1 Feb 2016

Gear: Axiom Smartbag Touch

In the fall (2015), I started coming across ads for Axiom's new Fondo series frame and seat bags. The one that particularly caught my attention was the Smartbag Touch. First, because I'm always looking for a place to keep my keys, wallet, and phone while I ride. Second, because it displays the phone right in front of you, where you can see it. More details on that below.

I guess I mentioned this bag a few times because my wife got me the Smartbag Touch for Christmas. A perfect accessory for my longer rides and for my trips doing errands around town.

The bag is a clever design. It mounts on top of the top tube and has pouches that straddle on either side. In the middle, on top of the top tube, is a clear plastic pouch for a smart phone. It is weather resistant because it is covered with a solid piece of clear pliable plastic. There is a flap to cover the opening, which is held shut with Velcro. Obviously, water could eventually get in - it's definitely not watertight - but it will definitely keep the rain drops from getting directly at your phone.

The position of the bag is a bit low for checking the display of your phone while riding. I usually do it when stopped, because it is almost straight down from your head position (on the bike with drop bars anyway). This is quite a bit different from a handlebar mounted phone or GPS bracket. My phone is responsive through the plastic as well, so I can still use it if I need to without taking it out. It would be nice if the plastic was a bit thinner, which would make it much easier to use the phone. I have to tap my phone every once in a while to wake it up (when I want to read my Strava ride stats) and sometimes I have to swipe a couple times for it to register. I can read everything clearly through the plastic though. No issues there.

Now, as for size, I have an iPhone 5S, in a Speck case, that fits in this pouch perfectly. And I mean perfectly, so a bigger phone likely wouldn't fit in here at all. But for me, it's a perfect fit.

On either side is a small pouch. The pouches are a perfect size for a wallet, set of keys, and a couple snacks
for the ride. One side has a mesh cover, the other solid polyester. According to Axiom's website, the idea was that you could see into the mesh side while the other one was for privacy. All told, I can't really see into the mesh side regardless. So visibility aside, rain will go through the mesh and not the polyester, at least not as quickly. So, living in Vancouver like I do, I put items like my wallet in the polyester side and items that can get wet, like keys or granola bars (in wrappers), in the mesh side.

That's about it for the function of the bag: a cell phone spot and a bit of storage. Not much too it. But what got me was how to properly attach the bag. There are three Velcro straps: one underneath, in the middle to attach to the top tube; one on the front edge of the pouches to wrap around the head tube; and one at the bottom edge of the pouches, which I presume is just to hold the pouches steady because it's not long enough to loop around the down tube. I wish there was a diagram, or something, either on the packaging for the bag or on the Axiom website, but there isn't. There's nothing to clearly show me how the bag was intended to be mounted. I have it setup now where I think it is the way it was intended to be mounted, but I'm not 100% sure.

The other thing is that my bike has cables that run through the top tube and down tube. From the handlebars, they come into the top tube right where the Smartbag Touch sits. So, one one side, it pushes the bag out, which makes the bag sit crooked on the top tube. This bugs me. It's not straight. I like things that are aligned. Linear. Not crooked. If I do the straps any tighter, I won't be able to get my phone in and out. So I just have to live with it, crooked. Or constantly try to straighten it. Which I do.

Overall, it's a good bag. It does what it intends to do: display your phone in a convenient location and provide some small storage for wallet, keys, and snacks. It looks good and it is relatively inexpensive at around $30-35.

Update February 24, 2016: After barely two months and less than a dozen uses, the plastic for the phone slot has ripped substantially. It started in the corner and spread up across the face, no longer holding the phone in place at all. I am going to contact Axiom for a replacement, but this is a massive setback for me in terms of how I view the quality of this bag.

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