ZEFAL ADVENTURE R5 WATERPROOF SADDLE BAG
The Zefal Adventure R5 Waterproof Saddlebag is the baby of their adventure range and marketed as an alternative to rack luggage for day rides/training, rather than bike packing and my feelings mirror this. Those looking towards bikepacking proper are probably better served by its 11 litre sibling (review to follow). That said, it’s solidly made with no annoying sway-especially on narrower seat posts, so a good choice for older mountain bikes/converted to gravel duties.
Pros: Well-made, rugged, rigid and highly water resistant.
Cons: 5 litre better suited to day rides than bike packing; single compartment; LED tab could be improved.
As its name suggests, the R5 is a 5 litre model measuring 37 x 7cm x 175 x 130cm, made from heat sealed, 420 denier polyester with a double TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane laminate) layer providing the water repellency.
Access to the compartment is via a quick release nylon buckle. Peek inside and you’re met with a red nylon pocket/liner. This also features a welded TPU laminate coating, so waterproof in the everyday, rather than bog snorkelling sense. Theoretically, this overcomes the need for a separate dry sack. It certainly curried favour with me.
Atop the bag are two Velcro straps (which will also double as a parking spot for light jackets/gilets, such as the 7Mesh Cypress Hybrid Jacket .The single post-mounted strap is made from Hypalon, which is a durable sulphonated polyethylene commonly found in industrial and automotive applications. Single strap models can be less effective at combatting sway than twin strap counterparts-especially on bigger bags.
However, measuring 5cm wide, continues the solid narrative and inspired confidence. Externally Stitching is neat and uniform. The sides are flanked with white Zefal logos, breaking up the black and offering some minor reflective presence. There also an LED tab around the back, which is a nice touch but depending on the load being carried, often resulted in a light’s beam being projected downward, rendering it ineffectual. However, this will depend somewhat on the model and lens profile.
Probably the fastest, faff-free design I’ve used to date, meaning it has an edge if you were looking for a design for commuting or day rides, club runs etc. Feed the saddle rail straps through and click them into place and pull through to adjust their height. Then post strap through the buckle, tug it tight while pressing it down firmly on the Velcro. Reduce any slack in the rail straps and you’re now ready to load. Aesthetically, it’s very neat with no stray lengths to flap around. I’ve left the rubber “shim” on narrower, 25.4 and 26.6 posts, giving the strap some additional purchase, especially when its wet.
As before, I’ve gone for my Univega and fixed gear winter/trainer. Both are obvious choice, for different reasons. For the uninitiated, my Univega frameset hails from 1997, where sea tube sizes were anything but standard. Cross country mountain bikes from this era are being reinvented as 26” wheel gravel bikes complete with drops and knobbly tyres.
My fixed gear winter trainer is essentially a cyclo-cross bike with track ends and spacing. It usually sports a suspension post, which are becoming increasingly common sights on gravel/adventure builds. The Cane Creek Thud buster ST (series3), Redshift Sports Shockstop Suspension Seat post and most recently, the Kinekt 2.1 Suspension Seat Post being the three I’ve the R5 with. Thus far, no issues with the Redshift and Kinekt, although the Passport Cycles Bikepacking Seatpack was a more supple, so aligned better, with the Cane Creek’s profile.
That aside, the Zefal’s compact profile hasn’t interfered with a fast cadence, and crucially, my feet haven’t fouled it, when dis/mounting swiftly.
Being a single compartment, this needs to be done intelligently - heavier, less frequently required stuff at the bottom, lighter staples up top. In the commuter stakes, it will manage a U-lock, change of clothes (folded very neatly) a spare tube, multi tool etc. Smaller capacity aside, the relatively rigid fabric doesn’t allow for the same expansion as those with thinner 210 denier walls-something to note if you are carrying sleeping bags and similarly bulky kit.
By far the most stable model I’ve used and indeed, tested to date. I was a little sceptical of the single strap to start with. However, this has held, limpet fashion. No bob or sway when climbing out of the saddle, especially when tackling winding singletrack and bridle ways. Sure, I’ve had to nip it a little tighter, once a week, assuming I’ve been riding the host bike daily. These bags are designed for lighter loads but give the heavier fabric, I’ve fed ours 3 kilos without any sway, or slippage. As an everyday bag, like the Passport, the relatively slimline profile means it’s equally at home sneaking through congested traffic as winding forest tracks.
As I said; we are talking water resistant, rather than waterproof in the literal sense, but waterproof in the everyday sense. I’ve left ours in situ when giving the bikes a sudsy bucket wash and though the outer fabric got soggy, contents remained dry-I might pop clothing/similar in a plastic bag as a precaution but no call for a dry sack. Once sodden, it took several hours at room temperature before the outer fabric dried out. Riding sans guards, the fabric will get basted with whatever’s adoring the road/trail.
Provided it’s not been allowed to cake on, this easily dismissed from the laminated underside, using a damp cloth. If gloop’s reached the impacted state, this can be brushed out using a stiffer bristled brush, such as the Green Oil Bicycle Brush and a shot of bike wash. In the everyday sense, I’ve regularly ridden for a good couple of hours in persistent heavy rain with no problems whatsoever.
Three months down the line, there’s no trace of bobbling, fraying, or similar deterioration anywhere. The lack of zippers also rules out potentially vulnerabilities there, so no reason to think it won’t last.
£54.99 is competitive with the Passport, but that, and several others, offer greater carrying capacity and would arguably be a better introduction to bikepacking. The Alpkit Fiana has a 12 litre capacity, is made from 490d nylon and twin post straps for £39.99. The 6 litre Topeak Backloader is £54.99 and features a waterproof inner dry sack (10,000mm waterproof rating). Merida Travel Saddlebag large comes in at £64.99, features a whopping 21.25litre capacity, maximum 5 litre payload, lightweight, waterproof ripstop nylon construction.
Swings 'n’ roundabouts come to mind. Given the design brief, the smallest Zefal Adventure does exactly what it says on the tin and do a decent standard. A good alternative to racks for day riding/similar duties, I’ve only noticed ours I the most positive sense, although the LED tab would benefit from revision.
Bottom line, it depends on your needs. Those seeking a bike packing bag that will double as a commuting/training option are better served by something larger but if you’re predominantly doing long steady day rides, with a travel-light bike packing session every now and then, the R5 is well worth a closer look.