Sci'Con Compact and Elan Saddlebags
We love small bags that have just enough room for everything we need. Small doesn't always work for fitting everything we need and Sci'Con makes bags that seem to put a hard limit on “everything.” Limits can be good; if a bag expanded to infinity, we'd probably figure out how to fill it.
We tested out two Sci'Con bags, the Elan and the Compact. This is our second go-'round with Sci'Con bags. We had a bag last year that was just big enough to fit everything we needed. It was the S-Case. The mounting was less than perfect as the plate holding the bag to the Sci'Con cleat cracked a few weeks into our test. Sci'Con replaced the cleat and it was happily ever after until the bag came off and was lost for good. It probably came off the cleat because our frozen hands didn't properly engage the cleat, but even with that, it was a frustration.
The Compact, we have the Cervelo Test Team version, uses an updated cleat system, the Roller 2. The new system uses a larger knob on the cleat and the attachment seems to be of a larger diameter. This change makes it easier and faster to mount and remove the cleat from your saddle rails. There also seems to be an extra click in the locking of the bag on the cleat; one for setting, one for locking. And the diameter of the cleat seems larger, which probably makes it both more stable an less likely to break. And for those who really want to maximize bag space, the Roller 2 system's biggest asset is that space two tire levers are built into the bag, one on the outside and one on the inside, and the spaces are filled with Sci'Con's proprietary levers.
Naming might not be Sci'Con's strength. Or perhaps Italians have a different word for everything. The Compact is actually one of Sci'Con's biggest saddle bags and when we opened it up, we thought we were opening up a trunk rather than a svelte Italian seat satchel.
We're overstating a bit. We were expecting to have to make some choices about which “essential” items we kept in the bag and which we left at home. But this bag is big enough we didn't have to choose. We easily fit a tube, a spoke wrench, Park IB-1 multi-tool, mini-wallet with sticker patch kit, valve extender, and presta-to-schrader adapter. And we still had room left over for…we don't know what, but there is definitely room. Perhaps a complete multi-tool like those with a chain tool and every Allen key you might ever use. Perhaps a few CO2 cartridges and a small inflater. There's enough room that stuff seemed to be moving around inside the bag, but not so much as we'd consider putting in a second tube, unless both were of the ultralight variety. Sci'Con's lit seems to suggest putting in a bar or a phone.
Keeping it all together is a locking zipper. This is the same kind of zipper pull we're finding on more and more jerseys and jackets. In the open position, the zipper pull slides freely. In the closed, the zipper pull is stuck in place. At first, it seemed a bit overkill for a saddle bag. As we used it, we came to like the confidence it inspired, though we've never had a bag zipper accidentally open on us.
One of the bigger questions we had was concerning the strength of the tire levers. These are small. We could see breaking them on some tires that fit rims too closely. The levers are 7.8cm long by 2.2cm wide by .41cm thick. They don't feel terribly strong in one's hand. But when lifting up a tire, the short length means it is hard to get significant leverage. We were able to lift the tire over rim sidewalls with a few tight rim/tire combinations without a problem. We couldn't lift it far and needed two levers in places we'd often use one, but they do work and seem pretty reliable.
If we were building our own bag, we'd want a sleeve for small, loose items like the valve extender and patch kit, but that would be possibly too complex for a bag of this shape and with such a wide opening. We applaud the use of reflective piping. All saddlebags should employ reflective elements.
While weight, when it comes to a seat bag, seems fairly irrelevant, we did take everything apart to weigh each piece. Total system weight is 137g, with 29g for the cleat that attaches to your seat rails, 16g for the tire levers, and 92g for the bag.
The Elan is much more aptly named. It's smaller than some wallets. And it is super-light, at 35g for the bag. Even though it's much smaller than the Compact, we were able to fit everything we put in the bigger bag into the Elan, including the two Sci'Con tire levers. Just barely.
We measure the Elan at 11cm long by 4.5cm tall by 7cm wide. That is 346.5 cubic centimeters, assuming it's a perfect rectangle, which it isn't. That size is a good bit bigger than the 210 cm3 advertised. Still, the length is shorter than most tire levers we own. Park's levers run 11.5cm long, Pedro's are 11cm, and a Quik Stik is a whopping 15cm. The only other levers we own that fit are the Knog folding levers that come in their sticker patch kit. They're tiny, though probably weaker than the Sci'Con levers included with the Compact bag.
We love how small and light and unobtrusive the bag is. That it holds everything we're used to carrying makes it a keeper, as opposed to a novelty we might use once in a long while or something that sees use as a wallet we drop in a backpack. Our concern, once everything fit inside, is how well the single strap will hold the bag to the saddle. We're used to having any strap being two pieces that are connected by a D-ring, like on our favorite Arundel bags.
What we like about the two-strap system is that it seems like it should hold the bag more securely because you can tighten the bag into place better when pulling against the D-ring and that the two Velcro halves are less likely to lift off when the strap they're on is the same strap bent 180-degrees rather than coming all the way from the other side of the bag. And, on the odd chance that the Velcro comes loose, we're of the mind that having the D-ring for the loosened strap to rub up against will slow the bag's fall off the rails, slow enough that we'll sense it happening before the bag hits the ground. This last possibility might seem a bit preposterous, but we've had a few occasions where old bags that had worn out Velcro came loose, but we were able to catch the bag while we were riding and before it fell off the bike.
So far, our concern about the Elan has not come to pass. The bag has remained solid and secure for all the riding we've done. We'd probably toss the pocket the moment the Velcro starts looking shaggy rather than worrying about the bag coming off on a ride.
Sci'Con's Compact and Elan turned out to be plenty big despite our concerns they'd be too small to be anything but toys.