I could honestly say that I wouldn’t dream of putting bags on my trail bike. My trail bike is all about light weight and agility! That said, my fat bike is a whole other ball game. I find that I can easily extend my Norco Sasquatch’s usefulness as a beast of burden in the forest. To do that all day and maybe even overnight I need to carry extra gear. Having two broken clavicles and the associated hardware along my shoulders, using a heavy hydration pack hurts a bit. Queue Blackburn.
At Interbike I was impressed with what was coming out of the design studios from Blackburn: some cool-looking yet all-purpose bags and racks! Unlike some cloth-like bags, the Barrier bags are an all go, little show system.
Made of waterproof materials and featuring a roll top design, this bag is meant to keep the weather out. To ensure your gear stays dry, Blackburn cleverly decided on waterproof zippers as well. Just in case you’re caught in the rain and need to get to something quickly, yet forgot which bag has what you’re looking for, Blackburn decided to make the sides translucent, allowing you to take a peek at the contents of the bag without opening it.
Each pannier has a 17L capacity–you could possibly stuff it a bit more, but then you may be crushing items.
The most important thing with pannier bags is the mounting hardware, but Blackburn has it handled. The three point clamps are secured with hex keys in the easy-glide rails, which themselves are attached to the rigid rear panel. An outside compression strap serves a dual purpose. The strap feeds through the top opening buckles to hold them down as well as locking to the frame of your rack to firmly keep the bags put. An additional bungee loop’n’hook is supplied with the panniers and can be added for extra security on rough terrain.
The Barrier handlebar bag is made in the same fashion as the panniers, with the same waterproof materials and the the same waterproof zippers. This handlebar bag also has some additional cool features.
Having a 7.5L capacity, this bag can fit five tallboy beers . If you choose not to carry liquids, the sides have mesh pockets that easily hold sandwiches or other important items such as a wallet or tools. Unlike the pannier bags, this bar bag is rigid in design and can hold a full-sized SLR, too.The inside lining can be removed for cleaning if you make a mess.
The lid has a widow that can hold a smaller-sized tablet, a smartphone, or a map. You can even use your device through the clear window, which is perfect when the rains come. Supplied with a shoulder strap, you can choose to store the strap in the side pocket when riding, or use the strap as a convenient carrying method for off-bike use.
Along the front of the bag are two magnetic button mounts for an optional barrier map / tablet sleeve, if you need to carry a larger device along for the ride. The bar mount is easy to install and works on 25.4mm to 31.8mm diameter bars (sorry, no 35mm yet). It’s easy to use: with a turn of the red lock you can engage / disengage the bag from the bar. The bag itself can hold up to 12lbs in weight.
The Outpost fat bike rear rack is cleverly designed to solve almost all fit issues. Not only can you toss this on almost any fat bike, but it will work for regular rear axle width bikes as well.
The secret is the expandable middle section. Unlike other rear racks which are sold as a one piece unit with hardware for the legs, the Outpost fat bike rack is made of three solid sections that are then cleverly bolted together in the middle.
Made of 10.5mm aluminum tubing, you can see that there was the same amount of care taken in the welding of this frame as there would be in a NASCAR roll cage. The same amount of thought went into fastening the rack to the frame. Depending on your setup, you can choose to use the supplied quick release, or using the welded / molded bosses incorporated into your frame you can bolt the lower part of the rack down. The upper support is no cheap flat steel affair, but rather a neat tubing and concentric washer and bolt system that then uses a machined clamp to support the rack in position.
The Outpost fat bike rack can fit anything between 26×1″ to 29X4″ tires. Fitting this to my bike using 26X4.5″ tires, I had plenty of room.
Other neat features include the ability to use it up front as well. Height adjustable legs and a rear light mount round out the features.
Installing the gear is relatively easy. All you need to get the job done are 2.5mm and 4mm hex keys.
The first thing you need to know when assembling this rack: you must slide the side struts to the top deck. From that point, the outpost is then attached to the bike frame using the supplied 16mm M5 bolts to the lower seat stay eyelets. The bolts should be simply snugged into place and not torqued at this time.
Next, attach the eyelet to the extension bars, sliding through the cam lock and onto the main frame of the rack. The end that meets the bike frame uses the special swivel bolts supplied. On my Norco I used the existing bosses that were welded to the frame; Blackburn does supply seat stay clamps if your bike doesn’t have bosses.
The last step for assembly is to adjust the rack so that it is level to the ground. Once there, tighten all the bolts down evenly. For further info follow Blackburn’s instructions.
Out on the Trail
Once everything was installed on the bike, my wife got wind. I have to say there was that loving gleam in her eye. “Ohh honey, I love it!” (Why did that send shivers down my spine?) “Now you can carry lunch, my purse, a towel, a jacket, snacks and the first aid kit.” Great, so now I’m a pack mule. Yeah, the downside to having a decked out bike with panniers and a front box is that your significant other will find things to place in it for you.
This bag and rack setup arrived just before winter set in. Most of the items I tended to toss in were my keep warm clothing. I had everything from a six pack (bottles) of beer in a pannier, to my winter jacket, the Bell Super 2R chinbar, lunch, a thermos, and yes a small thermal blanket in these panniers. In the front box I carried tools, my SLR, lights, and valuables. The funny thing is, I couldn’t help but grin when riding with this gear. I felt kinda like a sherpa.
When fully loaded the bike tends to feel a bit wobbly due to the weight, but it’s manageable. I really do like this gear: it comes off easily when you unclip it. When I want to go fast and not carry the added mass, the Barrier bags come off. The most important feature that is that the Barrier bags keep everything safe and dry.
Pannier MSRP: $110 per bag
Handlebar Bag MSRP: $110
Rack MSRP: $120
Thanks to the folks at Blackburn for sending down the Barrier and Outpost gear for review.