For some time now, There She Rides has been on a quest to find the perfect rack-top bag.
Of course, perfection is a quality peculiar to the individual. Let’s face it, someone chose to wake up next to George Osborne every morning.
But I digress.
My perfect rack-top bag needs to be:
1. Easy and quick to fix to the bike and remove in a hurry. What I refer to as ‘easy-on-and-offable’.
2. Sufficiently rugged to survive a few falls and to fix to the bike without discernible wobble or rattle.
3. Durable enough to take a lot of handling in a daily commute
4. Able to take a rear light and blinker
6. Expandable but (this is important) not too bulky. I do not need to look as if I am preparing to ride across the USA when all I want to carry are some work essentials and a change of clothes.
7. Out of the way when a short woman, already at full stretch, attempts to fling her leg across the back of the bike to climb aboard.
After a lot of research and a bit of experimenting, I believe I have found my perfect bag. If your checklist is similar to mine, then I can recommend The Arkel TailRider Trunk Bag. And if you are waking up next to George Osborne every morning then I recommend you take up cycling. And keep pedalling.
The TailRider is made in Quebec and as far as I can tell, built to withstand attacks by bears. So confident are the manufacturers of the durability of the material used in its construction that they provide an extra swatch with the bag and a little challenge to see if you can cut or tear it. Come on…if you think you’re hard enough.
The bag is made out of Cordura. If they could find a way to use this material in the construction of British roads, we could all stop worrying about potholes. The zips are all covered for weatherproofing and the whole thing is insulated.
The TailRider has a massive, cavernous opening. The whole top unzips and lifts backwards, to allow you to cram-in lots of stuff. Cleverly, the top itself also incorporates a sort of gusset allowing it to expand sufficiently to stow a cycle helmet for instance.
There is one internal divider (attached by Velcro and therefore moveable) and five handy internal net pockets, useful for quick access to keys and money. At either side there are roomy external pockets but unlike other bags I have tested, when these are not in use they don't cause a lot of unnecessary bulk on the bag. In other words when I ride the bike, the widest thing on there, is me.
Fixing is via four Velcro straps. I have had problems with these straps on other bags. The Velcro itself is fine but they aren’t stitched to the bag well enough and soon pull loose. Not these. They are made in Quebec, remember and I would be prepared to bet that, should a hungry moose attempt to snatch your TailRider in search of sandwiches, those straps won’t budge.
(* I haven’t actually tested this with a moose but I can confirm that they are spaniel-proof)
The straps will work with Arkel's Randonneur Seat Post Rack but it certainly isn't essential for you to have this rack. I have a perfectly ordinary and considerably less beautiful rack and the TailRider sits on there without a problem.
Arkel have thoughtfully included tabs on the back of the bag to take lights/winkers and have also incorporated reflective strips to aid visibility. There is a brilliant raincover, too, tucked away invisibly, snugly-fitting and accessed in a second. Another bag I tested had a cover rolled in one of the inner pockets but it only fitted if you had both side panniers extended and was a pain to get back into the pocket. Arkel’s cover is like a bright yellow shower cap with super-strong elastic around the edges and it snaps back when not in use.
It’s worth mentioning that although the TailRider includes a chunky, cushioned carry handle running the length of the bag, it does not include a shoulder strap. Rings to take a shoulder strap are provided and a strap is available as an optional accessory. I have cannibalised an old Samonsite camera bag for the perfect strap.
In my TailRider I will typically carry:
A puncture repair kit including spare inner tube and surgical-style gloves
A mini pump (just fits in a side pocket)
A notebook approximately A5 size and some extra paperwork if I am riding to work
Change of clothes (I usually keep spare shoes and toiletries in the office) plus lightweight wind/shower-proof jacket
Purse and phone, plus portable charger if it is a long ride
Sandwiches, two banana muffins, a can of diet coke or bottle of energy drink, a packet of emergency jelly tots and a couple of those little ice-pack things that you can get for lunch boxes
A neat folding rubber cup that I bought from a camping shop. For use with the painkillers
Antihistamine cream and eye drops
The TailRider weighs 660g and expands to about 15L capacity.
The TailRider is not cheap, especially in the UK where it is available only as an import. I got mine from bikefix.co.uk and it ended up costing £95.