Wil checks out this strap-on top tube bag from Bike Bag Dude for carrying the essentials on your mountain bike
Mountain biking these days is a little different to the (good?) old days. Wheels and tyres have gotten bigger. Seatposts are now expected to go up and down. Figure-hugging Lycra is out, and baggy shorts and jerseys are in.
Suspension has replaced, err, not suspension.
I for one am happy with all of those luxuries. But they have thrown a slight spanner in the works when it comes to carrying stuff on a ride.
Baggy jerseys and tech-T’s don’t have pockets. And thanks to long-stroke dropper posts, rear suspension and big wheels, it’s basically impossible to run a saddle bag anymore. Or at least, not without the chance of a hilarious suspension-bottoming-tyre-locking-bag-exploding experience…
So where does one store their tube & spares?
The obvious answer is in a backpack. But then not everyone wears or wants to wear a backpack. Same goes for bum bags. And given the option, I’d prefer to store as much stuff low down on my bike rather than up on my back.
If you’re the owner of a modern carbon fibre Specialized dually, at this moment you’ll be able to bask in your own smugness while pointing towards the SWAT door on your bike’s downtube. Yes, that little storage cavity is a fantastic idea, but it’s not exactly a common feature outside of Specializandia.
For the SWAT-less riders out there, you could bust out the electrical tape and just strap shit to your bike. That’s certainly a fashionable trend these days, but I ain’t into it. Bungee cords – like those from Backcountry Research – are a much neater solution. They’re not exactly foul weather friendly though, and they’re also limited in what they can carry.
Personally, I want easy access to my tools and spares. And since I’m often testing up to three or four bikes at a time, I also want to be able to easily swap spare kit from bike to bike, knowing I’ve always got the basic essentials to get me out of a pickle.
As picky as I am, it turns out I might have found the ideal solution.
Bike Bag Dude Top Tube Mini Garage
Best known in the bikepacking scene for producing custom frame bags for some of the world’s best ultra endurance riders, Bike Bag Dude is an Australian-based outfit led by Kath & Kedan Griffin. The husband & wife team design, prototype and manufacture every bag in their Newcastle workshop.
As well as coming up with custom framebag solutions, BBD also produces handlebar roll bags, chaff bags, handlebar slings, and top tube bags.
For the top tube bags, BBD offers two different sizes; the standard Garage, and the Mini Garage. I’ve been using the latter for the past couple of months, and I really quite like it.
Designed to strap onto your bike’s top tube, the Mini Garage is a small-ish storage bag with a large, single zippered opening. In the triathlon world, you’d call this a ‘Bento Box’, which is basically a little top tube pouch for storing all your gels and various go-juices. The BBD Top Tube Mini Garage is kind of a beefed up Bento Box, with three Velcro straps designed to hold it securely to your bike, and sufficient volume to carry a spare tube, tools, repair kits, and spares.
Bento Boxes tend to get a bad rap in the road world for their ungainly appearance. I’d like to think us mountain bikers are a little less vain than our bitumen-dwelling cousins though, so I figured I’d give one of these a crack to see if would be the solution to my storage needs.
Weighing in at 124g, the Mini Garage is a sturdy little bag. The top and bottom panels are made from heavy-duty Nylon, while grey side panels utilises a smooth Dimension Polyant fabric called Liteskin. Everything is sewn together using sailmaking techniques that Kedan perfected in his previous line of work, and the quality of construction is clearly very high.
The inside of the pack is bright orange to help you spot smaller items, and the walls are lightly padded to keep everything snug and rattle-free. The fabric is also waterproof and the bag is fully seam taped too. Along with the snug water resistant YKK zipper, the Mini Garage is built to shield the booty within for as long as possible.
One of my favourite features of this bag is the flexibility of strap placement. There are three Velcro straps – two to go round the top tube, and one that goes around the steerer tube.
The straps aren’t actually part of the bag though. Instead, numerous loops are sewn along the underside and front of the bag, which are there to anchor the Velcro straps in whatever location they make sense for your setup. And because the straps aren’t part of the bag, it makes them easy to replace if they do get damaged, or simply wear out over time.
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|Brand:||Bike Bag Dude|
|Product:||Top Tube Mini Garage|
|Price:||$100 AUD (approx £54.88)|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 2 months|