Porcelain Rocket

I’ve just got my grubby mitts on a lovely new Porcelain Rocket framebag for the Troll.

Since moving over from the Thorn Sterling frameset, I’ve been really missing the extra storage space afforded by a framebag – especially as the Troll can only carry two water bottles, and the position of the eyelets won’t cater for larger cages, like Minoura and Topeak’s 1.5l models. (update – the 2013 Trolls are far more generous with their water-carrying potential, with eyelets for as many as 5 bottles).

Framebags are an ideal way of making use of all that dead space in a bicycle frame, centering cargo and providing organisational pouches for stuff I want to get to easily – snacks, a headtorch, tools.

For long distance touring, they also add a lot of versatility. I can jettison my panniers, while maintaining a setup that offers ample space for day rides. Or I can embark on ultralight, technically challenging multi-day trip, with just the seat pack and handlebar bag – like the Arizona Trail.

Another benefit of this system is that there’s nothing strapped onto my rear rack, making loading the bike quick and easy. Plus, there’s nothing to work loose on those super rough descents – which always happens, no matter how well I bungee gear on.

I should add that there’s a few of potential downsides. It’s best not to leave anything valuable inside if you’re parking up your bike, and there’s a little extra surface area in crosswinds. Neither of which have proved to be an issue yet.

Lastly, framebags are water-resistant but not waterproof – so bear that in mind when you’re packing. And while they’re tough, they’re perhaps not as burly as panniers. Don’t overpack them, and be sure to clean off the zips every once in a while.

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I like the versatility of this system. Running a framebag, seat pack and top tube pack means I can drop my panniers and embark on lightweight, singletrack side trips.

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Chunky waterproof zips should stand the test of time. The framebag can be split into an upper and lower compartment, with internal, adjustable dividers and mesh stash pockets to keep everything stable.

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The top compartment is ideal for camera lenses, but for now I’ve filled it with a 3 litre water bladder, running a hose up to the handlebar. The advantage to this system is that I’ll no longer be drinking from crud/shit covered water bottles. The disadvantage is that it’ll be harder to keep tabs on how much water I’m going through.

I’m using the lower compartment for food, including delicious granadillas.

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There’s also a slimmer compartment on the non-drive side ideal for maps, and a separate stash pocket that’ll fit a multi tool, or similarly-sized knick knack.

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Framebags are custom made for each frame, so you can tweak each framepack to your own design. Great quality needlework and a nice tight fit.

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The top tube pack is ideal for stashing snacks, an MP3 player, sunglasses and gloves.

The expandable and surprisingly capacious seat pack is home to my tent, grounsheet and waterproofs. It acts as a good mudguard too.

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Ready to roll…

And out on the Colombian trails…

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29 thoughts on “Porcelain Rocket

  1. Jack

    Is the troll stable to ride with all the gear on it? I saw that it has a short chain stay.

    Looks interesting with all the frame bags :-)

    Reply
    1. otbiking Post author

      Actually, the Troll handles way better than I was expecting fully loaded. It recently weighed in at 48kg (inc bike), which is far more than I thought I was carrying.

      The chainstays aren’t so short that pannier to heel clearance is a problem, and the more compact frame seems to help with keeping the bike going where you want it to.

      Reply
  2. Jack

    Nice! ^_^ is it more stable then the sterling/santos was? I am looking to build a new bike and the troll looks very interesting to use for a on/off-road touring bike.

    Reply
  3. otbiking Post author

    Well, I’d say the Troll is more stable than the Sterling, in the size I rode (L). But the Sterling is more Rohloff-friendly, being Rohloff specific.

    The Santos is even more sure footed, at the expense of a little liveliness as a mountain bike.

    For me, the Troll is a good in-between.

    Reply
  4. Jack

    Okey, sounds really good :-) Do you think it would be possible to ride the muddy backroads and all the other harsh offroads with a derailleur setup? Since the option would be available on the troll. OOo and one last question.. The Andra rims..do they handle good? or are they heavy to ride with?

    Best Regards

    Reply
  5. gyatsola

    Great set-up Cass.

    Don’t do what I did and leave a jar of pesto with a loose lid in my frame bag. It smelt nice, but I was nervous it would attract bears!

    Incidentally, I have this months copy of Adventure Cycling, and there are great old photographs of a experimental cross country ride by a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers in the 1880s using bikes. Every bike is fitted out with a nice framebag with bedrolls under the handlebars. Seems there are no new ideas!

    Reply
    1. otbiking Post author

      I remember when Cara’s peanut butter jar exploded in her panniers…
      I’ve come across the bike-riding Buffalo Soldiers before; will have to look that article up. I think a group re-created the ride on the original bikes at some point.

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    I love my frame bag but now that I´m in the tropics can report it is definitely NOT waterproof…. so I don´t reckon camera lenses would be a good idea!

    Reply
      1. Sarah

        Sounds a fine plan. I´ve just taken to putting stuff in there that I don´t mind getting wet, or that won´t be there when it´s raining ….. at present, my waterproofs!

        Reply
        1. otbiking Post author

          My new framebag just fits a 3L bladder, with the hose running along the top tube. I really like this setup, no more cruddy bottles. I’ve been using the lower compartment for food. The non drive side compartment can ft a map. my diary, multi tool, tooth brush, toothpaste – the only things you really need in life! I zip-lock the diary and the map, so no weatherproofing issues.

          Reply
      2. theporcelainrocket

        Yeah, unfortunately, not much one can do in regards to waterproofing a framebag for the monsoons. Between the zippers and stitching, it’s bound to get in there!
        The rainjacket was Cass’ idea that has proved quite useful, I think.
        How are you guys, Sarah? I’m following on the blog!

        Reply
    1. Sarah

      Watch out, those hoses get truly disgusting….and they freeze in winter…. I use one on short trips but looking at the state of Tom’s I’m glad I didn’t bring one this trip! At least water bottle crud is on the outside!!

      Reply
      1. gyatsola

        The rainbow looks lovely – are the poles the same as the scarp 1? I kept wishing the poles on my scarp were a bit shorter so I could carry them in my framebag, or at least stop them from digging into my thigh as they lay on my rack.

        Reply
        1. otbiking Post author

          Not sure if they are the same length, but mine only just fit in the frame bag (20in frame) – ideally, they would indeed be shorter for bike touring. I doubt they’d fit in an Ortlieb pannier, so the framebag has been especially handy for that. I can measure them some time, not sure if the details are on their site.

          Reply
  7. stijn

    Hi Cass, thanks for sharing those adventures! I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while. What make/model are your handle bars, they look like just the ticket for me? Cheers,

    Reply
  8. Misha

    Hi Cass,
    How durable do you find these bags after few months of usage? They must be very well made but any piece of gear has its limits especially being used that much (and it looks you do ride a lot).. Are you planning any follow-up review?

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Misha.

      As you say, everything – especially lightweight kit – wears out in time. The weakest point on framebags are the zips. Scott now uses YKK no 10s (ie big), and I have to say, these are pretty bomber. It’s worth giving them a clean once in a while, to remove dust and grit, which can wear the zipper.

      Haven’t had any issues with stitching or material.

      Reply
      1. Misha

        Thanks for reply! And good to hear the bags don’t wear too quickly on a bike. Scott’s bags just look better and cooler with every new project..
        Cheers, have a safe ride!

        Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          No worries! I’ve been really happy with the PR stuff, so I’m glad to recommend it. I should add that I asked Scott to use the toughest fabrics he can get his hands on – he knows I can be a bit abusive with my gear! The framebag ends up weighing a bit more, but it’s worth it for the kind of riding I do. It sits in my frame pretty much all the time, so it gets a lot of use.

          Another thing. Try not to overpack the bag too much – that can also strain the zippers, and lead to a failure down the line. I asked for extra flair at the front to really maximise space so I wasn’t tempted to cram too much stuff in…

          Reply
          1. Misha

            Good to know that!
            My requirements are matching yours quite close, need something tough for a long and slow pace touring trip on and off the roads. And the hole in my frame main triangle is huge and just asking for a frame bag.
            Just one more question (i hope i haven’t skipped this in the blog articles), where do you store the photo gear while bikepacking? I thought of an insert for one frame bag compartment that will allow me to pack the photo stuff in and out quickly. Frame bag theoretically shouldn’t get as much of vibrations as the handlebars, hence the idea… Not sure if a good one though

          2. While Out Riding Post author

            Where to store photo gear is always an issue, and for a heavy camera, I haven’t found a solution I really like (except getting rid of the heavy camera…). A compact or mirrorless camera slips easily into the front pouch, along with a spare lens or two. I keep a waterproof liner in there – the pouch has a waterproof zipper, but anywhere there’s seams water can enter and pool.

            For my DLSR, I still use an Ortlieb bar bag, mainly because it’s 100 per cent waterproof and quick to get to. It’s big and clunky, and pushes the weight far forward, but a necessary evil for me.

            I’ve thought about a side loading compartment in the framebag to store a DLSR, but the issue for me is that again, framebags aren’t completely waterproof. You can get a rainjacket, but it’s an extra thing to deal with each time it rains. And, keeping my camera in the front pouch or Ortlieb means I always have it with me off the bike. I guess it depends where you are headed on your tour.

            If I’m carrying spare lenses, I stash them in the framebag though. That way they’re easy to get to. I keep them in padded lens cases, but I have thin, lightweight waterproof roll bags for them too, just in case of a real downpour. Mainly though, I keep simple, heavy stuff in the framebag that I don’t mind getting a bit wet. Food plus tools and inner tubes at the bottom.

          3. Misha

            Thanks for sharing, Cass, very reasonable approach. “Anywhere there’s seams water can enter and pool” – that sounds scary… if i think of the camera being half covered with water…, oh my.

            I will probably try the frame bag, my DSLR is rather tiny (Oly W420), especially when the pancake prime is on, but slightly too big for the top pouch i guess. But never had such bags yet, so let’s see. If the frame bag will not work than the handlebar roll bag will have to move on the front platform rack and the ortlied will take its place..

            Have a safe ride, was a pleasure to read your blog!

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