Mack Workshop's Top Tube Bag does exactly what it says on the label. It mounts easily to your frame, holds the stuff you want to access most frequently securely and doesn't cost the earth. It's also made in the UK for a very reasonable price.
The Top Tube bag sits on the top tube behind the headset and stem or in front of the seat post and seat clamp. This style of bag has been around for ages and most bikepackers have one or two or more in different sizes depending on the type of trip they are on, This bag is much too versatile to just be used for bikepacking, it’s ideal for most trips to work or long rides out on local trails or just to carry the minimum of kit to keep you rolling.
It’s a relatively small bag, which allows it to sit neatly and stay put behind the stem on the bike as long as you have done the Velcro traps up tight. It’s worth pointing out that unless you use 3M clear tape or similar to protect your frame any bike packing bag that you attach will damage the finish. Of course, if you’re not concerned about such wear and tear, it’s not a problem.
The bag is handmade to a high standard by Jon in Weston-Super-Mare with a nice contrasting zip pull in black and comes equipped with two long sections of Velcro at each of its fixing points. One around the spacers under your stem and the other around the top tube. If you are mounting it ‘backwards’ then the latter fits around the seat post or seat tube. Once you have decided on the location attach as tightly as you can, making sure that the bars can still turn easily (some other bags’ rubberised straps can create issues here). You can trim the ends of the velcro if you want to, and I also singe the ends with a lighter to prevent any potential fraying occurring.
The bag has 3mm of foam padding in the bottom and sides to protect both the items you place in it and the top tube of your frame you mount it on and despite its small size, I found it easily takes a 700x35 tube, multi-tool, 2x tyre levers, an energy bar and some Haribo. I’ve also managed to stuff my compact camera in there from time to time, my gloves and a buff but not necessarily all at the same time – it’s not a Tardis and can’t perform miracles. The added internal pocket/sleeve is useful for holding a credit card and some cash safely inside and although it is not big enough to hold my monster of a 6” smartphone it will happily swallow my ‘gone-riding-in-the-rain’ compact one. It doesn’t have a display window on the top, it’s not that type of bag, Mack Workshop has assumed (like most Bikepacking companies) you either don’t need to see a screen or you have your own GPS or Phone mount separately for that purpose.
The material is made from Black VX21 and is the industry standard for this type of product. Other colours and materials are available but you need to discuss these with Jon directly and are offered in Cordura. The version I have was a sample of a lighter weight material but it has performed brilliantly so far with no issues and the padded sides have prevented any unwanted internal items poking through. It is not a product that gets a lot of wear in its usual location and Mack Workshop were happy for us to test it and see what the outcome was.
If it does have a downside, it’s the lack of front strap height adjustability and width (although the latter can be altered with scissors). Sometimes you find that the location of the strap is not always best suited to the gap between your stem and headset and that if you could change the height that the Velcro is attached to the bag then it would fit a wider selection of bikes. Best advice here is that if you have a zero gap between the stem and the headset you’re out of luck with most of these top Tube bags, not just Mack Workshop, and you’ll need a direct mount one or then again Jon can make you a custom one.
The Mack Workshop Top Tube bag is a great little bag with useful padded sides that can be used for normal tools and snacks or even small camera/phone at a sensible price. It's not waterproof but I'm not counting that against it at this price (£28) and I still think you should always protect your valuables yourself and not rely on the bag. It's very lightweight and tough and is available in Black in VX21 or colours in 1000D Cordura. It is easy to fit and like all things Mack Workshop customisable.
You might also like: