ZEFAL ADVENTURE R11 WATERPROOF SADDLE BAG
6745g £59.99 3-month test
The Zefal Adventure R11 Waterproof Saddle Bag is the R5’s bigger brother, and a smart choice for those looking towards more serious gravel/bike-packing duties. The single post strap design is both aesthetically neat and eliminates sway, even when hauling several kilos. It’s proven superior to some twin strap models, especially on bikes with narrower post diameters.
Pros: Rugged, waterproof, user-friendly design, stable, good detailing.
Cons: Single compartment less convenient than those with a side access.
The R11 is a single compartment model measuring (at max capacity) 56cm x 150cm x 170cm and expands between 5 and 11 litres.
Materials follow a similar, solid narrative to the R5, but the R11 is more than an R5 on steroids. Heat sealed 420/620 denier polyesters are durable and highly water-repellent features. A roll top closure and sturdy TPU liner continues these narratives and does away with the need for dry sacks (although I still might go that route, as a default precaution in hell n’ high water contexts). As with the R5, access to the main compartment is via two quick release nylon buckles, which are user friendly, even wearing full finger winter gloves.
Some found the black/red livery a little 80’s but I consider it timeless and very practical. Easy to keep clean and the liner and straps, being red, the straps are easily spotted, albeit arguably less obvious than with fluoro yellow.
A single post strap may raise some eyebrows, but measuring 5cm and made from Hypalon, a polyethylene commonly used in automotive contexts, I’m pleased to report its up to the job, even subjected to the heavier end of the bag’s 5-kilo maximum payload.
Not that I’d want to be hauling that kind of load too regularly. After all, these are designed for light, bulky loads, such as clothing and sleeping bags. Heavier items belong in frame fit luggage, such as the Topeak Midloader .
Detailing is similarly good elsewhere. One of the biggest boosts is the serrated tabs, which means LED lights are easily positioned for optimal effect. Though there’s not much in it, they’re a little better than the Passport Cycles Bike Packing Seat Pack . I've found lights a little quicker to fit and more secure on the Zefal.
Last but by no means least, we have a small cargo net to capture that overspill - great news for rat-packers and those moments when you just can’t be arsed.
Not quite effortless, but the generous strap means fitment and removal are faff-free. Run the saddle rail straps through, click them together and tension to adjust their height and bring it snug to the saddle. Run the post strap through the buckle and draw it tight, while applying even pressure to the Velcro. Check and remove any sneaky slack, then load. Repatriating it when laden (at least with 2-3 kilos) is still relatively straightforward, thanks to the beefy materials and bolt single strap.
A moot point for semi/compact geometry framesets, in terms of exposed post, but for the record, 10cm bare minimum.
I’ve had no problems with smaller diameter posts, which is great news, especially if you are porting between bikes (such as an old cross-country mountain and contemporary cross/gravel biased build). The lack of exposed, flappy strap is another definite plus on the aesthetic front. Suspension posts shouldn’t present any compatibility woes either, but worth checking first. I’ve had no problems with Redshift Sports Shockstop Suspension Post and Cane Creek Thudbuster ST are anything to go by. However, the Kinekt 2.1 Suspension Seatpost took a bite from ours.
The R11 will expand between 5 and 11 litres but while the walls are very secure the fabric walls are thicker, so less supple than models such as The Passport Cycles Bike Packing Seat pack.
These also have useful pockets riding shotgun either side-perfect for stashing multi tool, spare chain links, keys and other things you might need quickly to hand. Again, no problem if you are running a bar/stem/top tube bag, such as the See Sense Handlebar Bag or Passport Top Tube Pack.
I’ve popped in a very heavy chain lock, change of clothes, gloves, arm/leg warmers, lightweight jacket, cap, sleeping bag, ground sheet, and related stuff without any hint of indigestion - if there was, I’d simply slip the jacket, cap and other things I’d need easy access to, beneath the cargo net.
Sway has proved nominal - laden to 3.5 kilos - even when I’ve been dancing out of the saddle on my fixed gear winter/trainer. Following neatly behind, its doubled as a very reliable mudguard-especially when expanded to 9 litres. As might be expected, protection really only applies to the rider, but this made a tangible difference to my comfort on cold, wet and decidedly wintry rides.
The payloads described demanded a quick tweaking of the post strap every few rides-especially when I’d been doing longer, mixed terrain rides on my Univega. Pared back, between 5 and approximately 7litres (in everyday riding mode), I didn’t notice it, and it's been great for impromptu, bulky purchases, hauling lightweight, bulky stuff to the post office and similar little errands.
Talking of which, when its fully expanded, a little more caution is needed when dis/mounting, to avoid catching it with your feet. I’ve tended to lean the bike in a more exaggerated fashion, which raised a few eyebrows but worked for me.
I’ve been out in some wild and filthy weather and have been mightily impressed with how well the fabric has kept the elements out. Sans mudguards and when subjected to a tsunami of wet gritty stuff thrown up by the rear wheel, ingress has remained firmly outside, and it passed my garden hose torture-test with flying colours.
A dry sack, or bin bag would be a good precaution if the forecast’s looking apocalyptic.
The fabric seems a little easier to keep clean, compared with the R5, which is another small but welcome bonus. A quick blast of bike wash agitated with a medium stiff brush, rinse with fresh, clean water-done.
Thus far, the fabric has shrugged at the usual everyday carelessness - encounters with thorns and other foliage have made no impression on the fabric or straps and while the lack of a zipper might make quick access to a tool, or tube, tricky, there’s nothing to fail, further down the line. The R11 also responds well to sudsy bucket and soft brush cleaning. However, ours is showing some abrasion damage, where it has rested against the Kinekt 2.1 post for eight weeks and approximately 800 miles.
To some extent, this depends on how we measure things, but £59.99 is competitive. The Passport Cycles Bike Packing Seat Pack has a large version with a 9.8 litre capacity and two external pockets for £70. Topeak Backloader 10 litre is water resistant and includes a dry sack and an air-release button so you can compress it a little smaller.- £69.99. Merida Travel Saddlebag large comes in at £64.99, features a whopping 21.25litre capacity, maximum 5kg payload, lightweight, waterproof, ripstop nylon construction. The magnetic clasp and zippered access are also convenient.
Bottom-line, the R11 is a well-rounded, stable and
competitively priced design. Though very fond of the R5, the R11 represents much better value, if you’re looking towards doing some proper bike-packing but want a model that will also compress quite small more general, everyday lugging duties.