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Trail Tested: Topeak’s Latest Kit for Bikepacking Adventures

As some of you know, I ride my bike nearly every day and have for the last 3 decades. For half of those years, I have pumped up my tires before each ride with a Topeak Joe Blow Pro floor pump. On every ride, I carry a 17-year-old Topeak Alien multi-tool, and my many Race Rocket Mt mini-pumps have saved countless rides from a sad walk home. Suffice it to say, without intending to be a Topeak fan, I have become one.

When Topeak started producing adventure cycling products, namely panniers, rack trunks, and even trailer bags, I knew it would eventually lead to bikepacking goods, and they now have a full complement of rackless bags suitable for light and swift adventures. With a busy schedule this year I feared I wouldn’t have a chance to try their latest kit, but I did manage to wiggle in a few overnighters here and there.

Loader series bags

I was pleased to see Topeak didn’t just dip a toe in the bikepacking segment, but dove in head first with a complete set of seat, frame, and bar bags, respectively named the Backloader, Midloader, Toploader, and Frontloader. Each piece is made of heavy-denier, PU-coated nylon with water-resistant zippers. Whereas most custom bikepacking bags represent a big spend, Topeak’s offerings are priced well below the competition with prices starting at just $45.

Perfectly suited for drop or flat bar bikes, the Loader series brings full-featured bikepacking bags to a more approachable price level.

Although bikepacking bags are a relatively new thing, Topeak followed well-proven design trends, particularly with the frame and seat bags. The Backloader uses the roll-top closure and three-point attachment system favored by most bag makers, and the frame bag features robust velcro straps and dual-sided access zippers. For those of us who like to portage our feather-filled goodies in the seat bag, the Backloader is sold with a waterproof liner sack, which also makes unloading the bag an easy one-grab effort.

The bar bag is made with a two-piece design using a dedicated bar-mounted harness to hold the 8-liter waterproof bag. Dual roll-top closures allow the bag to compress to the required size and a purge valve expels the air within to maximize storage space. I have yet to meet the perfect bar bag, and the Frontloader has many of the same quirks other bags suffer. Despite a clever method of distancing the bag from the bar, some users may still struggle to reduce interference with brake lines and shift cables. Overall, I think Topeak did a great job creating an easy to use system with a low asking price.

Ninja Pouch+ Road

I wasn’t initially sold on the cage-mounted pouch, but it worked so well I bought a second one. Designed to hold a standard road tube in the wasted space beneath the cage, I’ve found it an ideal spot for a tire repair kit and other things I need to be readily accessible. The road version was a touch on the small side, so I popped for the larger MT model and mounted it below my downtube. I’ll admit the included tire levers probably aren’t up to the task of prying off my tight tubeless mountain bike tires, but a small spare lever is better than no spare lever.

The wrap-up

Topeaks bags are well designed with the pricing sure to attract buyers. The $75 Backloader is less than half the price of the first custom seat bag I purchased. As for the other accessories, pumps, and tools in the Topeak catalog, many of them have served me very well—from the rocky coasts of Alaska to the volcanic deserts of the Icelandic Highlands.

As every cycling season passes, this year my 32nd, I still find myself adding to my Topeak collection. I still see things on their website I want to have and with that, it is confirmed. I am a Topeak fan. www.topeak.com

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.