This is the bag at the center of it all. The bicycle frame bag is the most essential of bikepacking bags because it maximizes the carrying capacity of your bicycle with minimal impact on riding characteristics and aerodynamics. Frame bags offer the optimal centered and low position for storing your heaviest items. Beyond bikepacking, framebags are a great bag for all-around day ride adventures and bike commuting.
Finding the right frame bag for your bicycle can be challenging, especially for small bicycle frames and full suspension mountain bikes. Perhaps you are lucky enough to own a bicycle with a standard frame bag made for it. But if not, this guide is here for you to help you navigate through matching your bike up with the best choice or determining if you should go custom.
Full vs. Half vs. Front or Rear
A key differentiator is whether the bag fills all or just some of the frame area. Amongst partial frame framebags, the most common style are bags that run along the top tube. Other partial framebag styles include bags that wedge into the front of the triangle and bags that wedge up where the seat tube meets the top tube.
Full frame bags are great for full maximizing the space that a bicycle frame offers. Partial frame bags are much easier to fit to more bicycles. Partial frame bags also allow room for water bottle cages to still be used and can be preferable if the large volume of the full frame bag is not required.
[Framebag Design – 3 Images: Full, Half, Front]
Pockets and compartments are mainly found on full frame bags. Most full frame bags have a small pocket for smaller items. Some full frame bags are divided into and upper and lower compartments.
The side pocket on a full frame bag is definitely nice for storing smaller items that would otherwise get lost in the large cavern of a frame bags. Frame bags divided up into an upper and lower compartment are helpful for organization and especially for making the most of the lower area of the bag. On the other hand, having a nice big, cavernous opening can come in handy for shoving larger items into your frame bags.
[Compartments: 1 Image: compartment/pockets]
Most frame bags generally use a heavy-duty zipper to get in and out of their various compartments and pockets. There are some that use a roll-closure for accessing the goods. For those using roll closures, they generally only have one large compartment.
Zippered closures are generally more user friendly. But for long term wear and tear, roll tops last indefinitely.
Some frame bags are made with lighter-duty water proof zippers. However the durability advantages of a heavier duty zipper, even though it is not fully waterproof outweigh the advantages of a weaker water proof zippers.
[Closures: 2 images. Rolled & Zipper]
Frame bags are attached with straps, bolts or cords. While straps are the most common way to go, bolt on setup are becoming increasingly common for a cleaner fit, though this style will only work with bags made for specific bikes whether bulk produced or custom. Cord closures on the top tube are a cool looking solution as well.
[Attachment: 3 images: Straps, Bolts, Cords]
Sizing Framebags to Bikes. Road Geometry vs MTB Geometry and When to Go Custom
Bike Specific vs. NonBike Specific vs. Custom:
Bike specific frame bags are made to fit specific bicycles. Meanwhile non-bike specific framebags fit a variety of bicycles. An example of non-bike specific is Revelate Designs Ranger which is designed to fit common mountain bike geometries. And the Revelate Designs Ripio which is designed for common road (& gravel) bike geometries.
For some bicycles, neither of these options will work that well. In these cases, custom frame is the way to go. Custom frame bags are commonly the only option for full suspension bikes and are often the way to go for any uncommon style of frame. Getting a custom frame bag for ones bike not only is a way to get a perfect fit, it also can be a great way to get a bag with a variety of other custom features built in to your needs.
Matching Up a Frame Bag to Your Bicycle
[Matching Up: 1 Image: Someone Installing a Bag on Bike]
Using Framebags: Bikepacking, Touring, Day Rides, Commuting
Framebags have become a ubiquitous bag because they offer such an optimal place to store gear. Framebags offer an ideal location for storing ones heaviest items while bikepacking. They are also great for day rides as an ideal place to store all of your everyday essentials from tools to food to extra clothing. Framebags are also quite handy for bike commuting, offering a perfect spot to store your lunch.
Frame bags can take plenty of abuse when used on long trips. The most common failure point seems to be on the zipper, which is why some bags have opted toward a roll top zipper.
Other than the zipper, frame bags enjoy long lives, being well protected within the confines of the bicycle’s frame. Given their cavernous nature, when used for transporting food or small items, things can get lost in the bottoms of them, requiring an occasional cleaning out.
[Issues: 1 Image: Dirty Frame Bag]
Frame bags that are strapped on can rub against the frame over time, wearing out the finish or in the case of carbon fiber, even wearing into the frame. When frame rub is a concern, protecting the frame with something like Revelate’s Frame Saver tape will eliminate this potential liability.
[Frame Rub: 1 Image: Frame Tape]
The problem of knee rub can occur for some cyclists. There is a decent amount of variability in gap between knees from one cyclist to the next. For those with narrow knee gaps, knees rubbing on the bag can be a problem. Frame bags do have different widths. And how they are packed can substantially increase of decrease their width.
For cyclists with narrow knee gaps, being mindful of how a frame bag is packed is a great starting point. In some cases, selecting a frame bag for narrow width or even having a custom bag built may be necessary.
[Knee Rub: 1 Image: Knees Near Frame Bag]
Are They Waterproof?
Frame bags are typically not waterproof, however they are naturally water resistant. There are some waterproof frame bags such as Ortlieb’s frame bags. However Ortlieb’s frame bags only come in a limited selection of sizes.
In general though, framebags are in decently protected from the rain by the rider above them and the bicycle frame around them. However for things that require complete protection from water, they cannot be fully relied on. Whether it is the sewn fabric, the zipper or aspects of the attachment point, framebags other than Ortlieb are susceptible to a small amount of moisture making its way in.
Framebags We Offer
Here at Campfire Cycling we offer a great selection of frame bags.
[Framebags we Offer: 1 Image: Our Frame Bag Display]
Here are some great other sources for learning about bicycle frame bags:
- Bikepacking.com’s Guide to Custom Frame Bags – This is a great overall reference on framebags. Comparable to our guide, this article comes from a custom bag perspective.
- Bikepacking.com’s Neil Beltchenko Video on Custom Frame Bags and A Rogue Panda Review –
- Bikepacking.com’s DIY: How to Make A Simple Framebag –