05 June 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: fi'zi:k Saddle Pa:k bag

Update, 22 June 2008:

After our review of fi'zi:k's Saddle Pa:k (below), we got an e-mail from the company's US Marketing Manager Suzette. It turns out that they were one step ahead of us and, while not all saddle pa:k zippers fail, some do. So, revised Saddle Pa:ks (those with a ":k" on the side) have higher-quality YKK brand zippers. Within a few days, the brown & tan Santa man had left one in our front garden. The zipper is clearly different, as are some of the other fabrics and their cut, though the nice low-profile shape remains the same. The dual reflective patches that we liked so much are gone, though the new ":k" logos on the bag sides are reflective, so it's probably a visibility wash. Suzette also mentioned that the company encourages any customer who feels that their fi'zi:k product hasn't lived up to the brand's high quality image return it to the place where purchased for warranty. It's now loaded and mounted- we'll let you know how it goes!

Do the folks at fi'zi:k all have creatively named children? I mean, why be difficult? I could easily hate Selle Royal's high-end saddle brand for this alone if their quality saddles didn't force me to forgive their habit of taking liberties with the Roman alphabet. The company's Arione and Aliante saddles have found many fans (myself included) over the past several years, from the peleton on down. The company also makes a handful of accessories, including some bar tape (look for a review some time in the next few months) and this rather nice looking saddle bag.

The XS-sized Saddle Pa:k (come on guys) is just the right size to hold a road tube, small CO2 inflator, small mini tool and maybe a tire lever. In other words, this unobtrusive little guy is just the right size to carry all the things that I want to have along on every ride. Keys, phone, wallet and food? Not a chance- they'll have to go in jersey pockets. Which is how I like it. With a similar bag on both of my road/commuter bikes, it's nice not to have to have to think before heading out- everything that I need is already there in a compact, non-floppy package. The bag is made of water-resistant fabric, has a water-resistant zipper, a blinky tab and two reflective patches to ensure visibility regardless of mounting angle. All this for $14.00 Pretty cool, eh?

Well it was pretty cool for about 6 months, when I noticed that the zipper was becoming increasingly stubborn. Not a big deal- all I needed to do to access the contents was to undo the rail straps and swing the bag away from the seatpost. Sort of a pain, but the non-jangly zipper pull (good) seemed to be pulling the zipper head at a funny angle and causing it to bind a bit. Swinging the bag out from under the saddle allowed easier access and the ability to finesse the zipper open. Now, I don't particularly like flats. Nor do I like my stuff bouncing down the road after falling out of my saddle bag. So, you can imagine my delight when, after a repairing a flat and zipping up the Saddle Pa:k, I heard the jangle of tools hitting pavement. Stopping, I collected my things and chastised myself for being careless. It turns out that the 8 month old zipper on my had gone from open-close mode to open-open and would no longer secure the bag's contents. Luckily, I had eaten my snacks so the tools went into a jersey pocket, the tube was wedged deeper into the bag and I was sad (and annoyed by pocket tool jangle).

It's a shame, really- the rest of the bag was holding up great. The fabric seems to be plenty abrasion resistant and the hook & loop fastener and reflective patches of high quality. It seemed very well thought out and constructed but was ultimately let down by its weakest link. Does the zipper even need to be water resistant? Not many other bags seem to have them, and I'll probably be avoiding them for a while. With a durable (and maybe simpler) zipper, the bag would be worth, say, $17 and easily be a bikefix Pick. Oh so close...



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