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Friday Review: Topeak Trunk Bag Suite

December 16, 2011

In this inaugural Friday product review, I’m going to review three separate products but that are all integral towards full functionality of the others two. Topeak has some great items to make your commute less of a hassel. Products I’ve recently added to my bike include the Topeak Explorer Bike Rack, Topeak MTX Trunk Bag and finally the Topeak Rain Cover.

Why did I pick these particular products? Previously, I had been using a backpack or messenger bag to get to school. I wasn’t a fan of the big sweat lines down my back and around my shoulders and more importantly the hour compute start leaving my back stiff. I searched for alternatives including handlebar bags, trunk bags, and panniers. Handlebar bags all seemed much to small. Panniers, although would solve any storage issue, seemed a little overkill. I wanted something I could easily remove if I parked my bike somewhere or just didn’t want the extra bulk that day. I began leaning towards trunk bags but was still apprehensive about storage capacity (what if the wife wanted me to pick up a couple of bottle of 5-buck-chuck?). I eventually found the highly rated Topeak trunk bag which came in multiple sizes and even zip-out panniers. Perfect.

1. The Topeak Explorer Rack

Before the bag must come the rack. As you can see, my bike has disc brakes so I opted for the disc brake mount version of this rack. Installation was incredibly simple (it took longer to figure out how to loop my saddle leash around my seat than to tighten all the bolts). I had read that it took some manipulation and bending of the rack arms (legs?) to reach the bolt holes. Luckily, I did not experience any of this on my Trek 4300 MTB. Everything fit like a glove (and not like OJ’s). Topeak has their proprietary (read: only Topeak products are made for Topeak parts) QuickTrack system that enables you to slide you Topeak bag securely along the rack. No straps or velcro required! The rack feels very heavy duty and the specs say it can support loads up to 50lbs. After using the rack and bag for a little over a 2 months, I began to notice some scuffs and paint scratching where the bag slides into place (see photo below). I don’t overload by bag so don’t think weight is an issue. It’s possible grit and sand got caught underneath and wore it down. We’ll see if over time this will lead to a more serious structural issue but for right now its mostly just aesthetic.

A little bit of paint scuff seen here

2. Topeak MTX Trunk Bag DXP with Rigid Molded Panels

Yes folks that’s right, “rigid molded panels!” They actually are pretty nice and adds some toughness (and therefore suspected durability to the bag). The MTX DXP bag is the largest trunk bag in Topeak’s arsenal measureing in at 8.5 x 17.1 x 9.4 inches. It has 1,380 cubic inches of storage capacity. Now, unless you’re planning on using this bag as a fish tank (ill-advised), I’m not sure how useful this measurement is to you. Wouldn’t it be more useful to say fits 2 boxes of cereal or a pair of jeans, a sweater, undershirt, and gloves? I think it would. And that’s why when writing this review I took whatever was accessible and stuffed it in the bag. They fit! For my next trick I wanted to see if a gallon jug of milk would fit into the bag. Not quite. But wait, what’s this? The bag has an expandable top that adds 2-3 inches. Success.

Topeak Trunk Bag...it does a body good.

And as I mentioned previously, the QuickTrack system makes the bag feel very secure without fussing around with straps, etc. A fully-loaded bag with dropped panniers does make it a little bit of pain to slide off the track but I’ve managed. The panniers themselves aren’t the largest (storage: jeans, shirt, undershirt, socks, underwear, ipad wedged in the middle) but they get the job done. The bag may not be what the serious cross-country touring cyclist is looking for but it’s ideal for the everyday commuter.

3. Topeak Rain Cover for MTX Trunk Bag

So if you want to start bike commuting to work eventually you’re going to get caught in the rain. Maybe it’s because the weather people are incompetent or you realized it’s only water – whatever the reason, it will come. The Topeak trunk bag is “water resistant.” I got caught is a passing summer storm (in Novemeber) and although the outside of the bag was wet, my clothes inside remained dry. In the past, I have tried just strapping a plastic garbage bag to keep the gunk off of the bag. Unfortunately, at some point in my commute, the bag, which I thought was secure, blew off (BTW: Anacostia River, I want my bag back). Having secured this new cover to my bag with it’s elastic straps, I gave it go. Even though, I kept looking back hoping not to see this cover (a bit more pricey than my 5 cent grocery bag) blown off too. But it held strong.

I was also a little worried that the different configurations of the Topeak bag (1 pannier down, 2 panniers down, no panniers) might cause the cover to fit poorly. I rode home with one pannier down and everything fit fine. There’s a space on the inside between the pannier and the tire that is not covered. Reviews suggested that I just fit a garabage bag around this portion. I didn’t pay for a custom cover to wrap it like it’s garbage. Also, one of my red blinky lights attached to my trunk bag is concealed when the cover is on it. I wish the cover had a little slit to enable the light to stick out. The cover does fold up into itself into a convenient compact case making it ideal to stick in your bag – allowing you to be prepared for that unexpected squall. It makes a nice addition to an already great suite of Topeak products.

All ready for an expedition of my living room

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. M permalink
    December 17, 2011 11:31 am

    Great article and photos of the Topeak! I have a similar bag by Sunlite, the XP Commuter with retractable Panniers. I did not get the associated quick release system QRS, rack because it likely would be too big for my folding bike. So I sewed on two elastic straps and added some Velcro strips. Voilà! Sometimes buying the dedicated racks to fit these bags is a pain. I was able to make it work on a different rack.

    • December 17, 2011 11:54 am

      I also have had trouble finding a bag to fit my Dahon folder rack (plus without heel quick too). I like your craftiness to get the job done! Thanks for reading.

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