All of our cycling bottoms are pilled on the left inside thigh. It’s hardly noticeable, but it bugs us all the same. We even rubbed a hole in one pair of tights. The culprit is our saddle bag. Specifically, it’s the Velcro strap that secures the bag to the seat post. Every bag we’ve owned has contributed to this pilling. We hate this, mostly for the one pair of tights we wrecked — and stopped using the particular bag that was the culprit, but all the other bags do the same thing, only more mildly. The strap also does a number on our seat posts. The polished posts get a dull ring where the strap rubs, and our anodized posts get rubbed down through the finish. While we don’t think the rubbing could damage a carbon-fiber post, we certainly would understand if people were concerned on that front.
The damage that Velcro strap does is the main reason we wanted to try out the Sci-Con S-Case 390. The seat bag attaches to the saddle via its own mount, a cleat that attaches to the seat rails. This way, the bag only contacts the mount and stays clear of your legs and post.
The 390, so named for the 390 cubic centimeters of space inside the bag, is a bit smaller than we’d prefer. Not by much though. We measure this satchel as 4.5″ long by 3″ wide by 2.75″ thick at its thickest. Fully loaded, the only relevant measure in saddle bags, with our stuff, the bag weighs 290g (10.2oz).
We typically squeeze a lot into our saddle bag. Tube, a few Allen keys (smaller than multi-tool), a few tire levers, spoke wrench, sticker-type patch kit, tire boot, valve extender, master link, and schrader-to-presta valve adapter. We could get everything squeezed in our old, larger bag into the Sci-Con, save two of the tire levers, which were too long. The Park tire lever barely fits, but it can be wedged in. Fitting everything else is easier than in most bags as there are separators inside the bag so the tube and boot have a spot, there is a small flap-covered pocket for loose stuff like the valve extender and master link, a mesh pocket for the patch kit and spoke wrench, and between the two pockets there is room for tools. Much better than a single cavernous compartment typical on most bags.
We had thought that the cleat needed to be mounted with tools and would be too permanent to take off if we rode to a race. We were wrong. The underside of the rail-mounted cleat, the side that mounts to bag, has a small knob. You just turn the knob until the cleat securely clamps onto the seat rails. Then you twist the bag on clockwise a quarter turn. Good to go. Want it off, twist the bag counterclockwise a quarter turn. If you’re pulling it off before a race, spend another several seconds turning the knob counter-clockwise, and it comes off, too.
Sci-Con sells, and we make available, a spare clamp. Presumably to mount on another bike, so you can just twist the bag off one and onto another. We don’t see much of a reason for this, unless you break the clamp or hate twisting the knob.
Riding along on our daily rounds, we initially could hear the bag shifting around and rattling on rough roads and over potholes. One day, a week into riding with the bag, within a mile of home, we went over a big hole and heard a snap and a thunk. We stopped. Our assumption was that we had broken a Speedplay bottle cage and tossed a bottle. The bottles were still in the cages and the cages were fine, but the bag was gone. The plate that the bag attached to where the cleat mounted was still on the cleat, but the bag was on the ground. There are tabs on a second plate that’s embedded in the bag; they had broken.
We called the importer, Albabici. They asked us to send them the bag so they could make an evaluation. So we sent it along with a note. We got the bag back in a week. The plate embedded in the bag had been replaced and they sent us a spare, just in case.
We re-filled the bag, re-installed the cleat, and it’s been problem-free ever since. We stopped noticing the rattling a few weeks in. We did leave the bag at home when we ventured off to the pavé-populated Flanders, fearing another bag breakage; the redundancy of two straps seemed wise for pounding cobbles. Would have been interesting to see how the bag fared,but we figured we wouldn’t notice the bag’s disappearance, if it happened, until we needed something from inside the bag, at which point, the bag would be untold kilometers away.
Sci-Con wisely has placed generous amount of reflective material on the bag. The reflective tape covers both halves of the zipper teeth. We’re not entirely sure the bag is sitting at such an angle as to maximize the tape’s reflective qualities, but the greater surface area is much better than the minimal reflective piping that some bags have. The one feature that we don’t like is the built-in rain cover. When we first saw the red flap on the backside of the bag, we thought it was an extra space to stash some gear. Pull up the flap and a rain cover is revealed. It seems to fit the bag like a shower cap.It might prevent the roostertailings from penetrating the bag, something we used it for on a few occasions, but since it is not a complete cover, we can only imagine that water will seep through the top and then sit inside the cover on a long soggy ride. That pool of water will eventually seep into the bag.
While aesthetic concerns brought us to test out the Sci-Con S-Case 390, the bag is a great performer on its own terms. That it doesn’t wreck shorts or rub seat posts is a plus.