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Carradice Nelson saddlebag



Superb bag with smart vintage looks although it doesn't quite have the practicality of the Carradice Super C

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Way back in the mists of time, I tested the  Carradice Super C saddlebag. I fell in love with its simplicity, convenience and retro-styling and it has been strapped to my bike ever since. What I didn't fully appreciate is that the Super C is in effect the modern version of the Nelson, which is what I'm testing here.

The Nelson is the all-time classic saddlebag. Made from cotton duck fabric with leather straps, it is a beautiful piece of kit and if you roll with the audax/CTC crew then you're bound to see several in varying degrees of vintage. Along with wool, cotton duck and leather form a holy trinity of original technical materials and as the merino revival goes to show, they have never been bettered in some ways.

Duck is pretty much impervious to water as the fibres swell and lock together when wet. It also breathes, so your damp kit will dry out rather than rotting gently inside. The straps that close down the main flap and the side pockets are leather with shiny buckles. They look fantastic but the quick-release buckles on the Super C are much easier to use, especially if you're reaching behind to open a pocket and extract a cereal bar. Although it is made from the same cotton duck as the Super C, the Nelson seemed stiffer and held its shape better when empty.

Capacity is modest at 18 litres, but that's enough for a day ride, long audax or ultra-lightweight mini-tour. The top of the flap has fittings to strap on extra luggage, although you could always upgrade to the longflap version which will accommodate bulkier items under a longer main flap. The main flap on the standard model is perhaps a little short at the sides, which might let some drops of rain blow in, although the inside of the bag is protected with a drawstring storm flap. On a recent blustery and foul hundred miler my kit, including a couple of OS maps, stayed dry and happy for eigt hours of sideways rain and spray.

Feature-wise it's fairly basic. You get two side pockets, a drawstring stormflap, a light loop (big enough to carry two rear lights) and that's your lot. Sturdy sewn-in reflective strips, like those on the Super C, would have been welcome.

Although the bags themselves are nigh on perfect, fitting them to your bike can be a bit of a fiddle and a faff. I know from experience that the Carradice SQR system (which allows you to simply lift the bag plus mounting cradle off the bike) won't fit on my bikes and that I'm too short to get away with simply letting the bag dangle. The answer is one of the various Bagman support brackets, as supplied by Carradice. They don't come as standard, although our test Nelson came with the Bagman QR Expedition, which I'll be reviewing separately. Models in the Bagman range aren't cheap and if you need one you'll need to factor that into the price.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed using the Nelson and it will be permanently occupying a space on one of my bikes. If you're tossing up between the Super C and the Nelson it comes down to what you value most. The Super C edges it on practicality (size, reflectives, quick-release buckles) whereas the Nelson has the handsome vintage looks. As I scored the Super C at 9/10, it seems fair to give the Nelson 8/10.


Superb bag with smart vintage looks although it doesn't quite have the practicality of the Carradice Super C. test report

Make and model: Carradice Nelson saddlebag

Size tested: Black

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Carradice say - "Traditional Style and Unsurpassed Quality"

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

"Carradice have been handcrafting saddlebags in our factory in Nelson, Lancashire since the 1930's. And we still are!

Made from 100% waterproof 18 ounce cotton duck – the original performance fabric with self-sealing seams read more

No coatings to peel off; easily re-proofed and repaired

Straps are made from chromed leather*, which means they keep their strength and looks no matter what weather and conditions they face.

Buckles and fastenings are all metal – we know they can take decades of regular use!

Each bag is checked for quality before leaving our factory in Lancashire, and personally signed by the maker"

Rate the product for quality of construction:

My bag was made by Debby and I'll not hear a word said against her.

Rate the product for performance:

Just brilliant for pretty much any kind of riding where you need to carry more than just a pump and spare tube.

Rate the product for durability:

Looked after, these things last forever.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:

Based on quality and longevity, these bags are excellent value. You'll probably need a bag support though, which racks up the price a fair bit.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Carradice bags have been around for so long that they have been pretty much perfected.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The style; a comfortable way to carry modest loads

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Could do with reflectives and the strap/buckle isn't as easy to use as modern clips.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Definitely

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

A true classic and a thing of beauty.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 5' 8  Weight: er....85kg

I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa  My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides


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andybwhite | 12 years ago

I'm not sure it's possible to post pictures in this forum? I'm happy to email one though.

dave atkinson | 12 years ago

I've been chatting to David at Carradice and that bag support is one of the things on his list to resurrect from the archives, so stay tuned on that one...

BigDummy | 12 years ago

Have you got a picture anywhere andybwhite?

Sounds interesting.

andybwhite | 12 years ago

When I toured in the 80's many midland cyclists had a bag support that is unavailable today.

It was a simple open L-shaped frame that you secured your saddlebag to. To put this on the bike there were two brass tabs on the frame (just below the top of the bag which slotted into the slots on the rear of a Brooks saddle. To stop it bouncing off you just looped a toestrap from the rear of the bag around the top of the seatpost.

It was a very elegant solution and the bag sits a little proud of the saddle and well away from the wheel. It takes literally 2-3 seconds to either put on or take off (the frame stays with the bag so there are no ugly attachments left on the bike should you want to ride bagless).

In my mind it was the best solution i have seen and i really don't undestand why they are still not available. Mine gets lots of positive comments most days i'm out.

Miggers | 12 years ago

I am with John, go for the long flap, far more versatile…

Great bags, great company…


John_the_Monkey | 12 years ago

I think the longflap is well worth the extra - makes the bag very much more versatile.

The longevity of the bags (I know people who still use Nelsons they bought in the '70s) makes modification and customisation worth while too (you don't put the effort into something you'll need to replace in two or three years) so sewing on extra reflectives (if you want to) makes sense. One useful mod I've seen done is the addition of press fasteners to the sides of the pockets, which make them less likely to spill small items. I've also toyed with the idea of adding a sort of organiser pocket (it would hang from the dowel inside the bag) although never got round to it.

There are any number of modifications to hang the bag - here's mine for standing it away a little from the seat tube;

The only thing I don't like about this Nelson is the "slot" type attachments for extra straps on the top - my Lowsaddle has metal D rings, which is a better arrangement, imo.

I think they're about the best commuter luggage I've ever used, personally.

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