First off a bit of a disclaimer. I'm a saddle bag user, there I've said it. I share this review in the hope that it might help those of you who also can't cope with rule 31. I'd previously taken the view that if I used a small enough bag no one would notice. I've been at sportives and been the target of the withering glances of practicing Velominati. In fact on my last sportive a ride buddy was in the process of sounding off about the spoilt lines of the expensive road bikes festooned with saddle bags when he noticed the ortlieb mini dangling from my rear.
I've tried lots, and I mean LOTS, of bags over the years but never hit on one that didn't fail to impress on one level or another. The biggest failing tends to be waterproofing. There is nothing worse than opening a soggy pack to extract the wet £5 emergency money (buying coffee and cake is an emergency) then having to apologise to the cashier as you pay. So requirement 1; it has to be waterproof. Requirement 2; it has to be small. Big enough to hold a multitool, tube and inflator, oh and a £5 note. Finally, requirement 3; it has to be either discrete or exceptionally stylish, essentially invisible or a bold statement. That's it, just three requirements to fulfil. Not much to ask but I have not found a bag to date that ticked all the boxes.
So roll back the clock a few months. There was a Kickstarter campaign by a guy called Pat Reardon from Cyckit in New Zealand who was looking to fund the tooling for a pretty great looking saddle bag. Unfortunately the project didn't make the funding required but thankfully Pat went ahead anyway. As of a couple of weeks ago the Aeroclam is now available to purchase. Check out the website at www.cyckit.com. I paid my NZ$49 the day the website went live and it arrived a few days ago.
It's now fitted to my Roubaix and is everything I have been looking for in a saddle bag. It even aces requirement 3, it's discrete and exceptionally stylish at the same time!
The upper half of the clam bolts to the saddle rails and the lower half clips into hinges at the front of the Aeroclam. It closes at the rear using a rubber catch. A great feature is that you can mix and match the black and white parts to match with your saddle. I have all white to go with the Specialized Toupe on my bike. The web site shows all black, white and black and white combinations to really fit well with your bike aesthetics.
The Aeroclam very small so loading has to be done in a specific way. There is a recess in the bottom to take a small multitool. The Topek I had was too big so I ordered a small one by Genuine Innovations as recommended by Cyckit. A quick measure showed 27mm x 75mm x 10mm to be the size of tool that will fit, possibly a bit thicker if your tubes are thinner. The Aeroclam comes with two tire levers which sit on top of the multitool and form a partition between the multitool recess and the rest of the bag. The tube and inflator with CO2 cylinder sit on top of the tire levers. The Aeroclam then closes up using the rubber closure on the back. It's a tight fit in there to ensure no rattles while riding. The attention to detail is great as Cyckit also send a small rubber packing piece which you can use if needed to stop rattles.
When closed the Aeroclam is sleek and refined. If you weren't looking for it you would assume it was an integral part of the saddle. Forget the adage "form over function", this is function with great form.
It wasn't completely plain sailing though. When I first packed the Aeroclam it didn't close tightly. That concerned me as requirement 1 needs it to be waterproof. I narrowed it down to the tube not fitting properly. I looked at it and saw that it was pretty messily rolled so not as thin as it could have been. I re-rolled it neatly and the clam then shut, just, but I felt that the seam was not as tight as it could have been. Without the tube in there the seam shuts tight. I exchanged some email and pictures with Pat and he was exceptionally helpful, even going to the shops and buying the same tube as I had to try it himself. It turns out the Specialized 700x20/28 thin tubes roll to be 3mm wider than the range of tubes that Pat had used when designing the Aeroclam. It's that extra 3mm of packing height that caused the Aeroclam to not close firmly. The design is that finely tuned! With my neatly rolled tube I have an acceptable case seal but don't have the invisible case line that it should have. I can live with the way it is closed now, but it does give me an excuse to try some other brands of thin tubes so this can actually be seen as a good thing
The bottom line is that yes, I think this is the best saddle bag ever. Even the most ardent of Velominati will struggle to spot the Aeroclam on the bike and when they do they will most likely be awed by it's great lines rather than appalled at the desecration of a thoroughbred racing machine. Oh and did I mention it only weighs 136 grams
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