Product Reviews May 3, 2014

Deuter 'Energy Bag'

This is a review of the Deuter top bar bag, which is advertised as an ‘energy bag’, perfect for carrying essentials such as gel sachets, keys and phone. As I am about to explain though, this handy little bag can be used for a variety of other purposes.

Here is the problem statement; making films for the website requires the video camera to be easily within reach. Being able to capture moments at short notice whilst still being able to concentrate on cycling is essential. This could mean carrying it in one of my back pockets, but the camera gets hot and the lens invariably gets steamed up. Plus it means fumbling for the camera, one handed, from a tight and sometimes awkward pocket behind you. That’s fine when it comes to arm warmers and it doesn’t matter if you drop them, but not ideal when the article is a video camera.

Until recently I had solved this challenge by mounting a ‘fit for purpose’ video camera bag to the bike, via a series of cable ties. Variations on this theme were tried, including mounting it to the right hand side of the top tube. However this interfered with my leg strokes, the top of my knee knocking the bag on each revolution. This, obviously, was not sustainable for any length of time. The optimum position for bag placement was against the stem, close to the handlebars, but not so it interfered with my hand position. The disadvantage of this position became evident when climbing out of the seat. Although to a lesser extent, I once again suffered from the ‘knee-knocking’ phenomenon. For the most part though, it was sufficient.

At the end of March I rode in the SRS Events Burgess Hill Sportive. With hundreds of bikes lined up at the start, I noticed a couple of riders had fitted bags to the top of their top tube. They had crammed them full of all kinds of cycling paraphernalia, which triggered my thinking whether I could fit my pistol grip video camera in them. Further investigation on the wiggle website uncovered a small selection of top tub bags. I narrowed my search down to two options – the Topeak Tri Bag and a similar offering from Deuter. I bought both, knowing I would return the least effective. Once I had them in front of me, it was an easy decision to make.

From an aesthetic point of view, I wanted a bag that was in line with the top of my stem. I did not want a bag that looked like the conning tower on a submarine attached to my top tube. That said, it needed to be wide and tall enough to fit the camera in without wrestling the zip shut. It should be reasonably waterproof and if there was enough room to carry my phone and keys as well, so much the better. The other issue which I had read about was the fastening system for this style of bag. The general criticism was that bags tended to move around, again causing the ‘knee-knocking’ effect. The Deuter bag came with four velcro straps, two that go around the stem and two that loop around the front top tube.  The length of the straps verses the position of the velco meant there is a ’tail’ that hung underneath the top tub where they attached together. Aside from that, the bag is kept firmly in place. Having ridden a few hundred kilometres using the bag, there has been no need to adjust the position the bag or tighten the straps.

In terms of specification, the Deuter energy bag weighs a measly 65 grams. It has a 500 ml capacity and its dimensions are nominally 7cm x 5 cm x 14 cm. These proportions make it a perfect fit for my front top tube. Since it only comes in black, the reflective details on the side of the bag providing visibility in low light conditions are a good idea. On the right hand side of the bag there’s also a small zippered pocket that will hold a couple of small tubes of lube or a couple of sachets of chamois crème.  It took only moments to fit.

The Topeak Tri-Bag is similar to the Deuter version. It is taller and narrower – 14cm x 4cm x 10 cm however these proportions did not suit my requirements as well. Overall it provided more storage but I did not like the way it was perched on the front tube.  Additionally, it only fastened to the stem at the bottom of the bag, compared to the two velcro ties that keep the Deuter in place. This meant there is more opportunity for the Topeak bag to wobble out of position. It is also slightly more expensive, £14.99 compared to £12.99.  

Given all of this, and for what I wish to use it for, I think the Deuter bag is great value for money. Without carrying the camera it’s a perfect size for your phone and keys and if necessary it will comfortably carry two inner tubes, tyre levers and multi-tool. The fit on the bike means that it stays in place and does not look out of place either. Recommended.    


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