Bikepacking and adventure riding is one of the faster growing segments of the sport and, not surprisingly, many manufacturers are jumping on board the crowded bike and accessory bag market.
With literally hundreds of options out there, and all sizes, colours, shapes and features available, it really is a buyers’ market. Here at Bicycling Australia we’ve ridden a wide variety of bikepacking bags and are always keen to pack, ride and review the latest offerings.
In the lead up to a recent 2000km European bikepacking trip, the Australian representative from Deuter got in touch to let us know the German bag manufacturer’s new Cabezon bags were available for review. Still preparing the pack list, we jumped at the opportunity and a few days later three of their new bags were waiting for collection at the local PO.
125 Years in The Making
Deuter have come a long way since their founder started making mailbags for the Royal Bavarian Post in the century before last!
Establishing the ‘Mechanical Canvas and Linen Mill’ in 1898, Hans Deuter began developing a company that would not only keep the Bavarian posties happy, but go on to be one of the biggest speciality outdoor adventure backpack brands of all time.
Jump forward 125 years to 2023, and today we are riding and reviewing the company’s ‘Cabezon’ series of lightweight premium bikepacking bags.
Announced last year and available from April this year, we packed sample versions of the Cabezon series into the luggage and flew to London for the start of the European bikepacking adventure.
Once there we picked up the test bike, a Ribble Gravel Ti, and fitted it with the FB 4 Framebag, HB 14 handlebar bag and SB 16 Saddlebag.
To the naming convention first, and it’s quite obvious FB, HB, and SB stand for frame, handlebar and seat tube bag, while the corresponding numbers indicate the overall capacity in litres.
First to the handlebar bag, and at 14 litres that’s a lot of capacity (and potential weight) over the front of the bike. But being a convertible system – like the seat tube bag that we’ll get to later – the inner roll bag has an internal usable capacity of anywhere from around 5 to 14l. Typically used to carry sleeping gear or clothing, the front bag can be tightly rolled down to around 25cm diameter.
Carrying A Laptop
In an ideal world, a small laptop or tablet computer is the last thing you want to pack for a cycling trip. That said, some riders need to, and this was the case with our recent working holiday trip. The computer was an Apple iPad Pro inside a Logitech Pro Slim foiling case. Measuring 285mm x 225mm, and with a thickness of 12mm, it fitted into the handlebar bag.
The key here is to fit the tablet / small laptop into the bag on an angle, padding & supporting the base with clothing then stuffing other items on top of the device to help protect it. Seal the bag, remove any excess air (via the inbuilt air-release port), then secure the storage sleeve to the handlebar harness (described next).
Where this handlebar bag (and the seat tube bag) differ from much of the competition is the two-piece construction method.
What this means for bikepackers is this: stop at a campsite, hotel or B&B for the night and you simply release two clips to take the bag off the bike while the attachment harness remains securely in place.
Once the bags are removed from the front (handlebar) and rear (seatpost) harnesses, re-secure the clips and hey presto, each bag has a carry handle.
To the removable dry bags themselves, and light years ahead of the aforementioned heavy canvas Bavarian Post bags, these are light, thin and ooze not only style but toughness.
You can feel the quality of the material as you run your fingers over the surface of this thermal polyurethane (TPU) fabric. Importantly for multi-day bikepackers and adventurers, it’s 100 per cent waterproof, is anti-tear, durable and maintains flexibility.
The seams of the front and rear dry bags are taped and welded, and the zippers are also TPU coated to help keep the rain out. After 2000km of use the range were still like new, albeit dusty and slightly spattered in mud.
Poor-fitting handlebar and seat tube bags have a bad habit of swaying side-to-side (at the rear) and up / down (up front). Deuter have clearly paid close attention to this via the mounting systems incorporated into the Cabezon series bags. Up front, two lightweight but heavy-duty, high-density foam blocks space out the bag and keep it in place. A quality Velcro stem strap then secures the bag and keeps it up level with the bars.
On the seatpost, two heavy duty Velcro strips are used, along with buckle straps to secure the outer body to the saddle. Do they sway? Not when properly fitted. During our testing we found both front and rear bags to sit well, hardly move and remain secure for the duration of each day. And this was despite the total extra 7 or so kilograms of luggage.
To Deuter’s FB 4 & 6 litre Framebag, both are fundamentally the same mounting wise. With universal style frame attachment points along the front, top, and trailing ends of the bag, this perfectly matches the handlebar and seat tube bag in style and sits equally well on the bike.
A single, full-length waterproof zipper allows access, and the bag is made of the same blue thermal polyurethane (TPU) fabric. The frame bag was delivered with four adjustable Velcro securing straps, however, the bag will accomodate up to eight straps. While eight would be overkill, we feel that six straps would help ensure more even and complete support of the bag.
Thoroughly wet-weather tested during our long review ride, the internal contents of each of the three bags remained 100 per cent dry.
Not so fussed on waterproofing and want to save some hard-earned cash? Deuter have also released a second-tier range of the bags, the Mondego series. These are not waterproof and come in at around half the price of the top-level Cabezon offerings. In the Mondego series there’s a four and six litre frame bag, eight litre handlebar bag and 16l saddle bag.
Colours, Pricing and Summing Up
The new Deuter bags are available in ‘Atlantic Black’ – the colour we tested, along with a more neutral ‘Desert Black’.
Price wise, the Cabezon series FB 4 is $169.90, the HB14 is $199.99 and the SB 16 has a RRP of $239.99. To the Mondego series, and the FB 4 is $89.99, the FB 6 is $99.99, HB 8 $129.99 and the SB 16 the same at $129.99.
In summary, having used various other saddle, frame and handlebar bags from at least seven other manufacturers over the past few years, the Cabezon range from Deuter stand out as some of the best in their field for a number of reasons. Waterproofing across the range is first class, to the point of being completely out-of-mind, and the anti-sway characteristics of such a good-sized saddle 14l bag are spot on.
The handlebar bag packing system is simple, straightforward and a lot quicker and easier than other bags we’ve used, and the quick removal concept works exceptionally well.
To the frame bag, and as mentioned we feel it could come with one or two extra Velcro securing straps to prevent possible sag, but overall it works well and completes and complements the set nicely.
Overall, a top-quality offering and certainly among the world’s best all-round bikepacking bag options currently available – after 200km of riding we can highly recommended the Cabezon range.
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