TOPEAK MIDLOADER FRAME BAG
Frame Bag 3 Litre 196g (as tested) (3 month test)
The Topeak Midloader Frame Bag has won me over with its ability to carry surprisingly heavy/bulky items without affecting the bike’s handling, or indeed profile. Characteristics that have been every bit as welcome, hustling through the concrete jungle, as forest trails and unmade roads. If fame size allows, I’d steer you toward its 4.5 litre sibling and you’ll want a dry sack for very soggy rides, too.
Pros: Simple, user friendly design, copes with surprisingly heavy loads.
Cons: Water Resistant, so needs a dry sack for very soggy rides.
Boils down to a lightweight but very rugged Polyethylene/Nylon mix. The main fabric is water resistant, but not proof (and it’s debatable whether any fabric truly is, without taped, welded seams and additional lining). A solid base is designed so the bag will hold its shape and works with the various Velcro straps to minimise sway. Staying with the straps, there are 5. Ours was the Khaki, but black might be a better fit for some folks.
The 3 litre version attaches to the top tube (45-66mm) via three relatively thin straps, two beefier, generous counterparts tether it to the seat (28-60mm) and down tubes (38-70mm). I’ve run some clear protective tape around the frame, to defend against tan-lines and it may be necessary to prune excess strap, especially on smaller compact geometry framesets.
Since we’re on the subject, frame luggage can consume one, possibly two bottle bosses, so measure carefully, or be prepared to find alternative ways of carrying water/fluids. The 3 litre version measures 37cm long, 12cm deep and 6cm wide. If you were looking toward its 4.5litre sibling, I’ve been advised that 54/55cm framesets should be fine, without obstructing bottles/cages.
Now the Zippers. These feature elasticated tags and run either side for super-convenient access and shelter beneath a flap for some additional protection from the elements.
My long serving, mile munching rough stuff tourer is based around a 17inch (41cm) cross country mountain bike frameset, built in 1997. It will just manage the 3litre without loading compromise, although I’ve had to forgo the seat and down tube bottle cages. I needed to cut the down tube strap-not too precisely, just in case. Bear this in mind, if you are planning on porting it between bikes of different heritage/sizes.
Mid-loader designs are intended for heavier items and while I haven’t felt the need to fill it to 6.5 kilo capacity, I’ve managed a 2-kilo lock, butane cannister, several inner tubes (neatly bound), mid-size pump, multi tool, CO2 inflators, chain lube and other little nick-nacks I might want quick and easy access to.
Even carrying this load, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lack of sway, nor have I needed to ride bow-legged. I’ve adjusted the strap tension twice in the space of three months. Here's just enough give to allow the bike to be carried by the top tube-say when lifting it onto its vertical storage hook or tackling more technical terrain. One morning, I was astonished to hit 62mph down a local 1in7, the bag fully stable-no bounce, bob, or sway.
Water Resistance 2.75/5
Ours has been a permanent feature on my tubby tourer these past few months and being ridden daily, I can say it's good, rather than great. As some will justly point out, sheltered by the top tube and rider contents are better protected from rain, snow and spray. For the most part, I’ve had no problems with the stock setup. However, on two separate occasions (both in very heavy rain) the bag had obvious signs of water ingress-most notably at the end of a three-hour ride.
Soggy neoprene pouch and liner gloves. Having emptied the contents, I hung the mid loader out in the airing cupboard, and it was dry in a few hours. Subsequent outings in intermittent rain and the fabric dried convincingly given a couple of dry hours and a moderate autumnal breeze. A dry sac, though not essential is a wise choice for the darker, wetter months and has solved this problem. Store branded models are cheap and effective, but a heavier duty bin bag is better than nothing.
Several months daily service and there’s no obvious signs of wear/deterioration, save for some light, oily patina, which I think adds character. Oily spatter and other miscellaneous grime seem easily dismissed with a quick shot of Rock n’ Roll miracle Red (link) agitated with a medium stiff brush.
If you’ve got it really scuzzy, following an extended gravel/bike-packing event, machine washing at 30 degrees with minimum detergent will work wonders. Zippers can be a weak-spot but these are really user friendly-easily operated with full-finger gloves and I’ve been able to whip out caps, liner gloves etc while riding along. Straps and Velcro remain in rude health.
In terms of pricing, the Topeak is very much at the lower mid-point but still faces some stiff competition. Lifeline Adventure Frame Bag comes in at £19.99 and boasts welded seams and waterproof construction for a mere £19.99. Its 2 litre capacity may also be a better choice for riders of very small frames. Passport Bikepacking Bicycle Frame Bags start at £29.99 for a 2.1 litre model, made from 210 denier nylon and a 500D Tarpaulin body compartments keep things segregated and the fluro liner makes things easier to spot.
The single compartment design won’t suit everyone, and it lags behind some budget models when it comes to water resistance. However, it is lightweight, user-friendly and surprisingly stable when quite heavily laden.