Think of the last big climb you experienced on a bikepacking trip; a real grinder. You’re exhausted from pushing pedals, and to switch up your muscle groups you decide to stand up out of the saddle. Except, the reprieve is not as nice as you remember it was before you loaded the bike. Not only are you using your legs, but now your core is working to keep the seatpack from swaying too much. Portland Design Works attempts to solve this problem with the introduction of their first bikepacking product the Bindle Rack.
The Bindle rack is made of lightweight aluminum that attaches to the seatpost directly using a collar, as opposed to a traditional rack that attaches to eyelets on the frame. The collar is attached with a pivot bolt to allow the rack to pull close to the seat. Gear is held into the rack with two of three compression straps, the third is to hold the gear close to the seat. A nylon flap protects the bottom of the cargo and holds the straps to the rack, this piece is removable and replaceable, which gives the rack some versatility if you want to use your own straps, and serviceability if you like the PDW straps and want to replace them if broken. PDW did solve this problem, working with Revelate Designs they crated a custom bag for this rack, this seems like it would solve all these above problems.
Installation was very straightforward. PDW doesn’t provide a torque spec for the bolts, so to protect the seatpost it’s best to avoid overtightening the bolt. After going too soft the rack moved a little at the beginning of use, but after tightening a few times while riding, the rack stayed in place. The manual recommends attaching the rack 4 to 8 inches down the seatpost from the seat, but keep in mind what your gear will do the lower or higher you put it. The higher the mount the longer the gear will sit off the back of your back, the lower; the cargo will sit higher up but center the weight better. I put the rack as low as I could without interfering with my top tube bag, this helped keep the weight more manageable.
Once the rack is on, a problem arises, getting the gear into the rack. The front of the rack tapers into raised guards to prevent thigh rub when pedaling. These guards make it difficult to keep a traditional drybag in the rack. At first I placed the bag in the back and left that tapered area empty, but that meant that only one strap held the gear to the rack. This setup ejected the bag after some curb hopping before hitting the trailhead. Reconfiguring the pack, I placed a smaller stuff sack in front of the larger dry bag to fill out the rack, but this still left only one strap on the gear. To fix this I just added an extra long Surly toe strap I had.
Not only is it hard to get the straps to hold gear, the buckles themselves are tough to get torque on. While PDW thoughtfully looped the webbing back on itself to keep the straps tight to the rack, this makes it difficult to get a good handle on the back to compress down the bag, or hold the rack close to the seat. Typically it was good measure to retighten the straps every now and then at the beginning of the day to get them tight. It was also useful to keep the straps at their length at the end of the day, if using the same gear there the next day. This makes it so you can simply attach the buckles when replacing the gear, as opposed to trying to retighten the straps. While the straps may be difficult to get tight, the camlocks on the buckles do not move at all. Once the gear is where you want it there’s no worry about it moving.
Getting the gear into the rack is difficult, but is it worth it to prevent sway? Absolutely. On the bike the rack is hardly noticeable at all. I used this bag on a single speed set up on Baja Divide and hardly ever noticed the weight on the back of the bike, something that was extremely prevalent with soft bags I’ve used in the past. With the elimination of the sway it’s possible to load more weight onto the rear of the back as well. Bikes with smaller triangles could fit more gear onto the back of the bike if need be.
It’s hard to make a good assessment of durability until you’ve owned something for a year plus, but after 1000 miles of rough Baja Divide track, I have faith this rack will last. I have a particular knack for breaking things on tour, yet the Bindle Rack had no problems. The black finish on the rack looks as good as the day I received the rack.
At $88 the Portland Design Works Bindle Rack is a great value for those trying to find a more affordable option to pricey soft bags, especially those with camping gear and dry bags already. Even with the problems of putting bags in and out, I’d rate this rack highly. If you have the extra cash it seems worth it to shell out for the bag designed for the rack to help keep items where they belong.