Review: Carradice SQR System

Product: Carradice SQR System| RRP: £26.95

The bag and SQR system in full effect - carrying around 10kgs of luggage with ease.

The humble, venerable saddlebag is, and has always been, a great way to carry moderate loads on a bike. The bag sits neatly in the slipstream of the rider, high enough to avoid being snagged on gateposts and undergrowth (if you’re riding off road) and out of the spray and grime (when you’re on the tarmac). Traditionally, saddlebags are attached to the bike by straps which thread through saddle loops on Brooks saddles with another strap which wraps around the seatpost, meaning that you don’t need a rack, keeping your bike a little leaner when you’re not toting a load.

The problem

One downside with traditional saddlebags is the faffing around involved in attaching a reattaching them. Another is that many modern saddles don’t have the necessary saddle loops to attach a saddlebag. Step up the SQR system from Carradice, which makes removing and attaching the saddlebag a two second affair and also allows a traditional saddlebag to be carried on a bike without saddlebag loops.

The solution?

A close up of the rear of the bag with SQR metal frame attached. See how the existing leather straps attach the bag to the frame.

The Carradice SQR comprises two main parts; a strong, rigid, powder-coated steel bracket to which the saddlebag is attached using it’s standard leather straps; and a tough ABS plastic bracket that attaches securely to the seatpost with two stainless steel bands. The bracket contains a spring loaded retainer which means that, once attached, the bag and bracket cannot break free.

The bracket attached to the seatpost. Two 6mm allen bolts tighten the stainless steel bands against the seatpost using the same type of tightening mechanism as a drop bar brake lever. The red button at the top operates the spring loaded retainer that keeps the frame and block firmly attached to each other. Simple, secure, strong and effective.

Two sizes of stainless steel bracket are available; the standard bracket s fit seatposts from 25mm to 32mm, while the oversized version fits post sizes 32mm plus, therefore ideal for folding bikes with large diameter seatposts.

The attaching and detaching procedure is simple. To attach, you just offer up the bottom rung of the bracket to the slot at the bottom of the seatpost bracket, pull back the red spring-loaded retainer, drop the bag into position and release the spring. Detaching, as they say in instruction manuals the world over, is the reverse of attaching. Bottom line is that it’s quick and intuitive.

Once detached, another neat feature becomes apparent when you’re carrying your bag into work/college/shops. The black metal frame incorporates a black webbing carry-handle, making bike to workplace portage a cinch.

If you’ve got more than one bike, you can buy additional seatpost brackets, meaning you can hot swap your saddlebag from bike to bike. The SQR metal frame fits all the bags in the Carradice range, from Barley (tiddly and small!) to Camper (freaking huge!) and other traditional saddlebags that are designed to fit laterally across the bike attached to the saddlebag loops.

Other solutions

The SQR isn’t the only quick release option for traditional saddlebags. Carradice also market the Bagman, which is a more traditional saddlebag support with a quick release. This also allows non-loop equipped saddles to mesh with saddlebags. However (though I’ve never used one) the attach-detach system doesn’t look quite as slick as the SQR and the rack remains in position when the bag’s not on the bike. It does however, give the bag some support at the bottom, which some riders  with low saddles, might appreciate. For me, however, with my high saddle, it’s not an issue.

The boat-cleat trick

A quirky  DIY approach using a boat cleat bought from a marine hardware shop (that I’m too chicken to try), but it might work for you! Check out the YouTube link.

Summary: A simple, tough, cleverly though out solution to a generations-old saddlebag toting problem.

Rating: theeverydaycyclist double thumbs up (that’s pretty darn good)

Link: www.carradice.co.uk

NB: This is a non-sponsored, honest to goodness, ‘I use this every day’ review – not some rehashed product press release.

Back on board, shellac, twine and Carradice Camper Usefulness

Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...
Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...

It was with unbridled joy that I climbed back on board Resurrectio for a dreamy ride down into town and along the waterfront yesterday evening. You know, one of those rides were the wind always seems to be behind you and you just want to keep on rolling. I left the house with the intention of maybe riding down to the Pier Head to take in the sights; the Three Graces glowing in the evening sun, the sleek Isle of Man-bound catamaran, rolling gently on the current, the photographers setting up long exposure shots as the sun set. But I just had the urge to carry on, brisk but never hurried. I cycled through Albert Dock and along Otterspool promenade, blissfully traffic-free, all the way to Aigburth before cutting home through Wavertree; all in all, a ride of about 15 miles, by my crude reckoning.

The ride also gave me a chance to take some snaps of my convalescence handicrafts.

Here’s my twined and shellacked bar-tape trim – hemp twine and two coats of amber shellac.

Here’s my twined kickstand – looks nice, in a rustic sort of way, and protects my cranks from knocks.

How about my gear-cable keepers? Much nicer that wrapping the cable inside the tape for a few turns, to my eye.

And here’s my twined aluminium water bottle. This took a lot of hemp twine and a fair old amount of shellac. Grips nicely in the bottle cage and turns an overtly sporty looking item into something altogether more nostalgic.

Here’s a picture of the whole ensemble, glowing in the evening sun (that dipped below the Welsh hills across the Mersey just a few moments later).

And finally, here’s a picture that follow up on my recent Carradice Camper Longflap review, to illustrate its usefulness and load carrying ability. Today I was faced with the prospect of carrying laptop, charger, two video cameras, digital SLR, lunch, commuting gear/tools and a large heavy duty tripod back into work. The quitter in me was reluctantly saying ‘take the car’ but then I thought “Wait a minute…”

So it was; camera bag on back, laptop, lunch and commuting gear in the Carradice, tripod trapped and strapped under the generous lid. All this and there was no need to deploy the Longflap. Once underway I didn’t notice it was there (just had to remember not to squeeze between tight gaps on the way to the station!

Feels good to be back on the (newly beautified) bike.

Beating the No-Bicycling Blues

The sorry lack of posts over the last few days have been due to one inexorable truth – it’s been No-Bicycling Week here at theverydaycyclist HQ. No it’s not some new government initiative – a stinking cold has rendered the bike a sorry spectator instead of principal protagonist in the drama of daily life.

Resurrectio, waiting patiently in the hallway for his master to regain full cycling functionality.

What makes things worse is that last week’s miserable, wet and windy weather has been replaced with still air, clear skies and 17 degree temperatures. The temptation to ride is great, but I know that riding the bicycle today will set my recovery back two days (the stairs in work were a tall order yesterday).

However, I can use this enforced downtime to carry out some essential maintenance. Resurrectio hasn’t had a good wash and relube in a while, and that bar tape could do with a fresh coat of shellac.

Also on the agenda is some more craftsy stuff – I’ve got some leftover cloth tape, that’ll be just enough to wrap the right hand chain-stay to replace the frankly hideous, yet functional, Lizard Skinz neoprene chainstay protector. I’ll wrap and then shellac the chainstay and it’ll end up looking just like the handlebars above.


Are you lookin' at me? Walz, wool and a wary expression.

I may finish it off with some twining (if I can find some decent hemp twine). If I’ve got enough, I’ll also tape, twine and shellac my kickstand so it doesn’t gouge my left hand crank. A little like this.

So, when my body gives me the green light for riding, Resurrectio will be ready (and a little more beautiful). Hopefully, in this way, I can beat the no-bicycling blues.

Also, when I’m recovered, I’ll have my rather excellent tweed Walz cap to enjoy on those wonderful autumnal rides on the bike path.

Right, I’m off – there’s chores to be done.

How to Commute by Bike: Resisting the Urge to be ‘Epic’

There’s a stubborn, almost militant vein that seems to run through die hard commuter cyclists in the UK (and no doubt other cultures where cycling isn’t a statistically major form of transport). In contrast to our northern European counterparts, many of us (myself included) seem to treat our daily commutes as acts of individual heroism, especially when (as has been all too apparent of late) the weather takes an inclement turn.

Exhibit A - an 'epic' commuter steels his jaw to the rain

Let’s contrast the approach of the UK cyclist and his Copenhagen counterpart. Exhibit A (above) is someone who I snapped one morning during some particularly nasty Manchester weather. Note his gritted teeth, knitted brow, earnest look. There’s no doubt that, at least in his mind, this is one ‘epic’ commute – a two mile journey that Shackleton would no doubt have been proud of. Mr Epic of Manchester here is not an isolated case. On rush hour roads throughout the country, you’ll bear witness to countless other display’s of grit, fortitude and determination. Piece them together, make a slideshow, dub-over Barber’s Adagio and you’ve got yourself one tear-jerking montage sequence.

Exhibit B - How can riding in the rain look so happy and care-free? (photo from Copenhagen Cycle Chic - http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com)

Contrast this picture of grimness with the snap above, taken on a similarly rainy day in Copenhagen (pic from the excellent Copenhagen Cycle Chic). Despite similarly inclement weather, our subject is sailing along to her destination with the calm, relaxed aura of a two-wheeled Zen Buddhist. Note the altogether more pragmatic approach to weather protection! The task in hand is the same, the weather conditions are similar. So what’s the difference?

Of course the difference is obvious for anyone who knows about cycling in Copenhagen. Over there, bikes are a dominant force in the city centre. Proper facilities and a critical mass of cyclists on the roads mean that every journey is a more relaxed affair. Motorised traffic is separated from cyclists to a degree and, when they meet, the sheer volume of cyclists on the roads forces drivers to relent. These factors in turn have a soothing, calming effect on cyclists – they ride slower (no need to ‘compete’ or ‘keep pace’) – their shoulders relax. Their chosen form of transport isn’t a badge of resistance, a fight to be fought. It’s just the best way to get around.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of Sky Ride city rides this summer and have experienced an albeit artificial, fleeting microcosm of that calming, strength in numbers phenomenon. Okay, these rides are on closed roads, however, one can still experience the relaxing effect of riding amid large numbers of other riders. The imperative to ‘push on’ disappears, no matter whether you’re a pootler or a training-junkie. The urge to be ‘epic’ disappears.

So how has this experience translated to my daily commute? Do I approach my commute in a less do-or-die, militant, ‘epic’ fashion? Well I certainly try, although years of programming are hard to erase. On a particularly rainy commute earlier in the week, I was caught in a torrential downpour just after leaving the railway station. The immediate urge was to press on the pedals harder and get to my destination (around 3 miles away) as quickly as possible. However, another thought struck me moments later – “What would I do if I was walking right now?” The answer to which was, “Why Eddie, I’d take shelter under something large until the rain eased off, that’s what I’d do.” And so I did. Hardly a mind-bending, paradigm shifting notion, I grant you, but the amount of grim faced bike commuters who soldiered on through the deluge as I sheltered bore testament to the fact that the primal urge to take shelter has been somehow lost on UK cyclists.

As it happened, I still got pretty comprehensively drenched, but I feel I made my first tentative steps to being less epic and more aligned with those blissful, almost mythic, riders of Copenhagen.

So, faced with a deluge, what would you do? Press on with stiff upper lip or take five and take shelter?

Take our ‘Am I Epic’ Test

How to Commute by Bike: The ‘Faster Than Walking Mantra’

Let me introduce what I call the Faster Than Walking Mantra – my time-honoured technique for short-hop, ‘dressed for the day’ cycle commutes. The Faster Than Walking Mantra (herein referred to as the FTWM) helps you to overcome that deeply imprinted urge to get your daily commute over with as quickly as possible, to treat your ride to the office like a PB attempt. Why do we feel the need to commute at breakneck pace? To keep pace with cars? To feel the burn? To ‘get our adrenaline fix’? To give in to the speed-demon on your shoulder will result in that uniquely attractive ‘steaming like a racehorse look’ upon arrival at work, which will make packing a change of clothes a necessity (lose 10 minutes) and will create A DIRE NEED FOR SHOWERS IN THE WORKPLACE – the lack of which seems to be reason #1 to give up on the idea of riding to work forever.

Instead chant the FTWM. On your next commute, I urge you to try a slow, loping cadence, akin to the pedalling style of the Amsterdammer. Rather than doing battle with wind resistance, just do enough to preserve your momentum. Don’t gauge your progress against the cars passing by. Don’t pay any heed to the numbers on your cycle computer (leave it at home/cut the wires if it helps). Take solace in the fact that, for the same effort level, you’re loping past walkers at around three times their speed. Try where you can, to avoid steep hills and when you can’t, resist the urge to stomp up – even if you gear down and spin up, you’ll still beat the pedestrians on the pavement. Ditto headwinds – don’t fight them, cos they’ll win. Chant your FTW mantra (silently in your head if you prefer), adopt your best Copenhagener attitude and just keep it rolling.

Our mantra is also helped by dressing sensibly – ‘dress cooler’ is sound advice. If you’re a bit chilly when you start out, you’ve probably got it right. I see cycle commuters in full dayglo motorway-maintenance-style hi viz jackets in the height of summer, and can only wonder at how much fluid they lose on their two mile spin to work…

To put some numbers against our FTWM and give you some perspective, a car commuter in the city will be lucky to attain a 12mph average speed. The guy on the bus will be lucky to average 10. A pedestrian will be lucky to hit a dizzying 3mph. Most moderately fit people can amble along on a bicycle at around 9 mph without breaking a sweat, even warm conditions. Follow the FTWM and you can ride to work in your day clothes without arriving like a sweaty wreck, just like you would if you drove, walked or got the bus. After all, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Resurrectio goes to… Sky Ride Birmingham

Sky Ride Birmigham detours through the Rag Market to the sound of drummers (the chaps in blue)

Resurrectio, my faithful all rounder bike, has had another outing this weekend, a trip to arguably British bike manufacturing’s heartland, Birmingham. Britain’s second most populous city today played host to the final Sky Ride of 2010, and saw 15,000 cyclists cycle an 8.3km loop from the city’s Cannon Hill Park to the city centre and back, including a loop through Birmingham’s indoor market (pictured above)

Resurrectio basks in the afternoon sun of Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham.

Resurrectio took it all in his stride, as one would expect. Here he is, amid the hustle and bustle of Cannon Hill Park.

I was there to report on the event for British Cycling (in my day job capacity). Check out the report here…

Long Term Review: Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag

I’ve owned a Carradice Camper Longflap saddle bag for almost 18 months now, so I thought it was about time to share my experiences of this capacious, rugged and unashamedly traditional item of bicycle luggage.

Carradice is one of Britain’s longest established cycling-related companies, based in a small factory at Nelson, in the heart of Lancashire. A small production team churn out traditional canvas bike luggage which is shipped around the world to discerning bicyclists. Carradice produces other, modern offerings in Cordura and PVC, but it’s the classic range of canvas bags that is Carrdice’s stock-in-trade.

The Carradice Camper is a saddlebag in the traditional sense – a capacious bag that sits laterally across the bike, attached to the saddle loops of a traditional saddle (e.g. a Brooks) and to the seatpost (Carradice also markets a number of alternative ways of attaching its bags to bikes without saddle-loop equipped seats – The SQR system and the Bagman). The traditional saddlebag differs from current trend for panniers, slung low on a front or rear carrier, or a rack top bag. Take a look at archive pictures of tourists and day riders and you’ll see wall to wall saddlebags from makers like Carradice, Karrimor and Brooks.

The Camper Longflap is the largest of Carradice’s traditional saddlebags, with a huge internal capacity of 24 litres – to put this into context, the same capacity as a single large rear pannier. At the other end of the range is the Carradice Barley, a shrunken version for lightly loaded day rides, with a 9 litre capacity. In between, there’s a huge range of different capacities available, all fashioned from thick waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas, with leather straps, proper metal buckles and a wooden internal dowel to stiffen the top of the bag. The Camper (and indeed many of Carradice’s saddlebags) are available in two colourways – black canvas with off-white straps or olive green canvas with honey brown leather straps. Either choice looks great – especially on a classic looking bike.

To give you an idea of what will fit in the Camper Longflap here’s a list of things that I regularly taken with me with room to spare:

  • Full toolkit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Pump
  • Rain Jacket
  • 14 inch laptop
  • Laptop Power Supply
  • Sandwich box
  • U Lock
  • Magazine
  • Spare clothing

The two outer compartments make short work of the tools and spares, leaving the main compartment free for office stuff, clothing, stuff you like to keep clean. But that’s not the end of the Camper’s TARDIS-like trickery…

Hey, why the Longflap?

The Camper Longflap (and its smaller cousin, the Nelson Longflap) share a simple and cunning feature that has the ability to vastly increase its load-lugging ability. Undo two press stud fasteners on the waterproof, double thickness lid and a further section of lid plus two longer leather straps reveal themselves. This allows you to stow larger, wider loads like tents, sleeping mats, folding stools, tripods, bushels of hay etc, between the main body of the bag and the lid. This feature means that, rather like an ant, the bag can effectively carry loads much larger than itself.

Some may find that a large bag like this may need some support from below, preferring it to rest some of its weight on a rack. However, I find that having the bag suspended from the seatpost effectively eliminates its contents from road shock, meaning that I have successfully carried a laptop computer to and from work for the past eighteen months without so much as a hiccup.

Some riders switching from a pannier setup may notice that the bike’s centre of gravity feels raised, especially when riding out of the saddle. However, stay in the saddle and the load is very close to the rider and its weight seems to disappear. A positive side-effect of the bag’s placement behind the rider is that it doesn’t catch the wind, is out of the worst of the rain (provided you’re using mudguards) and is also out of the way of undergrowth when riding narrow, bramble lined trails.

18 months on, my Camper has become an integral part of my daily commuting setup. It’s just beginning to take on that vintage feel – a bit of road dirt, a slightly sun faded look and some leather strap beausage – I suspect it might start to look truly vintage at the same time as I’m due a hip replacement – suffice to say that these bags are indestructible; they get better with age and are easily repairable with a needle and cotton. You can also re-proof them with a tin of special stuff from Carradice (or some Nikwax).

I have chosen to attach my Camper Longflap to the bike using Carradice’s excellent SQR system, which attaches to the seatpost (reducing stress on the saddle and the seat clamp) and enables one to remove and reattach the bag in seconds, rather than faffing with straps. (I’ll post a separate review of this excellent device).

To sum up – 18 months in, with any other item of luggage, I’d probably be looking at a tired, ready to replace item. However the Camper and I are just at the beginning of a very long life together.

More information: www.carradice.co.uk

Original post: https://theeverydaycyclist.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/carradice-camper-longlap-saddlebag/