Ryan Wilson has been putting the new Tailfin Fork Pack system to the test while out in Peru. Utilizing the same attachment design as the Tailfin’s Mini Panniers system, the Fork Pack has proven to be quite the ally for long-distance, self-supported touring. Let’s check it out below.
A couple of years back I first got my hands on a set of Tailfin’s Mini Panniers for review, which tightly integrate with their AeroPack to create the most stable, waterproof, and easy-to-use pannier system that I’ve had the pleasure to tour with. These days, I really don’t ride without them…
Since that time, the folks over at Tailfin in the UK have been in the lab, brainstorming over how to bring that same stability and ease of use of their mini panniers to the world of triple boss fork-mounted bags. This is where their new X-Mount fork pack system comes in, which I’ve been testing out on the Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano for the last month.
Traditionally, the triple boss mount is the territory of cargo cages, dry bags, and TPU straps. However, anyone who has used these systems knows that while they are simple in design and versatile, they can be a bit of a pain to fumble with. Weaving straps through holes in a cage. Holding the bag in place while you crank down on your straps to get everything tight while hoping you aren’t crushing the contents inside. Trying to find a place to jam the loose strap ends where they won’t start flopping around the second you start moving.
Everyone who has used these traditional cargo cage and strap setups knows the feeling of glancing down toward your fork after every rowdy bit of trail, hoping your gear hasn’t dislodged itself and launched into orbit somewhere since the last time you looked down to check on them.
(Pictured left: 10L Tailfin mini-pannier, right: 10L Tailfin Fork Pack)
Miniaturizing the X-Mount
This frustration with fumbling with straps led Tailfin’s design team down the path of taking the same principles from the X-Mount Mini Pannier system and trying to make a version of that mount that is as slim and trim as possible, without sacrificing stability. They wanted the mounting system to be small enough that you could leave it on the bike year-round without it looking like an eye-sore and would keep the weight of your cargo as close to the steering axis as possible.
Just like with their pannier counterparts, the new fork pack clamp actively grips the mount with force in a way that leaves no noticeable play when combined with the lower hook that slides behind a rubber interface on the lower part of the mount to keep everything rock solid and rattle-free. They also contoured and rubberized the rear part of the mount that interacts with your fork in a way to disperse the load and further improve stability.
Who are and aren’t these for?
The primary audience for these packs is going to be people with your modern-day triple boss “adventure fork” that gets thrown onto most gravel bikes these days. With 5L and 10L offerings, these are a great way to add some solid carrying capacity while bringing in the added ease of use of a mini pannier, without the need for a rack.
Notably, these will likely NOT work for most forks that have angled triple bosses. On my Tumbleweed Prospector, which has rear-angled bosses, I could mount a bag on the drive side just fine, but the angle of the bosses led both the 5L and 10L bags to not come even close to clearing my brake caliper on the non-drive side. Perhaps if you have forward-angled bosses, they might clear, but that will largely be on a case-by-case basis which also depends on your tire/wheel clearance as well.
I worked around this by utilizing my fork’s mid-blade rack mount for the bottom mounting point, along with a hose clamp wrapped in an old tube and a mini Voile strap to secure the top, and they’ve been really solid on Bolivia’s notorious washboard roads. Just be sure to put some thread locker on the bolts!
I would love to see more of an official workaround for folks with angled bosses, but for the time being, this solution has worked for me.
Due to the slim nature of the mount, even some riders with 90º triple bosses might find that the bag comes very close or even rubs their brake calipers, and for this, Tailfin recommends putting a couple of washers behind the mount at the bottom to pull it slightly away from the fork, though most setups should clear without modification.
How do they fare in the real world?
For my ride across the Bolivian altiplano, I swapped out an Apidura fork pack and one of Tailfin’s V-Mount downtube packs that I had rigged to the fork and used the 10L X-mount fork packs to bump up my carrying capacity for those longer stretches between re-supply points.
Generally, I find these types of bags will do best with bulkier items that aren’t going to break the scale. Things like sleeping bags, tents, and some extra layers to take on and off throughout the day. This will keep the impact on how your bike handles to a minimum, especially if you’re throwing them on something like a lightweight gravel bike, which may not be designed to handle larger loads well.
I loved the ease of use of accessing items from these bags without even getting off of the bike, so I would keep my tent in a dry bag at the bottom of the pack and some gloves, a buff, and a light jacket on top for ease of access.
While attaching and detaching these bags may not be quite as rapid as with the mini-panniers, they’re awfully close once you get the hang of it, and they’re ten times easier than any strap and cage system I’ve used. Unlike the mini-panniers where I usually hook the bottom around the rack leg first and then slide the clamp over the upper mount, it’s easier to do the fork packs in reverse. First by resting the clamp on the upper mount, and then pivoting the bottom hook around the rubberized mount on the bottom.
That last part is what might take an extra second compared to the mini panniers as it can be tricky to nail on the first try without getting a good look at what you’re doing. So if you’re reaching over the other side of the bike to get one attached, it might take adjusting your position to get the right angle.
Much like with the mini-panniers, the multi-purpose straps that come with the fork packs are a nice touch and useful for strapping additional gear to the outside of them. They’re ideal for lashing a pair of wet sandals to the outside of your bag after a river crossing or for compressing the contents of the bag and further increasing stability.
Let’s Talk Specs
Anyone who has experience with Tailfin’s 5L and 10L mini-panniers will be hard-pressed to find notable differences beyond the mounting interface on the 5L and 10L fork packs. Both use 210D Hypalon combined with Ripstop nylon for the waterproof shell, CNC machined and anodized bits for the mount, and an aluminum internal frame to keep things rigid. Tailfin even says all of the hardware is swappable between the fork packs and the latest version of the mini panniers.
The 5L version of the pack weighs in at 442g while the 10L version weighs 524g including the mount, the bag, and the nylon straps.
While using triple boss mounts, the bags are rated up to 4.5kg per bag. If you’re using double boss mounts, they can handle 3kg.
Of course, the thing that most people have an eye on when it comes to Tailfin gear is the price. Here’s how these break down:
5 Liter system (1 Pack and Mount): $100/€95/£80
10 Liter system (1 Pack and Mount): $125/€115/£100
Fork Pack Mount: $40/€35/£30
The Competition and the Conclusion
The closest competitor to the Tailfin fork pack system is undoubtedly the Ortlieb fork packs that came out back in 2020, which come in 4.1L ($65) and 5.8L ($75) sizes and weigh in at 290g and 315g respectively. Both are waterproof and super simple to attach and detach, though in my experience the Ortliebs were a bit more prone to play with mount, and the mounting hardware on the Tailfin feels quite a bit more refined and robust. Though you pay for this in grams and cash. One notable advantage the Ortliebs have is that they come with mounting hardware to use on suspension forks and non-tapered steel forks that lack eyelets.
This also isn’t meant to throw cage and strap systems in the dumpster for good. There is still a world where a mechanically simple system like that can make sense. There are fewer proprietary bits to break, and it is nice to have the versatility of throwing a dry bag into a cargo cage one day and then strapping an extra water bottle to the same cage the next day. Plus there are loads of great cottage bag makers crafting really cool fork bags by hand like Andrew the Maker and Oveja Negra.
The Tailfin fork packs won’t work for everyone- notably, most people that only have angled bosses on their forks, or that lack mounts altogether. However, if they do work for your setup and you’re looking for an extremely stable, rattle-free waterproof, and hassle-free system with a capacity that basically no other fork bags can touch with the 10L versions, and you can stomach the price tag, these are a great option.
- Way easier to take on and off than traditional cage and strap systems
- Waterproof design
- Super stable and rattle-free
- Slim mount design keeps bags close to the steering axis
- Mount is unobtrusive on your bike when you aren’t using the bags
- 5L and 10L options can fit a wide variety of items
- Rack-free panniers for your “Adventure fork”!
- Won’t crush your items like strapped bags
- Robust hardware
- Won’t work with all forks, including most forks with angled triple bosses
- Heavier and pricier than some of the alternatives
- I preferred the subtle black-on-black logo from the mini-panniers over the higher-contrast logo
- More proprietary hardware to break than with simpler systems
The Tailfin Fork Packs are available to order starting today over at Tailfin’s website.