Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunks Reviewed

Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk in the XL size here.
Banjo Brothers is a Minneapolis based concern that sells quality bags for bicycles at reasonable prices. The shop where I work has carried their line for years and I also have used their products previously to great success. They are good eggs, those Banjo Brothers. Not sure they actually pick a banjo or not, but the bags.... Nice.

So, this is a review of two versions of the Waterproof Saddle Trunk. The regular version I've had since last year, the XL version I've had now since early Spring. Both saddle trunks are made similarly, it is just that one is much larger in capacity than the other. I bet you can't guess which one is bigger. (!!)

Anyway, here is the lowdown on each model.
  • Designed to fit on nearly any bike
  • Webbing loop on top for attaching a rain jacket or other gear (XL version only)
  • Waterproof main compartment
  • Outer pockets offer easy access to contents
Each model features a removable PVC-ish liner that attaches via snaps  and that is the "waterproof" part of the bag. This is nice since you can get it out to clean it or remove it to lighten the bag for times you don't need the waterproof feature. I suppose it also allows you to wash the fabric part of the bag easier as well. The "outer pockets" on these are minimalist. Don't expect to put much of anything in them. A key? Yes. Maybe some money? Yes. The main idea here is the cavernous interior which can swallow a lot of cargo.

The "regular" sized Waterproof Saddle Trunk. As seen on my Ti Mukluk
The "Regular" sized waterproof Saddle Trunk was used all Winter on my Ti Mukluk. I could get a nice amount of stuff in it,despite its size. A fat bike tube, (Really big!), an extra layer, and a pair of over mittens all would fit in there fine along with a mini pump and some tools.

The "XL" bag is more like a Tour Divide, "let's get away" type of a deal, in my mind. It is ginormous. I can easily put rain pants, a rain jacket, a tube, a repair kit, and some odds and ends in there and I still have room to spare. This is the bag to get if you have to haul a change of clothes to work, or if you want to carry an iced down 12'er to the fire works display. The waterproof liner will allow that.

Both models feature roll tops that close via straps and snap buckles. The bags attach via straps with plastic buckles and a hook and loop strap that goes around the seat post. The straps are adjustable, and I can cinch down the load and get kinda rowdy without the bags wagging around back there very much. They move, for sure, but I don't notice it while riding. For the money, I don't see any issues with that facet of these bags at all.

I used the regular sized Waterproof Saddle Bag all Winter
So, one is bigger than the other. Cubic inches don't mean much to me. I took some images to maybe help you figure it out. As stated above, I believe the XL would be best suited for bike camping, bike packing, or for a 12er of beer.

One is Regular, one is "XL". Guess which is which. Sidewalk is 4ft wide for reference.
The liners snap out for easy cleaning.

Each model is reinforced with plastic and aluminum.
Okay, so there are a few images for reference here. The liners are heavy PVC-like material and have snaps at the mouth of the bag which allows you to remove them and replace them with ease. There are a number of things this allows you to do, so use your imagination. The number one thing that came to my mind was that this makes for an easier clean-up and maintenance of these trunk bags should be a snap. (Pardon the pun.) Notice the sewn on loops of fabric at the back flap of the bag? Those are for a blinkie. You use the one facing rearward depending upon how much you roll the back end shut.

 I will admit that I have used and I own other seat trunks/bike packing seat bags and this Banjo Brothers stuff is by far the heaviest. That is not necessarily a bad thing either. I'll get to that in a bit. However; first off I will give you the hard numbers. The XL Waterproof Saddle Trunk weighs 730 grams total, 610 grams without the liner. The Regular Waterproof  Saddle Trunk comes in at 510 grams and 430 grams sans liner.

Impressions: The plastic inner liner makes for the waterproof characteristics of each model here and I can say that this characteristic is true in usage. The Regular saddle trunk went through an entire Winter's worth of snow, rain, and slushy commuting here without as much as a drop of moisture entering the bag or affecting its contents. I am quite satisfied that I could ride in most anything and have dry contents using either bag. The negative to the liner is that it adds weight and rolling the opening shut is a bit more difficult because the two layers- inner and outer bag- make the combination stiffer to handle. You can get the job done, but it takes a bit more patience than it does with high end saddle bags for bike packing.

Although the XL bag is big and long, I found it to be rather stable.
There are a couple of plastic, rectangular rings on the top side of the XL bag that allow you to lash on extra cargo. Maybe a rain jacket, or baguette would go there for you. It is a nice option for that item that you want to carry but don't have the room inside the trunk for to get it home.

The bags can be loaded up and cinched down tightly so that the cargo doesn't cause the trunk to sway or move much at all. Kudos to the reinforcements that Banjo Brothers added to the bags to give them structure. This decision makes extra external stabilizing straps unnecessary and simplifies the trunks so that they are easier to mount on a bike and to use. Yes, it adds weight, but in general, ease of use and performance of the saddle trunk trumps a super light weight saddle trunk for me. I happen to own one, a lightweight bike packing unit, and it has worse stability and is more fussy to use. Consider also that the XL Waterproof Saddle Trunk goes for around $65.00 and the Regular sized one for about $45.00, and you can see that you get a lot of bang for the buck here. Other seat packs run $125.00 and up.

Conclusions: The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunks are good values. You get a product that is durable, easy to use, and does what it promises. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get into these but don't expect a lightweight, super-featured bag here. These are simple, "get er dun" type bags that will allow you to be hauling stuff or maybe trying out bikepacking for little cash outlay. Sometimes that is more than enough. I'd wager most times it is.

Note: I bought one of these bags with my own damn money and the other was sent to me to review by Banjo Brothers at no charge. I was not paid nor bribed for this review and I strive to give my honest thoughts throughout.

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