Tailfin Top Tube Pack review - the all new range has been a resounding success
if you're fussy about details, this could one for you...
Tailfin’s first foray into top tube bags has been a resounding success. Issues such as bag sway have been completely eliminated thanks to the rigid sides and a retention system that doesn’t require a strap around the steerer tube, and the chance of knee rub has been greatly reduced thanks to the tapered shape of the bags. Shock absorbing inserts, cable ports, and a waterproof construction all add to the versatility of these bags. They do come in at the premium end of the price spectrum, but they’re still in line with the other big brands.
Minimal knee rub
Shock absorbing insert
Range of sizes
Tailfin, the British bikepacking brand most famous for its innovative Aeropack, has just taken its first step into the crowded market of top tube bags. The launch of five different models aims to cover as many bases as possible and, as usual, Tailfin has been sweating the details - but is there enough to stand out against the rest?
Well, we’ve had a selection on test for a couple of months now and have been really quite impressed. Let’s take a look into the details...
First off, although there are five bags in total, really it’s two different opening systems - zip versus flip-lid - with the zippered option coming in three different sizing options (0.8, 1.1 and 1.5 liters) and the flip-lid coming in two (1.1 and 1.5 liters).
The two largest sizes are really quite large and Tailfin recommends these would be best used on mountain bikes rather than road or gravel. The distance between the seatpost and the steerer tube tends to be longer on MTBs and the Q-factor a little wider, which together provides a bit more space for a larger bag.
The two middle sizes are more suited to road and gravel use, with the smallest size (which is only available with a zipper) having been designed expressly for those who typically would never choose to use a top tube bag because of issues with knee rub - which brings us neatly onto the shape.
Top tube bags are super convenient for keeping your important pieces of kit close at hand and out of your jersey pockets, but they can quickly get quite irritating if you end up hitting your knee at the top of every pedal stroke.
Tailfin has tried to mitigate this by tapering the bags from the front (by the steerer tube) down to the back, making the bags a little bit slimmer at the point where your knees are closest - but maximizing on volume where your knees won’t end up tracking.
Similarly, the top tube bags also taper from the bottom section so that they’re a little narrower at the top, again to try and reduce the chance of catching your knees on the bags. The bags also have quite rigid side panels to reduce the amount of sideways bulge when (over)stuffing them with kit.
In my experience, I did end up catching my knees from time to time with the mid-sized models, but they were a lot better than some others of a similar capacity. The smaller sized version, though quite small, I really got on well with and I barely noticed it was there - really excellent.
There are two broad schools of thought on top-tube bag closure systems. The first holds that flip-lids are the best solution, as zips are generally the weak-point when it comes to water ingress, whereas a flip-lid offers bombproof protection.
The retort to this is that zips are easier to use and don’t leave you with a piece of material flapping about in the wind when grabbing something on the move. Both are valid points, and so Tailfin went and made options for both camps.
The flip-lid design works well, with the elasticated retention strap simple to release with just a flick of the finger and with the interior easy to access while on the move. The lid still flaps about when it’s open, but there’s not much that can be done about that. Doing it back up is similarly straightforward, with the lip flipping over easily and the retention strap simple to ping back into place.
The back of the flip-lid Top Tube Pack is cut rather higher than on the zippered on (or rather, the zip opens up that section of the bag) and so it is a little harder to access smaller bits that are pushed to the rear of the bag - which is something worth bearing in mind if you’re the sort to dip in and out frequently.
Onto the zip and, with the majority of the testing taking place in Morocco, the waterproofing capabilities weren’t exactly strained. Still, the zip is rated as being fully waterproof for more inclement climates. The action was smooth and easy to operate - it even comes with a choice of toggles, so you can decide whether you’d prefer a stealthier or more visible option.
For top tube bags of this length, a single zipper is pretty standard - and for the most part all that you need. But if the bags were any longer, it would be better if a double zipper was specced, so that the kit at the far end of the bag can be accessed without opening the whole thing.
This is one of the areas which is most impressive. Tailfin has ported over the design used on their Down Tube Packs, which consists of a rubberised attachment point secured by Tailfin’s own cargo straps. Given that the system can hold a couple of kilos against a fork leg without slipping or leaving a mark, the demands of a top tube bag are easily accommodated.
This means that there’s no need for a front strap around the steerer tube to hold the bag in place - and also means that when the bars are turned in slow-speed manoeuvres, the top tube bags don’t get pulled out of alignment.
The bags can also be bolted to the top of the top tube, if your bike has the necessary bosses, and in this case the rubberised attachment points simply serve to protect the frame from the bag.
Inside the bags you get a shock absorbing insole, which is intended to help protect your phone or charger pack from impacts on the top tube - as well as to deaden any rattling noise from keys and the such like. To the side, you get one mesh pouch to help organize your kit.
At $70.00 / £55.00 for the 1.1 liter version with a zip, it is at the higher end of the price spectrum for top tube bags. Topeak offers the Fastfuel Drybag X 1 liter toptube bag for just $52.95 / £36.99, which also boasts a waterproof construction. That said, it doesn’t have the extra features of the Tailfin Top Tube Packs, such as the secure cargo strap attachment and tapering design.
And there also are other bags at pretty much the same price point as the Tailfin models which also don’t offer quite the same range of features, such as Apidura’s Bolt-On Top Tube Pack for $70.00 / £52.00, which - as the name suggests - can only be bolted on and which requires a steerer tube strap, unlike the Tailfin bags.
So, in all, the Top Tube Packs are expensive, but they are competitive with other premium products - and they include features which are quite unique to Tailfin.
In all, Tailfin has done very well with its first foray into top tube bags. The details really have been sweated and there’s a trove of lovely little details, ranging from the attachment system to the shape. The price is at the more premium end of the market, but it is still in line with competitors.
It would be nice to see a longer model offered - bags which extend much further along the top tube and a lot to the carrying capacity without adding extra bulk. But in terms of the designs Tailfin has actually released, they are incredibly well executed.
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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