Everything is made in China these days, isn’t it? Well, not Carradice products. They have a ‘Made in England’ label proudly attached, which even bears the handwritten name of the person who made it. The Super C is a fairly large and moderately expensive handlebar bag which has a more traditional styling than Ortliebs and most other bar bags, being made from heavy duck cotton rather than shiny pvc. It has several pockets for those who find them handy. It is only available in black but that soon fades to a rather nice shade of browny grey.
I fitted the Super C bar bag to a set of 31.8mm drop bars. The provided attachments were too large and as I didn’t have time to get replacements (which Carradice were happy to provide) I ended up using some bits of an old tyre to hold them tight. The attachments use standard cross-head screws to tighten on to the bars rather than hex bolts, which were very difficult to screw in tight enough. All in all a poor experience on the fitting front!
The bag itself is a different story. The quality of the duck cotton is excellent and I’ve had no problems with water getting in, even in heavy rain. The cotton is waterproofed to a certain extent and can be reproofed. The outer pockets are made of a strong mesh and seem to be fairly durable with enough space to hold a small camera, tools or even a windstopper.
The inner pockets are quite low and loose and not all that accessible when the bag is full of stuff but they’re still useful to have. There is one big pocket with a zip that can sit on top of the stuff inside. The bag is sturdy and roomy and can hold a DSLR camera although if it’s a wide camera it may need to sit on its side. My DSLR is roughly 12.5cm wide and just fits.
The Super C handlbar bag is not particularly light at over 800g but feels very solid and well made. The KLICKfix fixing sytem, despite the initial problems, holds the bag securely though there is inevitably a small amount of vertical movement.
The inside of the bag is kept stiff with corrogated plastic. It looks a bit like cardboard but seems pretty durable. There are a few rivets in the bag and one of mine came loose quite soon after using it. You have to be careful with these rivets as they have rough edges and can damage stuff in the bag. It’s a good idea to cover them with some tape or fabric. I have also had this problem with Carradice panniers and it would be nice to see Carradice address it.
The map case is a bit of a puzzle. As far as I can see the only way of fitting a standard-sized folding map (e.g. an OS Landranger) is to fold it down to one sheet and put it in sideways, which keeps it dry but isn’t much use for navigating. Perhaps it’s simply meant to store maps rather than display them. I emailed Carradice to ask but simply received a terse reply along the lines of, you open the map case and put the map in. If the map case were just an inch wider it would be possible to display two folds like in an Ortlieb map case, which would be really useful. It’s a shame as the map case seems to be waterproof and reasonably well constructed but just isn’t large enough to be much use on full-sized maps – though it’s fine for loose sheets. I ended up using an Ortlieb map case, which can be attached quite easily if not particularly elegantly or securely and it flaps about a lot.
The Carradice has an attachment for holding lights which twists into the underside of the bag. It looked like a bit of a gimmick and I didn’t expect much however it’s actually quite well made and surprisingly sturdy. Unfortunately it’s only good for holding flashing lights (to be seen) rather than headlights simply because the bobbing motion of the bag makes the beam unsteady. The attachment can be a nuisance when carrying the bag but detaches very easily. On the whole I think it’s a great feature and could save you needing to use a handlebar extension, which are generally ill-fitting and inelegant things.
The Super C is a wide handlebar bag. I had no problems using drop bars but if you use very narrow bars or have any cables or other stuff pointing inwards you should check how much room you’re likely to have for the bag to ensure it will fit.
The bag itself releases easily enough and the shoulder strap is good quality so it’s comfortable enough to carry around.
Carradice Super C bags are not waterproof to the same extent as bags from Ortlieb and other manufacturers (including Carradice themselves), however the duck cotton has a waterproof coating and can be reproofed if the proofing fades. In addition the waterproof map case covers most of the bag which helps keep it dry. I have never had a drop of water in the bag even in severe and prolonged rain.
All in all this is a good handlebar bag somewhat let down by the attachment fittings and a poorly designed map case. I also own Carradice Super C panniers and with those too the fittings had problems and felt notably inferior to the excellent quality of the bags themselves (and also to those on Ortliebs). I presume Carradice build the bags in England and import the fittings and other parts to keep the price down. Personally I’d be happy to pay more for bags that were made entirely in England or at least had better quality fittings.
Price-wise the Super C is competing mainly with Ortlieb and Vaude. The main appeal over these brands I think is in the traditional styling and use of duck cotton rather than shiny PVC, and the fact they have pockets, which I find really handy. However Ortlieb also make more traditional styled bags and ones with pockets. My general impression is that Carradice make nicer bags but Ortliebs are more waterproof and have better quality fittings. The Ortlieb map case is also much more useful than the Carradice one though it needs to be bought separately thus adding to the cost. I would expect the duck cotton of the Super Cs to be more durable than similarly priced bags from Ortlieb – it is very tough. In addition, the Carradice has good-sized inner and outer pockets, wherease Ortliebs are more spartan.
Despite the initial problems with fitting, the bag has held up to over 5,000 miles of touring with no problems at all. The cotton material seems very durable and I’ve had no problems with water getting in. It is recommended for those who prefer the traditional styling and materials and who want some pockets. I’m not that keen on the colour but happily it fades fairly quickly to a nice rusty grey. In fact one of the things I really like about Carradice’s duck cotton bags is that they look better with age!