to use it and I think it will house a bivy bag and a dry bag of all my spare clothes so waterproofing isn’t a big issue.
Axiom Panniers and Saddle Bag
Next I wanted to discuss Axiom panniers, a brand not hugely familiar to many but I have two sets of their 20L Monsoon panniers and their light weight saddle bag. This is the second 3000km+ tour in 12 months that they’ve been used on. They were obtained on a pro deal while in Canada rather than chosen outright I should add, but I selected this model specifically for the lightness compared to other roll top waterproof bags.
The attachment to the rack is two strong plastic clips and elastic strapping with a hook for the bottom to stop them flapping about. A simple but effective method that has been issue free and helpfully it comes with spares that I carry just in case. The fabric is fully coated inside so its pretty much totally waterproof, unless fully submerged with heavy mudguardless wheel spray all day when the base can feel a touch damp inside. The backs are plastic and do deform and curve easily but again this hasn’t been an issue yet.
The main issue was a side seam splitting in one go on one pannier. They are heat welded without stitching to save weight but this means that they can catastrophically fail. After we stitched it up, the waterproofing was a bit reduced but it has held together and the other three are fine so far but I suspect a similar fate will bestow them after time due to the construction.
For short tours they are great but longer tours I cross my fingers that these two will last the distance, it’s going to be tight. They have a lifetime warranty too so the split one is going back when we return!
The Axiom saddle bag is just for spares and it’s crazy lightweight, fitting with Velcro under the saddle. It’s been issue free except the zip tag snapped off making it harder to open but a good crime deterrent!