Tangle Frame Bag Review
Touch your stuff while riding
Choosing a bag
After making a few trips on my bicycle with waterproof panniers, it became apparent that it can be quite annoying to have to open them up, dig around, and close them again for every little thing.
Keeping stuff in your pockets is far from ideal with your legs are moving all the time. I needed some kind of bag that could be easily reached while riding. On my previous bicycle, I had a simple handlebar bag. It was OK, but not great. It was hard to find things in there and it affected the handling of the bicycle.
I did extensive research on top tube bags and front triangle bags. Most of the top tube bags have a very limited capacity, and the larger ones tend to sag. Front triangle bags are usually a little bit larger, and are in a more stable location.
After giving it a lot of thought, I chose Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag. As far as I could tell, they were not sold anywhere in Europe and I had to order them from Alaska, USA, where they are made. To ease the pain of the US$45 shipping cost, I decided to order two. I ordered them in large for myself and medium for my girlfriend's slightly smaller bicycle frame.
Only after I received the bags did I find out that there is a Dutch webshop that sells them in Europe. However, for 90 euros per bag, it's less expensive to get the bags from America if you order more than one and divide the shipping costs accordingly.
- Tangle Frame Bag
- Revelate Designs
- Half frame bag
- Dimension Polyant Xpac 400 Denier Fabric, 840 denier ballistics fabric around tube sections
- 284 g (M) / 311 g (L)
- 4.5 L (M) / 5.7 L (L)
After payment, I quickly received a message that the package had been sent, along with a tracking code. Since it was sent through USPS, I could only track it up to the point it left the country. From that point, it took about two weeks to arrive. I was pretty happy that it arrived on a Friday, just before we had planned to go on a big cycling trip. If I had been in the United States, I would have had it in three days.
Because the package was sent to Europe from the United States, I had to pay VAT in cash to the mail delivery man. Unfortunately, he does not carry any change. I was lucky I had some cash in my wallet that day, and was able to get the right amount of change from a co-worker, otherwise I would have had to go pick the package up at the post office, likely the following week.
The inconveniences of international payments and shipping is one of the reasons that I did not include many of the smaller manufacturers in my comparison. I don't understand why Revelate Designs did not refer me to the Dutch webshop. Maybe it's not an official dealer?
The two bags were packed in a very small box. The bags are made out of "Dimension Polyant Xpac 400 Denier Fabric", which doesn't mean much to most people. They are very light, as they do not have any "hard" parts. The bags depend on the bicycle frame for rigidness. The fabric does not stretch much and is water resistant.
The zippers are water resistant. They require a little bit more force to be opened and closed, but the loop on the zipper is reinforced with some plastic, keeping it in a round, easily-gripped shape for easy mid-ride access.
On the front, there is an opening for a hydration tube or a wire; a nice touch that could be useful.
The larger version is meant for MTB frames of at least 20". My frame is 20.5", and the fit was pretty snug. For a perfect fit, the top tube of the frame should have been a little higher, or the bag a little smaller.
I got the black version; the inside is bright green and provides some good contrast, which helps you see your things better in situations where there is less than optimal light. On the right side, there is a stitched-on logo of Revelate Designs.
For my girlfriend's 19" bicycle, I got the medium black version. This bag fit the frame a little better than the other one. Surprisingly, the price is the same as the large version. Apparently a little less material does not matter much for the total price of the product.
The medium version is lined with red material on the inside, which provides a little less contrast than the green, but still better than black. On the right side, a smaller version of the logo and name is welded onto the bag.
Mounting the bag
The Tangle frame bag has several wide velcro strips on the top and two straps on the front and back to keep it attached. They are sized to fit around oversized tubes. Since my bicycle's tubes are pretty narrow, and the bag is a tight fit, the velcro and straps are a bit long. The velcro sometimes scrapes along my loose pants while pedaling, but that's something that is easily fixed with some scissoring.
The straps all have a small rubber band with which you can tuck in any excess, and prevent it from flapping around. Again, a scissor may help you get rid of some loose ends.
The velcro straps are part of the bag. This prevents it from sliding around, but velcro eventually wears out of you use it often. Since properly mounting the Tangle frame bag can take some time, I will probably leave it on the bicycle as much as I can.
My bicycle has full-length cable housings. Any exposed cables running along the top tube (like cyclo-cross bicycles often have) may be obstructed. You might be able to put the velcro underneath it, but this is something to keep in mind before purchasing the bag.
A frame bag takes up space inside the front triangle. In my case, I have a bottle cage on the down tube and a folding lock on the seat tube. I used to have an 800 mL bottle, but this gets in the way of the frame bag. With a 500 mL bottle, it touches the bottom, but can still be accessed while riding. The folding lock is not used so often, and accessing it involves pushing the frame bag up, which is only possible if it is not completely stuffed at the back.
The bicycle with the 19" frame has the bottle on the seat tube in a side loading cage. With a 500 mL bottle, it touches the bag, but as long as it is not completely stuffed, the bottle can still be used. The folding lock on the down tube requires some effort to take off and put back.
At home, we store our bicycles hanging above each other, with two hooks that go around the top tube. Since the Tangle frame bag occupies the whole top tube, it has to be removed before it can be stored.
The Tangle frame bag is less suited for those who regularly carry the bicycle on their shoulder, but that's only when you are doing cyclo-cross racing.
The first ride
The day after receiving the bags, we put them to the test on a 120 kilometer ride from The Hague to Zeeland.
On the left side of my large bag, I put a paper cycling map, wallet and house keys. On the right side, I put the following items:
These are the kinds of things that you want to have in reach, without having to open up your waterproof panniers and dig around. Whenever we would make a stop and leave our bikes, I would take out my wallet.
With all this stuff in there, it was quite tightly packed. After I ate the banana there was a little bit more space. While riding the bicycle, I was able to open the zipper of the right compartment with one hand, take out the GoPro, and put it back in after I had used it.
The zipper runs along the side of the bag, which means that you can easily access anything, depending on how far you open it. The bag doesn't sag much when open, so there is little risk of items falling out.
As expected, the fact that the bag is hanging on the top tube makes it very stable. Even on very bumpy terrain, I did not notice any movement of the bag. Because of the low center of gravity and position inside the frame, steering is not affected.
During the trip, it was about 4 Beaufort (moderate breeze), mostly from the back, but also from many other directions. The wind had no noticeable effect on the frame bags.
The only annoyance while riding was that my loose-fitting pants rubbed against the velcro at times, depending on the wind. Taking out the bottle from the frame was hardly any more difficult. I was unable to scratch my left ankle by putting my right hand through the frame. I have adopted a different ankle-scratching technique since then.
The Tangle frame bag is larger than most other front triangle bags, and thus takes space inside the frame away from bottles. In return, you get a lot of storage space that is accessible while riding. It can be either an addition or a replacement of a handlebar bag. The advantage over a handlebar bag is that it does not affect the handling of the bicycle in any significant way. The position underneath the top tube makes it suited for heavier items and longer items like a GoPro stick or large cycling map.
I cannot yet judge the water resistance or durability of the bag, but for now I am very happy that I have a place to put things that I can quickly access while on the road.
The hassle of having to order the bag from the United States may be a problem for some people; the additional shipping and import fees can make it quite expensive. For those in doubt, I recommend a look at my comparison of front triangle bags.