While the notion of carrying luggage on your bike for adventures has long been the norm the traditional panniers and saddle bags are being replaced with frame packs like this Topeak Midloader, a well built, sensibly designed load carrier.
The Midloader comes in two size options, a three-litre version and this four and a half litre option, which holds a surprising amount of kit securely and sturdily. The whole thing takes just a couple of seconds to fit thanks to its hook and loop fasteners with two large straps on the top tube and thinner straps for the seat tube and downtube. The straps will fit round down tubes from 38mm to 70mm in diameter, 45mm to 66mm top tubes and 28mm to 60mm seat tubes there isn't a huge amount of extra Velcro strap left flapping around even on a narrower-tubed frame like the Specialized Allez.
It was a spot-on fit on any bike I tried, though they were all frames with 54 to 55cm top tubes, not the larger model you can see in the photos. When the straps are tightened the bag stays firmly in place and they keep it taut too which reduces its ability to bulge out towards your thighs when fully loaded.
Access to the Midloader is via a long zip on both sides which is protected from the elements by a storm flap. When closed the zips sit at opposite ends either side so as long as you can remember where you packed things you can get easy access without having to fully open the bag. The Midloader is 12cm deep, which just about left me with enough room to get at my down tube bottle when fully loaded. Removing a seat tube bottle was a little more faff, but you could just swap your empty down tube bottle for the full one anyway.
The Midloader is made from water repellent and stain resistant polyethylene. While prolonged road spray could start to make its way through the fabric I had no real issues even when blasting through calf deep muddy puddles up on the gravel tracks. There is a board which runs along the bottom internally to help the bag maintain its shape when loaded and this also helps keep water out.
Inside is just one large chamber and this is probably the only negative thing I'd say about the Topeak Midloader. It would be nice just to have a separate compartment for essentials as occasionally things like gels might vibrate themselves towards the back. You could pair the Midloader with the Topeak Toploader though as the top tube straps have been positioned so the two are compatible.
I used the Midloader for the Dirty Reiver event plus plenty of gravel training rides and wooded singletrack before the race. Even when the going gets really rough the bag didn't move one bit and didn't affect the handling of the bike at all except in really strong crosswinds where having more material in the side profile meant you would catch the breeze a little.
Even though it's nominally not as waterproof, I didn't have any issues with water ingress, meaning the Topeak bag is a great value frame bag. The Midloader is heavier than other bags on the market but I'd rather have the extra bulk in return for a reliable, sturdy piece of kit when you are out in the sticks or half way through an event.
Reviewed by: Stu Kerton. Go to www.extrauk.co.uk for more information