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.

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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.

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/

MM (Multi Modal) Commuting

Combine the romance and practicality of rail travel with the romance and practicality of cycling and you've got yourself a winning combination.

Multi Modal travelling makes up the lion’s share of my cycling, usually combining the bicycle and train to get me to work. I live in Liverpool and work in Manchester – a car commute of anything between 1 to 2 hours on one of the busiest motorways in the UK, the M62. During rush hour, there’s usually a hold up of around 30 minutes at the halfway point and another slow moving queue near journey’s end. Every day there are accidents or near misses – it’s a game of Russian roulette – with ever decreasing odds. It’s a game I try to opt out of as often as possible.

By contrast, my bicycle/train commute is serene, civilised and predictable. I ride to the railway station – a leisurely journey of around 20 minutes – grab a ticket and a coffee, stow the bike in the cycle area aboard the train, then find a seat for my rail journey of around 45 minutes. In this time I can do anything I like – listen to the radio, read, blog, stare vacantly out of the window, write my to-do-list for work or make some phone calls. There’s none of the constant stress and anxiety one gets when driving to work.

Right now, I’m sitting on the train bound for a video editing training course in Nottingham. I’ve driven to Nottingham from Liverpool a couple of times before and each time, R.E.M’s song “Can’t Get There from Here” springs to mind. It’s a difficult, stressful journey combining the aforementioned M62, the busiest section of the M6 heading south from Cheshire toward the West Midlands and a nasty selection of A-roads taking you east towards Nottinghamshire.  Compound these facts with today’s wet, windy, unseasonal weather and you’ve got a recipe for suffering.

So instead, today I opted to travel by train, first riding into the city in the light early morning traffic (it’s 6:59am as I write this) to find a practically empty train with two available bike spaces. I’ve got the luxury of owning a Brompton, which is great for rail travel but today I’ve chosen the full sized bicycle – because I knew in advance that the trains I’d be travelling on have good dedicated bike spaces.

In terms of clothing, today’s wet weather throws up some serious challenges. I need to be comfortable on the bike, yet look normal on the train and during my training day. There’s nothing worse than being the sweaty, Lycra-clad sore thumb, especially in a situation where you’re meeting new people and just trying to blend in. So I’ve opted for a pair of jeans, a merino wool base layer and a merino wool t shirt. This gives me an entirely normal, everyday look but with the wicking properties of wool. On the bike journey, I rode through persistent drizzle, so I wore a thin breathable and waterproof jacket, with pit zips open. I rode SLOW, always resisting the urge to push hard on the ‘false flat into a headwind’ section of the route, coasting on the downhill sections and regulating my temperature with my front zipper. As soon as I reached the shelter of the station I took the jacket off, allowing my body to cool down, while I got my tickets and my latte – by which time my body temperature had returned to normal, I was sweat-free and busy finding the (empty) bike space on the Norwich bound train.

Luggage and how to carry it – today I’ve got my usual commuting gear (lock, pump, tools and waterproof) plus lunch and a 13inch laptop. All of this sits snug and dry in my Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag. This ancient wonder, born in a small factory in Nelson, Lancashire (and made by a lady called Priscilla – as evidenced by the handwritten signature on the label) is the best way I’ve found to carry commuting-sized loads. It mounts behind the saddle, either using the saddle loops on a Brooks saddle or, as I do, using a quick release SQR block attached to the seatpost. This neat device allows me to attach and detach the bag in seconds. The waxed cotton duck fabric is hard as nails and completely waterproof. As an added waterproofing measure, the bag itself sits behind the rider, sheltered from the worst of the rain and out of the way of road spatter (unlike a pannier bag). When I boarded the train and stowed the bike, I detached the bag in seconds and now it sits beside me on the seat where I can keep an eye on all of my gear.

Sure enough today, the MM Commuting Gods have smiled upon me (thus far) and not all MM days are this slick. I’ve had days when I’ve had to cleave a way into a standing-room-only train on a hot, rainy summer evening and stand swaying and losing my balance with every jerk of the train – all the while trying not to sully my fellow passengers with chain oil and road grime. Other days, my train has been cancelled, late or simply so full that the conductor has shaken his head and not allowed me on. However, for the most part, MM Commutes have been a calm, relaxed and very human way to get to work, and today is no exception.

Bike Luggage: Carradice Zipped Roll Coming Soon

The Zipped Roll - coming to a handlebar near me...

On it’s way in the post as we speak. For a while, I’ve needed a smaller bag that’ll fit on the handlebars or the saddle. I currently own a Carradice Camper Longflap which is excellent for toting the laptop and other commuting junk. But there are times when I want a light and unencumbered ride but don’t want to use a backpack or even worse – overloaded jersey or jacket rear pocket – there’s nothing worse than the ‘cyclist’s bustle’, as a friend of mine coined it.

The Carradice Zipped Roll is manufactured in Nelson, Lancashire from heavy-duty waterproof waxed cotton duck with thick leather straps and is 14cm x 30cm – the perfect size for day-ride essentials. Its roll shape is a lot more useful that the conventional saddle wedge shape and will equally at home on the handlebars or the saddle.

My current repurposed bar bag - originally a Swedish Army gas mask bag. We'll see how it fares against the bike specific Zipped Roll.

Currently I’ve got a repurposed Swedish Army gas mask/barbag as a bar but I’ve been toying with buying a Zipped Roll for a while. My original plan was to buy some Carradice leather straps to hold the Swedish bag on (it’s currently secured with zip ties which keep snapping and don’t allow me to remove and replace the bag in a hurry). However, the Carradice leather straps alone would have cost around £18 including postage, and I’ve got the Zipped Roll (which includes three straps) for £23. A no-brainer…

When the time comes for some overnight camping, I think I’ll be able to accommodate my full S24o kit using a combination of the Camper Longflap at the rear, the Zipped Roll at the front and maybe a stuff sack on the Nitto front rack – cyclotouriste style.

Watch out for a full review when the new bag arrives in a few day’s time.