Gear Review: RockBros Bikepacking Saddle Bag – Read Before You Buy
These days, thanks to steady growth in the popularity of bikepacking, there are many high-quality, US-made, premium bikepacking seat bags available.
The RockBros saddle bag is not one of them. For what it is though – a cheap made-in-China imitation – it’s surprisingly good! For about half the price of more premium brands like Salsa or Revelate, you get a large capacity bikepacking saddle bag that ticks all the most important boxes.
For anyone bikepacking on a budget, the RockBros seat bag should be high on your list of bikepacking bags to check out. At the time of writing (January 2020) it’s the largest seat bag I know of that retails for under $90. And I mean WAY under $90; at $55.99 it’s easily half the price of most of its competitors.
It’s probably not surprising, then, that it’s not perfect. Depending on your bike setup and the type of terrain you ride, the RockBros saddle bag might end up being a gateway bag: the bag you use to figure out if this bikepacking thing is for you, at which point you upgrade. Still, for $56, it’s a great way to dip a toe into the world of bikepacking bags.
I’ve put a bit over 1000 miles on mine, plus observed my husband putting a few hundred miles on his. In this RockBros saddle bag review I’ll share all the details: what I love, what bugs me, and how I get the most out of this affordable bikepacking bag.
RockBros Seat Bag Overview
Price: $55.99 at Amazon
Capacity: 14 L
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Review Summary: The RockBros saddle bag is probably the best value large bikepacking seat bag out there. It holds 14 liters worth of gear in a surprisingly stable configuration. Some hassles with sagging and loosening straps knock down my rating, but I still think it’s a good entry-level bikepacking bag for those on a budget, especially if you have lots of space between your seat and rear tire and don’t ride super bumpy technical trails.
Pros and Cons
- Good value for money.
- Stable mount with minimal side-to-side movement, even when fully loaded.
- Shock cord and light attachment points are convenient features.
- Large capacity
- Seat rail attachment straps loosen on rough terrain.
- Bottom sags when packed full.
- Buckles have been known to break.
Design and Features
The RockBros seat bag is impressively well designed and fully featured, considering its budget price.
The bag attaches to your saddle rails with two buckle straps, and to your seatpost with two sturdy velcro straps. The seatpost attachment comes with a foam insert that helps with stability. Here’s a close-up showing the attachment system (the strap going around the blue bag on top is my own addition):
The top is nicely designed, with a net of shock cord for stuffing extra layers and a whole strip of attachment points for a tail light. The roll closure is lined with velcro, which keeps your stuff from spilling out every time you leave it sitting open for a moment.
The capacity of 14 liters rivals even the most premium seat bags. Though it looks pretty funny and can be a tad unwieldy when stuffed to the limit, the flexibility is definitely appreciated on longer trips.
How much space do you need? Officially, the RockBros seat bag needs 5 inches of exposed seatpost, and 7-8 inches between seat and rear tire.
Here’s my own experience: measure straight down from the back of your seat rails (where the bag will attach) to where that vertical line intersects with your rear tire. If this distance is around 7.5 inches or less, you will need to be a bit careful with how you pack the bag, and you will want to minimize strap sag on bumpy terrain.
It’s still possible to use this bag if you’re in this clearance range, but it might require some fiddling. See Problems and Solutions below for some workaround ideas.
How to Pack
Basic bikepacking principles apply: put the heaviest things closest to the attachment point and the center of the bike. In a seat bag this minimizes side-to-side swing and potential effects on bike handling. For me, this means I often stuff a can of food (cold ravioli for dinner, yum) into the awkwardly shaped spot at the far inside.
Then, I stuff all my layers and other soft things into the middle, making a solid mass of stuff to keep the bag stiff through the transition point from stiff bottom to unsupported.
At the end I stuff in a few odds and ends that I might need to access during the day: extra snacks that don’t fit up front, gloves, rain jacket.
When I need even more capacity, I sometimes strap things to the outside top of the bag, near the saddle. Be sure to tether them so they can’t bounce off!
Problems and Solutions
The RockBros seat bag performs well for the price, but it’s not perfect. Here are three issues, plus ideas for how to avoid or fix them.
While the side-to-side stability is good, I have problems with the straps that buckle through the saddle rails. They loosen over time, especially on rough terrain. Since I don’t have much extra clearance between the bottom of the bag and my rear tire, I need to stop fairly often to re-tighten the straps so the bag doesn’t rub on the tire.
My solution: attach an extra strap through the front of the saddle rails and under the seat post attachment, as shown below. This helps support the weight of the bag, which takes some load off the straps so they don’t loosen as fast.
My husband’s solution: tie the straps tightly together over the top of the bag, which seems to have a similar effect:
The bottom of the bag is only stiff for about half its length, which is what allows you to pack it down small for more minimal loads. But when stuffed to the limit, this creates a point where the bag likes to hinge downward at the back.
Unless you have loads of clearance between bag and tire, this is going to cause tire rub. You can see it happening a little bit in this picture from the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400:
My solution: put something thin and stiff in the bottom of the bag across the point where the bag starts to bend. This could be a camp sandal, Kindle e-reader, or even a specially cut piece of plastic or cardboard. It also helps to pack clothes or soft things very compactly into a single solid mass before cinching down the roll-top closure.
While my buckles are still going strong (knock on wood), I’ve seen two other riders experience broken buckles on this bag. It’s always the buckles on the straps that attach to the seat rails, so the solution above under “loosening straps” might help.
If it happens to you on the trail, you can repair it pretty well by looping another strap, zip tie, paracord, etc. through the rolltop closure strap and around the seat rail. But, this may not be a good long-term fix.
Is the RockBros seat bag waterproof? So far so good, but I’ve yet to test it in a torrential downpour. I always protect my water-sensitive gear (warm layers, electronics, sleeping bag) in plastic bags anyway, regardless of how waterproof my bags claim to be. A simple kitchen trash bag stuffed into the bottom of the seat bag works well for me.
When I bought my RockBros seat bag, I think it was literally the only seat bag in the budget category.
Checking again now, it looks like a few competitors are giving RockBros a run for their money. I haven’t tested any of these personally, but they get reasonable reviews on Amazon and you might want to check them out, especially if you don’t need all 14 liters of capacity offered by RockBros.
Roswheel Saddle Bag: 3-10 liter capacity, $47.99 at time of writing
Rhinowalk Saddle Bag: 10 liters capacity, $49.99 at time of writing
Stretching the budget category a bit, Topeak lands somewhere between these Amazon budget brands and the more niche bikepacking brands:
Topeak Backloader, 15 liter capacity, $89.95 at time of writing
Revelate Viscacha vs. RockBros Seat Bag
I recently found a killer deal on a used Revelate Designs Viscacha Seat Bag, and decided to give it a try. Though the Viscacha has been discontinued, a few of its features are in use on newer models, so a comparison is still useful. Here’s how it stacked up against the RockBros seat bag:
Advantages of Revelate:
- Locking buckles on the seat rail attachments eliminated strap loosening, hooray! No more tire rub on bumpy trails.
- Inner buckle system nice for dividing contents into “inner” and “outer” sections.
- Simpler and more minimalist (but stable) attachment system
Advantages of RockBros:
- Larger capacity
- Tail light mounts on rear (couldn’t find a place to put my light on the Viscacha)
- Way cheaper
Based on this comparison, here’s what I would recommend if you’re trying to choose between the RockBros seat bag and a Revelate Designs alternative similar to the Viscacha (like the Terrapin):
- Get the RockBros if several of these are true: budget is a big issue, you need very large capacity, you don’t bikepack too often, you ride mostly smooth trail and gravel road, you have plenty of space between seat and rear tire.
- Get the Revelate if several of these are true: budget isn’t a big issue, you bikepack a lot, like to run sleek and minimalist, have limited tire clearance, ride bumpy technical trail.
Other Budget Bikepacking Resources
If you found this review helpful, you might also like these other bikepacking gear reviews and tips:
- RockBros Handlebar Bag + Pouch Review
- Moosetreks Frame Bag Review
- Big Sky Soul 1P Tent Review
- Creative Budget Bikepacking Gear Ideas
Or, check out the full list of bikepacking resources here.
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If you liked what you read, would you mind giving it a quick share on your favorite social media so other aspiring adventurers can find it too? Many thanks!