Charlene Is Both Big and Beautiful

The Porcelain Rocket Charlene seat bag bring gear swallowing goodness to your bike. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
The Porcelain Rocket Charlene seat bag brings gear-swallowing-goodness to your bike. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

“How can you even pedal your bike with such a large …”

Hey. Hey. Hey.

Be nice.

I have been riding my bike, trying to cut out the pastries and not eat after 8 o’clock at night.

“No. No. No. Not your gut. That giant saddle bag.”

Oh that.

My Charlene seat pack from the Canadians at Porcelain Rocket has garnered its fair share of stares and comments, but I hardly notice it is there anymore … until someone makes a comment.

Now the Porcelain Rocket Charlene isn’t even their largest seat pack. As a matter of fact they call it the “little sister” to their behemoth Mr. Fusion V2 seat pack.

I have tried a lot of baggage options for my commute: bicycle messenger bags, handlebar bags, backpacks, fanny packs, my jersey pockets, etc. But it wasn’t until one of my friends at Seven Design showed up to work with his bikepacking rig, decked out in bags, that I decided to try the oversized seat pack.

As I started my search for the perfect one, I found out the bikepacking community is not only much larger than I had ever imagined, but also crazy—almost fanatical—about their bike, bags, packing techniques and weight savings.

I found the robust website bikepacking.com to be entertaining, informative, and a nudge terrifying.

The idea of heading out in the great unknown with a bike packed with a hammock, a coffee grinder, duct tape, four old film cameras, and some beef jerky appeals to me about as much as a rectal exam.

I understand there are people, nomads really, out there who enjoy the whole getting back to their caveman roots and “roughing it,” but I think I fall under the … a hotel without room service is roughing it type.

I enjoy a long, hard, stupid bicycle ride as much as the next person, but at the end of the day I don’t wish to pull my sleep quarters from the bicycle roll attached to my handlebars. I prefer a hot shower, a pat on the head for my dog, a kiss goodnight from my wife and the comforts of a full-size pillow. More power to those of you who think a pillow is a pillowcase filled with your dirty cycling clothes.

Which brings us back to why on earth I have this giant seat bag strapped to my honest-to-goodness road bike. Well, you see, if you have been reading, I have a bad back. And wearing a backpack has been exacerbating the situation. So now instead of carrying my rain gear, commuter wear and other essential items on my body, I have been stuffing them in Charlene.

And I could not be any happier. The bag is made of 500D Cordura, comes in a handful of color choices (I chose multicam black) and cinches down pretty snuggly. If I have stuffed it to the gills, the bag has a tendency to sway when I stand up to climb, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise. For me this is a small trade-off to keep the weight off my body.

Every morning, I leave the house before dawn secure in the fact everything I need for the day is safely stowed in my big, ol’ oversized seat bag.


Review: Retro Storage With the Terrain Pannier

Terrain Pannier by Sons of Trade and Iron and Resin

The modern-classic motorcycle boom is in full swing. It was re-pioneered in 2005 by Triumph, and now Ducati has released its old-school style Icon scrambler. BMW has also announced production plans of similar designs as additions to its R Nine T lineup.

With no shortage of makes or models, anyone can now achieve that classic sepia-toned daydream of long summer days, endless curvy roads, and weekend getaways. These retro styled bikes look great cruising down the road, and since even the most Spartan of bikers need a place to pack their essential travel shit, you’ll want a storage solution that doesn’t kill the vibe.

I have a 2013 Triumph scrambler and the last thing I wanted to do was attach a metal frame to it for mounting hard cases, that’s what my trusty Kawasaki KLR 650 is for. With that in mind, the hunt was on to locate a functional canvas or cloth pannier for service on my overnight trips.

While browsing pictures on Instagram I stumbled on a pannier that — how do I put this — just looked bitch’n. I left a comment for the owner and she introduced me to The Terrain Pannier, birthed through a partnership of Iron & Resin and Sons Of Trade.

The pannier is specially designed for most vintage and modern motorcycles with an aesthetic to match. What they did was sew brackets on the back of a Sons Of Trade Pioneer Backpack and provided mounting straps, but its beauty lies in its simplicity.

At first I was apprehensive of its modest design of interlocking rectangle and D rings, wondering: Would they be enough to hold the bag when fully loaded? After 1,000 miles on some of the curviest sections of the Pacific Coast Highway, those fears were put to rest as I had zero issues with the mounting system.

Terrain Pannier by Sons of Trade and Iron & Resin

The pannier comes with six straps of varying length ensuring a tight fit regardless of motorcycle, though it’s “best for bikes with a single side exhaust, rear frame, and rear shocks.” Half an hour of fiddling yielded a fully mounted pannier sans one mounting strap as there was no place to hook it onto the frame. Even without the fourth mount, there wasn’t enough play in the bag to make me worry about it slipping off, though I did kick out the pillion foot peg to give it a little extra support.

After a little initial fumbling I was able to get my mount time down to less than thirty seconds. This, combined with an extra supplied strap that converts it into a messenger bag, means I can carry it into a restaurant or hotel with ease, which provides a peace of mind knowing some douche can’t come by and slash the bottom of the bag while I chow down on a burger.

The roll-top closure helps to elongate the saddlebag to 1,380 cubic meters of durable coated cotton-canvas space (12”W x 23”H x5”D), which I found was more than enough to stuff two pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, two shirts, a beanie, locking cable + lock, goggles, various GoPro crap, and an essential roadside tool kit with plenty of room to spare.

Though it was released in a limited run and currently is out of stock, I expect popularity will bring back the Terrain Pannier, if only in small batches. So keep an eye out for future stock updates on this versatile pannier/bag combo.

As my Yoda of motorcycling always says: “Put all the stuff you think you need on the bed, subtract half and double your cash.”

Terrain Pannier by Sons of Trade and Iron & Resin

All photos by Nathaniel Chaney