Here at GRAVELBIKE, products are usually reviewed and evaluated separately. Recently, two very-complementary items happened to arrive at the same time, and it made more sense to review them together, rather than separately.
First up is Dill Pickle Gear‘s large saddlebag. Dill Pickle Gear is the brainchild of lifelong cyclist and tinkerer, Emily O’Brien. When she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted in an off-the-shelf saddlebag, she decided to make it herself. Others took notice of her handiwork, and she began selling them to like-minded cyclists.
While the Dill Pickle saddlebag may resemble the classic, British-style saddlebag, that’s where the similarity ends. Instead of waxed or oiled cotton, Dill Pickle bags are constructed from two layers of waterproof fabric: 1000-denier coated Cordura nylon on the outside, and a lining of lighter nylon packcloth with an extra-thick waterproof coating. These fabrics are lighter in weight than canvas or leather, while still being long-wearing and resistant to abrasion.
Dill Pickle saddlebags are available in two flavors: made-to-order, or in-stock, ready to ship. The bag that I tested was one of the latter. All bags–whether custom, or off-the-shelf–include the following standard features:
- Extra lash points on the top
- Reflective trim
- Multiple attachment points on the bottom
- Floating lining to help keep water out
The basic Dill Pickle large saddlebag is $155. My review sample came with the optional extension flap ($20), cordura side pockets ($25), brevet card pocket in the lid ($25), and double shockcord rear pockets ($25). Even with all those extra features, the bag weighed a reasonable 600 grams. Quality of construction was second-to-none. Every feature of the Dill Pickle bag is well thought-out, and while the materials used are decidedly modern, the design’s classic roots are still evident.
Capacity of the main compartment is approximately 700 cubic inches. That assumes a full–but not overstuffed–load, and doesn’t include the external pockets. In real-world terms, the Dill Pickle easily held a pair of thick winter cycling gloves, an extra-large windbreaker, a pair of size-11 sneakers, winter cycling cap, and a couple of energy bars. The external pockets were large enough for items such as a spare tube and repair kit, wallet, and cell phone or small camera. Glove-friendly, quick-release closures keep everything secure, and the double ladder-lock sliders easily allow for bulkier items (or you can cinch things down for a more compact load).
Several people asked whether a support was necessary for the Dill Pickle saddlebag. As with any saddlebag, this will ultimately depend on your bike’s geometry, saddle height and position, and personal preference. I use a support with my own saddlebags, but the Dill Pickle’s multiple attachment points made it easier to secure the bag without a support. As luck would have it, Carradice’s Bagman 2 support arrived in time for me to test in conjunction with the Dill Pickle bag.
I reviewed the previous version of the Bagman support in March, 2012. The Bagman 2 offers several improvements, not the least of which is an alloy frame that’s welded to the main clamp. This design is not only lighter (by 40-50 grams), but it eliminates the set-screws that were prone to loosening. To reduce sway–and take stress off the saddle’s rails–Carradice added adjustable support struts (an optional seatpost collar is available for frames without rack bosses). The result is a very rigid platform with virtually no flex (I could easily lift my bike by the support frame). Like the previous version, the Bagman 2 has a load limit of 10kg.
The Bagman 2 is available in two sizes (Sport and Expedition) to accommodate a variety of bag sizes. The smaller (Sport) model worked best with the Dill Pickle saddlebag, whereas the larger (Expedition) size was necessary for my Carradice Nelson saddlebag. Carradice offers a quick-release version of the Bagman 2 that eliminates the need for saddle loops. Prices vary due to exchange rates, but a list of stockists is available on Carradice’s website.
UPDATE: Carradice has discontinued the Bagman 2 line of supports, but still offers the original Bagman saddlebag supports.
Disclosure: Dill Pickle Gear and Carradice provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.