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review

Merida Travel Saddle Bag

6
£64.99

VERDICT:

6
10
Some really nice touches, waterproof and huge, but it does suffer from sway
Waterproof
Rugged
Easy to whip on/off
Lightweight
Annoying sway when laden
Weight: 
393g

The Merida Travel Saddle Bag is a lightweight bikepacking design that will hold a fair amount of kit. The ability to whip it on and off the bike easily is a definite plus, especially if you want one that will earn its keep on a weekday commute, but there are some compromises that might be deal breakers.

> Buy this online here

Materials/specification

Detailing in some respects is pretty much what I'd expect from bikepacking luggage, with a few nice twists. It's a roll top design with a pretty huge maximum capacity of 21.25 litres; if that's not sufficient, there's elasticated webbing running along the top so you can capture any overspill.

2020 Merida Travel saddle bag - top bungee.jpg

A zipper along the right-hand side is designed for quick access and the long zipper tag continues this convenient theme.

Given bikepacking saddle bags also double as a rear mudguard, a genuinely waterproof fabric makes a whole heap of sense, and the glossy surface of the 210 denier Ripstop TPU used here is easy to wipe clean or even wash down with the bike. Large retro-reflective logos emblazoned along the sides bode well for nocturnal presence, and there's the usual series of clips for mounting an LED.

2020 Merida Travel saddle bag - detail.jpg

Some designs attach to the seatpost via two medium width Velcro straps. Merida has gone for a broad, padded design, which looks simple, sleek and sturdy, but does seem to create issues with sway. The Fidlock magnetic clips on the saddle rail straps are secure while still permitting easy release.

2020 Merida Travel saddle bag - clip.jpg

Capacity

Compared with the largest bags from other well known bikepacking brands, the Merida's 21-litre capacity is big. I've been pleasantly surprised by what I could cram inside, though careful and considered loading – not bunging it all in – is the way forward. I'd suggest you follow the rule of putting the heavier stuff lower down but also consider what you'll need most frequently.

Using the Merida as my only bag, I've been inclined to put things like a multi-tool, tyre levers, CO2 inflator and so on inside a pencil case, then add clothing and other lightweight, bulky stuff on top before rolling the closure tight and clicking in place.

On the one hand the single compartment means you're not governed by someone else's idea of good organisation, and the lack of external pockets helps with waterproofing, but I found the side zipper less convenient than external/side pockets.

2020 Merida Travel saddle bag - zip.jpg

Waterproofing/durability

I was pleasantly surprised by the Travel Bag's ability to withstand water. Admittedly, we've been through a very dry period, but I've been caught in thundery downpours, and even subjected to a close-range, two-minute blast from my garden hose there was no hint of ingress. That said, Matt, testing the same bag over on off.road.cc, did find some signs of water finding its way into his. Putting any items that could potentially be damaged by water in a separate dry bag is always a good idea.

> Cycling luggage for beginners: the best ways to carry stuff on your bike

Though my Univega wears full-length mudguards, I switched the Merida to my fixed gear/winter/trainer, where the bag's long profile and material offered surprisingly good protection from wet roads and spray. The resultant cocktail of gritty spatter was easily dismissed using a blast or two of bike wash and a medium stiff brush.

In my experience, Velcro and similar strapping can also collect a fair bit of gritty stuff, the sort that can mark seatposts over time, especially if you're carrying moderate amounts of weight. Hence, I toss wedge packs in with the kit wash every few months. The Merida responded well to machine washing, so it's an option if you want a deep clean and/or can't be bothered with a brush and bucket.

The relatively long and narrow profile also means it's shielded from thorns and branches if you head off the beaten track. No obvious vulnerabilities have presented to date.

Laden stability

A capacity of 21.25 litres is a fair bit of kit to support, so I wasn't surprised by some very apparent sway, and I was only hauling 3kg, which is well within the cited maximum of 5kg. Admittedly, this is mitigated by packing carefully. As I said above: heavier items, such as tooling, at the bottom, lighter towards the top. Still, though, the wide Velcro seatpost strap offered less support than I was expecting.

2020 Merida Travel saddle bag - seat post strap.jpg

In practical terms, this meant the bag moved and brushed against my thighs, especially over rougher surfaces. It came as quite a surprise – Carradice SQR luggage is my default, which is much heavier, even when unladen, but refreshingly rigid when laden to the gills and tackling similar terrain.

Post diameter does play a part. The most pronounced sway was on my rough stuff tourer, which runs a very slim 26.6mm diameter post, but I also ported the bag to 27.0 and 27.2mm rigid and suspension models. A DIY shim from old inner tube improved matters but didn't eradicate the problem. In my experience, two-strap designs are vastly superior in this respect.

Value

It might not be pocket money, but £65 is competitive. Topeak's Backloader Saddlebag Large will swallow 15 litres and costs £10 more. It, too, comes with a single wide seatpost strap; Emma tested the 10 litre version a few years ago, which costs the same as the Merida, and she also experienced some sway, even with a 30.9mm seatpost, though to her it was a 'small cost' (and it didn't actually brush against her thighs).

Passport Cycles' Seat Pack Large costs the same as the Merida, though it only holds 9.8 litres; it's also water-resistant rather than waterproof, with some external pockets, and also has a long, narrow profile, but it has double seatpost straps. In my experience, getting things in and out of the bag is still tricky, though the fluoro insert makes stuff easier to spot, but the lack of sway and ability to park wallet, chocolate, keys and multi-tool within easy reach are big pluses in my opinion.

> Buyer’s Guide: 17 of the best bikepacking bags

Madison's Caribou Bikepacking Seatpack is more expensive than the Merida at £79.99 rrp for the large size (12 litres). It's cited as water-resistant not waterproof, but does feature double post straps.

Summary

There are some nice features here, and if you want the carrying capacity it might be worth putting up with the sway. Personally, I'd probably compromise on the waterproofing and the size, and plump for the Passport Cycles option.

Verdict

Some really nice touches, waterproof and huge, but it does suffer from sway

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Merida Travel Saddle Bag

Size tested: 21.25L

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?

Merida says: 'A large-volume saddle pack that's built for your multi-day, bike-packing adventures.

'With 21.25 L of storage, the MERIDA SADDLEPACK TRAVEL is the perfect companion for overnight trips or any ride where you just need a little extra gear. It mounts quickly and securely to your saddle and seat-post using a Fidlock magnetic lock and won't rattle around and distract you from the road ahead.

'The tough, Ripstop Nylon material is waterproof to keep your gear safe and built to survive the most gruelling of conditions. Packing the SADDLEPACK TRAVEL is easy, thanks to a large, roll-top opening and a waterproof side-zip for access on the move. The roll-top design allows you to expand or contract the pack's size to exactly fit your gear and there are also external elastic straps to quickly stow extra gear.

'The MERIDA SADDLEPACK TRAVEL carries up to a maximum of 5 kg and pairs perfectly with the MERIDA TRAVEL frame bag.'

My feelings: it has some nice, practical touches, but the single post strap is less effective at combating sway than I was expecting.

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

Merida lists:

21.25 l

HEIGHT 17 cm

LENGTH 50 cm

WIDTH 25 cm

WEIGHT 410 g

MATERIAL 210D Ripstop TPU

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
6/10

Solid waterproof bag and generally well made throughout. However, double straps tethering it to the seatpost would have been a better design, in my view.

Rate the product for performance:
 
5/10

Seems genuinely waterproof and performance is generally good with lighter, bulkier items, but even with some minor DIY mods (big seatpost shim made from scrap butyl tube) it had a tendency to sway, which hasn't been my experience of other, and in some cases cheaper, models.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

Early days, but fabric seems fairly durable so far and any obvious weaknesses have not become apparent in the few weeks of testing.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
4/10

The sway proved irritating, rubbing against my thighs.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

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

Away from the sway, performance is fairly good. The material is lightweight, rugged, and waterproof. It expands quite readily to accommodate bulkier items and doubles as an effective mudguard. The side zipper is quite useful for accessing some bits so you needn't rifle through everything to find what you want, but the single compartment design relies upon organised/disciplined packing.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Waterproof, durable fabric, Fidlock magnetic system very convenient, decent zippers too.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Single strap for tethering to the seatpost was less effective than I was expecting and compared with designs using two.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's not cheap, but £65 is very competitive. Topeak's Backloader Saddlebag Large will swallow 15 litres and costs £10 more. Passport Cycles' Seat Pack Large costs the same as the Merida but only holds 9.8 litres. And Madison's Caribou Bikepacking Seatpack is more expensive than the Merida at £79.99 for the large size (12 litres).

Did you enjoy using the product? Less than I was anticipating.

Would you consider buying the product? Not in its present guise.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not in its present guise.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Potentially a very good bag and with some nice features, but its overall performance is scuppered by it swaying, partly down to it having just a single post strap.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 46  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset  My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road

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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)

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