Restrap Small Frame Bag review: Little volume, big success
As bikepacking has boomed and cyclists have gotten over the taboo of carrying luggage on their bikes, the number of options to carry stuff has grown: handlebar bags, seat packs, top tube bags, cargo cages.
And frame bags. So many frame bags. Full-frame bags, half-frame bags, little tiny baby frame bags.
Yorkshire-based Restrap has three frame bags of various sizes, and can do custom full-frame bags on request too.
They’re a simple-seeming item that’s actually quite hard to get right. For starters, there are many bicycle frames of all sorts of sizes that you need to accommodate – everything from slender steel frames up to girthy carbon fibre e-bikes with batteries inside them.
Then there’s the delicate balancing act between getting enough internal space without them ballooning out beyond the profile of the top tube and rubbing the inside of the rider’s legs with every pedal stroke.
In my pursuit of a backpack-free commute, I’ve been dabbling with various cargo-carrying options over the past year or so, including bar bags of various sizes, seat packs, and a couple of frame bags. The smallish frame bags I tried were the most hit-or-miss, hampering access to my drink bottles and chafing on my knees while simultaneously not providing quite as much capacity as I’d like.
Just before I gave up and ordered a US$9 randonneur rack from AliExpress (no, that price isn’t a typo; yes, I’ll write about it some day) I rolled the dice one last time with this little Restrap frame bag which retails for US$74.99 (£49.99 / €59.99 / AU$87.99).
Restrap is a company that, since 2010, has been designing and building gear like this from its Yorkshire base. Among the brand’s considerable repertoire are three sizes in its frame bag range: 2.5 litres (S), 3.5 litres (M), and 4.5 litres (L). By the time you get up to the large one, you’re looking at the usual configuration that runs the length of the top tube.
The little one – the matter-of-factly titled ‘Small Frame Bag’ – got my attention, though, as I reasoned that it could carry what I needed it to without getting in the way of my pedal stroke.
You want dimensions? Here, have some dimensions.
This bag has a pretty bombproof construction with surprisingly generous storage for its size – the same declared volume as the biggest handlebar bag I use but with an easier-to-maximise layout. There’s space for all the bits and pieces I’d need for a long day in the saddle – not that I’ve had much of a chance to try that out in my 5 km / two-hour lockdown bubble.
A little bag of tools and spares, a can of your preferred beverage, gloves, a vest … just one configuration of treats and trinkets that you can fit in this bag.
The bikes I’ve used this bag on are all at the more fiddly end of the spectrum when it comes to getting this to fit, usually featuring either small-diameter steel tubes, externally routed cables, or – how primitive! – both. Even then, though, I’ve been able to get a firm, rattle-free fit for the Restrap. Most people would be riding bikes with chunkier frames and internally routed cables, so the fit would be even less of a problem.
The straps on the top tube are rubberised to give a bit of extra grip on the frame, and while I don’t love the way that they squish an externally run gear cable, it doesn’t seem to negatively impact on shifting.
The little plastic clips on the two straps for the down tube are easy to pull tight, with little rubber loops to hold excess strap when it’s routed through. These straps are pretty long, but easy enough to trim to fit if that bothers you.
You can, obviously, trim these back. I haven’t bothered yet.
The interior of the bag features a couple of little mesh pockets for internal organisation on one wall, with contrasting orange and grey colouring so it’s easier to see stuff than if it was just plain black.
I wish there was a little loop and string to clip a set of keys to, but that’s a minor gripe.
I haven’t been out for a full day in the rain with the bag yet but it’s shrugged off the slop of my dampest excursions thus far. When I could still commute to the office, the litmus test was that T-shirts and undies survived an hour without getting damp.
As for the knee-rub issue I have with other frame bags? Not a problem here. When I’m seated – which is most of the time, as I rarely climb out of the saddle – the bag is far enough forward that I don’t rub against it. It’s there just the tiniest bit if I’m riding out of the saddle, but really not enough to bother me, and only if the bag’s pretty well-stuffed.
Even loaded up with all the things above, I don’t find the bag to get in the way of my knees.
Frame bag preferences are about as personal as the adventures and bikes of the people that use them, so obviously your results may vary –– and there are heaps of alternatives on the market, some of them (like Apidura’s Racing Frame Pack) following a similar template.
But for me at least, this little frame bag is the only one I’ve used that I’ve liked, rather than just tolerated. In its volume, its position, its unobtrusive design, and the way it lets you get bottles out, it ticks a lot of boxes.