orget my previous comment, here it is. I’ll post a full up review and compare contrast as a full post if I get the time… I’m a bag *****… ;)
Mainly style issues – as anything I’ve used ‘works’ to carry stuff. And by style I mean in the color / looks department as well as the approach – mounting, compressing, supporting – side of things.
The Acorn saddlepack that I used was the smallish / medium version. Leather trim, buckles, zippers, and leather pulls and bits for mounting a blinky. Transported from bike to bike easily but required bag loops, flopped around a bit when loaded, regardless of how I cinched it down.
The Acorn Boxy Rando bag was built to high quality, with the same leather bits and trim and metal hooks and fasteners. Map case on top that was an odd size (8.5 x 11 didn’t quite fit folded in half) – and it leaked around the seams. Cotton duck. Stabilizer chords, etc. The Acorn front bag required a rack (I was using the Nitto Mark’s) and I had to either use a decaleur or the stabilizers to the hoods. Easy access on the go to pretty much the whole bag. Food in the back small pockets, larger items in the main pouch. ID, wallet, etc. in the front flap. Still found myself stopping, esp. when moving slow or being tired to do any major bag searches / gear changes.
The Acorn’s are overall heavier per unit of volume that you can carry – and the front bag doesn’t swap from bike to bike easily – you have to move racks and possibly lights (I had my eDeluxe mounted on the rack)… add in the rack weight and it adds considerably to unbalanced equation of volume carried to weight of pack.*
*Note – I’m not a weight weenie (I do look in the mirror every morning) – but on a Fleche, 300k or climby 200k all that stuff adds up – and I’ve been trying to streamline and lighten my load since about mid summer… it all adds up and plays into the bigger picture. Especially now that I’ve started to pair down my kit and am pressing to do some bikepacking style fast touring next year. I’m no racer, and folks would still scoff at what I end up carrying – but if I have the room I tend to fill it up. I’d load up the Acorn front bag… regardless. And the rear would be fine for most riding. Could stuff a jacket in there when needed, along with tools, some calories, phone, camera, etc.
Materials: Buckles and leather and such certainly fit the traditional look of the Carradice and Acorn bags (and Ostrich and VO) – but in the rain and the cold are a PITA. A 24 hour Fleche, most in the rain and cold turned me off to this (along with plenty of training rides in the wet / snow / cold). While the front bag is easy to flip open – anytime I wanted into the rear (and this goes for plenty of winter riding with the Carradice) you’d be removing gloves, fiddling with buckles and straps, etc… I’m just done with that for now… I like the snap closures of the plastic on the Epics. Roll things tight, snap em closed, pull the compression straps. Simple. Elegant. Pack it stuffed full… or half empty and you can still snug it up. The Carradice and Acorn’s hold their shape regardless of what is in them, and unless on a Bagman rack they tend to flop around a bit when stuffed (and stuff flops around in them when not so stuffed). While I liked the easy access pockets on the Barley (and still have a Barley and Camper Longflap to use if I want) they don’t keep things even remotely dry unless they are packed tight – otherwise the canvas kind of keeps its own shape. I did get remotely good at opening and closing the side pockets while on the go… and could work the buckles sans gloves while moving… but…
Leather – the black and brown leather on the Acorn’s (and white and black of the Carradice) certainly look sharp. But I somehow always felt I was riding a fully dressed Harley around. Perhaps this is PTSD from my DNF 400k that happened during Laconia bike week where I was passed by hundreds of ‘loud pipes save lives’ (complete with tassels, trim, skulls and such) bikes on a brevet… but the fashionista in me just always felt off about the leather and canvas stuff strapped all over my Ti IF. Pockets and doodads and leather zipper pulls with leather trim and on and on… too much for me. Functional, yes, for sure. But combined with issues above and it just stopped working for me. Aside from my saddle – I don’t think I need leather elsewhere (although I am eyeing a pair of ‘driving’ gloves for riding… something thin but grippy)
Front weight – with the previous Acorn setup most of the gear weight went into the front – this is on top of rack + bag weight. It was stable enought. I had bombed descents at 38 mph no hands on rough surfaces snapping pics with no shimmy or a hint of wobble… slow handling suffered for sure… but it was all workable. But I always felt the weight up there – even psychologically when the bag was empty everything felt slow and heavy… I’d guess that both Epic systems weigh as much as the Acorn saddle pack alone (don’t quote me, I’d have to weigh it and look it up) – but for sure the rear offers 3x the capacity with plenty of options for how you trim it up or down.
I’m a fan of ‘modern’ materials for bags and such, and I mainly stick to wool for clothing. ;) I’ll write more after I get some use time with the new gear … but aside from the generous size (I might have to have Eric make me a small h-bar pack sans harness system (sort of like a cape roll) and a 1/2 sized seat bag – I think this setup will be a winner. Lots of room in the rear to turn the bike into a self supported fast (relative to me turning the pedals) touring / rando / dirt road exploring machine. I’m fairly certain with an upgraded sleeping bag or quilt I’ll get my sleep system (hammock, bag, insulating layers) in the harness on the bars and can use the rear for tools (packed tight to the saddle) and clothing and layers packed as we move out from the post. I also have a Jandd frame pack to add to the mix if needed.
Bags I’ve used:
Ortlieb Medium and Large seat pack: waterproof, great bags, horrible mounting mechanism that doesn’t work with Brooks saddles (although I can get it to work with the Swallow (long rails) – but it doesn’t sit like it should.
Carradice SQR Tour – excellent bag, cotton duck, huge! The mounting block weighs more than my new bags… similar capacity in a boxier format to the Epic tailbag
Ortlieb h-bar bag – great bag, waterproof, great map case. Love it… but it mounts high on the bars and doesn’t expand very well. It also holds it shape, so its always boxy regardless of how full it is. Hard to move from bike to bike. Great for exploring and such. I still have it and it will probably adorn my wife’s Salsa come spring.
Ortlieb panniers – I had a full kit – front and rear of the bikepacker plus. Love them. Traded off the smalls to a frend and the large rears ride on the wife’s Salsa. If I were a pannier using world tourist – these would be the bags to use.
Carradice Barley traditional – like the size and was pleased with the mounting. Used a bagman for it on the IF for brevets and fully loaded. Sans bagman on the fixed gear for around town. Tired of the buckles… sold it this summer.
Carradice Barley Super C design – just picked one up recently. Used it for a brevet and long summer ride. Snap clips work well, bag is shaped a bit differently than their traditional bags – the top has a shape / seams to it that make it odd to close up unless stuffed – and it seems harder to tuck things under that big flap on the traditional version. I’ll probably keep this around for the FG.
Carradice Camper Long Flap – HUGE bag. Buckles and leather as noted prior. Have a bagman expedition for it. Works as described. Can swallow enough gear to camp with. Can swallow a ton of groceries…. its in the stable but rarely gets used…
Acorn saddlebag – noted above
Acorn boxy rando bag – noted above
Each piece offers something to various uses… and I guess if I were to design something (sketched out plenty of ideas… but I’m not a sewing man) it would be a cross between the Carradice SQR Tour and the Ortlieb seat packs. I think the Epic does this… and some time will tell.