Improved Trunk Bag For Commuters

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Feb 12 2014 at 7:44pm #

I am at student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh where I am studying Industrial Design, also know as Product Design. I have chosen to redesign a rack bag or also know as a trunk bag for one of my classes this quarter.

I wanted to reach out to cyclists around the Pittsburgh area that utilizes a trunk bag. I would love to get some good feed back about what problems that you have came across in your experience of these bags. Also if there are features that you find to be very valuable that would be very helpful as well. Also if you have any ideas that you feel would improve the bag I would love to hear them!

Also I would like to know
What do you put inside of your bag? How do you organize your items?Do you carry it around with you? Do you leave it outside if you run into a store? What all do you utilize this bag for? Do you ride in all weather conditions? Do you ride at night?

One thing that would be very helpful would be if you could walk me through your day with the bag and where you take it. I want to improve the riders experience and telling me your story and how you utilize the trunk bag would be a great help.

Lastly, if you have some feed back if you could include the exact bag that you have that would be awesome!

Thank you!


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Feb 12 2014 at 8:39pm #

arggh, I hate this website!

It just ate a 10 point summary of what I like and don’t like about my trunk bag!

1. No roll tops…too big a pain to open close securely

2. My bad has a zipper that runs around the top edge, securing the lid to the sides of the bag. It also has the handle on TOP of the bag. If the zipper is not fully closed, carrying the bag by the top handle results in the zipper inching open, and contents potentially spilling.

3. Velcro is usually used to secure bag to rack. But, there is not much room sometimes between rack and tire. Could Velcro attachment be placed on SIDE of bag, instead of underneath?

4. The “attachment” side of Velcro has a nasty way of attaching to sweaters, jackets, carpets, etc. and should not be left uncovered/exposed during off bike handling of bag.

5. Outside pocket, please. Big enough to handle a cell phone at a minimum. And not located on the end that gets jammed under the seat, where it is inaccessible.

6. Loop for reflector (as truck bag hides my under seat reflector on my road bike.) Reflective strip could be used as well/instead. if loop is provided, it should be tight enough/substantial enough to be able to handle a rear light (instead of a reflector at user option).

7. Carrying strap, mandatory. I won’t leave my truck bag on my bike when I commute, and if it is carrying my lunch, etc., I need to bring it into the office anyway.

8. Carrying strap should not have to be fully removed to be safe on bike. I usually bungie my strap to top of bag when riding, so it doesn’t sag into wheel range. A flap on top of bag would accomplish same thing.
9. Attachment for my helmet, please (when off the bike)
10. Attachment for my u-lock, please (when I am on the bike)

9. What do I carry in my bag? A typical load would be:
a. change of clothes for work. usually a light shirt and skirt, rolled up to side of a large paperback book
b. shoes, usually flats, again, about the size of a large paperback book
c. jacket or ?? as needed. Can be compressed quite small. say the size of large paperback book.
d. small repair kit, some times. size of a large paperback book
e. usually some sort of lunch or ? A sandwich, some fruit, maybe a little more. Not a lot. Another large paperback book?
f. a small purse with wallet, cell phone, keys. miscellany. Another large paperback book, or even smaller.
g. the tough one – I sometimes have to carry work home. I can roll or fold it, usually, but it sometimes gets tough to do that. Don’t know if there is a good solution here.
I am sure I am missing something in all this. But this is a start.

What am I missing, folks?


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Feb 12 2014 at 8:45pm #

Oh, forgot to address these specific questions:

What do you put inside of your bag? See above for work commute. Errands yield unpredictable contents.

How do you organize your items? My bag doesn’t have compartments or anything. Shoes on the bottom (for cleanliness) all else on top of those.

Do you carry it around with you? I do not leave it with my bike during the work day. I sometimes have to carry it several blocks from the bike parking to my destination.

Do you leave it outside if you run into a store? Yes, for irregular short stops, I generally leave it on the bike.

What all do you utilize this bag for? See above.

Do you ride in all weather conditions? I am mostly a fair weather commuter, but am occasionally caught in a short or a puddle. I do not require waterproof, but some degree of water resistant is preferred.

Do you ride at night? Only sometimes. But, I do ride in low light conditions (evening, morning, fog, etc), so I want every bit of illumination/visibility I can get.


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Feb 13 2014 at 1:22pm #

Some externally sewn on loops would be nice… something to hang a u-lock from, a means of hanging a rear blinker is a necessity (after all, a bag will block any blinky attached to a seatpost, possibly a means of taking an extra water bottle. Beyond that, reflective material… lots of reflective material (perhaps work something out with FiksReflective).

If I were designing a trunk bag, I’d probably put a map-holder in the lid with some clear plastic for easy viewing. Compartments are also a must, so it’s easy to keep things organized. A few standards would be a multi-tool, a phone, and a spare tube (to get an idea of sizing).

Don’t forget a strap for carrying off bike… ideally something that is easily tucked away once on the bike.

You could also consider ways of integrating a rear-facing camera.

Will this be dependent on a rack? Perhaps you can find an alternative for bikes lacking a rear rack?

That said, I prefer a rack/pannier setup.


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Feb 13 2014 at 1:40pm #

I’ve never used a trunk rack, but may have if I ever had enough disposable income to warrant their usually pricey price

One thing that bothers me is that they usually sit over the rear rack rails, which makes it a pain to get panniers on or off or depending on the pannier, even open the pannier up


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Feb 13 2014 at 2:01pm #

I don’t use a trunk bag, but I like the idea of the type that can expand like this (not sure how durable these are though)

Alternatively, I’ll also second the idea of a bag that doesnt require a rack since it would be practical for a wider range of users, even those with racks using panniers too.


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Feb 13 2014 at 5:56pm #

Thank you guys for all of the good advice!

If you could rate these subjects related to the bag and riding what would be most important: 1 being most important to you and 7 being least important.

-Ruggedness/ Waterproofing
– Usability of the bag
– Safety

If you could rate those 1 to 7 that would be very helpful!

Thanks again!


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Feb 13 2014 at 7:51pm #

My rankings (which may be very different from that of others)

5. Ruggedness/ Waterproofing – I don’t want anything that will fall apart after a few uses, or that APPEARS to be susceptible to a pocket knife slash and grab. Water resistant good, they make plastic bags for water proofing contents.
4. Storage – I assume this means size? Too big/too small, it stays home.
1. Usability of the bag – function tops all
6. Organization – is this refers to internal “style” or shape, this is number 6. If it also refers to U lock storage, loop for helmet, exterior pocket for phone, etc. I rank it much higher – but then it is a usability.
2. Portability – if it is a PIA off the bike, it stays home. Evidence is in my closet.
7. Style – this is a hard one. It has to have SOME aesthetic interest, but it’s not a critical element for me. Unless you do a girly bag in pink and purple butterflies or something. Then I would have to hurt you.
3. Safety – no space for rear reflector, or light, it’s not coming home with me.


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Feb 13 2014 at 7:55pm #

@ marko – I think I had that trunk rack. I gave it to my sister. She needed it more than I did. I still miss it. It was a great rack bag. BUT, it was one of those where the zipper closed by wrapping at the edge there the side walls and the top met. On more than one occasion I neglected to pull the zipper fully closed (and the pull fully locked down. A block later I discovered the top of my bag in place at my side, the bottom drooping open, threatening to spill the contents all over downtown. I loved the elastic at the top. Meant I did not need a bungie for U lock, provided anchor for helmet of bike. I rarely used pannier feature, as material was fairly light. I think I typically used for stops at farmers market, etc.

Mr. Destructicity

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Feb 14 2014 at 3:25pm #

The following things are what typically winds up in the trunk bag:

* A few spare tubes
* Emergency repair kit
* U-lock
* Wallet
* Phone

I do not carry the bag around with me – it goes on the rack and stays on the rack. If I have to lock up the bike and go inside, the valuables come out of the bag but everything else stays.

I ride in rain and at night, but don’t ride in the winter.

Other items tend to wind up in the panniers.

Typically, my bag does not DO much. Stuff gets loaded in before the morning commute, taken out when I get to work, lather, rinse repeat. Occasionally it will be cleaned out so that I can bring take-out back to the office for lunch.

I used to have a RackTime trunk bag (not the Trunk-It they currently sell, one that was considerably smaller), but since the zippers on that busted (the interior wasn’t very large) I am currently using a $2 Sterilite locking container from WalMart.

Honestly, the Sterilite locking container does 99% of what a trunk bag needs to. It would be nice to have separate exterior pockets for my phone and wallet, since those are what I have to fetch quickly 90% of the time (and the phone really doesn’t like bouncing around in there with a U-lock). Small interior compartments would be nice, but as I occasionally like to carry large things in, and large compartments would just get in the way.

Unlike Swalfoort, I found the elastic at the top was practically useless. I had to pull it super-tight to hold in anything small (which added the additional problem of what to do with the ends), and it didn’t have enough give to hold anything all that large.

Waterproof is a must, both for keeping my stuff safe and for cleaning.

1 Ruggedness/Waterproofing
2 Storage
3 Usability
4 Organization
7 Portability
6 Style
5 Safety


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Feb 14 2014 at 4:11pm #

shawnerdely wrote:If you could rate these subjects related to the bag and riding what would be most important: 1 being most important to you and 7 being least important.
-Ruggedness/ Waterproofing
– Usability of the bag
– Safety

I can’t. Safety is not, in of itself, an issue… but if it blocks my tail-light, it needs to have a place to mount a tail-light. A reflector is a nice touch, but if that ends up being covered by a tail-light, that’s not a big deal.

If it’s not decent looking, portable, organized, rugged and weatherproof… I’m not going to use it.

1 -Ruggedness/ Waterproofing
6 -Storage
7- Usability of the bag (not really sure what you mean by this)
2 -Organization
4 -Portability
5 -Style
3 – Safety

Most important thing is to determine what isn’t already out there. I think a good market is to shoot for something bigger than a bike saddle bag (those things are practically useless) but smaller than the average trunk bag (there are too many on the market already, so you aren’t likely going to add anything significantly different).

Have you decided on a market? The feedback you will get here is going to be dedicated commuter centric. “Commuter” itself is sort of vague.. with racks? without racks? Are you looking more at mom&dad on a rail to trail ride? A roadie who doesn’t want a bike with a rack? or the dedicated commuting (hell or highwater) crowd? As you’ve already seen, many of us here shy away from trunk bags. Personally, I find them bulky and the weight distribution bothers me, then there is the blocking of the blinky thing, thus why I like panniers.

I think the world needs a dedicated fishing-bicycle bag that holds a rod, tackle, bait, etc. :p


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Feb 14 2014 at 8:44pm #

Drewbacca wrote:I think the world needs a dedicated fishing-bicycle bag that holds a rod, tackle, bait, etc

That’s what cat litter bucket panniers are for – plus it ends up being a nice stool off of the bike for casual bank fishing.

To the OP: Mr. D’s use of a plastic container & my comment on buckets – there aren’t that many ‘hard’ bike trunks out there so that might be a direction to pursue. Or how about a trunk that incorporated a hard bottom/sides with fabric expandability; bag in a bag maybe? There is also the near universal use of a milk crate. What are its inherent qualities?


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Feb 14 2014 at 10:59pm #

I have this Topeak DX bag and I like it, but I like panniers better. I did lose my wallet one night by failing to zip the top shut, so that is an issue. The track system is nice and secure and they have “racks” that attach to the seatpost.

The rack I have has the pannier rails mounted a few inches lower so you can use both. That combo was really handy during my GAP trip, it added a lot of useful capacity.

I primarily use the panniers now but there are some trips when the trunk bag is more convenient.


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Feb 14 2014 at 11:09pm #

fwiw, note that it has a lot of components:

– one main compartment, which is fairly substantially expandable (in “normal” mode the bag is a rectangle not a wedge)
– a small compartment built into the lid, big enough to hold a u-lock, and has some pockets for wallets, etc (although this is the part that is vulnerable to things sliding out the back)
– cargo net on top
– water bottle holder in back, I think you could hook a light on there too
– zip out panniers on the sides, which aren’t really useable when using other panniers, but I think I was able to squeeze a water bottle in there. when they have room to expand, the capacity is decent, though not nearly what the ortliebs have.


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Feb 16 2014 at 11:40am #

I am a trunk bag obsessive. For fifteen years I have used Avenir Excursion RackTop Bags on my commuter, my road bike, and my Surly LHT.

Usually, after about 6 or 7 years they wear out. The side-to-side tension tears the bottom of the bag away from the lower velcro straps in a big way and I replace the bag.

I love it because it’s spacious, semi-water resistant, expanding, has exterior pockets. It doesn’t sag. It has a ribbon with clip for my car keys, a pocket that zips for my wallet, and a secret stash for my extra bike lock key which are all things I appreciate.

As to what I carry, the answer is: just all sorts of stuff. Multiple tubes, tools, CO2, first aid, Motrin, duck tape, maps, notebook, radio, earphones, spare batteries, flashlight, power bar, honey. Quarters. Tire levers. Pump. ToiletPaper. N’at.

Although I love it, I have been constantly looking for a better trunk bag. I have found it, but as is the case in most obsessive searches, it cannot be mine; it is no longer available, but it is (alas, was) a special product made by Seattle Sports.

It was called the “seattle sports x.u.d. waterproof rack bag duffel”

If anybody has one they would sell me, you could probably name the price.

To me, a major design conflict for the trunk bag is: attachment and rail sharing. So, a trunk bag alone attaches pretty easily via straps on the bottom, right? But how does the trunk bag attach to the rack when you’re also using panniers- which also attach to that same rack rail?

(BTW, you’ll note the rear high-viz, slo-mo triangle. And the light below it. As far as safety goes, to me a trunk bag presents a rigid plane for safety presentation. Must Not Sag.)

The Seattle Sports XUD bag avoids the rail territory conflict with its curved contour, avoiding a square overhanging shape that hogs the space around the rail.

There are some solutions. Some racks offer dual parallel rails, one for the trunk bag and one for the pannier. This is the rack that people buy after they learn what they should have got the first time. (Insert second-spouse comment here)

Some trunk bag mounting systems (there’s a warning right there, right?) offer flyout secondary rails (I’m looking at you, Ortlieb) to accomodate the pannier

I don’t know the solution. It could be, repositionable straps on the trunk bag, or using two-sided velcro between the bottom of the trunk bag and the straps. But accomodating the sharing of single-railing rear racks is a definite design challenge for trunk bags, and there is no standard for positioning of top- and side- straps.

I am such a Fred.


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Feb 16 2014 at 5:50pm #

@Vann, how would I know if my seattle sports rack bag is an x.u.d. model?

I more or less like the one I have, but am not all that attached to it. If it is the model you are looking for, we should talk.


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Feb 16 2014 at 8:30pm #

OMG. please check your PMs.


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Feb 17 2014 at 9:59am #

Speaking of double-parallel rails as a solution to rail-sharing:



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Feb 17 2014 at 1:02pm #

@shawnerdely :

1 Ruggedness/Waterproofing – If it ain’t waterproof, I won’t buy it.
2 Portability – If I can’t take it with me, I won’t buy it.
3 Storage – It has to hold the right amount of stuff*
4 Usability – If it’s a PIA to make it work, I won’t use it.
5 Safety – As lons as it doesn’t block my light (I keep mine mounted on my rack) we’re cool
6 Organization – A few easy access outer pouches and secure pockets are nice
7 Style – function before fashion, always.

*Everyday, I take my bike to work. To be able to ride home I need a bag that can hold: flat repair kit, multitool, spare tube, raing gear, spare batteries, and work clothes (pants & shirts). If a trunk bag can’t hold those as a MINIMUM, I won’t buy it.

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