As an outdoor enthusiast and gear junkie I often find it impossible to buy just one backpack, tent or set of bike panniers or trekking poles that will work for every trip or day adventure I want to take. When planning for my recent bicycle tour I agonized over each piece of gear since I would not be able to climb into my gear closet each morning and select the best item for the day. The bags that attached to the bike and held all my most important possessions were the hardest choices. Will I want waterproof panniers or ones with lots of pockets? Will I be able to fit enough gear and food into them? These bags also needed to fit to the bike securely and most important not impede my pedal stroke or be too cumbersome for riding along narrow sections of highway shoulder.
In the end, even though all of my bags worked well enough for me to keep them throughout the entire 1700 mile trip, most of them had small faults or failings that I would have liked to change with my magic gear wand. The only bag that worked just right for my Goldilocks like critical eye, was the Deuter Energy Bag.
With a streamlined design, low profile pockets and easy attachment points to the bike, this top tube style bag is a great addition for commuters, tourers and recreational riders alike. Compared to a lot of top tube bags that are designed for touring and commuting, where carrying capacity and durability are often more important than weight and size, the Deuter Energy Bag is not the largest option out there but bigger is not always better. The narrow 2.0” wide profile offers a clean design that never bumps my knees during pedal stokes and it nests so quietly behind my headset that even on super windy days it isn’t large enough to catch the wind and impede aerodynamics.
Made from micro, ripstop nylon with dimensions of 2.75” x 2.0” x 6.5” at the longest points, the Deuter Energy Bag attaches to a bike right behind the headset. It rests on your top tube and is secured to the bike frame via four hook and loop tabs. Two tabs wrap around the headset and two tabs wrap around the top tube.
With so many different styles of bike frames with varying tube diameters on the market, don’t expect this bag to fit every bike, although it did fit well on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. It might be nice to see Deuter extend the hook and loop closure over all the strap material to allow the bag to fit a wider variety of top tubes.
The Energy Bag has a larger, main pocket with a zippered entry from the top which is easy to operate while riding. The right side of the bag also has a small, flat zippered pocket which was perfect for holding easy to reach money for ice cream and cold drinks.
The material the Deuter Energy Bag is made from is stiff enough that you can ride with the main pocket open if you want to be able to grab at your camera or pepper spray without having to fumble with the zipper while riding and while the material is not waterproof, I logged plenty of miles in all day rain to find the items in this bag mostly dry at the end of a soggy day.
Here’s a list of the items I kept in the Energy Bag during my tour.
Small grease rag
Rain cover for my Brooks saddle
Brooks saddle adjustment tool
A small bottle of pepper spray
During my daily commute or rides to the local farmers market, this bag easily contains my chapstick, phone and keys and when heading out for longer recreational rides I can fit two tire levers, a patch kit, bike multi-tool, 2 gel packs and my phone inside and still have space left over in the side pocket fora pen and written directions.
While my initial impression of the Deuter Energy Bag was that it might be too small, I soon discovered that it was just the right size. Other top tube bags that I’ve tried have been too large and bulky and once loaded would fall to either side of the bike frame and bump into my knees as I pedaled. I’d also like to note that after two months of riding eight hour days and another month of local riding in the New Mexico sunshine, the fabric this bag is made from has yet to show fading or wear.
I’d love to see Deuter bring some more of their cycling designed products to the US market and hope that eventually their larger touring bags become easily available to cyclists in the US. Deuter, if you’re out there listening (or reading) I’d love to try out a pair of the Rack Pack Uni Panniers…hint hint.
NOTE: If you are wondering what camera I have, you can find it here. It is much larger than my phone and does fit into the Deuter Energy Bag. It’s closer in size to a smart phone.