Filling a niche for pre-made frame bags for bikes with non-sloping top tubes, the Bags By Bird Better Half fits where many other bags won’t. The bag comes in two sizes as well as two lengths and is available in a multitude of fabric and color options. Spoiler alert, I think the Better Half is a home run. It is stylish, utilizes an innovative flap closure system, and is made right here in Tucson, AZ.
Right before Jay relocated back to Tucson he sent me the latest iteration of his Better Half frame bag. He didn’t mention he was moving himself and his shop back to the desert and he arrived not long after the bag. He set up shop in the Tucson Metal Arts Village next door to the ever-popular post-ride stop, Tucson Hop Shop. I’ve spent a little over a year with this bag (maybe two? I can’t remember with all this compressed pandemic/post-pandemic time)—here are my thoughts on this great addition to part of the bag-making sphere that seemed tapped out.
Due to variations in frame sizes and tubing angles across bicycle brands, designing stock frame bags is a tricky business. Jay Ritchey, the maker, and designer behind Bags By Bird offer the Better Half in sizes Large and Small, with a choice of height for each size, Long or Short. This effectively equals four sizes, a design choice that seeks to fit this bag to most gravel, road, or touring bikes; the Better Half’s profile is made with 0-10 degree angled top tubes in mind, not modern mountain bikes. The bag pictured is the size large/long on my 62cm Romanceur, though it’s quite at home on my Fuji Sundance as well. If you have more sizing queries, Jay’s got a handy infographic for all the sizes he offers here. Like many makers these days, the Better Half is available in a plethora of colors and fabrics, though if you plan to pick one up, expect about a six-week lead time.
For a style where zippers reign supreme—and less commonly, roll tops— the Better Half stands out with its signature flap closure. I hate zippers, especially the waterproof ones, as the desert dust seems to kill them in a jiffy. The flaps are reinforced and hold their shape nicely. I can easily access the bag while riding and still quickly reattach the shock cord to the hook. I know Jay used the outer part of the bungy for closure, but I found that I liked grabbing the knot of shock cord as a pull for easier use. During my time running this nifty little bag, I’ve never had anything pop out of the pocket and, while it isn’t waterproof, I feel confident it would be fine in most cases besides submerging or very heavy deluge.
Hot take: every bag can be waterproof if you put your stuff in a plastic trash bag inside, there I said it.
Hotter take: This bag basically makes your bike have doors like a Delorean, pretty damn sweet.
The detailing and construction are impeccable on the bag. The Hypalon attachment points are strong and clean. You can sling it to your bike with either a velcro wrap or shock cord. I used velcro as it made swapping between bikes a bit quicker. I found that the padding around the edges helps the bag keep its shape and prevent sagging over time. This bag has an amazing profile and classic styling with a cord and hook closure.
The only downside I can seem to find in the bag is the sizing, which makes for a limited amount of bikes it will work on. My Large/Long just barely precludes me from using my downtube bottle mount, which is fine, I can fit a 2-3L bladder in the frame bag but is still a noteworthy observation. I may pick up a Large/Short in the future though to mitigate the issue.
There aren’t a ton of off-the-shelf frame bags available for bikes with traditional-ish frame geometry. The Better Half frame bag fits the niche nicely. Jay is a lovely human making amazing bags by hand right here in Arizona, I highly recommend this bag, flat out. Check his whole range of bags over at his website.
-Impeccable Construction. Handmade MUSA
-Indestructible Closure Mechanism
-Premade sizing doesn’t fit all bikes
-Not waterproof (not important personally but maybe for you)