Review: taking a bike by train in the Duffbag Stealth bag
The Duffbag Stealth bike bag is designed by the UK-based company to be small, light and discreet. We took a look at their range a while back, after spotting them at the London Bike Show. The bigger bags are primarily targeted at convenient, mud-free storage and transportation of mountain bikes – for example in the car after a trail ride. But the Stealth, which can be used for muck-free car storage, is also intended to be a light, hassle-free way of transporting any bike on buses or trains. And, if you use it as it’s intended, it succeeds really well…
First off, it’s important to note that the bag isn’t padded. It’s made of tough, water-resistant material, but the idea is that once you get to your destination the bag can be folded away and tucked in a cupboard or under the bed. It would even be possible to secure it to a backpack and cycle away from the station. But this portability it’s not a bag to protect your prized bike from baggage handlers and long periods unsupervised.
Style-wise, the bag looks good. The green fabric seems rugged, and the messenger-bag style straps are very sturdily affixed. Although the bag is minimal, it has a few useful and well thought out features. The shoulder strap, for example, attaches only to one side of the bag. This means that, when carried logo side out, the bike tilts away from you and you can walk without hitting it with your feet – a common problem with soft bags. There is also a well-placed handle on one side, so you can safely manoeuvre the bag horizontally, on to a rack or into a car boot. And, inside, there’s a dinky little pocket that (just about!) holds pedals, lube, a multi-tool and some packing tape.
So how was the packing? As the bag is so small, like with other soft bags, the bike has to be partially disassembled. Wheels come off, rear derailleur, and handlebars too. For mountain bikes, or larger road bikes, the seatpost must come out, but with my 54cm frame I could just about squeeze it in untouched. I hadn’t been looking forward to taking the bike apart, but in reality it was quick and simple. Even factoring in several minutes of walking around like a wally looking for misplaced allen keys, it was safely stowed in less than half an hour. The trapezium shape of the bag fits the bike snugly, and the full-length zips make it easy to arrange the contents to your liking. It also means that the open bag lies fully flat on the floor, doubling as a mat to protect the floor when taking the bike apart. A little bit of tape and bubble-wrap, to secure the derailleur and the handlebars, some pipe insulation to protect a few key areas, and the bike was set. I used a set of wheel-bags to protect everything from scratching – one wheel goes either side of the frame – but Duffbag says the next production run will have deep pockets for the wheels, which will do the same job.
BikeRumor took a road bike in the Stealth bag on test from London down to the southern Alps by train – a day-long journey on the Eurostar under the Channel followed by two trains down through France. Eurostar is quite tricky with un-packaged bikes, and has a maximum luggage size of 120cm. The Stealth bag complies with this, and passed through no problems. And trains on the French side are very well provided with racks – see the pictures for ample evidence. When stored upright, the bike is given stability by the wheels on either side, and it all sits quite comfortable horizontally, too. So, with a little supervision, to make sure that nobody puts a suitcase on top, the bag keeps the bike safe.
So, the verdict? Taking bikes on trains is a funny business. Two modes of transport , which should function together harmoniously, are actually something of a nightmare for those wishing to transport two wheels. Entrusting a dismantled bike to the vagaries of the public realm is always anxiety-inducing – I don’t think any soft bag will be 100% worry-free – but the Stealth bag is smaller and easier to carry than any other soft bag I’ve used, and I felt as confident in it as anything with more padding. Perhaps taking the seatpost out would tip the balance for some users, but this bag deals well with the compromises and the practicalities of train travel.