Author Topic: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag  (Read 1394 times)

Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« on: April 02, 2018, 08:47:08 pm »
This is a review of a couple of items I've purchased from Mack Workshop, I’m not going to put any links directly to Jon’s site in here as I don’t want this to come across as an advert, it’s a genuine and honest review and you can find his site yourself in 5 seconds with Google. Anyway, first a little story…

I met Jon MacKinnon at Bespoked Bristol a few years ago when he was just starting out and pre-ordered one of his smaller bar bags that he had on display there, there weren’t any actually available to buy at the time as he hadn’t made enough! I bought it kind of on a whim but I had recently started audaxing and had been struggling with needing a little extra storage than my jersey pockets could provide and it seemed to fit the bill, I had a brief chat with Jon and discovered that he had just set up in his spare time and was basically flying by the seat of his pants at that point but was already clearly producing some good quality stuff and had such a positive attitude that I bought as much out of support as anything else.

That simple little bar bag subsequently became one of my most used bits of kit, used for audaxing, occasional commutes, random exploring rides and even as a bit of extra storage on some bike packing trips. It’s nothing fancy, just a cylindrical bag made out of a thin but tough waterproof material, with a zip and two velcro straps. On the face of it it’s plain, boring, not big enough to carry anything useful and has a slightly suspect attachment system, but I quickly found all of that to be 100% wrong.

It IS simple, but well thought out. The velcro straps are tenacious, I have never once had to re-adjust it mid-ride, and the fact it simply wraps round the bar means it is portable from bike to bike, I’ve used it with flat bars and drops and the straps are in just the right place that they are far enough apart to offer good stability and leave room for Garmins, bells and gadgets inside them, but not so wide that they interfere with shifters or brake levers on flat bars, or stifle the use of the tops on drops. The Zip is perfectly placed on top of the bag,  with a little toggle attached to the sip. I can operate it one handed while riding if necessary to delve inside, and if it ends up being a bit stubborn doe to dodgy packing there are pull tabs on each end of the bag which can be held with a finger and thumb to offer extra ‘tug’ power.

It’s also surprisingly roomy! I went for a little jaunt on friday with a couple of friends, and in that little bar bar was the following:

1x Cheese sandwich
1x Cheese and chorizo sandwich
2x Mini BabyBel
2x Cereal bar
1x small bag of assorted nuts
1x 2 inch stack of pringles in a plastic bag
1x Spare Garmin (edge 200)
1x 8/10ths of a 110g bar of Dairy Milk

So basically all the food I was going to need for the day (in fact more than I needed!) and there was still a little room left over. I’ve also used it for spare lights, gloves, buff etc when carrying less food. The only downside I’ve come across is that when being used off road it can get a bit bouncy as there’s no stabilising third strap on the bottom/back. It’s never been an issue on road and only occasionally off road, but worth bearing in mind, If I were ever to order another one I would probably ask for a small bit of webbing on the bottom and back so I could use an extra strap if needed.

So that bag was a slightly unexpected success, I’ve used similar cheap offerings from eBay and the like before and while they’ve ‘worked’ they’ve left me disappointed or annoyed in some way or another and I consider the extra cost for Jon’s bag money well spent.
I haven’t taken detailed pics of this bag as the ones on his site are good, but you can see it in use on a couple of rides below.






Off the back of that, and a pressing need for a slightly bigger bag for longer rides and occasional utility trips I sent Jon an email enquiring about a custom sized bag to make better use of the small rand-style front rack on a couple of my bikes. I had been getting by strapping things to it when needed but wanted something a bit bigger and more usable, but still portable if necessary and designed to fit the rack rather than bodged on. I had looked around and various off the peg options but some slightly awkward dimensional challenges meant that nothing was going to fit properly so custom was looking like the only option.

Right form the beginning I was determined that I didn’t want to use a decaleur setup as this bigger bag was probably only going to see occasional use and would be used on at least two different bikes, both with different handle bar heights so I didn’t want the hassle or expense of having to buy two decaleurs, hope that I could get them both working with a single setup on the bag, and also have the stuck there on the bikes often unused so I started discussing with Jon options for attaching the bag safely and securely to the rack using straps alone and allowing it to be moved between bikes. We chatted, I pondered, and he seemed confident he could make it work, so I started sending over measurements…

We also discussed additional features, like what pockets I wanted, straps inside etc. All details hammered out by email and all communications were both friendly and pretty swift, for someone not doing this full time Jon manages to reply relatively quickly and I never felt the lack of a phone number to be a hinderance.

Once we’d hammered out a final details Jon sent me an invoice for custom work, I paid, and then waited. I wasn’t in a hurry, and I made that clear up front but I did have a bit of a wait on my hands. This isn’t a complaint in as all this was done in the run up to Xmas (and in fact Jon sent me the invite on Xmas eve!) but it’s worth remembering that custom goods, manufactured on a part time basis will never be with you as quick as an off-the-peg item. A few tantalising spy shots appeared on his instagram page before it was ready too which was exciting!

The bag arrived on the 7th March. so about 8-9 weeks after ordering, taking Xmas, snow related delivery delays and the nature of custom work into account I was more than happy, a simpler item made from existing patterns would no doubt have arrived in a few weeks at most.

I’ve used the bag a coupe of times already although not for any long trips yet as the snow scuppered a couple of trips that were on the cards, however the use I have put it to so far has told me that it should work well for me. Detailed pics are below which hopefully show all pertinent details but I’ll run through them here.

The bag came collapsed as a flat pack, and the bag has light weight plastic stiffener inserts for the bottom, and the four sides which need to be slotted into place when it arrives. They’re dead simple to fit but the corners are spiky (and they hurt if you get one under your fingernail!), I cut all the corners a bit more rounded and mentioned this to Jon who was happy to take it on boards as feedback for future.

Once they’re in place you have square/rectangular bag with a big main compartment, it is ample space for a spare jersey, waterproof, all the lunch you could want, spare batteries, tubes, tool kit and will still have room to spare. There are elasticated straps on the inside faces, two crossed straps on one side and the back, and two independent straps on the front and the other side, so you can use these to restrain small items and organise the single big compartment as you see fit.

On the outside there are two thing slip-pockets on the sides for cards/paper items or anything thing, they’re not big, but perfect for small  flat items you might need access to without opening the main compartment.
The main compartment has a simple flap-over top with a toggle closing, the sides of the top have ‘wings’ to stop the top ‘over-opening’ and flopping over the other side of the bag. On the top there is also a transparent slip pocket with a velcro closing, perfect for a map or route sheet.

Jon also fitted webbing straps on the front and back of the bag, these are full width but stitched to the face of the bag to divide them into thirds. This webbing slips over the tang of my rack as the first attachment point for the bag, and it can be fitted either opening towards the rider or away depending on preference. There are also two small detachable pockets that can be strapped to this webbing, either side of the rack tang is the traditional location but they could dos be strapped to the front, or you could ask for another couple of pockets (or a bigger single one) for the front. They're also surprisingly roomy, big enough for several cereal bars, or a big phone, or multi-tools an keys etc. These extra pockets are held on with small velcro straps, they’re really secure but really really fiddly to remove or re-attach so not something you’d want to do in a hurry or regularly, but the fact the pockets are removable is useful, and the fact there is the option of strapping additional pockets or extras to the front of the bag for future use is handy.

The other point of attachment to the rack is underneath, there’s more webbing there and it’s specifically placed to match up with my rack platforms. Initially the bag arrived with two straps, and we thought two straps underneath plus the webbing over the tang would be enough, and it probably would be enough to be safe, but it leaves room for a bit of movement so I’ve asked Jon to send a couple more straps through. for the moment I’ve used another strap at the front of the rack to the front webbing as you’ll see in the pics. With this extra atacchemnt point it’s rock solid so as soon as the other two straps of underneath are fitted I have no doubt it’ll be fine.

Overall I’m impressed with the bag, it’s built very well indeed, neat stitching, everything is firmly attached and in the right places and hopefully it’ll be nice and robust and see me through many miles of exploring and riding.

I’ve already fed back to Jon about the corners of the inserts, and the only other feedback I’ve given so far is that some pillowcase style flaps to tuck the tops of the inserts under might be a nice addition, I don’t think they are 100% necessary but it would neaten things up a bit and stop the inserts accidentally being pulled out or riding up. I also might replace the bottom elastic loop cord for the toggle closing, but only to make it a tiny bit longer and easier to reach as it’s a wee bit fiddly pulling it out between the tang while riding, but the beauty of velcro and toggles is there’s no poppers, clips or zips to break or fail like so many bags eventually suffer from.

If you have any questions about my bag in use or fitting then feel free to ask, if you want to know about construction, options and materials then I’m sure Jon will welcome any enquiries!













arkle

  • Mr Full Value...
Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2018, 10:50:07 am »
I stopped using bar bags a few years ago as generally I found them inadequately small on their own.

However, that looks very good and a decent size so I am quite tempted. What rack are you using?

Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2018, 09:44:47 am »

The rack on the Singular is a Velo Orange Randonneur rack which mounts to mid-fork eyelets and a tang behind the brake. You'd need the eyelets in the right place on the fork to use this rack. It sits quite close to the brake so clearance can be tight.

The rack on the Mercian is a Velo Orange Randonneur Canti-mount rack which mounts to the canti bosses and has a tang that mounts to the crown. This should fit any canti/v-brake equipped fork with a bit of jiggery pokery. This rack sits a bit more forward than the other one by about 30mm.

I have also got a Velo Orange Constructeur front rack which I sometimes use on other bikes, it has the same platform as the above racks but mounts to the dropout eyelets and has a tang that goes behind the brake so it fits bikes with DP brakes with no mid-fork eyelets.

Nitto do many front rack models similar to fit pretty much every kind of fork/brake option possible, but the VO stuff seems marginally better value.

Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2018, 06:19:39 pm »
I like the idea of rando bags, in that it means you don't have to have an ugly click-fix mount pretty permanently attached to the bars and it doesn't mess up the steering as much, but the big sticking point for me would be I'd have to mount my Edelux II dymano head light somewhere else - not sure where it would go, though! How do others deal with this?
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2018, 09:28:56 pm »
You see people with headlight on the little frame thingy (I think they call it a décaleur?) – assuming that's the type of bag you mean.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2018, 09:33:22 pm »
You see people with headlight on the little frame thingy (I think they call it a décaleur?) – assuming that's the type of bag you mean.

Indeed.  It's not clear from the photo, but isn't that what the extension thingy on the right of this image is about:



...to me it looks like the sort of thing you could clamp a handlebar bracket around.  Or make use of its attachment to the rack (perhaps with a bit of cunningly drilled sheet metal and a bolt and spacer).
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2018, 09:36:19 pm »
And if it isn't, there are various proprietary attachments that do the same job, such as the Topeak Bar Xtender (which is ugly but I'm sure some better looking ones are made too). 
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2018, 06:46:38 am »
Edelux is available in an inverted model to mount hanging from a front rack or an IQ-X can be rotated in its collar for similar mounting.

Re: Mack Workshop Bar Bag and custom Rando Bag
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2018, 09:43:15 am »
Quote
I like the idea of rando bags, in that it means you don't have to have an ugly click-fix mount pretty permanently attached to the bars and it doesn't mess up the steering as much, but the big sticking point for me would be I'd have to mount my Edelux II dymano head light somewhere else - not sure where it would go, though! How do others deal with this?

By mounting it somewhere else! There are loads of options...

Quote
Indeed.  It's not clear from the photo, but isn't that what the extension thingy on the right of this image is about:

Well spotted, yest that is a mount/extension which I can fit a normal handlebar mounted light to, since I haven't fitted a dynamo light to the Mercian yet, but there's an IQ-X in the box waiting to be bolted on there when I have a moment...

Was also going to post about the hanging version of the Edelux:



You can also use a small extension mount to mount the normal right way up version to the rack too, either built in on the rack (like below) or as a bolt on:



Also, you can't see it in either of the pics I've posted but on the Osprey I actually have an Edelux mounted on the top front of the mudguard, you can just see if (if you zoom in) on this pic:



So in that setup the light sits in front of the bag, at a decent height and centrally mounted so no front wheel shadows ;-)