An In-Depth Review of Revelate Designs’ New Dyneema Infused Lineup

Revelate Designs’ Newest Dyneema Infused Lineup
Words and photography by Spencer Harding with additional words by Lael Wilcox 

When I heard that Revelate Designs was planning to release some new bags featuring fancy Dyneema fabrics, I was drooling. For those in the back that remember that pedestrian activity called backpacking, which was my background before bikepacking, you will remember salivating over gram-saving Cuben Fiber everything! I hope our new Dyneema overlords can forgive the reference to the previous name of the fabric, I just get a little sentimental. If you are curious about the name change, you can check this article or fall down a rabbit hole of the many applications of Dyneema fibers here. The most important takeaway is this: Dyneema is the world’s strongest fiber with superior strength to weight ratio, and for a set of bags designed for the express purpose of achieving a FKT (fastest known time) on endurance mountain bike routes, every ounce counts.

Now, I know what you are thinking: isn’t Spencer that guy that does the DFL rides, possibly the SKT (slowest known time) on the Tour Divide? Why yes, that is me, and yes, we are going for the record if you will. Why does he have some fancy-ass plastic bike decked out with the lightest, fastest bags for racing strapped to said bike? While I am handy with a camera and can delve deep into the nerdy of bike bags, I have little to no experience with endurance racing.  For that perspective, I brought in a pro: Lael Wilcox. I was luckily enough to share some fire roads with this amazing human these past few months, as she has had the bags for much longer, she will be giving her thoughts on the bags as well. 

Mag-tank 2000

I was super excited to try this bag, having not used a gas tank bag since my very first bikepacking trip using an at-the-time pre-production Blackburn gas tank bag. During that trip, I found it floppy and generally annoying to access. Since then, all of my silly custom frame bags have had flaps that roll over the top tube which has precluded me from using any bags that mount to the top tube. 

I first imagined that the “2000” was just the latest greatest iteration of the gas tank, any Dragon Ball Z fan will know that the higher the number (over 9000!) the better and more powerful, duh.  The name actually comes from its large capacity designed to hold up to 2000 calories worth of food. The bag sports a tapered design that widens as it approaches the steerer tube. It also features a flap closure with an adjustable magnetic buckle that makes accessing the bag fast and a pleasure after years of fussing with gritty waterproof zippers.

The adjustable buckle slides along a loop of shock cord that allows you to adjust how tight the flaps closes. I was able to snag snacks one-handed while riding and have quick access to my water filter when passing the occasional seasonal stream. The mount consists of a simple cam buckle around the steerer tube and a wide band of velcro around the top tube. I found it to be secure and quick to transfer from bike to bike.  The closed cell foam base and stiffened side panels held the shape of the bag and all but eliminated any swaying of the bag, especially on the flattened ellipse top tube of the Cutthroat.

While I found the adjustable magnetic buckle to be adequate and reliable, the fabric top flap lacks rigidity in order to cup the top opening of the bag. This led to a few packages of string cheese being ejected when riding got rowdy. In addition, while the design seems like it would keep most weather out, the bag is unsealed, so anything stored inside it would need to not be susceptible to water damage. 

On a bike with a shorter top tube, like the Cutthroat combined with a longer nosed saddle like my stretched out Brooks b17, I found the standover space between the front of my saddle and the Mag-tank 2000 to be snug but manageable. I couldn’t imagine trying to straddle between it and Jerrycan as Lael does but she most likely has a higher pain tolerance than me.

This bag was developed to extend the amount of easily accessible calories for cold endurance races which I can easily see spilling over into gravel focused rides as well. During my review, it has been swapped between the Cutthroat and my day-to-day Hardtail MTB, and I’m confident this would make an amazing everyday commuting bag as well. While the bag survived some mountain bike rides, I feel what small amount of security it lacks better suited for less rowdy rides. 

Cutthroat Framebag

This framebag was the whole reason I was able to finagle this fancy-ass Salsa Cutthroat. It would have been hard to review without the bike it was exclusively designed for. The bag fits like a glove – it mounts with a combination of 3 bottle cage mounts (6 bolts) and a few traditional velcro straps. The bag takes full advantage of the Cutthroat’s massive front triangle space. The installation is somewhat time-consuming, but the no-hassle rigidity and decreased frame wear that comes with that is well worth the ante. 

The main panels are made out of the ever-so-fancy 3oz Dyneema hybrid fabric with the frame contact points using VX21 revX-PAC. The frame sports a massive main pocket with two velcro panels to act as a divider or to keep the bag from bulging and interfering with pedaling. I tested the possible bulge by sticking my largest camp pot at the bottom of the bag in the space where this would be the greatest issue. The bag generously fit the pot without even a hint of swaying or interrupting my pedaling when fully stretched. The non-drive side of the bag sports a smaller zippered pocket for convenience and organization. While the stupid ultralight nerd in me doubted the necessity of the extra pocket weight, I quickly became a fan of it as a space to store and quickly access my repair kit items.

Possibly the most enjoyable part of this bag was using the zippers and after many years and silly bags made to avoid just such devices, I can say that the Zipstretch design is amazing. No more blown-out and stuck zippers from stuffing that extra roll of Oreos before you leave the gas station resupply. Both zippers worked flawlessly, even while riding – just zip it open and toss a layer or whatever in the bag and zip it back up, zero hassle.

I can’t find a fault in this bag; it fits perfectly, has tons of capacity, and functions flawlessly.  I even love the way it looks, gosh darn that Dyneema is pretty (especially when backlit). You can even look forward to the patina it will develop as you can see on Lael’s bag after thousands of miles!

Pronghorn Handlebar Roll

The final item up for review is the Pronghorn handlebar roll. The actual animal, the pronghorn, is the second fastest land animal on earth. The main creator behind this bag, Dustin Eroh, has been a serial second-place finisher in endurance races, hence the namesake. This bag borrows elements from their heritage Sweetroll and Harness systems.

The main part of the bag is a fiberglass reinforced holster that holds 3 possible Dyneema stuff sacks. The three sizes of stuff sacks are designed to accommodate a range of capacity depending on the season of the ride: large for winter trips, medium for general use, and small for summer or warmer weather. The stuff sacks have a slightly elliptical shape rather than a fully round profile which can aid in front clearance if packed properly in the holster. While this handlebar setup was designed to accommodate any handlebar type, I found that with the drop bars on the Cutthroat I was only able to utilize about 1/2 to 2/3 of the medium sized stuff sack. My thought to counteract this would be to develop a narrower and deeper stuff sack to achieve the same amount of space but with less wasted space,  time spent rolling and stuffing. You will also notice that the stuff sacks are only open on one side instead of the more usual dual sided stuff sack we have seen in previous handlebar rolls. I honestly didn’t miss having two openings, while they may seem convenient, unrolling a stuff sack from any side while it is packed tight enough to hold onto to dear life on an adventure race is no quick task. I found I left my gear packed away in the roll and shed layers into my saddle bag or frame bag instead. For some additional storage, the Pronghorn also allows for one of the periphery bags as a front, easy-access pocket, something I missed from my past experience with handlebar rolls. While there is currently no matchy-matchy Dyneema option, it may happen down the line. Until then there are some great options available now and I would highly recommend one to boost that extra bit of quickly accessible space.

This bag is similar to the Cutthroat framebag in that I was unable to find any real fault in the system. I think the stuff sacks could be sized differently to better accommodate drop bar specific bikes, but nonetheless, the current stuff sacks function perfectly well.  My biggest complaint is honestly the blue colored XPAC fabric of the holster, I just don’t like the hue.

Lael’s Review:

“In the final weeks of May, in between the capstone campout for Anchorage GRIT and flying to Switzerland for the Navad 1000, Eric and Dusty set me up with a new frame bag, seatpack and front roll system made of Dyneema. All of the new bags have slight improvements on my old bags; the seatpack hosts an additional locking mechanism that draws the bag closer to the saddle rails, the framebag bolts into the frame and the front roll has a lightweight holster to tension in a drybag. Everything is fixed and firm.

I like bags that work for a long time. I get excited about framebags with oversized zippers surrounded by stretchy material because they’re easy to overpack and they don’t fail. I like a packing system that doesn’t require buckles or too many straps. I have to carry what I need. I want a loaded bike to ride like a heavy regular bike.

I rode and raced these bags in Switzerland and France, toured in Europe and I’m currently riding in Arizona. They’re 5,000 miles old and working great. It doesn’t have to be the lightest, but it has to be reliable. These bags offer both.

Bikepacking is whatever you make of it. It’s carrying overnight gear on a bike and traveling point to point. The lifestyle and survival that ensues in between is the adventure. I have been riding Revelate Designs bags since 2012. The new Revelate Designs racepacking system is the best I’ve ever ridden, for racing and touring.”

Conclusion

If you step back and look at these three bags together as a system, a very elegant picture comes together. Around the headtube, which is always a cluster-fuck for me, none of the bag’s straps overlap or interfere with one another. These bags were made to work together and that kind of foresight is something you get from one of the original companies in the bikepacking game. I believe these three bags together could sufficiently be used as an ultralight summer setup on their own. With a combined weight of about 24 ounces for all bags reviewed and a capacity of around 17 liters (weights and capacity will vary with sizes of framebag and stuff sacks). As mentioned before, that capacity can be expanded with a large Dyneema stuff sack for only an ounce more. Smaller frame riders will probably want to consider a saddle bag option to offset the smaller framebag capacity, which is still generous regardless of size. 

While it is less apparent in my use of the bags, you can clearly see that Lael has put these bags through the ringer.  The bags have obvious signs of wear and use, yet the fabrics are unscathed except discoloration.  That is the real reason for this resdesign, to make bags that are lighter without compromising their ability to outlast the harshest riding conditions.  Even if you aren’t an adventure racer, like myself, these are simply amazingly well made bags that will allow you to lighten up your bikepacking setup and if you already have a Cutthroat and need a framebag this new Dyneema bag is a no brainer. In the end these bags integrate seamlessly together and specifically with the Salsa Cutthroat to complete the ultimate loaded racing bike.  As for the Cutthroat itself, a more detailed look at that soon…

Magtank 2000

Pros

-Substantial upgrade in capacity from older gas tank bags

-One handed access via magnetic closure

-Solid mounting with no sway

Cons

-limits handling when combined with stem bags

-not waterproof

-not 100% secure

Cutthroat Frame Bag

Pros

-Dyneema fabric

-Huge capacity

-Mounts to bottle bosses

-Zipstretch limits wear and increases ease of zipper access

Cons

-Made exclusively for the Cutthroat

Pronghorn Handlebar Roll

Pros

-Lightweight without an apparent compromise in rigidity

-Holster style attachment allows for easier time unpacking at camp and variable capacity

-Range of stuff sack sizes allow you to pack specifically for the trip

Cons

-Blue color of fabric on the holster

-Drop bars will limit capacity due to stuff sack shape

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