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Hip bags: RELoad / Freight Baggage

Riding gear you can use can be hard to come by. Backpacks, Panniers, or Messenger bags are fine for large loads, but what about just riding around? You could use a hiker's lumbar pack, or a traditional "fanny pack" of the type favored by tourists and elderly casino birds, although the narrow belt straps on most fanny packs tear or wear through relatively quickly -- and the packs are relatively small. Hikers packs are much more durable, but not water resistant to any real degree, and the zipper closure makes them somewhat difficult to use on the bike although the skill can be aquired.

Fortunately, companies that are known for messenger bags. like RELoad, Chrome Transport, and Freight Baggage (oddly enough except RELoad which began in Philly these are all west coast based)are producing hip bags or waist pouches with the biker in mind. These bags offer similar construction to a messenger bag or cyclign backpack; sturdy nylon canvas or cordura outer layer, rubberized or vinyl inner layer for water resistance, with a flap closure. Other companies are making them as well; some companies started off with such bags and other accessories. Transient Bags,for example (another west coast setup) makes some apparently very cool and affordable hip bags, and only hip bags.

Most of these bags have removable waist belts, which means that even if the buckle does break or crack after some years of use or a nasty fall (this is the only thing that could break, as the bags' main closure typically involves velcros not zippers) and you can't or won't replace it (it's easy enough to cut the buckle off and slip another on, you can usually just loop the belt through and cinch it, so now sewing skills are required) you can usually just slip it on another belt. Also the belt loops on the back of the bags give you the chance to simply use your own belt, so if instead of loopless bike shorts you find yourself wearing cargo shorts or jeans or pants, whether on the bike or not, you can thread the bag through your normal belt.

There are generally too sizes offered, a large and a small. There are variations; Most such bags have velcro flap closure; Chrome's also has a buckle, a miniature version of it's "seatbelt buckle" found on Chrome messenger bags. The Chrome is also taller than it is long, where as the others are typical an asymetric rectangle, slightly wider at top, and longer than they are tall.

RELoad: In the case of the RELoad there is one size, a large. Full and on the belt the RELoad measures just over 9" across the top fold of the flap and about 7" at the bottom; and just over 2" thick at the base.

The RELoad offers one large pocket and s smaller inner pocket against the inside of the front edge; this last has a velcro closed top and a small pull tab. If a round key ring is looped through the pull tap it makes an excellent thing to clip a keychain or zippered wallet to. The main pocket will hold a small hand pump, innertube, short 15mm axle wrench, and tire lever, for changing a flat, in addition to a cellular telephone, a small wallet, and an MP3 player or other small device. There is room left for a few other small articles, such as an energy bar, patch kit, deck of cards, whatever.

The RELoad rides well and although "large" in capacity considering what it is, is not in the way. I have efven worn it sitting in a train or office chain, without discomfort. The wide belt distributes the weight comfortably on the bike, and the contents remain secure whether zooming down hills or through downtown traffic. The main pocket is also easy to access while riding.

One thing I wish the RELoad had were wider belt loops on the back of the bag, so one had the option of using it directly on the belt rather than the secondary strap that also comprises the lock holster. This is easily fixed by using your own belt or strap. However, somewhat wider loops would offer greater versatility even there. Also, it would be nice is the RELoad had a bit of reflective material somewhere on it. Other than that I cannot think of a criticism of it. It is well made, sturdy, comfortable, and does what it is claimed to! One other nice touch on the RELoad is a pen pocket on the right side of the bag. It fits not only pens but is also just about big enough for a tire lever or other such.

Freight: The Freight Baggage one is the smaller model so a direct comparison is impossible. The Primary difference between the larger Freight and the RELoad is that aklthough they both have a large main compartment and a smaller pocket, the Freight Baggage hip pouch has the smaller pocket on the outside rather than the inside of the front surface. Aside fromt hat and the belt loop dimensions already mentioned, the only difference in features is that the Freight baggage has the u-lock holder built into the bag not the belt strap; there is a additional pocket behind the bag, open at both top and bottom. The downside is that unlike the RELoad it's a set size so you can't cinch it to fit a bigger lock. The plus side is it's a less complicated arrangement.

This feature carries over to the little Freight side bag. It has only one main pocket and a u-lock holder built into the back. The bag measures, according to Freight Baggage's website ( x 1.5.

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