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The Carradice Pennine Top Tube Bag is a cavernous, robust piece of kit, suitable for adventurers wanting to stow a decent amount of gear under their noses. Its unbraced sides can cause knee rub, though, and if you're an all-weather rider you'll need to protect the contents – it's not waterproof.
Check out our guide to the best bikepacking bags for more options.
The 1000 Denier, 'military grade' Cordura material is exceptionally tough – it has been completely unaffected by bramble encounters. Dirt washes off easily too.
The underside is made from an upcycled inner tube. The same has been used to create a protective collar for the steerer strap, as well as backing for the top tube strap.
The Pennine attaches to the frame at two points, and the Velcro is the strongest I've ever come across – don't let it touch your clothing! The inner tubes offer a decent amount of grip, helping to keep the bag stable without being too aggressive towards paintwork.
The attachment at the front is certainly suited to bikes with some spacers under the stem. There's a happy medium here – at the other extreme, if the stem sits above the top of the bag, fully zipping up the bag becomes a little awkward. For me, a two-way zip would be a nice modification to the Pennine, and it would eliminate this potential niggle.
Closure is with a single, exceptionally chunky zipper – great for gloved hands. Old inner tubes come into play again, forming loops at either end to aid unzipping/zipping-up. I rarely made use of the loops – the zipper is smooth running and no problem with one hand, which is great for access on the go. It's worth noting there's no cable port.
At 1.5L capacity is generous, and the bag opens up well – seeing what's in there and getting hold of it is no problem. The sides aren't reinforced, so you can really pack it out, and there are compartments at either side to help keep items apart.
At 22cm long and 12cm high it's certainly not trying to be discreet or minimalistic like, for example, Zefal's Aero Frame Bag.
For me, the 6cm width coupled with the lack of stiff sidewalls was a negative, as the bag bulged out enough to create thigh rub. While seated it was minimal, but out of the saddle it was bad. After two days on the road in lumpy Wales, my three-quarter tights were showing signs of wear – you can see it here.
The Cordura is seriously robust, and consequently more aggressive towards Lycra than other bags I've used. Carradice says the bag can be fitted up against the seat post, too, but that was no fix for me – rubbing simply became a permanent problem.
Light drizzle and intermittent showers don't get through, but heavy or persistent rain soon penetrates the fabric and contents become very wet. This might be a sticking point for adventurers who ride on in the rain.
Carradice has catered for varying tastes – the bag is available in Camo, Black and Neon. All versions feature a bold reflective strip on each side.
Bags with comparable capacity include Restrap's Race Top Tube Bag and Tailfin's Top Tube Bag which we've reviewed in its 1.1L medium form. They are both more than double the £32 Pennine, with the Restrap being £64.99 and the Tailfin at £65.
While there are no real compromises on quality here, there are some practical drawbacks – the lack of waterproofing being one, and the width of the soft sides for another. If knee rub rarely bothers you and rainy rides are strictly off your agenda, though, it's definitely worth considering.
Quality construction and very easy access, but for fair weather riding only – and thigh rub might be an issue
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Carradice Pennine Top Tube Bag
Size tested: Capacity: 1.5 litres
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 says the Pennine is: 'The go to bag for all your essentials. It fits conveniently on the top tube for easy access. Great for stashing your phone, spare tube, wallet, multi-tool, gels/snacks, tyre levers, sun cream etc.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Capacity: 1.5 litres
Dimensions: 22cm long x 6 cm wide x 12 cm deep
Weight: 150 grams
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good in dry weather for holding a decent amount of gear, and exceptionally easy to access. Let down by thigh rub for me.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Chunky, easy to use zipper.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Excessive width coupled with a lack of rigid sidewalls, leading to thigh rub.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Cheaper than most, including Restrap and Tailfin.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if their frame were more suitable
Use this box to explain your overall score
The construction and robust fabrics score highly. For me, with the bikes I used it on, thigh rub was a big issue. Lack of waterproofing is also a negative that affects its usefulness.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…