Apidura Backcountry Review, where we use the 9 litre handlebar bag, 11 litre saddle pack and food pouch on the backroads of India…
We got our hands on a bunch of bags from Apidura to use. These bags are from the Backcountry series of the London based bicycle luggage manufacturer.
We used the Apidura Backcountry 11 litre saddle pack, 9 litre handlebar bag and a handy little food pouch. These bags are designed in the cold climate of United Kingdom. We wanted to see how things hold up in the tropical and varying conditions of India.
To this end, we took the most ill-suited bicycle we could lay our hands on. A fully carbon Ceepo, made for road and triathlons. We then took this 25 mm tyre equipped bicycle on roads and paths it was never designed for.
If the bags could work on such a half-arsed setup, then it could work on anything. With that thought in mind, we set out for a few days of getting to know each other.
Apidura was founded in 2013 in the UK by Tori and Pierre, adventure cyclists who were looking for luggage for their own adventurous rides.
Tori Fahey, while riding the Tour Divide, realised she needed more specific bikepacking gear. And from that need, the idea of Apidura came to life.
Along the way top endurance athletes have taken part and won in some of the biggest self-supported endurance races in the world. Including, Trans Am Bike Race, Transcontinental Race, Tour Divide and Round-The-World record, amongst others.
They eventually developed the Backcountry series of bags, followed up by the Expedition series and finally the Race series of bikepacking bags. The brand and bikepacking as a lifestyle, coincidentally, have been growing at a fast pace globally since the last decade.
Apidura Backcountry Series Review
The Backcountry series of bags were the original bags from Apidura. These bags were light, easy to mount, secure, hardy and water-resistant. That last aspect making life complicated while touring.
The grey material you see on the bag is Dimension Polyant X-PAC VX21. It is a light, low stretch, and waterproof material. This fabric is a favourite for many bag manufacturers around the world.
The black material you see is Hyperlon, used in high abrasion areas. Hyperlon is a chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CSPE) synthetic rubber (CSM) which is known for its resistance to chemicals, temperature extremes and ultraviolet light.
You will see the Backcountry series primarily constructed of a combination of these two materials.
The question then is, if the material used is waterproof, why isn’t the bag? The stitching process at the seams can allow water to seep through with incessant rainfall. If you are expecting rains, then it would make sense to double pack your essentials before storing it.
Apidura Backcountry Saddle Pack 11 L Review
The first thing you notice when you get your hands on the Saddle pack is, how incredibly light it is. At just 350 g, it is significantly lighter than most bags out there in the market.
The second thing you notice, that the fabric feels like papad! That is the best description we can come up for this thin, light and crispy fabric.
The bag has a maximum length of 43 cm, which rolls down to 35 cm. The width of the bag is 17 cm and height is 15 cm. It comes with one Velcro strap to go around the seatpost. Two straps with plastic buckles on either side to roll down the bag and secure your luggage inside. There are another two straps which go through the saddle rails and ensure the bag doesn’t move.
You have to pack it like a stuff bag. Roll up your clothes tight and shove it down. Keep the heaviest things at the bottom of the bag. There is also a useful bungee cord on top for storing items which you want at hand. For example, your windcheater or rain jacket.
How Does It Ride?
One of the biggest problems with saddle packs are that it sways a lot. Especially with the larger capacities. You are attacking a corner and have a huge chunk of mass swaying the other way. Your bicycle at that time feels more like a rudderless ship.
This 11 litre pack had minimal sway. Once you figure out the correct way of fixing the bag. If you do it wrong, there will be some amount of movement.
At no point of time do you feel the bag hanging onto your backside, you kinda forget all about it. There are also a couple of loops for attaching your tail light. A useful feature considering your seatpost is no longer usable for a light. Though, we didn’t find this to work as advertised. You will want to either tape your light to the bag or pray that it doesn’t fall off. Because it did fall off, when we were riding.
For 11 litres, the bags accommodated a decent amount of luggage. Enough for a weekend ride. If you are planning something longer, you would be better off with the 14 or 17 litre packs.
One downside of these saddle packs are that they get filthy with the rear tyre throwing muck all over it. Then to take that bag inside your house or a hotel is icky. It would have been nice to have a jacket to save it from that disgrace.
Apidura Backcountry Handlebar Bag 9 L Review
The Apidura Handlebar bag is constructed from the same material as the saddle pack. As such, it has the same positives and negatives.
The handlebar bag is available in two sizes 20 litres and 9 litres. As expected there is a massive difference in size between the two. While the former is great if you are riding only a flat bar bike. The latter works better if you plan to use a drop bar bike as well.
We used the 9 litre bag. With drop bars, you cannot utilise even the full volume of this bag. The bigger bag would be overkill with zero fill! This bag weighs 200 g, opens out to a maximum of 53 cm and rolls to a minimum of 35 cm.
The bag comes with two straps equidistant from the centre, with a spacing of 13 cm from each. You want to ensure that the centre sits aligned with the handlebar stem. Another thing to keep in mind is packing the bag. You want to pack the heaviest items at the centre and roll it shut equally from either end.
This bag also comes with a bungee cord up front, to fasten any last minute knickknacks at easy reach while riding.
How Does It Ride?
If packed and secured correctly, the handlebar bag is a cool piece of kit to have. On a drop bar bike, you need to leave sufficient space for your hands when riding in the hoods. The cockpit of your bike will feel busy, once you attach your cycle computer and headlight unit.
There is enough real estate for you to operate your bike without hindrance. But it is difficult to shake the feeling of busyness, every time you look down.
Not a problem you would face with the 9 litre bag. But, with the 20 litre, you need to keep a check on the overall weight of your luggage in the handlebar bag. Too heavy a bag and it will make your steering feel lethargic and unwieldy. Keep it light and remain a happy gypsy.
A downside is that, mid-ride, if you want to access anything quickly from your bag. It becomes a pain to search and find it.
Apidura Backcountry Food Pouch
While the saddle pack and the handlebar bag are utilitarian, the food pouch is what we loved. You will use the big bags only when you are going touring or a hardcore endurance ride, be it brevet or race.
This food pouch on the other hand is something which grows on your bike to the point where you never want to remove it. It is perfect for you to store your snacks which you want to munch while on the saddle. You can easily open the bag with one hand and pull out the contents. If not food, you can also use this bag for storing tools, spares or anything else. We used it frequently for storing a phone, when not wearing a jersey with pockets.
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Is it worth spending your hard earned money on the Apidura Backcountry bags? Like most things in life, there is no absolute answer. It depends on what works best for you.
Here is the TL;DR list for you:
- Non tear and abrasive construction material
- Secure mounting points
- No sway in bags while riding
- Hardy and long lasting
- Reduced volumetric capacity in comparison to pannier setup
- The bags we tried would be too small for extended tours. Bigger bags would be better suited
- Cost. These bags are more expensive than the local competition in the Indian market.
- Not waterproof. The Apidura Expedition series is claimed to be 100% waterproof.
Buy these bags if you are looking at a bikepacking setup which will last you many years without pain. Don’t buy if you are looking for luggage systems on a budget.
Also read the difference between BikePacking vs Traditional Touring. And check out the ViaTerra BikePacking setup we used in Uttarakhand.