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.

This is why you should regularly inspect your chain

Not too long ago, my chain broke just as I was beginning my ride. The outer plates on one of the links had given up, bending outward in dramatic fashion.

This was a first for me.

Driving a joining pin into a Shimano CN-HG54 10-speed chain using a multi-tool’s chain breaker.

These days, there are many, many resources online that can help you with chain repair and get you going, assuming you have the right tools and supplies on hand. Specifically, you’ll need a multi-tool with a chain breaker, plus either a spare joining pin (for Shimano or Campagnolo chains) or a master link (for SRAM, KMC, Taya and Wippermann chains).

I carry these in my saddlebag, and I know how to use them, so the only inconvenience for me was leaving about ten minutes later than planned…plus dirty, greasy fingers from handling the chain. My KMC 10-speed master links had some rust on them, but were still very usable, and so I replaced the busted outer plates with one of the master links and made it to my destination safely.

That should have been the end of it. Or was it?

My trusty Park Tool CC-3.2 chain checker, here indicating that the chain has not yet worn down 0.75%. A cheap, must-have tool.

A few days later, I took out my Park Tool CC-3.2 chain checker and used it on the chain. The 0.5% end fell straight through the links, indicating 0.5% wear. The 0.75% end didn’t, though. Okay, I told myself, I should stay on the conservative side and look for a replacement chain, but no hurries.

I took a closer look at the chain though and found this.

Apparently there were more links on my chain with broken outer plates. These were ticking time bombs. There’s no way of telling when these outer plates would finally let go and lead to another chain failure event.

I replaced the chain straight away.

A pair of outer plates and chain rivets from my KMC X10EL chain. Note the broken outer plate. There were more of these.

Park Tool recently released a few videos on its YouTube channel on chains, sizing, repair, and replacement procedures. It stressed that in case of chain breakage, you could always repair it the same way I did. However, that broken chain must be replaced as soon as possible.

Well, the broken outer plates all over my repaired chain are one possible reason why. Even at 0.5% wear, which for 10-speed chains indicates a bit of life left, my chain clearly shouldn’t be ridden any longer. These broken links are what you should take particular notice of on your chain – we all know what they say about it only being as strong as its weakest link.

Always keep a spare chain at home to match your drivetrain, at least as long as your current chain’s length. As long as the packaging is unopened, you won’t need to worry about it rusting or corroding, as it comes coated from the factory in a grease-like lubricant for storage.

Field repair: Fixing a broken rear shift cable

My riding style revolves around anticipation and smart use of gears, regularly using the shifters as I go. So you can imagine how irritating it can be to have shift cables fray or break on me mid-ride.

With no cable tension working on your front or rear derailleur, the spring tension will naturally pull them toward the smallest chainring or cassette cog, respectively. While it’s not such a big problem losing the use of your front shifter this way, as you can get home comfortably on your small chainring, it’s far more challenging to break a rear shift cable, as you’re effectively stuck in top gear. If your ride route involves any sort of climbs or your bike is loaded with panniers, that can be very hard to deal with.

Fortunately it need not be a catastrophe. Depending on the situation, you can usually bodge a fix to get you home. Here’s Dan Lloyd of GCN demonstrating how to do it with the remnants of your broken gear cable…and a multi-tool that you should always carry with you.

Not too long ago I’ve had the misfortune of my rear gear cable dying on me and snapping inside the body of my Shimano 105 STI levers. While unfortunate, it was a good time to test out the effectivity of this emergency fix, as the prospect of pedaling to my destination in either a 34×12 or 50×12 gear wasn’t very appealing to me.

Here’s the result:

I managed to stick the rear derailleur into the 21T cog quite cleanly, without the ticking noise of a chain wanting to move up or down the cassette. With this field repair, effectively I was riding a single-speed. I could ride in the big 50T chainring most of the time, only needing the 34T when going really slowly. It’s amazing how usable a 50×21 gear is; I’d even say perhaps I should have tried the next smaller 50×19 gear instead.