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We had a chance to spend a few weeks with a review sample of Kaufmann Mercantile‘s new waxed-canvas saddlebag…the folks there only gave us a short time to test it out before it had to go back to them, but I got a good feel for the bag and wanted to share some thoughts and photos with you.

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Here’s some of the basic bag information straight from Kaufmann Mercantile’s website:

Materials
–Waxed canvas
–American tanned leather
–Brass buckles and rivets

Features
–Water resistant
–Bridle leather strap for lashing larger objects on the outside of the pack
–2 leather and brass buckle straps (secure and easy to remove from bike)
–Inside pocket
–Inside flaps with grommets
–Adjustable closure

Dimensions
–Height: 8.5 inches
–Top width: 10.5 inches
–Bottom width: 3.5 inches

Handmade in Duluth, Minnesota

The bag is made for Kaufmann Mercantile by Frost River Softgoods.

The bag is nearly ten inches at the mouth, and tapers gently down to the foot. The overall length of the bag is about nine inches. It fit nicely between saddle and rack as shown in the pictures below. The leather straps are supple and are adequately supplied with holes to get everything snug (additional holes are easily punched with a leather awl if needed). Solid brass hardware in the rivets and buckles means this thing is going to last for years. And hey, it looks classy as hell!

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This is a water-resistant bag…the waxed canvas shrugs off light rain and snow, but won’t stop the contents from getting wet in a downpour (mostly because of the seams and the loose opening at the top of the bag). It’s weatherproof enough for year-round use, though, and sensitive items such as electronics should always travel in plastic bags even if your own bag is rated as “waterproof”.

Inside the bag, there’s a sleeve at the base to store pointy tools or small items that need additional protection from the rest of the contents. Otherwise, it’s just a gaping maw, waiting to swallow your spare tubes, your lunch, your phone and your rainjacket.
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And, unlike most “minimalist” saddlebags, this one takes all that load without any wrestling or Tetris-like stacking. If you do happen to run out of room inside the bag, there is a stiff leather band riveted to the top of the bag. Simply lash items onto the top and be on your way. You ARE carrying spare toestraps, aren’t you? They’re handy for any impromptu gear wrangling you may face on your journeys.

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Once loaded and hitched down tight, the bag does not sway…I rode with this bag stuffed with items in a brutal 30 MPH headwind and fierce crosswinds, and the bag never budged despite my “out of the saddle” efforts.

The overall quality of the bag is fantastic…the seams are tight, the materials are top-notch and the overall look is, as I mentioned earlier, classy. It’s a pricey bag at $95.00, but this is an “heirloom” type item, expected to last years and years. And there IS a market for such bags, what with Carradice and Ostrich, Berthoud and Brooks. These kinds of bags are for folks who want something handmade, who care about the materials used and the places where they’re made. It’s tough, sometimes, to have to pay a premium to get a handmade-in-the-U.S. item, but I think this one is worth it. Still, it’s a bit steep for us frugal commuters.

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This is the only bike-specific item Kaufmann Mercantile carries, but there are other items in their online store that may appeal to you. Really, there’s a LOT of cool handmade tools and other useful gadgets there, so you should swing on over for a visit.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Wonder what all those planes are doing in the background? I am lucky to live right up the street from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and their outdoor static aircraft display area makes a fun backdrop. You’ll probably see a lot more of this in future articles…I love that museum and the grounds are spectacular.