Monday, July 08, 2013

WW4M: Bike Bag Dude's "Chaff Bag"

Note: I am not really too keen on doing "product reviews" on this site, (that's why I have the other sites), but I know this blog has a lot of readers that may wonder "what works for me" and what doesn't. So, I've come up with a series that will allow for my recommendations called "WW4M", (What Works For Me"), and here's the first one....

Chaff Bags on the front of the Fargo at Odin's Revenge
 BikeBagDude's "Chaff Bag":

There are some rides that call out for some specialized equipment. Take loaded, over-the-road touring as an example. You've got your various "traditional" bags, like panniers, trunk bags, and maybe a frame bag. But the one item I learned was perhaps the number one most useful bag for touring was a good handle bar bag. Those things could hold your maps/cues, your sundry items like sun tan lotion, maybe a wind breaker, and what I found to be a revelation: Food!

Man- I'll tell ya what- being able to dig a handful of trail mix up while cruising down the open road was an awesome thing. I even stashed a water bottle in my handle bar bag for easy access. It was easily the best thing about my touring set up back in the 90's.

Now days- there has been a revolution in touring called "rackless" set ups. Inspired by bike packers and Tour Divide racers, "rackless" touring is a system of bags that attach directly to a bicycle's frame, handle bars, and seat post. Eliminating the racks and lightening up the bags with more high tech fabrics has resulted in a huge weight savings over my cumbersome bag and rack set up that I used back in the day.

While handle bar bags are still awesome, there is a more "minimalist" way to get to the basic functions of a handle bar bag without the weight and bulk of a traditional handle bar bag. Enter the "Chaff Bag" by BikeBagDude.

While you and I are aware of a similar bag from a well known bag maker, the Chaff Bag is probably lighter and definitely more minimalist in design. Here you have a cylindrical shaped bag, lined with a contrasting color for visibility inside, with a drawstring type closure for the opening and a system of three Velcro straps for attachment. That's it!

While that may sound so basic it's stupid, it is actually pretty brilliant. (At least for me.) Recall that I was most enamored of my old handle bar bag for the ability to carry food and water and make those items easily accessible. Well, the Chaff Bag does this very well.

The design of the Chaff Bag is such that the inner diameter of the bag easily handles a traditional water bottle- so it is an easy way to get another water bottle, (or two if you have two Chaff Bags), on your handle bars for super easy access while riding. The second thing is that the Chaff Bag is just big enough to get your entire hand inside of it, (unless you wear over a Large sized glove, then maybe not), so you can easily scoop a load of Gummy Worms out for your ultra-long ride you are on. (Or energy bars, gel packs, and hamburgers- you get the idea!)

You could also do a camera, a wind breaker, or heck....use your creativity and come up with new ideas. The Chaff Bag is a small little open palette for you to figure out a use for it. Me? I am all about food, so I liked the "grab bag" aspect best.

All that versatility is pretty much worthless if you can not actually make use of it while you are riding. The Chaff Bag is good on that point with its three point attachment design which stabilizes the load and makes the bag rock solid on the bike. Here's how it could work on almost any bike:

The two loops of hook & loop fabric near the opening are for attaching the bag to the handle bar, or you can do as I did and put one loop around your stem, one around the bar too. That secures the bag well up top. The lower, super long hook & loop strap can go around a down tube or maybe even a fork crown. (Just be sure you do not have any interference issues with the tire and consider your need for mud clearances as well.) I hooked my lower straps around the down tube of my Fargo.

Contrasting inner liner color.
In Use:

I put two Chaff Bags to the test on my recent Odin's Revenge attempt. I decided to use one looped to the bar and hanging off the front of the bars, and the other looped to the stem and bar facing backward off the left side of the stem. Both long bottom straps were attached around the down tube. One Chaff Bag held a traditional 20 ounce water bottle and the other held a mix of Fig Newtons and Trail Mix.

The Chaff Bags were simply brilliant in use. I could easily open the bag with one hand, reach inside, and either grab the bottle or a scoopful of nutrition and not have to struggle with that in any way. (Of course- one must choose a good stretch of trail/road for one handed riding! Use yer noggin' here!)

Closing the bag was easy. Grab the draw string and yank vigorously straight upward. Those bottom straps pay dividends here. Then push the excess top down and you have a tight, spill free container which is rock steady on the bike. The bottle side I simply left open and used as a "cup holder", if you will. Simple and very stable, even with a full water bottle on board.

The Chaff Bags have proven their worth to me from my experience at Odin's. The roads were rough, and especially so in the dirt sections at times, but the Chaff Bags did not budge, shake, or move out of place one millimeter. Very impressive. Even my hamfisted grabbing of grub did not displace the bag. For good measure, I left the Chaff Bags on the handle bars all the way out and back on the car rack and bouncing around in the bed of my truck. No issues. Nada. These work great for me.

Chaff Bags are available direct from Australia from BikeBagDude for about $60.00 each plus shipping. The bags I have weigh 60 grams each. Options for colors abound, so check them out.

NOTE: The BikeBagDude Chaff Bags were purchased by special arrangement between myself and BikeBagDude. I was not bribed nor paid to talk about these products. I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout this post.

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