ZEFAL IRON PACK 2 S-TF
105g (as tested) 0.5litre £21.99
Zefal’s Iron Pack 2 S-TF is the little sibling in that range of seat packs. The TF range shares many of the characteristics of the DS range which has Velcro mounting system, as opposed to the TF plastic bracket. Whichever you prefer, the Iron Pack range offers performance in a variety of contexts. I’m not known for going ‘light-weight’ but with the limited capacity in the range, the discipline has probably done me good.
Pros: well-made and easily portable.
Cons: technically not waterproof.
The whole range is made from Polyester 420D TPU. Nothing too radical there, however it promises ease of care and a long, robust life, with good resistance to oil and other bike-grime. The bag is not technically waterproof – the zip isn’t and the seams are not welded. On the other hand, there’s a thorough baffle along the zip, and our small model was generally sheltered by the saddle. With mudguards things look pretty safe; without, construction still bodes well.
Half a litre capacity is just about as low as you can go (medium comes in at 0.9 litres; there is not a ‘large’ in the range. A small mesh pocket adorns the inside of the opening flap. Beyond that, there are no further frills.
The plastic mount should fit most saddle rails, although there may be issues with suspension seat posts.
Finally, there’s a light loop and a little reflective detailing.
On the subject of the mount, the Iron Pack range offers a choice of ways to secure the pack to the saddle rails: plastic (TF) or Velcro (DS). Debate can drag on about the merits for road riding, gravel, off-roading etc. Generally, people have their own preference. On the whole, for rougher riding, I prefer a more solid fixture – so I’d go for the TF for off-roading and gravel. On the other hand, the DS may move a little more, but that, to me, is hardly significant with small bags – even when weighed down by tools etc.
A quick glance at the TF bracket shows that it is not symmetrical. The groove on one side is slid onto the saddle rail. The whole bracket is then twisted, so that the more rounded corner slides in. Push the whole firmly until it is lodged securely between the rails. No release levers; no hex-head bolts; no Velcro loops; no fuss.
It has fitted on all the saddles in my fleet; Soma Okami, Bobbin Gents Leather, Brookes B17, Velo Orange Touring. The exception was the bizarrely sprung item on the Pashley Roadster; but who’d put a modern wedge-pack on that!
Generally, my saddles sit with the clamp pretty much under the centre of the saddle. For the TF bracket to work well, you really do need sufficient space to push fully in.
Does it stay on? Really well. I’ve not dislodged it on gravel rides or over un-anticipated speed bumps.
The fabric is machine washable. Zefal say as much about the Iron Pack 2 M-DS. Mind you, having the hard, plastic bracket whizzing around at a fast spin precludes me from further machine washes. In any case, a wipe with a rag and a drop of Rock ‘n’ Roll Miracle Red, or some other cleaning fluid, has done the trick after messier rides.
Water resistance 3.75/5
Waterproof fabric with very good stitched - not welded seams - is likely to be enough for all but hell 'n' high water riders, or those who frequently cross rivers. Zips are often the weak point, but the Iron Pack's baffle make this effectively waterproof, in all but exceptional circumstances. Emptying the watering can over it has not caused any ingress. Moreover for most people, it will sit under the saddle so well defended - even better with mudguards on you winter trainer.
Well, half a litre is not much. Tube, small multitool – such as LifeLine’s 18in1 – tyre levers, and CO2 cannister, is about the lot. Compared to the Iron Pack 2 M-DS the main absentee was the micro pump. Still, that’s easily fitted to the frame or secure in a jersey pocket. The point is, that the Iron Pack 2 S-TF is very much for the minimalist; probably the day-riding speedster – even the Iron Person. However, I like the relatively stubbier shape, which allows for easier packing of tools etc, except for a very micro-pump.
Wallet, phone, and snacks have been stowed in jersey pockets. Be prepared to protect them if it rains.
Overall Performance 3.25/5
This has been very good. On day rides, especially in good weather, it has carried the vital tools -apart from the pump. I say “good weather” simply because there’s been no need for a rain jacket, not because of any lack of trust in its ability to repel the rain.
At first sight, the light loop looks to be angled a little on the low side. The Sigma Mono holds on securely, but ‘O’ ring fixture droops lower than would be ideal. Heavier, rigid-bracketed models offer a potentially better option; even better, light and rigid.
Around the same size is the VEL Waterproof Saddle Bag. A little cheaper, but probably more suited to trail riders than roadies – no light loop. Less rugged, but seven pounds cheaper, is Passport’s Frequent Flyer Wedge Pack. Even cheaper are a whole range of store branded packs. Paying more for the well-made Zefal Iron Pack is not a problem.
Personally, I’d be inclined toward the medium size (read our review of the Iron Pack 2 M-DS), especially of porting between bikes or being lumbered with group mechanic duties. There’s simply more space for a pump and a multitool with more functions.
Overall, this is a well-made bit of gear at a reasonable price. If you are looking for an aerodynamic, minimalist bag for basic tool on fast day rides, training, or on a TT, or such like, then it is well-worth a look. Tourists wanting to keep things organised will probably go larger.