Karen Voyer-Caravona is an admitted bicycle dilettante in Flagstaff, Arizona, who blogs about her adventures on two wheels, vÃ©lo envy, her husband’s cooking, and cross country skiing at www.sheridesabike.com. Visit her Website for her endless opinions on the most stylish shoes for pedaling, critiques of bike parking, and the best bike date dining destinations.
I have several bike bags and panniers to choose from depending on which bicycle I'm riding and where I plan to go.
For work or shopping I need a fairly roomy bag to accommodate my needs for the day and any purchases that I make. However, when I'm off to a movie or out to dinner and drinks with my husband Bob, I'd much prefer to be unencumbered by a lot of things to haul around. I've used small, nylon, under-the-seat saddle bags in the past, but found them pretty unsatisfactory because they tended to suspend clumsily from the rails, sometimes even drooping upon the tires under the weight of the bag's contents. The lightweight, rigid, EVA constructed MudRacer Saddle Bag by Ortlieb appeared to be an ideal solution.
The MudRacer comes in three sizes: extra-small, small and medium. I tested the medium size, which I immediately appreciated because it fit all the items that I consider indispensable: cell phone, lip balm, key, camera, ID and debit card and a multipurpose bike tool.
I tested the fit and it was perfect. The smaller sizes probably would have worked for someone who only wanted to carry around a bike tool, an extra tube and perhaps a set of keys. The medium was just large enough to carry some personal items along with me without feeling unduly burdened off-bike.
Bob's recent review of the Lone Peak Rear Rack-Top Bag discussed the self-consciousness he experiences when having to carry a lot of unwieldy bike gear into bars and restaurants, and I share that feeling. The Ortlieb Saddle Bag would take up very little space on top of a bar or cafÃ© or dining table.
One of the things I that always impresses me about Ortlieb products is their quality construction and water resistance and this product does not disappoint.
The rigid construction means the bag doesn't droop or sag on to the tires during the ride and nothing gets squashed when struggling to tighten the straps more securely on the rails and seatpost as has been an issue with other saddle bags I've used.
The MudRacer is, in fact, more of an oyster-shaped case than a bag, with a two-way zipper located under the silicon hood, which prevents any rain entry. I gave it a drenching soak under the water faucet and found it watertight.
Failure to Attach
The Ortlieb MudRacer comes with easy to follow instructions (also available in PDF format on the company Website). The first thing that the instructions will tell you is that if your bike has steel coil springs at the end of the rails the MudRacer cannot be mounted.* The mounting system comes in three parts, two of which fit around the rails, secured by two one-inch Phillips screws. The system allows the rider to slide the MudRacer on and off a track affixed to the top of the product. Theoretically, the mounting system should be very easy to attach "“ if it actually fits to the underside of your saddle. This is where my problems began.
Of my three bicycles, only my Specialized Expedition has steel coils at the end of the rails so I immediately eliminated it as an option. No matter since both my Dahon Eco3 and my Breezer Uptown 8 both are coil free. The Dahon is usually my bike of choice for short, trips where I have little to haul and my first choice for testing the product. Unfortunately, the rails were about half an inch too wide for the mounting system. Regardless of whether I moved the saddle further up on the rails, the mounting system didn't was too small.
Next, I moved on to the Breezer Uptown 8. Yippee! The mounting system fit perfectly on the rails, although I needed to remove my seatpost from the bicycle in order to have enough room to tighten the screws with a Phillips screwdriver.
Unfortunately, there were still problems. My saddle is positioned on the rails such that I don't have to hunch over my handlebars. I prefer the most upright position possible. While it's not positioned all the way forward on the rails, its placement prevented me from sliding the mounting system completely and securely together. Additionally, the Velcroâ„¢ loop, which is supposed to stabilize the saddle bag on the seatpost, interfered with the suspension spring.
So, basically none of my three bicycles could accommodate the MudRacer. At a retail selling price of $38.50, the Ortlieb MudRacer should be able to accommodate the bike instead of the bike needing to accommodate the product.
I recently purchased a new power cord for my laptop. The power cord came with about six adapters to fit several different laptop makes and models. Obviously, bicyclists come in all shapes and sizes so we're all going to adjust our bikes for the best fit for the rider rather than fit for the gear. I don't think that the answer is to go with one of the smaller bags because they simply won't hold minimum number of small items I need on any ride. I suggest that in the future Ortlieb provide mounting system options for its saddle bag because it's otherwise a very good product.
*Note: Ortlieb saddle bag mounting straps are available (but sold separately) for spiral-spring saddles, which often do not have enough space for the hardware included with Ortlieb saddle bags.