GearGals is all about gear that’s been designed and made for female outdoor adventurists. Technically, the Bike Bag Dude doesn’t have a female-specific range; instead, the Bike Bag Dude selects, designs and sews frame bag setups to meet customers’ needs and to fit the geometry of their bike.

So my Bike Bag Dude Frame Bag was custom-designed for my bike and the kinds of rides I wanted to do.

That’s customised as in: I emailed Kedan and Kath Griffin at Bike Bag Dude a photo of my beautiful two-wheeled friend (an out-dated 26-inch-wheeled Giant Anthem with a small, female-specific frame and dual suspension), and Kedan and Kath used that photo to draw up a BBD Frame Bag the exact same dimensions and shape as the inside of the triangle of my bike frame, with a little extra space at the bottom to accommodate that rear shock.

Getting the measure of things to come PIC: Nic Learmonth

Getting the measure of things to come. 
PIC: Nic Learmonth

That interior space of the frame triangle represents a huge frontier for gender equality out on the singletrack. Too often us riders of smaller bike frames – that’s a high percentage of women – get fobbed off by the industry, which has been reluctant to modify smaller frames to ensure they have the same water bottle-carrying capacity as larger frames. (Smaller riders don’t need to hydrate as much as their six-foot-tall male counterparts, obviously.*)

Getting back to the Bike Bag Dude’s opus to frames and precision, the resulting Frame Bag means all riders can lay claim that space in their frame triangle. There was none of that usual tosh about ‘Your frame’s too small,’ and no slap-hazard guesswork or ‘Well, that’s as small as we make them – you’ll just have to make do.’ My BBD Frame Bag was customised to fit my bike, end of story.

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Revving it up on the way to Hugh Gorge in Central Australia.
PIC: Learmonth Collection

Being custom-made, the BBD Frame Bag makes use of every millimetre of space available in a given frame, no matter what size or shape that frame is. Even the seams on the BBD Frame Bag are sewn to maximise on space, being sewn so the raw edges are outside rather than inside the bag, where they would take up some of the bag’s carrying volume.

The BBD Frame Bag attaches to the bike frame with Velcro straps – three around the top tube, two around the drop tube and one around the seat tube. This attachment system is simple, easy-to-use, light, unlikely to snap (as plastic clips might), and is bike paintwork-friendly, too. The BBD Frame Bag sits very snugly on the bike when these straps are done up, with minimal disruption to your pedal stroke. (My leg brushed against the Frame Bag once or twice each trip, but it was not with every pedal stroke, and I barely noticed it.) When I was loading the bike for a longer ride one time, I discovered that there was enough space between the straps along the top tube for me to attach my extreme-lunching snack box too (with a bit of re-jigging of the snack box straps).

The BBD Frame Bag has proved to be tougher than any tests I could throw at it. So far it’s survived backcountry trips in South Island New Zealand (cold, windy), where I needed to carry lots of warm clothes and food, and winter and summer trips in the Central Australian desert, where the temperatures could spike or pike but it’s always dry, so I always need to carry lots of water. The maximum amount of water I could load in my bag was about 4 litres, in a 6-litre pack bag, which gave the water bag enough mash-ability to mould into the space remaining in my Frame Bag’s main compartment with space for a cup, the saddle bag that usually goes under my seat, and a few other small but heavy items. The BBD Frame bag kept my stuff secured to the bike, and allowed me to carry weighty loads without compromising the bike’s handling on steep descents and climbs.

My Frame Bag was sewn with two zips into the main compartment, and a Velcro divider to separate the bag into two sections. That Velcro partition meant I could carry a 3-litre hydration bladder of water in the top half of the Frame Bag, which has more space, while still being able to access things in the lower section without having to empty everything out first.

Loading up for another day on the bike. PIC: Learmonth Collection

Loading up for another day on the bike.
PIC: Learmonth Collection

It’s hard to come up with any negatives about this frame bag – it has all the features I want in a frame bag, and none of the things I don’t like. There is no little bits-and-bobs pocket (which I think adds more weight than benefit), and no sneaky outlet for a hydration system tube (which would compromise the bag’s waterproofness), but anyone wanting these features could talk to Kedan and Kath about adding them. I like having two zips to access the one compartment, but that is another feature that can be modified.

Only one feature performed other than to plan: the partition Velcros to the inside of the bag, and one time I unzipped the main compartment with such enthusiasm – I was hungry but I couldn’t eat until I found my spoon – and when I unzipped the bag, the direction of force undid the Velcro partition too. But that was hardly a disaster, and it was easily fixed once the m’ungries had passed.

Everything about the BBD Frame Bag is up for discussion, it seems. Kedan and Kath also make these little beauties in more colour combo than you’ll find in a packet of liquorice allsorts. I left the colour scheme for my BBD Frame Bag up to Kedan, and he chose the black side panels and white strip and top stitching, to match but not blend into my bike’s paintwork. (The white top stitching was a bold choice, showcasing the Bike Bag Dude’s high standards of construction.) When the GearLad at my house ordered a BBD Frame Bag for his bike, he asked for a black bag with blue highlights (to match the blue accessories on his titanium bike). Kedan made the GearLad a black Frame Bag with metallic blue flaps for the zip to close in under.

The verdict: any frame bag that allows me to carry more stuff more easily is worth its weight in— well, in essential stuff like food, warm layers and litres and litres of water. The dude and dude-ette at Bike Bag Dude customise their Frame Bags for your gear, your bike and your trips. Being custom-made to fit your bike, these frame bags optimise on space and, because they don’t mount to a rack or have any metal in their design, they throw the weight to volume ratio back in your favour. Ooh, and Bike Bag Dude gear comes with a BBD t-shirt, so you have something to wear when you stop in at the pub on the way home from your adventure – I like it!

Something clean to wear to the post-ride hydration stop. <br />PIC: Learmonth Collection

Something clean to wear to the post-ride hydration stop.
PIC: Learmonth Collection

Notes

* Besides, online mountain biking forums would be full of talk about this issue if it were really a problem, which it’s not. Obviously.

Who is the Bike Bag Dude?

The ‘Bike Bag Dude’ is actually a dude and a dude-ette – Kedan and Kath Griffin, who live in Newcastle, about 160km north of Sydney, in Australia. They share their house with a horde of German Shepherds, cats and chickens, and the Bike Bag Dude workshop is out the back of the house. The cats and dogs are in charge of volume control and snoozing, and Kedan and Kath are responsible for designing and sewing the Bike Bag Dude bike bags and posting out filled orders. (The BBD ships around the world.)

Kedan and Kath are problem-solvers. They like helping people figure out what combination of frame-mounted BBD bike bags will suit their needs. As well as custom designing every BBD Frame Bag to fit the bike the final product will be used on, Kedan and Kath give quick, helpful advice before, during and after the purchasing process, as I discovered firsthand when I contacted them for further assistance in attaching my BBD Roll and Sling to the bars of my bike. (Had I been smart enough to seek Kedan and Kath’s advice on this earlier, my bike wouldn’t be sporting the little bald patch on the head tube, which I’m hoping will remind me to be less pig-headed in future.)

To provide a full bike bag system, Bike Bag Dude makes a range of bags designed to be mounted directly to the bike frame, including the Handlebar Roll and Sling. Bike Bag Dude is also a distributor for saddlebags and half frame bags from Colorado company Oveja Negra Threadworks, which work well with the Bike Bag Dude line-up.

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