1 Jul 2012

Carradice Camper Review II

Ist July

My first chance to try the new Camper saddle bag in earnest. By sheer chance it seems to naturally curl its lower, front corners around the Higgins seat stays. This, the internal dowel and the stiffness of the cloth, keeps the bag completely stable in use. Much better than any of my floppy, old sports bags.

I took two jackets today. Just in case the promised rain actually showed up. Or it turned suddenly cold. It didn't on either count. So I already had excess baggage.

 The well hung, Carradice Camper Longflap. Now safely fitted on my Higgins 'Ultralite' trike. 

Sitting nicely below the Brooks 'Professional' NOS saddle. The side pockets look quite close to the tyres but are actually well clear of the wheels. Though the straps need to be properly buckled to avoid catching in the spokes. If I didn't buckle them up they could make noises like a twin cylinder motorbike! 

You couldn't ask for a more perfect bag width to fit my trike! Provided, of course, that the bag stays put on the corners.

The straps are quite pleasant to handle but far more fiddly than zips. While the zips were almost always the downfall (to an early demise) for the endless sports bags. Two months of use was going well before they wore out. Some lasted only a week!

The side pocket straps are rather inaccessible due to the close proximity of the wheels. Which may actually be a good thing for the security of my tool kit. I may have to rethink my strategy with my cable lock though. To avoid using that side pocket quite so often. I don't want to get lazy and leave the trike unsecured against casual theft. The tops of the side pockets are nicely shaped into inverted trays to avoid any rain ingress.

The Carradice Camper bag just sat there. Stolidly unflinching whatever I threw at it. However, the large flap is a real nuisance when loading the bag with shopping. Because the back of the saddle gets in the way. On a bike, one could probably just flick the flap forwards over the saddle out of the way. I rolled the flap up and this seemed to help. The cloth may become slightly more flexible in time. Carrying a large clothes peg might be useful. Adapt and survive.  

The Carradice Camper Longflap looks rather smart on the back of Mr Higgins. A vast improvement on any of my scruffy sports bags. Which were usually dangling from the cut down, rucksack frame via a lot of ugly cords and zip ties. This didn't always help them stay out of the wheels! God knows what people thought of the appearance!

The Carradice stayed completely still. Even when mounting the rough, supermarket ramp which usually caught me out before. Taken askew, at considerable speed, I usually have to cut through the speeding, oncoming, village traffic. This was always a very severe test of bag stability. Most of my sports bags failed abysmally here. So full marks to the Camper! Carry on Camping? Suit yourselves. ;-)

The contents of the bag were already more or less level with the top before any shopping needed to find its rightful place. A bag of organic spuds, a tray of 10 eggs, 2 litres of milk and assorted other things. All fitted into the main bag. Though I still had to raise the extension sleeve. Then added the jackets on top of the shopping. With the Longflap and straps straps hardly extended. It all arrived safely home.

Don't the now-unused straps look strangely superfluous? Shouldn't there be buckles? Or even simple loops for the redundant straps to tuck into? I can imagine a following rider becoming completely mesmerised  by those loose straps flapping uselessly! A very amateur design flaw if you ask me.

Note how in vertically-extended, Longflap guise the pack holding D-rings are no longer on top of the bag! So you can have more capacity but not a rolled item as well? Hmm.

Isn't this simply a matter of extending the leather D-ring reinforcements further backwards down the normal flap? Preferably with an additional D-ring or two. These separate leather strips could even become one with the normal flap, hold down straps. Manufactured as a single, long length. All it takes is a little extra forethought. It would make the bag seem much more professionally designed into the bargain. The present gap between the two pieces of leather is barely 2" on each side. (look at the top image of the previous post)

This is not rocket science! I have owned the bag for only 24 hours and have already redesigned two features at almost no cost in adoption by the factory.

I'd also make the bag 3" deeper from front to back. So it matched the manufacturer's claims. Just don't tell the Nelson Trading Standards Officer first! Sale of Goods Act anybody?

I carefully measured the inside of the curved side panels of the bag: 19cm at maximum stretch in the middle. 16cm wide at the bottom. 13cm wide at the top. Measured over the edge piping the maximum side panel width (outside the bag) is just 21cm in the middle. Still far short of the claimed 23cm.

The narrowness of the opening makes loading far more difficult than it need have been. With the stiffening dowel and the unruly Longflap getting in the way the mouth is not nearly as large as it ought to be. More like feeding a wide mouthed toad than a basking shark. Had the bag not lost 3" in (claimed) depth one could have dropped a whole row of loaves into the maw. In its present dimensions a postman would feel much more at home with the Camper.

The low position of the bag allows the full height of the extended Longflap bag design. Without the rear of the overhanging saddle getting in the way. Only a trike allows this low position. The rear wheel of most normal bikes would get in the way. Requiring the bag be fitted on a rack of some kind. If not to traditional saddle loops. Racks add considerable weight and have some doubtful reputations online. Saddle loops often leave the bag hanging at weird angles. Angles which threaten to empty the entire contents onto the wet road. Even if you so much as glance at the lid restraining straps.

The low C-of-G of the loaded bag probably helps trike stability on corners. Though at the expense of greater frontal area and more drag in headwinds. The bag now sits in the turbulent air from my flailing calves. I haven't heard any good ideas for slimming cyclists' legs for lower drag. Except by shaving them of course. (There's a drag joke in there somewhere) But then, nobody uses a large saddle bag in a Time Trial. Do they?

If I go on improving the appearance of the trike I may even have to repaint it! Replacing the original transfers/decals are the only reason I haven't done so already.  

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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