A sleek and sturdy top tube bag for less than the price of a couple beers

Rockbros Top Tube Bag Review

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Overview

At less that US$15, this waterproof top tube bag from Rockbros is a tantalising prospect for the budget bikepacker, but so often looked over by the experienced cycle traveler.

“A waterproof bag in this price range is going to be garbage,” is the common sentiment, and actually a sentiment I shared until fairly recently.

Having now had experience with a range of bike bags at both ends of the price spectrum, I can say that this bag certainly is not garbage. In fact it’s quite good. In fact, it’s very good!

It’s a very good top tube bag. But it’s not a very good WATERPROOF top tube bag.

Let’s check it out…

Style

The bag has a very minimal and straight-edged aesthetic, which I absolutely love. Its sleek straight lines and the gradual curve, in my opinion, make it one of the best looking top tube bags in any price range.  

The fact that it is rather reminiscent of a vintage motorbike gas tank is also a neat little perk.

The Rockbros branding is pleasantly understated and elegant, with just the company name featured in black in their plain typeface as a smooth, raised, texture. To me, simple black branding on a black bag just oozes understated coolness!  

The only element of color on the bag comes from a single green accent line on the zip.

With a dark color scheme that complements the slim, minimal, aero profile, this bag gets a big thumbs up from me in the style department.

Rockbros top tube bag

Function

There are two gripes that I do have with the functionality of this bag.

The first is a common issue with the method of frame attachment that this bag uses. It comprises one velcro strap around the headtube/headset, and one around the toptube.

The issue here is that because the headtube strap is attached directly to the body of the bag, when the strap is wrapped around the headtube, the headset rubs on the bag every time the handlebar is turned. Over time, this friction will undoubtedly wear into the bag material.

If this is a concern, then it is an easy enough fix – just tape a small block of foam, wood or plastic to the headtube as a shim to form a buffer between the headset and the front of the bag. Easy peasy!

The one other issue I have with the bag is the zip. The zip system itself is really good and provides a decent enough rain barrier (more on that later…) and when zipped closed, there is about an inch of a hood to stop the ingress of water from driving rain. This is a fantastic addition, and just requires the rider to push the zip into the hood with a finger or thumb.

But for some inexplicable reason, Rockbros have added a 45º angle to the zip, making the act of pushing it in slightly harder than it needs to be. While testing it has not been an issue at all, but the thought of repeating the process of closing the bag while dealing with pouring rain and freezing hands, I can see would eventually niggle me to the point of wearing at my very being.

Once again though, there’s a simple and quick fix – just cut the zip straight across at the angle. However, the issue is now dealing with a slightly shorter zip, which can be a nightmare with thick gloves!

Onto the good parts; the size I have tested is the medium size, and I find it to be the ideal size for its purpose. It comfortably fits a note/plus sized smartphone, small bike tools, gloves, and a few muesli bars.

The rigidness of the bag means that it doesn’t bulge when packed either, meaning there’s no possibility of irritating knee rub.

When riding on bumpy off road sections, the bag stays fixed snug to the frame, with absolutely no wiggle or sway, and there is no audible trace of rubbing or knocking sounds from the bag, which is incredibly important for a rider’s sanity on long days in the saddle!

Rockbros top tube bag zip close-up

Material Quality

One comment that pops up in buyer reviews on Amazon and AliExpress for this bag is that it isn’t as rigid as they were expecting it to be. I can see where the confusion comes from, as some of the advertised images of the bag do make it look as though it’s more of a hardshell case than a bag.

However, I think that Rockbros have found a perfect balance between rigidity and flexibility – it’s solid enough to constantly retain its straight-edged shape, while having the flexibility to conform when packed tightly.

The bag is made from an 850D nylon with a TPU waterproof coating. It feels like a very durable fabric and I see no reason for any part of the material to fail any time soon, even with a healthy dose of backcountry branches and fence wire having a go at it.

Within the side walls, front and underside of the bag are stiff plastic inserts which give the bag its rigidity. These are fully enclosed within the walls, and certainly aid in the bags sense of durability.

The frame attachment straps are made from the same 850D nylon as the outer material, with a ¾ inch thick velcro strip sewn to them.

Despite what I touched on earlier regarding the zip, the zip system as a whole feels to be of excellent quality, despite not actually being fully waterproof.

Build Quality

This top tube bag appears to be of excellent build quality. However, with the exception of the front strap, all pieces that make up the bag are welded, rather than sewn. So its build quality will ultimately be down to the quality of the welding.

Lots of pulling and prodding at the bag has me feeling that the seams will hold up to a lot of stress, but only time and extreme weather will tell.

One aspect of the bag being welded that I like is that it will be very easily repairable in the field. Short of the zip breaking, anything that could go wrong with the bag can be repaired with a small tube of super glue.

Waterproofness

The advertising blurb across various sellers seems to differ when it comes to the level of water resistance of the bag. Some sellers list it as being waterproof, while others say it is water resistant.

I’m always going to trust the least optimistic description and assume that the bag is actually only water resistant. Being water resistant to the stated level of IPX4 means that the bag should be protected from rain or splashing water, no matter the direction.

To test the waterproofness of the bag I filled it with water and hung it up. As expected, water did trickle from the zip, confirming that it is not completely waterproof.

The inside of the bag did stay dry after being subjected to a garden hose set to spray for five minutes, so the IPX4 rating appears to be accurate enough.

If using the bag to hold a phone or any other electronics, I would definitely advise the inclusion of a ziplock bag for added water protection

Rockbros top tube bag on bike

Verdict

This Rockbros top tube bag does have a couple of minor design flaws, but when factoring together the quality, aesthetics and price, I can’t imagine too many bags bettering it.

Unfortunately, the bag did let through water during testing, so can’t be called waterproof, but that was always to be expected considering it features a zip on the top side. As with any piece of “waterproof” kit, I would never trust it 100% to keep the contents within completely dry, so remember to use common sense and a rain cover (or additional ziplock bags as a backup) as required for expensive electronic equipment.

Being available for under $15, this top tube bag is an absolute bargain for the budget minded cyclist. You can hardly go wrong with something this decent for less that the price of a couple beers!

3.6/5

To come to this rating I have factored in overall quality and functionality relative to the price point of the item.

If a $30 item and a $100 item have the same star rating, it does not mean that the $30 item is as good as the $100 one, but rather that, relative to its price, I deem them to be of equal value.

Obviously, this is largely subjective and based off my own research and testing, so if you are uncertain about the rating, you can view additional reviews at the product link below.

Being very familiar with both Amazon and AliExpress, I’ve come to prefer the latter online retail giant for two main reasons:

  • Price – Overall I find that their products tend to be cheaper and they, more often than not, also have a hefty discount applied (usually around 30% to 50% off). Sellers on Amazon will usually sell the same product without the discount, or a much less substantial one.
  • Shipping destinations and shipping price –  AliExpress ships practically everywhere on Earth, and most products can be found with a free shipping option in the majority of countries you’re likely to be ordering from. No more putting up with Amazon’s infuriating “Sorry, this item can’t be shipped to your selected address” message!

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