Some say that the best ideas come when you’re taking a shower, but, for the Dyneema Saddlebag, it came straight from YouTube.
I was watching a YouTube clip by "RidesofJapan", a local guru here in Japan when it comes to all things cycling and keeping cycling lightweight. In one of his videos, he was providing insight into how to create the perfect multi-tool - a balance of the tools required and lowering weight. After completion, “RidesofJapan" puts the finished tool into his saddlebag.
While watching this whole progress, I felt that his saddlebag did not do justice to his beautiful bike and his celebration of light weight. I texted him straight away, offering to make him a new saddlebag to cut the weight of his current bag (in this case, by half).
It was clear from the start that I would use Dyneema Composite Fabric, a high-end laminate fabric constructed from non-woven composites utilizing space-age DSM Dyneema fibers. Dyneema offers an unmatched strength-to-weight ratio and claims to be 15x stronger than steel. A lot of hype surrounds this fabric and I agree that the strength-to-weight ratio is unrivalled, but working with Dyneema isn’t without its challenges.
Dyneema has a paper-like feel and does not give a lot of structure due to its light weight. Parts where structure was needed, such as where items need to be held in place, had to be strengthened with folding and layering at the bottom part of the bag. As a result, the bag lays flat when empty, but folds up when putting things inside. This way, everything is held in place neatly and the bag doesn't lose its shape when bulkier things are inserted.
Once it was clear that I want to start selling the saddlebag, I also had to consider how to construct the bag and minimize wrinkles in the fabric while sewing the parts together. As mentioned previously, Dyneema has a paper-like feel and quality to it. A common sewing technique is to sew the inside first, but flipping the fabric inside out to hide the seams was not an option as it would cause a lot of wrinkles. I wanted to create a clean product and leave the "breaking in" of the fabric to the customers. Here, a different folding technique and some highly adhesive double-sided tape was the answer.
Deciding on the perfect closing system took a while. A buckle system would take away from the simple design, add weight and run the risk of the straps in the buckles loosening. Sometimes the easiest solution can be the best. I went with a simple, but strong, YKK ring and the strongest Velcro I could find. It keeps everything in place, nothing gets loose, and the construction keeps the total weight low.
The goals I set for producing the saddlebag were achieved. With its simple design, but high functionality, the bag is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The final product weighs 27.5 grams, the zipper pocket will keep things dry when in wet environments, the bag easily fits a spare road bike inner tube, a multi-tool and some tire levers, and the strap reliably keeps everything in place.
A brief note about Dyneema. As Dyneema is somewhat paper-like, I sometimes think of it as the new waxed canvas. Like paper or waxed canvas, Dyneema will get wrinkles and become softer. This does not, however, change the abrasion resistance or any other of its qualities.