Field Tested: Moots Tailgator

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I’ve interviewed hundreds of cyclists over the past 25 years, and the most adventurous among them tended to take the road less traveled. This was usually done on a road bike with slightly fatter tires, traversing mixed terrain over hill and dale. These riders often used an oversized seat wedge to carry necessities, and to keep weight off their back. Tom Ritchey and Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson still practice this when they go long in northern California or Europe.

In March 2013 I spent four days riding around Paso Robles on California’s central coast with a group of cyclists from Seattle. One of them, a bike shop owner, was using a Moots Tailgator to carry spare clothing and food. It seemed excessive at the time; I’ve always relied on my jersey pockets and a small seat bag for storage. But as our journeys grew in length—and our proximity away from civilization increased—the usefulness of the Tailgator skyrocketed. I got mine a couple months later to use as I prepared to ride that year’s L’Etape du Tour in Annecy, France.

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How it’s designed

The $165 Moots system relies on a 125-gram, American-made titanium loop rack that attaches to a round seat post. Two, 200-cubic-inch top and bottom American-made bags slide onto the rack, offering a carrying capacity about a foot long and nearly nine inches high . Because the lower bag bears the brunt of tire debris, a Hypalon abrasion-resistant material bolsters its durability. An expandable stuff pouch accordions from the upper bag, offering more accessible storage.

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For the weight conscious, the complete system weighs 411 grams, or about 14 ounces. Weight limit for the Tailgator system is 5 pounds, which is about the right amount of food and extra clothing you’d need on a day-long excursion. If you need more you’re not being resourceful.

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How did it work?

The clamp stayed firmly in place, never loosening. Leg clearance was never an issue with the bag’s setback from the saddle, nor was the rear of the saddle ever impeding entry into the bag. In other words, it was there when I needed it but never reminded me of its presence when I didn’t. I supplemented my carrying capacity by adding a Rivendell Brand V Boxy Bar handlebar bag on longer rides, especially to gain quick access to my camera. I did this to not overload the Tailgator if I needed to bring extra supplies.

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Does $165 sound like a lot of dough for a ‘simple’ bike bag? Maybe. But its clever design and Made-in-America pedigree make it a steal, especially if you seek two-wheeled adventure beyond your neighborhood. And after 18 months of use in all types of weather, mine still looks brand new. Consider emptying your pockets and filling the Tailgator with treasures you’ll find on your journeys.

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