The humble traditional style saddlebag is making somewhat of a comeback in recent years, what was once de rigueur on English touring and town bikes is once again becoming commonplace. The simplicity of mounting, compactness and reasonable capacity make it very easily adaptable to almost any sort of bike; there is no need for any special braze on eyelets or racks, you only need saddlebag loops on your saddle and that’s about it.
The largest style saddlebags such as the Carradice Camper can fit up to a respectable 24L, the smallest saddlebags such as the Brooks D-shaped bag only fit some spares and a patch kit.
The most well known saddlebag manufacturer is of course Carradice of Nelson, England. They make the quintessential English saddlebag; although their product range now features lines which are modern and innovative, they still produce their Originals line which is effectively an unchanged design nearly a century old, I am the proud owner of two of their models myself. There are many other makers of this style of saddlebag such as Gilles Berthoud, Ostrich and Minnehaha just to name a few.
The subject of this review is a relative newcomer to the market, Zimbale which is the brainchild of a group of South Korean cycling enthusiasts. Their bag, the 2.0L saddlebag is one of their smallest bags and can be used either in it’s orthodox position attached to the rear of the saddle or alternately on the front hanging off the handlebars.
The size of the bag is about right for a day trip, you could easily fit a wind jacket, some snacks, a tool kit and maybe a book or two. The construction of the bag is more or less the same as the traditional type; the bag is made from waxed canvas with leather buckles and a wooden dowel at the mounting point. The cylindrical shape is closed by a zipper with a flap which buttons over the top providing a more or less waterproof bag. Waxed cotton is a durable, waterproof material so this bag would be perfect for storing not so water friendly objects like phones and wallets during a ride in the event of a surprise downpour.
The face of the bag also features a reflective triangle just like the Carradice bags for safety. I tested the bag over the course of a week or two on both the front and back. When it was on the front, it was in concert with a Carradice Nelson mounted on the back. This provided a nice convenient place to put things like my phone or snacks which could be easily grabbed at hand. The width of the bag was just about perfect for my 42cm wide bars.
Installation is very straightforward if you have a saddle with bag loops on it already like most Brooks saddles have. If not, you can get adaptor loops which clamp onto the saddle rails. The bag itself doesn’t exhibit the tendency to sway because of the small size, unlike larger bags which require a secondary support underneath such as a rack or what Carradice sells called a Bagman. My only criticism is that the bag doesn’t hold it’s shape, which could lead to a problem with smaller bicycle frames or people with their saddle height set low; items in the bag can cause it to then sag and rub on the tyres. On this bike (see photo) it was not so much a problem because it tended to rest on the front mudguard.
Overall it is a nicely made and reasonably priced alternative to other saddlebags. The workmanship is top notch and installation was a breeze. Compared to the Carradice saddlebags, they are near identical in performance, design and construction, although there are some slight differences in the details such as the style of the buckle. The style of the bag would particularly suit it to a vintage ride, however it is also available in a black version with brown buckles which would suit a more modern bike. Saddlebags are a very practical style of bicycle luggage that hit a sweet spot between bulk and compactness, the Zimbale 2.0L is on the smaller side but is perfect for day trips, it’s small enough to not have to have the issues of larger saddlebags but big enough to fit essentials.
Zimbale bicycle bags are imported into Australia by Joad Sportz Supplies and are stocked by Bicycle Shops Australia-wide. The zimbale 2.0L has a suggested retail price of $85 making this particularly affordable. You can enquire with Joad Sportz Supplies regarding your nearest dealer: www.joadsportzsupplies.com.au