Capo Modena Travel Bag
The quest for the perfect bag. Not nearly as important as perfect wheels or the right frame, or frame of mind, but we think about bags every time we unpack the chosen gear container du jour at a race. And it can always be better; we have the customization gene.
For a few years, we've been using a large commuting backpack to encompass our gear for single-day races. The size, around 1800 cubic inches (4572 cubic cm), is ample for much of our road racing, provided we can lash the helmet to the outside and don't have to shove spare bottles inside as well. We like having a backpack because it makes us feel very mobile.
The backpack's virtue is mobility, its penalty is access. You have to totally unpack the bag to get to anything. The result is a veritable explosion of undershirts, warmers, vests, gloves, socks, loose Clif bars, heart rate monitor strap, and so on, whenever we start dressing for the race. The shoving back process starts once we're dressed, but inevitably, our street clothes take up more room that the cycling gear we just removed, and by the time we return after the race is done and we're sore and disoriented, we inevitably re-explode the bag so we can find the waterproof sack where the yucked-up cycling gear goes, and find the right clothes and foods for the return trip.
Enter the Capo Modena Travel Bag. The base is roughly 50cm long by 32cm wide and 30cm tall. If it were square, that would mean 4800 cubic cm, but it's a bit smaller than that. This bag is closer to luggage than it is to any gear bag we've packed; Capo jobbed out the manufacturing to a luggage company. It's not a duffel, it's not a rectangle; it's a fully-opening three-dimensional trapezoid that has a stiff bottom and sides. Big enough you could empty the bottom half and stand in it if you were lacking a dry place to stand after a cold race and didn't want to get your car interior muddy.
It is designed to work as a race bag, a weekend bag, and an airline carry-on. There is a large top compartment with a zippered slash pocket, and an even larger bottom compartment, with three sizeable zippered side pockets and two side mesh pockets. There's also a thin mesh pocket under the top section of the bag.
We immediately figured we could fit both our helmet and our shoes in the top compartment and that would leave the bottom free for lots of stuff. Turns out the depth is such that not all helmets fit in the top compartment easily, and unless you have child-sized feet, there's no way you could fit both helmet and shoes up there. We settled on putting shoes, socks, overshoes, and toiletries in the top section, after trying a helmet in there for the bag's maiden voyage.
The bottom section is deep enough that we could put all our cyclocross clothing along with our helmet and food and drink and there's still room for quite a bit more. Our cx gear includes two skinsuits, a pair of shorts, a jersey, a windbreaker, a vest, three undershirts, two sets of gloves, knee warmers, and leg warmers. With that, we still had room for a few sandwiches, some bars, a liter bottle and a water bottle, as well as some extra post-race clothing in case the temperature turns for the worse.
If we're hitting the road for a racing weekend, the food could easily get axed and we could add an extra shirt, undergarments, warm-up pants, a laptop computer, and a book and still have a little room left.
In terms of this luggage sitting in a car or carry-on bin, the shape is excellent. In a car, it can easily sit in the side of a trunk or semi-hidden in the back of a mini-van or SUV. Plop it closed on a car seat and it takes up exactly one sitting spot. Open it up to get to the lower compartment and the top part can lean at 90-degree angle against a door or steering wheel. Sift around without taking anything out and close it up.
We have yet to test it out as a carry-on bag for airline travel, but we can see the appeal. It's tall and squat compared to a backpack that will take up less shelf space. The shape is closer to those loathsome roller bags, but stylish. The height of the bag takes advantage of the vertical space in those bins. While we didn't use it as a carry-on, we tested it out as checked luggage. As this, it works fine. The shape is distinctive, and the racing stripes nearly unique in the suitcase world of baggage carousels; just make sure to stash the shoulder strap before checking it. The rubberized X on the bottom of the bag seems plenty durable for this purpose. We could see the Capo bag from far away as it dropped off the conveyor belt. It's tall shape also made it easy to pick up off the carousel.
Some bags designed specifically for cyclists have a shoe-specific pouch and an internal waterproof bag for soiled clothes. This doesn't quite have that, though the mesh-covered section underneath the top half could function as a repository for dirty gear. We generally prefer using our own secondary bags because they're easier to remove and clean. It's also that waterproof bags made for camping are more waterproof than the internal bags we've found in cycling duffels.
For all the convenience the Capo travel bag offers, it has a weakness we were surprised to discover. It isn't a terribly comfortable shoulder bag. The placement of the strap points is fine and the strap itself is wide at 1.5" with an even wider pad that is 3.5" or so at its widest. The issue is that the bag dimensions aren't suited to keep the bag close to your body. Open up the strap all the way so the bag sits a bit below the hip and pivot the bag so it's riding against your glutes and it feels ok, but having it stick out to the side is a bit awkward both for weight balance and in terms of being able to move through crowds.
The Capo Modena Travel Bag is a satchel that makes us yen for two-day race weekends with an overnight in between. For the winter, we'll make do with using it when we want to overpack on the days we take a car to a ride; in the cold, we prefer to overpack for most of them.