Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's in your... seatbag?

What folks stash in their seatbags is something that I eventually wind up thinking about on group rides, especially large ones.

I guess it's one of things that tells something about the owner. Kinda like how they wear their socks.

Are they "devil may care" and carry only a patch kit and pump taped to the seatpost? Are they an "expeditionist" (my made-up wordification) and pack just about everything in an expanding seatbag/duffle? Somewhere inbetween? I suppose it's those choices that I find most interesting and revealing.

This is somewhat related to my story from a couple of months ago where I got caught up in a flat-tire perfect storm. In a nutshell, the flat victim was carrying more tubes than I could believe, lots of stupid CO2 cylinders, no patches and, save for intervention, would not have been able to ride out of the woods.

I loathe large seatbags. There's no need for them. A seatbag is your bike's survival/first-aid kit. Carry your own stuff in jersey pockets, Camelbak pack, wherever. Just not in the seatbag-- that's for your bike. Little, teeny seatbags are cute, but then why bother? Why not just use a toestrap and cinch a tube and pump to the underside of the saddle (or seatpost).

Over the years, I've refined my bike's trailside kit to what I consider some essential pieces, but not an absurd notion of "the bare minimum". And fortunately Crank Bros. has made some excellent stuff that fits the bill nicely. In fact, I think they make the best stuff you could want to carry with you.

I typically buy a seatbag no larger than what a manufacturer would call a "small". Something termed "micro" is too small and I've found "mediums" to be too big. Remember-- this bag is just for your bike. Do not stash your crap in it-- carry your own stuff.

Here we see Performance Bike's "Trans It" small seat bag. (This is NOT an endorsement of Performance Bike product.)
This is on my cyclocross bike-- part of its summer trail-riding kit. During CX racing season the bottle cage and seatbag come off. The seatbag goes into my race-day duffel.

It's stuffed, but not bursting at the seams. Note the carefully packed interior (some shifting occurs). I have had to carefully consider the shape of each piece and decide where it will best fit and utilize the space fully. Generally I have to partially load the tube and pump, then slide both in together. The other bits slide in the sides.

Depending on the bag's design, closing might be a bit of a squeeze, but never so tight that I worry about the zipper breaking and tossing everything.

Now here's the bag with it's entire contents. This is the least I will carry, on-road or off. Actually, I may leave the toestrap, but that's the only thing I really consider optional.

So, we've got:
Innertube (700x28-32 in this case)
Crank Bros. PowerPump (the smallest, plastic-barreled one)
Park Tool tire levers (apparently indestructible)
Park Tool "glueless" patch kit
Toestrap (amazingly useful for all sorts of unexpected things)
Crank Bros. multi-tool (19 tools)

You need only one spare tube with you. Not two or three. You use the spare tube to get going again right away. If you flat again, that's what the patches are for. I've used the Park Tool glueless patches for years now and I'm still using tubes that were patched years ago. I've read that others have had longevity/durability problems with the patches. I'm sure "your milage may vary" but I've had these patches hold up over years of use on an MTB and subjected to year-round rides, applied in rain, left wet and muddy for weeks (trapped moisture in an MTB wheel, yuck!) and they're still working. So I recommend the Park Tool patches without reservation. I can't vouch for off-brands or Slime Skabs.

The Crank Bros. pump is probably the perfect seatbag/emergency/trail-side pump. The CO2 inflators are just stupid, stupid, wasteful, and stupid. I'm sorry if I offend someone out there, but what do you do if your CO2 cart malfunctions? What if you fumble getting it on the valve and you wind up blowing most of the charge into the atmosphere? I know lots of people use them successfully. But listen: A pump like the Crank Bros. PowerPump will never run out of air. You pay for it once and use it and use it and use it. There's nothing to discard.

I carry the Park Tool tire levers primarily to help out other folks I might encounter or for other riders in my group that might have tight-fitting tires. Save for my road bike, I don't personally need tire levers to dismount and remount tires. But it's good to be able to help out others. I worked my way through several other brands of tire levers before settling on the Park Tool levers. The tires on my road bike are super tight. I must use a tire bead jack to remount the tire. I've broken countless tire levers and even a Quik Stik on that tire/rim combo!! But never a Park Tool tire lever.

The Crank Bros. multi-tool is a perfect distillation of multi-tool form and function. Its tools cover just about every bolt on your bike, plus spokes and chain. It can be disassembled to replace tools (Crank Bros. service is awesome) and is nice and flat. Easy to pack.

The toe strap is just so general-purpose handy-dandy useful for things you've never even thought of. I've used them to lash jackets to my bike on cool-days-turned-warm; to secure a seatbag that had its primary strap rip; hold a shoe closed. The possibilities are endless. (What have you used a toe strap for?)

This is the same kit that each of my bikes carries. Only the bags and tube sizes are different, but the stuff inside is all the same-- same pump, tool, levers, patch kit. Why not just move the one bag around, you ask? Because these are emergency kits and it's too easy to forget to switch out the proper size tube.

I load the seatbag thusly:
First the multi-tool goes in the bottom, the more rounded side facing down. Then I slide in the pump part-way. I begin to stuff the tube in on top of the pump, then push them both all the way into the bag. The tiny patch kit tuck in under the head of the pump. The tire levers slide in on one side and the toestrap is folded up and stuffed in the other.

Since this is your bike's emergency kit-- no, it really is. It's not for day-to-day mucking about. That's what your shop tools are for. Pack your seatbag and leave it alone until you need it to save your ride-- or someone else's.

Happy trails.

1 comment:

William said...

is that pic of your Lemond?