1 Jul 2012

Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag review

As I mentioned in my ride diary this was a present from my wife. It arrived only a few short days after ordering it online direct from the Carradice factory.

Unfortunately Wiggle were out of stock and I was simply too impatient to wait for another  fortnight. One cannot be sure of the new stock prices but Wiggle were asking much less than any other supplier. As well as offering free postage to Europe! An easy saving of £12-15 over Carradice or the other online outlets.

I had an exchange of emails with Carradice over their lack of European postage pricing when ordering. Overnight the order form remained stuck at zero P&P. I'm an incurable optimist so was rather disappointed when they finally asked for £7.12 for P&P next morning.

The postage is only added by follow up email after one has entered all one's personal details. Including one's bank card. I do not think this is remotely acceptable for any online trader! Least of all one with a very limited range of stock items.

I do not accept that they are unable to weigh and work out the postage price for every bag regardless of destination. The postage world is neatly broken down into zones and has been for years. They know the dispatch weight of all their goods. Or certainly should by now! A little extra code on their website is all it takes.

Perhaps this is why I was 'punished' with a full price but "seconds" undersized bag? For having had the temerity to question Carradice's 'traditional' business methods? Perhaps the quality you will see below is the standard which they set themselves for all of their customers? Who knows?

Tragically for those who drool at the mere mention of traditional cycling goods manufacturers I owe no particular loyalty to Brooks or Carradice. I bought their products in good faith as an ordinary customer. If they failed to provide what they claim then I will mention it here. I will clearly show the problems in my own photos. A picture is worth  thousand words. "Handmade" is just ever more desperate sales hype if machines can do far better. Judge for yourself: 

As there will be so many images involved I shall keep them modest in size out of respect for those on a slow Internet connection. We can't have people waiting all day for the page to download just because their government doesn't give a shit about their nation's Internet speeds! Click on any image for an enlargement.

First I must freely confess to having pinched the idea of a crossbar support from Alan. My fellow English tricyclist. Who is also living in exile here in Denmark. He used a wooden dowel and his existing, rack fixing, screw bosses to hold his bag in place. I had no rack fixing points. So had to use clips. I also prefer alloy tubing as I have tons of old aerials lying in a pile from another hobby. Besides I know that any untreated wood quickly goes black in my bike shed.

Here are the clips I rode 70  miles to buy. (35 miles there and back) I believe they are a standard spare parts for brakes. Though I can't imagine where they are used. I had previously searched for something similar in local builders merchants and DIY stores without success. Ideally they would have been P-clips but beggars can't be choosers. It would not be too difficult to reform them into a P-shape. I added a plain nut to take up the unwanted space between the clip and the new crossbar.
First, I very carefully matched the bag supporting strap spacing against the exact clip height on the stays. I wanted the straps to have a free run around the the crossbar. Only then could I mark and drill the alloy tube. The higher the clips the nearer they are together. Lower down, the straps would have bent themselves around the outside of the trike seat stays. Putting the clips between the stays leaves a clear space for the straps.

I shall use dome headed, stainless steel screws and Nyloc nuts once I am satisfied with the set-up.
Now comes the unpacking! In best YouTube style, but without the moronic dialogue or unnecessary arm waving.

My wife reiterated my tragic pedantry in having recorded the packaging for posterity. I told her it is for my doting blog audience. And, that she should be very grateful I didn't make a 20 minute HD video with dialogue and background music! :-)

The obverse. Neat packaging. The blue metallic, plastic bag was the outer protection for travel through the post. The neat, taped fold in the inner, clear poly bag shows some thought has gone into presentation. As do the carefully dressed straps. This avoids them being bent backwards and taking on an unwanted 'set.'

Enough teasing. Now unwrapped in all its glory!
The honey straps lift the d├ęcor from the olive drab fabric.
The reflecting safety patch may sit rather high to be useful when the bag is well packed. Though the Carradice alloy label is shiny enough to catch car headlights from behind. While the black strap is provided for hanging lights in winter. Its final angle will depend on how much is packed into the bag.
Sadly the Carradice nameplate merely draws attention to the poor quality of the messy stitching overall. The riveting is sloppy and uneven too. The famous Carradice name badge is already scratched before it comes out of the wrapping!

Is this the standard by which Carradice has become almost legendary in conservative, cycle touring circles worldwide?

Here the top of the inner, nylon sleeve extension can be seen. The Longflap remains folded here. The press studs keep the extra length of flap out of the way until it is desired to increase the capacity of the bag. A neat trick for those with poor self-discipline when it comes to packing for a trip. Handy for those for whom life's main purpose seems to revolve around supermarket shopping. The extra straps stay neatly inside the bag until required. Then drop down to fit the usual flap holding buckles when necessary
The side pockets are larger than I am used to. They swallowed a lot of useful stuff compared with the previous pink bag. Leaving the main bag totally free of its former detritus. 

The plain (front facing) side of the bag. Note the round holes for the fixing straps. The D-rings would have been perfectly placed on the bottom corners of the bag for fixing to a trike! On the top they will only allow you to fit a shoulder strap. Useful should you want to carry the bag away with you.

After careful measurement I will agree with Carradice's front and back surface dimensions. (only just) However, the depth is well short of their 23cm claim. In fact it is only 16cm deep inside if a true box shape is demanded. Well-stuffed the bag might well stretch to 23cm in the middle. But that is not the true, box dimension. Carradice cut the sides to make a bag 16cm deep but advertise it as 23cm? How does that work with the local Trading Standards Officer? It is nearly 3" short of the claimed front to back depth! That's an awful lot of useful volume in any saddle bag! My wife asked if I had been sent the wrong model! I just felt even more cheated by Carradice.

The bag is only 14cm deep externally measured at the top. It is supposed to be 23cm. A 9cm difference. Or 3.5" too small in imperial measurements. This is a huge difference in volume and usability.  The stiffening dowel further reduces the depth of the mouth for filling the bag.

The bag lightly stuffed to show the general proportions. An enclosed leaflet shows assorted hanging methods and Carradice racks options for fixing the bag to ordinary bikes.

Three loose straps are provided. Two for hanging the bag and one for securing the  bag to the seat post. The perforations in the straps are all well formed. Allowing easy penetration by the buckle pin at all points. All the straps are of consistently high quality leather. With no sign of weaknesses or roughness anywhere. I believe they are sourced from a Belgian tannery.

Here, the bag is strapped to the newly fitted, alloy crossbar. The buckles are placed inside the bag for security and neatness. The tube was made long enough to avoid any chance of the straps being pushed off the ends. Note how the hanging straps are perfectly straight without any distortion from the seat stays or fixing clips. Which bodes well for a long life. The tube is much kinder to the hanging straps than most saddle eyelets. Many of which are just stamped out without later fettling. A matter of a few seconds with a small file.

The bag feels very resistant to sideways movement. I tipped the trike right on its side without the bag moving from its place. Though ironically the top fitted, D-rings would have been perfect for strapping to the seat stays or any tricycle rack had they been fitted at the bottom. I doubt they'd be interested in hearing my constructive suggestions after this review!

The inside of the bag. Showing the hanging straps and buckles. These are well tightened inside the bag for security. They go around the bag-stiffening dowel and the alloy tube clipped onto the stays.

Carradice's clever "seamstress" has signed the inside bag label to continue the 'handmade" theme. The label is fitted just below the very badly offset, leather reinforcing strip for the hanging straps! Fully 3/4" or 18mm off-centre!! That'll be the "handmade quality" again, I suppose?

A front view of the alloy crossbar and bag in place. I made the tube deliberately over-long to completely avoid the straps slipping off the ends. I might relent and shorten it a bit and fit end plugs to keep the bike shed spiders out.

The double D-rings fixed to the leather straps, on top, are for adding rolled-up gear.

The leather reinforcement and D-rings for straps to hold rolled items. Things like sleeping bags, sponge camping mattresses, tents, bulky clothing, etc. Highly visible to anyone admiring the Carradice bag's "handmade" quality.

The stitching on this one is a bit untidy/offset/wonky but just acceptable.

Considering this is right on top of the bag, and always highly visible, I don't think this other side is acceptable at all.

Carradice claim 6-18 months of training before their "highly skilled" seamstresses are good enough for production.

Should have gone to Specsavers?

Main flap, hold-down strap stitching.

Almost rectangular but still not a pretty sight!

The other matching flap hold-down strap on the left. Even worse!

The same manufacturing and quality control problems as elsewhere. Must have been a Friday afternoon. After the annual factory party and during a fire drill! 

"Handmade" is just empty sales hype when machines can do far better.

One is judged by ones deeds. Words are cheap. Unless you actually pay someone to make up all your commercial hype.

Thank goodness the old blue, rucksack frame has finally gone! It used to catch the backs of my thighs sometimes. Particularly when hanging well off the trike on sharp corners. Nor could I straighten my legs completely when trying to stretch tight calf muscles on a long ride.

My first ride, tomorrow, will tell whether I need a secure bottom fixing for the bag. I might use zip ties for greater security against casual theft. Why make life easy for the scum of the earth? It saddens me that nobody offers a security device which permanently maims bicycle thieves. I'd happily pay for one. If I could still afford it.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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