Fjallraven and Specialized’s bikepacking collab has arrived – here’s what we thought

Its snack and frame bags don’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but we love this kit’s slick look

Suzie McCracken
Wednesday 18 May 2022 12:18
<p>W got our hands on this collection early so that we could give you our thoughts </p>

W got our hands on this collection early so that we could give you our thoughts

Bikepacking is where a love for cycling and the outdoors meets: nothing beats a long ride in the wilderness, and with the appropriate luggage hitched onto your steed, you can ensure that the fun doesn’t have to end back at the car park from which you started.

Advances in bag design have opened up a world of overnighters to hardy enthusiasts, launching an entire industry that barely existed a decade ago. Therefore it seems appropriate that US-based Specialized – one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers – has teamed up with Swedish outdoor apparel giant Fjallraven to create a new line of bikepacking hardware.

Here at IndyBest we’re big fans of Specialized’s bikes and Fjallraven’s gear, having reviewed and recommended products from both of these brands multiple times over the years. When we heard about the joint launch, we were immediately intrigued as to whether the sheer size of these companies would mean that they could bring something new to the market for bikepacking hardware.

Previously an area dominated by small makers, cycling giants such as Ortlieb and Decathlon are now throwing thoughtfully designed, mass-market products into the ring, and Specialized and Fjallraven are clearly keen to get in on the action.

So, can the brands’ project – pleasingly titled “the great nearby” – provide the benefits of scale along with the same attention to detail we’ve become so used to from independent luggage makers such as Apidura and Restrap? We decided to find out.

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How we tested

We really loved the look of the collaboration’s first drop, which featured some funky-looking PU panniers and a range of apparel, but it is the bikepacking kit that most whetted our appetites for adventure. We got our hands on some of the kit early, to test it out and bring you our thoughts.

We attached the range of bags to our normal touring rig to see how easy they were to mount and how stable they felt. We took them on a couple of rides to ensure they didn’t inhibit our movement while pedalling, and stuffed a variety of bikepacking-based kit into them, to test their capacity. Here’s what we made of the collab.

Fjallraven x Specialized toptube bag: £50, Fjallraven.com

This is one of the best top tube bags we’ve tried – we really liked how it is subtly tapered so that at the top it’s narrower, meaning you’re less likely to brush your knees against it while you ride.

In terms of attaching it to our frame, it was incredibly easy to utilise the double-sided velcro-style tabs, making installation a breeze. The supplied spacer stopped it interfering with our headtube, keeping everything clear. There are also two holes in the bottom to mount it to the toptube sans sticky velcro, should your bike boast such mounting points.

We also like the water-resistant zip, which provides the perfect mid-point between accessibility and protection. However, we wouldn’t advise keeping expensive electronics in here during a storm, but it will be more than hardy enough for normal English showers.

We appreciated the double zip too – a feature we’ve not seen too often on similar bags. This means you can use the cavity in a segmented way – we could just nip open the bag on either end, popping a battery pack, for instance, in the top, while keeping the bottom clear to receive spent snack wrappers and the like. There are also two side pockets on the inside, enabling further delineation, and we found the fabric felt reassuringly hardy, mimicking a waxed cotton jacket material of the likes Fjallraven is famous for.

The sides are rigid here, meaning that you can’t overstuff it very easily, but that does again mean it keeps its shape well and is less likely to interfere with your legs when you’re pedalling all out.

Buy now £50, Fjallraven.com

Fjallraven x Specialized frame bag M: £80, Fjallraven.com

We really liked the look of this frame bag – it happened to fit perfectly into our bike frame, giving a very pleasing look. Like the toptube bag (£50, Fjallraven.com), it’s got rigid walls which means you can’t overstuff it (or fudge it into a slightly smaller frame – measure up before you buy), but also means it’s less likely to smash into your legs while you’re climbing up a hill.

Capacity wise, it was perfect for our Rapha women’s classic winter Gore-Tex jacket (£290, Rapha.cc), which isn’t the most packable of waterproofs, and some snacks. And again, we loved the water-resistant zip, which we think has the perfect protection/accessibility pay-off, and the fact it has two pulls, so you can use the back and the front independently of each other.

Once more, the soft, velcro-style tabs made it incredibly easy to mount on our bike, and we were confident that the material would help minimise any damage to our frame’s paint job, but this is a risk over time with any bikepacking luggage that’s not attached via mounts.

There was also a very small hole in the bottom to feed a cable through, should you be charging a battery pack from a dynamo hub on your front wheel – a perfect setup for long-term touring. We actually liked how difficult it was to feed said cable through this hole, as it’s not the sort of thing you want to be easily pulled around.

Buy now £80, Fjallraven.com

Fjallraven x Specialized snack bag: £40, Fjallraven.com

This snack bag has real finesse – we love how all the straps, netting and trims are colour-matched to the main waxed-cotton-style material, giving a look that is hard for smaller producers of bikepacking luggage to achieve. We also like the little details like a drainage hole, in case rain gets inside, and a pleasingly simple opening and closing mechanism, which can be adjusted with one hand while on the bike.

Unlike some other snack bags we’ve tried, we were disappointed that it didn’t come with a stabilising strap to attach to the fork, but the velcro-like straps held it in place pretty well (we just didn’t feel so confident really tugging the top shut without this extra security). It’s big enough for some cereal bars and a suncream, and small enough to not be too imposing in your cockpit. If you’re going to use it with the toptube bag (£50, Fjallraven.com) and an additional stem-mounted item (in our case, a quad lock), your real estate will be a little overwhelmed, but it is nothing that a bit of more-thoughtful velcroing can’t relieve.

Buy now £40, Fjallraven.com

The verdict: Fjallraven x Specialized collab

On the whole, we were impressed with the items in this collab. We thought everything was executed to a high level, and we could see a lot of thought had gone into the details throughout the range.

Do we think it’s considerably better than any other range of bikepacking kit on the market? No. There are no huge advances or innovations here. Does that matter? Probably not. Because, to be honest, we just really liked how it looked.

The market has previously been dominated by gear that looks incredibly technical, tactical, and borderline military – which is fine. But these pieces of luggage look slick. We kept admiring how our bike looked while it was all hitched up; this range is super stylish, simple and not too shouty. If we were just starting out on our bikepacking journey, we’d absolutely go all-in on these pieces, mainly because they fit much more closely with our aesthetic than other available options.

The prices are, of course, a little punchy. But we reckon this gear will last, and we’d be willing to spend to get the look – although there’s no denying that it will be out of reach for beginner or casual bikepackers.

We didn’t get a chance to try the range’s saddle bag or bar bags, which was a shame, as we’re intrigued by the mounting mechanisms in the lookbook photography. However, the bags we did try proved promising and we can’t wait to test the others in the future.

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