The Bikepacking Bag Harlot

I got my new Alpkit ‘gas tank/fuel tank’ bag and put it on my bike for this year’s Transcontinental race.  I then realized that I had no loyalty and had become a total harlot when it came to bikepacking bags. When I first started bikepacking I used Revelate Design bags  exclusively, now I have:

  • Alpkit gas tank bag
  • Apidura seat bag (with Alpkit seat bag dry bag—HIGHLY recommended!)
  • Oveja Negra handlebar harness (modified)
  • Revelate Design frame bag

I’m going to share some details on the Alpkit gas tank bag—and why it is essential for anyone running a dynamo setup—and my Oveja Negra ‘cockpit’ setup.

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Alpkit: The Perfect Gas Tank for Dynamo Users

When running a dynamo the challenge you face is what to do with the cables and the connectors? We want to recharge GPS, cell phones, etc. and they don’t like getting wet which is inevitable whenever one goes bikepacking for any length of time.

I ‘solved’ the problem initially by running the cables over the top and through the zipper, but it became a nuisance with the cables getting in the way of the other items in the bag. I also didn’t like having the zipper partially open as it let in the rain. A better solution was to cut into the side of the bag and feed the cables through. I did it behind the sew-on label from Revelate Designs, and then used pins to close the hole. Worked really well most of the time, but was a hassle to insert/remove cables.

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It is an enigma to me why with so many in the bikepacking community running dynamos that more of the manufacturers didn’t have a dynamo-friendly gas tank bag.  I decided to upgrade to an Alpkit bag to see if I could make something work with them and after ordering suggested to Jay that they should have a dynamo friendly version. Not sure if they built this just for me but what arrived is perfect.

The top of the bag has an opening with velcro on either side. This enables you to insert the cables through the top into the bag, and then holds them firm when the velcro is closed. Combined with the size (it’s HUGE), this is the perfect gas tank bag for bikepacking with a dynamo.

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Oveja Nega Harness

My Revelate Design harness is definitely the best for mountain bike backpacking, but was overkill for the TCR due to its size and weight. For the TCR I have a light sleeping bag, a bivy and a light mat so don’t need much.

Oveja Nega have a really nice light weight harness so I decided to go with that. Like most harnesses, it is designed to fit under the handlebars but with my cable setup and aerobars it did not fit well. So I modified it firstly by having some velcro sewn horizontally across the top of the harness. These then wrap around the aero bars and it is held in place very firmly.

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The second modification I did was to get a couple of small phone bags off Ebay for $5 each from China. I attached these to the back of the harness as small tool/carry bags. You can’t have too much accessible storage.

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I’m using a 13L Alpkit dry bag to hold the gear (a larger bag would interfere with my shifters). I’ve added a third strap around the middle for extra protection. The Alpkit bag has two ‘eyelets’ that the straps at the outside pass through which stops it from shifting to the sides, and also can be opened from either end. 

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In the photo above you can see my Sony Xperia Z1 cell phone and Garmin 1000 which are each mounted on an aero bar. The Sony has a magnetic connector for recharging which is great—you don’t need to worry about rain—and the harness protects the Garmin plug from rain spray being kicked up from beneath.

This will trash my reputation (not that I really had one) in the bikepacking community but the last addition to my cockpit is my speaker. I am using an OT Buckshot Bluetooth speaker to play music from my phone. It is USB rechargeable and totally waterproof. Great sound too. I’ve attached it beneath the aero bars on the left side of the bike with the ubiquitous Garmin rubber bands.

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My Dynamo Connections

To complete the story, let me show my dynamo connections.  I’m running a B&M Luxos U which has an on/off switch with USB socket. That is at the bottom. The red ‘tube’ is Casepower USB rechargeable battery. It is charged from the Luxos U. It is then connected to the blue three-way USB adapter. The white cable on the left goes to the phone, the one above to the Garmin. The third short cable at the top is used to recharge my Solas USB rear light. Still experimenting but is working well so far.

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7 responses to “The Bikepacking Bag Harlot

  1. Nice article. Having just done PBP I have an eye on TCR somewhere down the line.

    Very interested how you find the Apidura seat bag. I saw them on PBP a few times and they seemed to waggle around a lot, but maybe their users didn’t tighten them up properly. I currently use a Bridge Street bag, also quite light but it always seems a bit of a wind magnet. These seem more streamlined maybe.

    I like the setup of frame bag and top-tube bag too – any issues with banging your legs when you stand and pedal. I stand a lot, mostly to stretch but have shied away from too much in front for that reason.

    • It’s a good question about hitting the top tube bag. You will note that I don’t have one of the bags by the seat as some cyclists do. I have one but I found that my legs hit it and it was too annoying. Probably there is a relationship between seat position and hitting the bag. For the gas tank bags it isn’t a problem *except* for an Alpkit ‘jumbo’ bag I bought. Very annoying as it was custom done by them to have an opening for the dynamo cable. It was just too wide for my frame geometry.

      • Thanks for the response. In the end I decided the only way was to try, so have ordered a Revelate Gas Tank. I hated the TopPeak one I tried a year or too back, but that was more to do with inadequate/flimsy mounting which I don’t believe the Revelate will suffer. If it doesn’t work for me, I have a few friends who’ll snap it up from me I’m sure.

  2. Alpkit confirmed to have a gas tank with cable routing option to be in stock in 2 weeks. So seems like the one you got was a custom made piece.

    • Yes it was. But check out the Topeak gas tank. Best one off the shelf. Has a cable port, inner pocket, waterproof, and adjustable inner compartment size. Not expensive either.

  3. One question about your dynamo connections setup. I also own the Luxos U, and find it excellent. I only noticed an exhaustion of the lamp cache battery after a 15-30 minutes of riding. The red light on the socket turns off and stops providing energy. Does this occur to you as well, or otherwise it keeps supplying energy, even with your 3 USB connected? Thank you.

    • That is pretty typical behaviour. If the input current is insufficient the battery eventually exhausts itself. So at night I would normally run the light and my GPS; in the day the GPS and charge cell phone etc. Another option is to have a cache battery like a Limefuel which has pass through capabilities.

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