There are seemingly endless options for bike packing luggage, but one area is often less than perfect, namely frame bags. Seat packs and bar-bags can be adjusted to fit most bikes, but frame bags are more problematic. Most brands therefore make do with half-frame designs to improve compatibility. Having just added a Salsa Cutthroat to the ADVNTR fleet I needed to source a frame bag for the Atlas Mountain Race. One of the Cutty’s key features is a front triangle designed for a direct-mount bolt on bag. The triangle itself is also shaped to maximise the size of bag that can be fitted. Salsa themselves have a range of framebags, but they aren’t available yet. This left me with a dilemma, it would be a shame to waste the space with a generic bag.
As I was going to use a seat-pack and handlebar harness from Straight Cut Design, I got in touch with Ross and asked if he fancied a challenge. Alongside their range of off the peg luggage, Straight Cut Design also produce custom pieces. Which it turns out includes direct-mount bags. The hardest part was going to be deciding which of the numerous options to go for!
Setting the wheels in motion
The process for ordering a bag is quite simple and outlined on the Straight Cut webpage. Having decided on the bag fabric and style, the next step was to take a side on photo of the Salsa Cutthroat with a ruler taped to the frame for scale. I emailed the images and details to Ross and let him work his magic. When the parcel from north of the border arrived, the contents surpassed my already high expectations. I could tell it was a quality product just lifting it out of the box. The first thing I noticed were my patches from various events, sewn on as part of the service with custom bags.
On the drive-side you can see two YKK Aquaguard zips, these give access to the two main compartments. It took my first night ride in Morocco to realise the zipper-pulls glowed in the dark! Handy considering the trouble I had with lights on that event!
The bag is kept rigid with three drilled plastic stiffeners and steel washers. When offered up the bag slotted in perfectly, it was simply a case of threading in each M5 bolt by hand and then working my way around gradually tightening each one.
I opted to have the main compartment divided into two. I asked Ross to make the top compartment deeper than normal so that I could fit more food and water in. As standard the bags come with a hose-port so I could store a larger water bladder if necessary. It also makes running battery cables to your lights and GPS a breeze.
On the non-drive side I opted for the additional small pocket. I find these great for tarp poles & pegs, or if racing, for keeping pump and puncture repair kit immediately to hand. For the fabric, I chose plain black VX21 for the side panels & black cordura for the contact panels.
A blue liner contrasts the black and makes searching the contents easier. While resisting dirt, leaky chain-lube bottles and the like better than a lighter colour. The hole you see is one of the eyeletted bolt holes. There’s also a drain-hole at the very bottom of the bag should a drinks container, etc. leak.
Pull at the corner of the top section and it folds away so you can use the frame-bag as one very large compartment. Velcro straps stop the centre of the bag bulging out and rubbing while you pedal.
On the bike
Straight after fitment I crammed the frame-bag with essential kit for the Atlas Mountain Race. The combination of the Salsa’s big triangle and Straight Cut Design’s craftsmanship made for a superb load lugging experience. The lower compartment swallowed up my emergency items, namely tool roll, spare parts, tubes and first aid kit. In the top went all the frequently used essentials, food, batteries, head torch and the like. With supply points few and far between I used every square inch for food. It’s a testament to the quality build and materials that no zips or seams burst despite rough treatment. An added bonus for the weary and fractious rider was the lack of annoying niggles. With no velcro and a rigid design, even when stuffed full the bag didn’t brush on my legs or cranks, or pluck at my shorts. It also meant the Cutty’s paintwork didn’t suffer from the usual rubbing from straps. At the end of the AMR, the bag looked decidedly second hand, caked as it was in dust, mud and suncream. But in five minutes, I undid a handful of bolts, rinsed it under the hose and it’s as good as new.
If you’re in the market for a frame bag then Straight Cut Design should definitely be on your list for consideration. The quality of materials and construction matches any frame bag I’ve used and outclasses off the peg options. By going custom you’ll get a product that fits perfectly and has all the features that you want.
Last modified: 14th April 2020