Bratislava Rataj (Brano) is the man behind Switchback Bike Bags. Brano’s sewing experience goes all the way back from watching his grandma sew gloves when he was a kid. In 2005 he moved to Colorado from Europe and rediscovered his passion for sewing. Brano’s dedication to adventure and cycling, coupled with his sewing experience has resulted in making some out-of-the-box designs for bikepackers. Brano fabricates, designs and tests all of his bags in the Denver, Colorado area. Switchback Bike Bags makes a number of different styles, all made to order with customizable options. Saddle bags, handlebar bags, custom frame bags, top tube bags, and accessory bags are available in a number of different colors. We tested out a few of his smaller bags on some of our rides last summer and fall.

Top Tube Bag and Tool Bag

June overnighter-05117 In an attempt to think outside of the box, switchback bike bags came up with a unique idea that prevents Velcro to Velcro interference. Something that many of you have run into if you have tried to use a frame bag and a top tube bag from two different companies. The idea was to simply remove Velcro from the design and use an alternative connection method. He went with a shock cord system, where the cord weaves around your top tube and steer tube spacers. He designed this on both his Top Tube Bag, as well as his rear specific and smaller Tool Bag. After messing with the system, it seems like there is no true correct way to install the Top Tube or Tool Bags as many bikes are shaped differently. As long as you use the provided loops on each side and weave the cord back and forth, it should secure the bags with a tight fit. The cord loops follow along the bottom and up to the stem of the bag. When using the bag your goal is to allow the zipper to glide freely with one hand. If it does not do that, then I found that you need to either tighten down the shock cord system or weave it using a different pattern. I used an x-weave most of the time, it is strong and makes for less wiggle. As far as the other features go, the bags are made out of a Multicam X-Pac, padded ballistic nylon spine, and a bright orange interior to help you find loose. Built into the sides are HDPE stiffeners that help give the bag it’s shape, especially when it is empty. The bags are rounded out with water resistant zippers, beefy zipper pulls, and a zipper hood. These bags have seen a lot of use and have been a great addition to our bikepacking rigs. The Top Tube Bag held up great over various summer overnights and day rides. I used the Tool Bag for some essential tools, first aid kit, lube, and other daily items during the Tour Divide. I did, however, refused to tighten down the shock cord, mainly because I was sleep deprived and I would forget. Between that and stuffing it a bit too full, the water resistant zipper coating began to fold off. This was user error, but I also think the shock cord loops towards the front of the bag could have been placed more forward on the bag. This may have allowed the bag to tighten down more evenly, thus allowing the zipper to glide properly. Switchback Bike Bags
Switchback Bike Bags
Cord loop may have caused the zipper issue. Finger is where it maybe should be placed in the future.
Other than the zipper issues on the Tool Bag everything has held up great. One piece of the bag that I was worried about breaking down were the shock cord loops, but there are no signs of any serious wear. Same with the shock cord itself. While it may have stretched out a bit, there is no fraying or rips and even if there were, it would be a pretty simple replacement at a local arts and crafts shop.

Handlebar Accessory Pocket

June overnighter-05104 When I was searching for an ultra light minimalist handlebar bag, I came across a number of handlebar accessory packs, but most of them could not be mounted alone. The accessory handlebar bag from Switchback however, marketed that their pocket could be mounted separate from a main body handlebar bag, exactly what I was looking for. Not only do I get annoyed of how bulky some handlebar bags are, it’s also a pain to deal with working around the brake and shifter housing. I know it’s not realistic to always use one a bag this small, but I decided to try it out for a few trips. The bag body is made out of a Multicam X-Pac with a ballistic nylon backing. The back of the bag, or side that faces the head tube, is flat – which you can see in the pictures below. The inside of the bag on the flat back is a bright orange fabric, this gives you contrast to help find items. Sewn into the middle of those layers is an HDPE stiffener and some padding to help protect the contents within, as well as contact to the bike. The bike comes with the same zipper as the Top Tube Bag, and comes with a small zipper hood. Other features on the accessory pack include a buckle strap connection system that is used to install to a larger handlebar bag. In my testing I did not use them, nor did they get in the way or bother me when using the accessory pack alone. There are two Velcro straps installed on the top part of the buckle strap connection system. These two straps are what connect to your handlebar. The middle part on the back of the bag has two loops, this is to strap down the bag to either your head tube or fork crown. June overnighter-05105 The best characteristic of this bag is it’s low profile and stability. Yes, it is small in volume, but the flat back allows you to push it all the way to your head tube, which makes it feel like it’s not even there. The flat back also prevents any interference with stem bags which I found to be a very nice feature. The bag also allows you to see your front tire which gives you an overall better vision when bikepacking. If you intend on stuffing the bag completely full, it may be difficult to zip up, but there are zipper pulls on each side to help. I stuffed the bag to the brim a number of times, and while it took some patience to get the zipper closed without forcing it, It was worth it to me to save the space and weight up front. Either way you look at it, there is only so much you can fit in this system – it is not meant to hold as much gear as your standard handlebar bag. DSC02956 Any of the above mentioned bags would be great addition to your bikepacking rig. The shock cord top tube bags are an innovative way of dealing with a common problems that many of us face. If you are looking to lighten up your front end, regain more visibility, and allow for a more spacious cockpit, then the handlebar accessory pocket is a great addition. The bags are well constructed, light weight, and minimalist, which are great characteristics for your next trip, no matter the distance. If you missed our video on the Top Tube Bag, check it out here…

For more bikepacking bag options, head over to our Bikepacking Bags Index page.

2 Comments

  1. Sure wish I could get a response out of Switchhback. I’ve tried two e-mail messages and get no response. I guess my search for a custom top tube bag [gas tank] will take me elsewhere…

  2. Are they even in business?

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