Jay Ritchey of Bags By Bird (BXB) recently started offering custom bags not only for fabric choice and all the usual options but also specifically tailored to the height of your bars and your desired width. For riders with a lot of front-end real estate or those with a minimal amount, this can be an amazing way to maximize your gear space. In true BXB fashion, the bag looks incredible and functions equally beautifully.
It’s lovely having Jay in Tucson and being able to drop by to see what he’s currently working on. We had talked about a few bags and tweaks he had been refining and wanted me to try out. When I got my new Crust Scapebot and read that, among the other changes Garbaggio had for the frame, a “steeper head angle for easier front-loaded steering ” was one of them. This got the gears in my head turning about the new Right Height Bag Jay is offering. I figured that if there was a time to try a large front bag that required a rack, this was just the bike for it. Jay was able to whip one up just a few days before we blasted off to the Midwest for the Northwoods Route.
While sharing the aesthetics of his Goldback and Piccolo bags, the main difference in the Right Height is that it gives the rider space tailored to their handlebar height from the rack. Of course, that means the bag does require a rack for support, but an HDPE stiffener still wraps around three sides of the bag to provide some structure and rigidity. The HDPE liner goes from the dowel mount down to the floor of the bag and up the front of the bag. The bottom of the main panel has a Hypalon swatch with multiple positions for strapping the bag to your rack, including some mollé points on the edges of the panel as well.
In keeping with the Carradice bag style tradition the Right Height uses a dowel to add rigidity at the handlebars. The dowel is mounted on the outside of the bag in a small button-down sleeve. Having an external dowel removes intrusion points for weather, dirt, etc. I borrowed a Tumbleweed T-Rack from Jay to mount my Right Height bag. I’ve been enamored with the minimal rack since I saw the prototype from Levi many years ago. I strapped the bag with two nano voile straps to my bars and just a sole nano voile to the rack. Three points, super simple and surprisingly stable.
Let’s talk options. As the name implies, the first and most important variable will be the height. My bike has 12″ of clearance from the rack base to the middle of my bars and I elected to have the medium width which is ~13-16″. Each of these sizing options comes at an additional cost of $10-$20 depending on how tall or wide you want the bag. As the size increases so does the cost of fabric, which seems reasonable and another way you can tailor the bag to your bike and budget. Jay added a long flap upgrade ($20) to my bag as well, which my inner ultralight nerd scoffed at initially, but in reality, I used it many times on tour and was quite happy to have it. He also added internal mesh storage pockets ($20).
In use, I found these to be convenient for little bits that would be floating around the bottom of my bag, but not accessible with a fully loaded bag. I could see them being useful for keeping certain items stashed away with a less-than-full bag to prevent rattling or banging around. From a base price of $265, my bag as reviewed would be $325. You could get the price down to $285 without the optional long flap or internal mesh pockets.
Some other very relevant details are the side pockets and the stretchy front accessory pocket. The side pockets scale up with the height of the bag making the ones on mine quite substantial. The contoured pocket and lid have a smoother profile rather than a square pocket on Carradice bags. They can be a little tough to access but having another way to organize storage was welcome in a bag that is mostly a large monolith of storage in the main compartment.
The stretchy front accessory pocket was very handy for small things like chapstick, hand sanitizer, or a lighter. The pocket can be accessed by slightly loosening the lid and reaching under the flap. Great for those little things you don’t want to spend time rifling through your bag to find when you need them quickly. A bar tack in the center keeps things tight, but offers no adjustability outside of the fabric stretch, though I had zero issues with anything falling out of the pocket.
All of these details and features add up to a stellar bag. I absolutely loved my experience touring with the Right Height bag. It was so simple to just drop all my gear into without having to force it into a small stuff sack. If it wasn’t totally full it still kept its shape and it can definitely be overloaded when needed—it just worked like a charm. Jay’s design and attention to detail are impeccable. Every time I go visit him he is working on some update or modification to improve his design and make his bags better. The Right Height feels like a culmination of everything he has learned over the past few years making the Piccolo and Goldback bags.
I think the apt description of the bag would be a combination of a Randonneur-style handlebar bag and a modern rack-less handlebar bag. It combines the best attributes of both design philosophies and makes something unique. It straps to a rack like a Randonneur bag but doesn’t require a fiddly and awkward Decaleur, instead mounting to the bars like a modern bag with voile straps. It takes the rigid liner similar to rack-less bags and adds that stiffness in coordination with a rack for extra rigidity.
While it borrows a lot of design choices from rack-less bags, it does nonetheless need a rack to be used. I have for a long time poo-pooed racks in the modern age of bike touring. Why have I recanted? I liked the idea of using a minimal rack to achieve a great amount of storage space. If you want a large bag that doesn’t rely on racks, get a Goldback from Jay. The Goldback is an amazing bag for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above and hell, Ryan Wilson uses one.
How It Rides
To be succinct in my description of the bag is to simply say: it is secure. Three straps and the bag isn’t going anywhere. The liner holds the bag in shape with zero flop or slop. I loaded the bag to the brim many times and even over rough and rocky terrain the bag never budged. I think the Right Height bag can be aptly compared to a Fabio’s Chest from Ron’s Bikes, with the main difference being where their respective lower mounting point is positioned.
While the Right Height isn’t blazing any new trail in capacity, it does allow for a much more secure mounting and a great way to lower that weight as close to the wheel as your rack allows. This is the key difference, lowering the weight instead of centering it on the bars. This allows you to better disperse the weight and make use of the entire space of your bag.
My concern in electing to choose the medium width over the widest width was simply limiting myself a bit on storage. The bag is already quite large and as the rule goes, if you have space you will fill it. While the Right Height does allow for a handlebar bag to sit much lower than it would normally, the height of my bag at 12″ still allowed for weight to be quite high nonetheless. I was riding a size Large Scapebot with 29er wheels, the combination of a high bottom bracket and my bars sitting high as well made for a tall center of gravity.
Mix that with about 10-15 pounds and it has some leverage on your frame. The best comparison I can make is that it reminded me of riding a Dual Sport motorcycle with a big desert tank. Your weight is high and for the most part, it rides very stable, but past a certain tipping point, it is going over. While I scarcely noticed the weight while riding, I definitely did when laying the bike down when we rested.
Packing the bag is super simple as the bag has a single cinch top loading design. There is an optional strap to further pull the bag in if you’d like. I used mine with each and found it just snugged things up a little more. The long flap has two points to buckle in, depending on whether you use it folded in half or fully extended with two buttons holding the flap folded. The side pockets are more fiddly to get in and out of but function well for the most part. I did find when I loaded the side pockets they would bulge into the main compartment and make the interior mesh pockets less usable. Since the HDPE line is only along one axis of the bag, the side pockets are “suspended” by the rest of the bag and don’t have their own rigid backing.
BXB’s Right Height bag combines the best of both worlds of racked and rack-less bags. It borrows from the traditions of Randonneur and Carradice-style bags and adds modern design and fabrics with their timeless styles. I love the flexibility of the bag for people who are really tall or really small and are attempting to maximize the amount of space they can effectively use on their bikes. Apart from incredibly minor tweaks to pockets or cinch points, I don’t have any critiques of this bag. I guess the expense can be quite prohibitive at $265-$330 depending on size and upgrades. For a custom bag made in the USA, I don’t think that is an unreasonable price. I paid a similar amount for a fully upgraded frame bag from Rogue Panda for the same bike.
For many years when people ask my advice for getting bikepacking bags, I simply say get the largest three bags you can for your bike; handlebar, frame, and seat pack. Maximize the space you can in as few bags as possible. I also try to avoid bags that can’t carry more stuff than their own weight, you know the tiny little bags everyone has on bikepacking bikes these days.
No shade if those bags are necessary for someone to pack what they need. It can be easy for me to say that as a tall person riding a large frame with lots of frame bag space and stack height, but I believe the sentiment can apply to most folk bike touring. The design and customization behind the Right Height bag are squarely in line with my philosophy.
- Unwavering when mounted
- Beautiful style and construction
- Made in the USA
- Easy to pack and mount
- Lowers the center of gravity of your gear
- Customizable for width, height, and fabrics
- Requires a rack
- Locked into mostly one height if you need to change bars or fit
Check out more at Bags by Bird!