Saturday, November 10, 2012

Carradice vs. Zimbale saddlebag comparison

Carradice Pendle on the left, and the Zimbale 11 ltr bag right.

While at this year's North American Hand-built Bike Show, I spotted a vendor displaying English-style saddlebags!  These turned out to be Zimbale bags, imported from Korea. I had seen them on line before, I think Harris Cycles sells them. click here for Harris Cyclery's Zimbale page

At any rate, they seemed like nice looking bags, made of heavy cotton duck material. After looking around and chatting with the (very nice) people there, I discovered that they were selling some factory seconds at 50% off!  Well, of course I was hooked at that moment. The largest bag available for that deal was the 11 liter, it looked fairly big to me, I was hoping it would be the same size as my Carradice Nelson, my commuting bag.

The problems that caused these bags to be discounted were minor; Mainly, the screws fixing the bag to the wooden dowel were installed wrong, just missing the leather reinforcement underneath. It was a simple repair to relocate the screw.

Relocated the screw slightly to the left.

Another problem was that the wooden dowel used for support seemed too short to me. I picked up a short length of 5/8 inch hardwood dowel from ACE Hardware, just a couple of bucks. I cut it so the ends reached close to the corners, as in the Carradice.

Close up of the replaced dowel.

So for a little of my time, I got a $100 bag for $53! I think it's a pretty nice looking bag;

Zimbale 11 liter
Comparing it to my Carradice bags, I found that the 11 liter is just about exactly the same size as my Carradice Pendle, a bag I've owned for several years now. It, (the Pendle), has been a terrific bag, so I thought it might be fun to compare these two.
 Carradice Pendle

When comparing the two bags, the first thing you notice is that the Zimbale seems to have a lot more going on.  Notice the 2 sets of D-rings, really useful for external loading, like hanging a wet rain jacket. There are also 2 other plastic D-rings which would allow you to attach a shoulder strap for off-bike duty. Very neat, although I don't like plastic, wish they would have gone with metal there too. In contrast, the Pendle seems rather plain, albeit solid looking. Also, no plastic to see there at all!

Another nice feature in the Zimbale is the "long flap" which allows you to extend to top flap to accommodate a large load. This is a feature you find in Carradice's larger bags, the Nelson and Camper. Nice to see it here, although, to be honest, I've never needed it.
Long flap! Closed here...
Long flap open!
The shots above also illustrate the Zimbale's D-rings. Finally, one other unique feature for the Zimbale: a sort of quick release for the flap.
"Quick release" buckle.
The quick release allows you to open the bag with out messing with the buckle. Nice idea, although I wonder how well this feature would wear over time.

Up to this point, you would not be blamed for thinking, well so long Carradice! This bags got it all over you! But not so fast...there are some strengths in the Carradice bag that stand out. Also, some of the bling of the Zimbale seems only skin deep. The best example of this, I think, are the humble buckles!
Carradice buckle, simple, but carefully engineered and wonderfully effective.

Compare the two buckles above. The Zimbale certainly looks nice, but look closely. The buckle has no roller. It's just a very basic buckle. The Carradice buckle is a simple steel device but that roller is very important, it makes operation much smoother and relieves a lot of stress on the strap. finally, notice the thickness of the leather straps, Zimbale's are paper thin.

This is generally the advantage that the Carradice bag holds: quality where it counts. These bags are the results of many generations of English cycling experience. They are simple, and they are built to last.

Another example of this is found in the quality of the leather. After only a couple of months of use the straps holding the Zimbale to my B-17 show severe wear:

This shot doesn't show it well, but that strap is just about ready to let go! I installed zip ties to support the bag, otherwise they would have broken in half! To be fair, Carradice has brown leather straps that are also very thin, but at least they lasted a couple of years on my Nelson! The white Carradice straps are the way to go, they're very thick and last for years. i wonder what it is about non-white leather that makes them so skinny?

To sum up, these are both above average bags. They seem to be fairly close in price too. It would be a difficult choice to make. The Pendle is a very tough and reliable bag, you can use it out of the box with no change for years of service. The Zimbale offers some very nice features, especially the provision for outside storage of gear which the Pendle doesn't have. Some of Zimbale's materials are not up to the same standard or Carradice, but you can replace some of those easily.

Well, it's nice to have the choice!

Finally, here's some shots of what under the flap!

Inside the Zimbale bag. Notice the clip and strap which can draw the opening up.

Inside the Pendle: very basic. Both bags feature a nylon skirt w/drawstring.