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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Thoughts on ‘Fast’

When in comes to cycling, ‘fast’ is a slippery notion. Fast has been massaged by a cycle industry hell bent on making us all ride 16lb carbon bikes and dress like slightly porcine versions of Tour de France riders. ‘Fast’ bikes look fast standing still – they look fast in the shop and on the pages of magazines. Fast bikes are light, bright, hi-tech and brittle…

Fast? Yes, but is it relevant for real world riding?

But for mere mortals like me, riding to work, riding for relaxation, riding for fitness, I’m not convinced that riding a ‘fast’ bike makes me any faster. I’m not convinced that sport-infused bikes are relevant for real world riding, whether we’re talking about the daily commute or an all dayer in the hills.

This growing realisation has recently led me to give away my 20lb aluminium/carbon road bike. The bike had all the usual proto-race bike features -23mm tyres, tight clearances and a carbon fork. It’s also bright red. It looked fast and it felt fast; it felt light when you picked it up (something which always seems to impress non-cyclists and some hard-of-thinking cyclists who fail to factor in the effect of parking around 13st of rider on top).

With the fast bike gone this means that I’ll do 95 percent of my riding on a 30lb steel touring bike with 35mm tyres and high mounted drop bars. It’s green, it doesn’t look fast, it’s got full mudguards and a front rack – it looks like a classic road bike from around 1955. The italics are there to emphasise that back then, ‘road’ didn’t mean ‘race’. Clubmen and women would ride big distances on efficient, yet comfortable, bikes. The same bikes would be used for commuting, youth hostelling, camping and club runs.

A real world 'fast' bike - a vintage Rene Herse randonneur bike.
A real world 'fast' bike - a vintage Rene Herse randonneur bike.

Here’s some (admittedly anecdotal) evidence. I’ve ridden an extended commute from Liverpool to Manchester (around 37 miles) on the ‘Fast’ bike and it took around 2 1/2 hours, depending on the wind direction. I arrived rattled and stiff necked, with dirty fingers from at least one punture repair. I’ve done the same journey on the ‘non-fast-looking’ bike a number of times and it took, well, about 2 1/2 hours. It didn’t feel as fast (probably due to the 35mm tyres cushioning vibration – which we all associate with speed). I probably wasn’t going as fast up the hills – a 10lb difference ‘is what it is’, especially uphill, but the trade-off was marginal. But everywhere else I was just as fast – if not faster on the rougher sections of the route. The ‘slow’ bike was definitely faster when you take into account time spent at the roadside fixing punctures – an inevitable fact of life on practically every long skinny-tyred ride I’ve ever done.

As referenced earlier – none of this is groundbreaking stuff – it’s just that this unfashionable knowledge has been lost by the current generation of riders and manufacturers (save for an enlightened few). ‘Cyclotouristes’ have long known the zen-like joy of the efficient fat tyred road bike – with French manufacturers like Rene Herse and Alex Singer perfecting the ultra distance bike. These designs have been resurrected by modern day manufacturers like Rivendell, Surly and Kogswell to name but three, while the much ignored ‘touring bike’ has never really gone away.  Such bikes, to the untrained eye, look sedate – but are efficient, tough, comfortable and practical for a whole range of uses, from daily commuting to Paris-Brest-Paris.

Resurrectio - The Everyday Cyclist's weapon of choice.

To prove this, I’m going to pilot Ressurectio around a brace of Sportive rides this year. I’m not going to blend in among the peloton wannabes – I may even get scoffed at. I’m also fairly sure I’m not going to be the quickest but I never was on the ‘racy’ bike. But I’ve got a hunch that the time margins will be small and the comfort margins will be huge. And the bike that’ll carry me around the sportive course will also work faultlessly on the daily commute, the overnight camp and the fireroad trails.

Further Reading

Bicycle Quarterly has an excellent summary of the key features of the randonneur bike, and a excellent article on high performance fat tyres here. If more proof were needed, here’s another testimonial on what can be achieved on ‘cyclotouriste’ bikes.