Review: Topeak Wedge Drybag S saddle bag

As insurance against a punctured tire or some other mechanical mishap while riding, I’ve always installed a saddle bag on my bikes.

I still have the very first one I bought, a Deuter Bike Bag II. It’s a simple satchel with 1 L of capacity, which is enough to carry everything I need – and that’s without expanding it to 1.4 L by opening the bottom zipper. It secures to the saddle and seat post via one Velcro strap each, which meant that it fits around saddles with rails that are very wide at the rear, such as my old Selle SMP Hell saddle.

After almost four years of riding, though, it’s looking a little beat-up and tired. While Deuter says its material offers water resistance, it wasn’t enough to prevent my KMC master links from rusting.

I got the Topeak Wedge Drybag Small to replace it.

FEATURES

  • Waterproof polyurethane material, sonically welded seams
  • Roll-top closure secured with side buckles
  • Attaches to saddle by clicking into mounting bracket installed on saddle rails
  • Fits seat posts from 25.4 mm to 34.9 mm diameter
  • Rear light loop and reflective material strip
  • Volume: 0.6 L
  • Weight: 140 g (bag only)

IMPRESSIONS

The Wedge Drybag is made of a similar polyurethane material to my Vincita B050WP-A panniers, except here it’s given shape and stiffness by a curved plastic plate. As such, it holds its distinct shape better than the Bike Bag II.

From experience with my panniers, I’m a believer in the waterproofing provided by a roll-top bag closure. Here, though, there isn’t enough material to let riders leverage another advantage of the roll-top closure: it is tolerant of overfilling. More on that in a minute.

Since changing to the Fabric Line saddle, the use of these saddlebags with a plastic quick-disconnect bracket has been restored to me. The QuickClick bracket on the Wedge Drybag attaches with just a 3 mm hex wrench.

A look at the inside of the bag reveals slim mesh pockets on the sides, as a way of organizing the contents. They’re not exactly deep, but they’re useful enough.

At 0.6 L, this Topeak bag is rated smaller in absolute capacity than the Deuter Bike Bag II. The old bag could fit two cyclocross inner tubes, a multi-tool, tire levers, a patch kit, master links, a spare rear derailleur hanger, and had space left over for some odds and ends. The new bag…isn’t as roomy, especially when trying to stuff it with two inner tubes.

Here it is with a Topeak Hexus II multi-tool with two included tire levers and one spare cyclocross inner tube side by side. Not seen, but packed in the side mesh pockets, are a ziplock bag with some cash; a tiny plastic bag with a KMC missing link and spare rear derailleur hanger; and a Park Tool GP-2 glueless patch kit.

It will manage to fit all this, but barely – mostly because of how bulky the inner tube is. Trying to fit two of these inner tubes is possible but requires a different strategy: skipping the use of the side mesh pockets altogether.

While one advantage of the roll-top closure is that it can tolerate some overfill, there just isn’t enough spare material for it. As it is, the roll-top closure folds over just once before the buckles come in to cinch the opening shut.

Moving all the small bits into the depths of the bag and covering them over with the two inner tubes jammed into the main cavity side by side proved the way to go. That left the multi-tool. I made it fit by making it sit sideways, and used whatever overfill capacity the bag had to cinch everything down shut.

…Like so.

Even stuffed to the gills, it’s much sleeker than the droopy Bike Bag II was. This is best illustrated by the Cat Eye Reflex Auto rear light I hung on its safety light loop. The Reflex Auto sits just a bit higher up, at a better angle, and it does this on its own.

Deuter Bike Bag II hung under Selle SMP Hell. Note the droop and angle of the Cat Eye Reflex Auto rear light.

On the Bike Bag II, I had to wrestle the saddle rail Velcro straps to combat the natural droopage of the material that conspired to make the Reflex Auto point downward.

There’s a finger-wide strip of reflective print, too, but I’m not sure how helpful it is given that it tends to face downward when the bag is mounted on the saddle.

Despite biting off more than it can swallow with my two fat tubes, the Wedge Drybag has done a pretty good job of ferrying my tools and spares around. The Velcro strap for the seat post isn’t strictly necessary for security, either. You could skip wrapping it if you regularly remove the saddle bag on and off the bike, since undoing it from the bag’s loop is more obtrusive than it should be. Riders who detest the thought of saddle bag straps catching on their bibshorts will welcome the option.

Overall, this is another good release from Topeak. If the Medium size was available, I’d opt for that, though.

Tool review: Wheels Manufacturing PRESS-7 bottom bracket press

Traditionally, cyclists have been discouraged from working on bikes with press-fit bottom brackets because of the expense of their tools.

Park Tool BBP-1 bottom bracket press.

If you go with Park Tool, for example, their cheapest bottom bracket press kit with a set of eight drifts, called the BBP-1, costs US$200. If you think that’s a stiff price for a tool, believe me, it used to be a lot worse.

Park Tool HHP-2 headset bearing press. This tool soon became a fixture in the pro peloton’s mechanics trucks. It needs additional parts for use in press-fit bottom brackets, though.

Before the BBP-1, you had to buy the HHP-2 headset press, which is a heavy, burly shop tool, and at US$170, expensive on its own. Then you had to buy bottom bracket installation and removal tools, which are sold in sets specific to certain standards. There was one separate set for BB30, PF30, BBright, BB386EVO and BB392EVO; another different set for BB86, BB92, BB90 and BB95; and so on.

Park Tool BBT-30.3 bottom bracket tool – for BB30, PF30, BBright, BB386EVO and BB392EVO frames. The round bearing drifts are to be used with the HHP-2. Retail price is US$42.

Park Tool BBT-90.3 bottom bracket tool – for use on BB86, BB92, BB90 and BB95 frames. The round bearing drifts are to be used with the HHP-2. Retail price is US$47.

Such was the expense that most cyclists would rather just leave it up to their local bike shop to install, service, and/or replace press-fit bottom brackets in and out of their frames.

While you can make your own cheapskate press-fit tool out of a threaded rod, washers and nuts, this sacrifices precision. If there’s one argument for investing in Park Tool’s press-fit bottom bracket tools, it’s that they provide precisely machined drifts that ensure the bearings press into the shell as straight as they can.

A Wheels Manufacturing PF30 bottom bracket. Inside those bearing cups sit Enduro bearings.

Fortunately, this year, Wheels Manufacturing came to the rescue of DIY bike mechanics with their brand-new universal bottom bracket press, the PRESS-7. The firm is famous for creating a vast selection of rear derailleur hangers, machining them out of tough aluminum. They also make a bunch of bottom brackets. They say the PRESS-7 is meant to work with all of their press-fit bottom bracket products – at a surprisingly cheap price.

FEATURES

  • Machined aluminum construction
  • Contents: threaded rod, two handles, two universal bottom bracket bearing drifts
  • Bottom bracket bearing compatibility by inner diameter
    • 22 mm (SRAM GXP non-drive)
    • 24 mm (SRAM GXP drive,  Shimano Hollowtech II, FSA MegaExo)
    • 30 mm (Cannondale/FSA BB30 and BB30A, SRAM PF30A, FSA BB386EVO and BB392EVO)
  • Frame bottom bracket shell compatibility by inner diameter
    • 37 mm (Trek BB90 and BB95)
    • 41 mm (Shimano/Scott BB86 and BB92)
    • 42 mm (Cannondale BB30 and BB30A, Specialized alloy OSBB)
    • 46 mm (SRAM PF30 and PF30A, Specialized carbon OSBB, Cervelo BBright, FSA BB386EVO and BB392EVO)
  • Retail price: US$35

IMPRESSIONS

The PRESS-7 comes with no-frills packaging; everything fits in a small ziplock bag. The individual bits also come in their own plastic bags.

The heart of the PRESS-7 is a threaded rod and two turning handles. They’re solidly built out of aluminum, and spin quite freely for the most part.

What makes this set work though are the universal bearing drifts.

How the universal bottom bracket drifts work. The red steps are for bottom bracket bearings; the gray steps are for the frame bottom bracket shells. Photo from Wheels Manufacturing.

The drifts are stepped and two-sided. Some of the steps fit the inside diameter of the bottom bracket bearings and their cups. The others will fit the inside diameter of the bottom bracket shell. These drifts can be purchased on their own for around US$10 apiece.

The bearing drifts up close.

You slide the drifts in, then screw in the handles to form the completed PRESS-7.

While Wheels Manufacturing states that the PRESS-7 is meant to be universal for their own bottom brackets, I test-fit its drifts with a spare Shimano SM-BB71-41B bottom bracket I have lying around. This bottom bracket is a “Shimano Press-Fit – Road” or BB86 unit. The steps on the drifts seem to work well, fitting on both races of the bearing.

EARLY OPINIONS

Wheels Manufacturing has an excellent tool here. It’s an unbelievable price for a bottom bracket press, complete with drifts. Considering that the firm charges US$20 for a pair of the drifts themselves, the PRESS-7 as a whole is excellent value.

Early bird consumers were actually very lucky as Wheels Manufacturing offered the initial production run of the PRESS-7 at 50% off. At US$17.50, this set is a steal; even at full retail price it’s not too shabby at all.

I’ve yet to put this tool into service as my current Shimano SM-BB91-41B bottom bracket is still spinning fine, but should replacement day arrive I’ll be a little more prepared.

What’s in the toolbox? (2016 edition)

I’m a big advocate of DIY, or “do it yourself.” There’s a certain appeal in getting your hands dirty and working your tools to either maintain, fix, or create. The relative simplicity of the bicycle as a machine lends itself well to DIY, but you do need the right tools. No need to splurge on them in one fell swoop; the toolbox I have was built up over the past three years. I’d like to think I’ve covered the basics with my set, addressing most tasks any cyclist could do on his/her own. Consider this a guide towards building up your own.

 

Bike stand. It’s very hard to work on your bike when you need to hold it with one hand while you wrench away with another. The first thing I’d suggest buying is a means of turning your bike into a freestanding object. There are many ways of doing this, from humble display stands, to sophisticated folding work stands that either clamp a bike by one of its tubes, or cradle it by its bottom bracket shell. Mine is a simple Minoura DS-30AL display stand, which hooks over the ends of the rear quick release skewer and raises the rear wheel a few inches in mid-air.

My hex keys and Torx keys. Note the ball ends on the hex keys.

Hex keys. Often called by the brand name “Allen,” metric hex keys are indispensable for work on a bike. Don’t cheap out on these; invest in good quality hex keys to avoid rounding bolts and to keep the wrench edges intact for longer. Hex keys with long handles help with grip and allow you to apply torque more easily, while ball ends help speed up the threading of bolts, even from odd angles, until their heads snug up to the surface. The most frequently used sizes are 4, 5 and 6 mm; in fact, 95% of the bolts on my folding bike Bino can be worked on with a 5 mm hex key.

Torx keys. Although not as commonplace, there are bolts that require a Torx key to turn instead of a hex key. The most frequent use of Torx-head bolts is on six-bolt brake disc rotors, which require a T25 key. If you run SRAM components on your bike, some of their derailleurs make use of Torx-head bolts. These bolts can also be found on Zipp and 3T stems as their faceplates clamp down on handlebars. Alternatively, some cyclists have gone to the trouble of replacing their hex bolts with Torx-head ones instead, as they are harder to strip and round.

 

Chain breaker. While many multitools have a chain breaker built in, I’d recommend a standalone unit for home use, as their oversize handles make them both stronger and easier to use. Chain breakers are essentially press tools, pushing rivets in and out of chain links by consistent application of pressure via a screwed-in driving pin. On more sophisticated chain breakers, this driving pin can be replaced once it wears down.

 

Torque wrench. Due to the many lightweight aluminum and carbon parts out there, it is critical to tighten them to correct torque, lest you destroy them by crushing or crumpling. It’s very hard to measure torque by feel, so it’s best to leave this to a torque wrench. Basic beam-type torque wrenches have a freestanding secondary beam that deflects against a scale to visually show applied torque. Micrometer-type and preset torque wrenches have a clutch that will let go and click once a set torque value is reached.

 

Screwdrivers. There aren’t many conventional screws left on a bicycle these days. Their main use is on derailleur limit screws. A set of magnet-tipped ones is useful for picking up fallen bolts or screws.

 

Pliers. These are always useful, especially in the long-nose or needle-nose variety. Usual jobs are for pulling on shift or brake inner cables taut as you tighten their anchor bolts down.

Rubber mallet vs claw hammer.

Rubber or plastic mallet. Some things on a bike require a bit of “persuasion” to remove, such as cranks and steerer tubes. You don’t really want to damage these components by subjecting them directly to the blows of a conventional claw or ball-peen hammer. A mallet with a rubber or plastic head is the best solution. The surface spreads the impact force of each tap across more of the struck surface, lessening the risk of dents.

A conventional hammer will work better if you’re using another tool to indirectly apply force to a bike component. One such example is a punch or bearing remover to knock out a press-fit headset or bottom bracket.

Park Tool CN-10 cable cutters in action.

Cable cutters. If you work on inner and outer cables, which are made up of wire strands that run lengthwise, you will want to cut them as cleanly as possible to reduce the risk of fraying or crushing the cable. Both are quite bad. Fraying or crushing can mean that your inner cables will not work well with your outer cables. A dedicated pair of cable cutters cuts both by shearing action, increasing the odds of a clean cut. Park Tool’s CN-10 is the old standby for this job, although Pedro’s, Super B and Unior also make their own versions.

Diagonal or side cutters. The only real exception to cable cutters is the cutting of conventional brake outer cable, which, unlike shift housing or inner cables, is spiral-wound. The more effective tool for this is a pair of side cutters. If you’re partial toward woven “compressionless” brake outer cable, cable cutters are better.

Park Tool’s HCW-16 is a chain whip and pedal wrench in one tool. Here it’s with the Shimano TL-LR15 cassette lockring tool and an adjustable wrench.

Chain whip and cassette lockring tool. These specialist tools allow you to remove your cassette from your rear wheel’s freehub body. Most versions of the lockring tool are basically large bolts that sink into the splines of a cassette lockring and are turned by an adjustable wrench. Some of them have long integrated handles, which I think is a bonus. Other lockring tools, such as Shimano’s TL-LR15, also come in handy for mounting and removing brake rotors that use Shimano’s Centerlock system instead of the six-bolt system.

(L-R): 15 mm combination wrench; Park Tool HCW-16 chain whip and pedal wrench; Bike Hand tire bead jack; Shimano TL-LR15 cassette lockring tool

Pedal wrench. If your pedals’ spindles come with wrench flats, there’s a good chance they’ll need a 15 mm wrench to tighten or loosen them. Any 15 mm wrench should theoretically work, but there are times when the thickness of a normal or adjustable wrench is just too much to work with. A pedal wrench is usually thinner and better able to tighten or loosen pedals with tight clearances against the crank arm. Alternatively you could use a 15 mm cone wrench for this job. Note that if your wheels have nutted axles, a 15 mm wrench will also work on those.

Tire bead jack. This is a specialist tool for mounting very stubborn tires onto rims. I’ve written about this in a separate post.

Park Tool CC-3.2 chain checker in action. Here the “0.75” end is being used. Since it doesn’t fall in between links, this chain doesn’t have 0.75% wear yet.

Chain checker. This, a Park Tool CC-3.2, is a simple “go/no-go” gauge made out of metal and can check for 0.5% and 0.75% wear. Hook one end over a link, and let the other, straight end drop onto another chain link. If it doesn’t fall into a link, your chain is still good; if it does, it’s time to consider replacing it. At 0.75% wear, any further delay in replacing your chain risks wear on your cassette and chainrings as well.

THIS ISN’T QUITE A COMPLETE WORKSHOP…YET

As of this writing, I still need the following tools and supplies to cover all repairs and maintenance:

  • Cup and cone wrenches, 13-18 mm
  • Bearing press tools, for press-fit headsets and bottom brackets (I’ve got one coming in the mail)
  • Bottom bracket wrenches, for outboard bottom brackets (e.g. Shimano Hollowtech II)
  • Crank arm pre-tensioner tools, for compression slotted cranks (e.g. Shimano Hollowtech II)
  • Vernier calipers
  • Park Tool IR-1 internal cable routing tool
  • Spoke wrenches
  • Wheel truing stand
  • Clamp-type workstand – I dream of a Park Tool PCS-10
  • A jar of shift cable ferrules
  • A jar of brake cable ferrules
  • A jar of cable end caps
  • A roll of compressionless brake cable housing
  • A roll of shift cable housing