As many who know me will testify, advance preparation and organisation have never been my strong points. Packing for a race usually involves running around the house shouting at my long suffering partner about how I can’t find anything, and furiously throwing any bike kit I do find into some of the hundreds of 10p ‘bags for life’ I’ve accumulated from the local supermarket because I’m too disorganised to re-use them. So it was with a certain amount of interest that I received the BLS VeloRacing Bag with the suggestion that it would forever banish my pre-race packing woes.
Manufactured by Cape Town based Black Line Sprinting for a considerable £170, this all-in-one travel bag is designed specifically to support your packing needs for both road and mountain biking. Constructed with a rugged water-resistant material, with removable foam separators, it provides separate compartments for tools/spares, helmet, shoes, bottles, a multipurpose section for kit or other assorted paraphernalia, and a handy removable box to store your all-important nutrition products. As if this wasn’t enough, it also comes with two 750ml bottles, and a couple of water-resistant drawstring bags to store wet and dirty kit.
You’d think January and February wouldn’t be the best time to test a race-specific bike bag, being the winter and all that. Thankfully though, when the rest of the ‘normal’ world have their feet up or are cycling in their garages against people on the internet, the UK has a strange and masochistic tradition of holding 24-hour races in places that are about as remote and inaccessible as it’s possible to get. In addition to testing riders to their limits, the Strathpuffer 24 and Kielder Chiller 24 would prove to be ideal testing grounds for a race-specific bike bag.
The end compartment dedicated to tools and spares passed the test with flying colours, managing to store everything needed for a 24 hour race. Ten sets of brake pads, spare chain, assorted tools and spares, bottle of sealant, tubes, and a couple of bottles of lube all fitted with room to spare. The individual pockets for multitools, tubes and other random stuff proved especially useful, eliminating the need for fruitless searching for whatever specific item you might be looking for. There’s also an invaluable clip to secure your car keys which is a small but potentially post-race crisis-avoiding feature.
Having not read the instructions or done any thinking, I hadn’t quite worked out that one of the deep compartments inside the main section of the bag is intended to store shoes. Instead I managed to squeeze both my shoes and helmet into the helmet specific compartment accessed from the side of the bag. This ‘misuse’ of the helmet compartment freed up space in the main compartment to store a bag full of gels and other energy products. The large shallow compartment in the top section has plenty of room to fit shorts, a jersey, sunglasses etc for a summer race. In this case however it was utilised for 24-hour related gubbins such as lights, batteries, chamois cream, painkillers etc.
Another extremely useful feature – but undesigned I suspect – was that the thin foam lining provided useful insulation to prevent drinks in the bottle section from freezing. This only worked to a point though, and with temperatures south of -10°C at the Strathpuffer it would be nitpicking to complain.
I didn’t use the water-resistant dirty kit bags. Conditions at Kielder were so apocalyptic that two industrial bin liners were required to ship filthy kit back home. I’m sure they’d be fine in the summer though. There’s not much I would change, but for summer race use it would benefit from the addition of some elasticated pouches on the outside to store more bottles.
Its compact size and square shape does make it a delight to travel with, though additional space for kit could potentially make it more useful for non-racing multi-day trips too, because as it stands, this bag is a little too small for carrying things like a full-face helmet and knee pads. As a comparison, bags such as Dakine’s Descent Duffle have considerably more volume to accommodate such gear. And while the bigger Dakine bag might not have the same space efficiency and neat storage solutions that the VeloRacing bag does, it is less than half the price.
If you do want more space that this bag provides, BLS has informed us that a larger volume bag is in the works, which is due to be available this summer.
The most useful advantage of this bag is that once it’s packed, it’s packed, and can remain so until the contents need replacing. Short of storing a bike (BLS don’t appear to make bike bags, maybe they should), it’s a single portable solution for pretty much everything required for a day ride with your mates, race/event, weekend trip or even a winter 24-hour race. It doesn’t just make packing and kit organisation easier and less stressful, once done it almost eliminates the need for it altogether. While it is durable and well made, the price tag is very high though – it’s a helluva lot more than a collection of 10p bags from the local supermarket. Then again, given the amount of cash some of us spend on carbon this or titanium that, if like me you’re of a chaotic disposition, this could be an investment worth making.
|Product:||VeloRacing Exclusive Bag|
|From:||Black Line Sprinting, www.blsglobal.net|
|Tested:||by Darren Hall for Two Months|