Bags by Bird Better Half Review
The Bags by Bird Better Half Framebag is a unique take on a wedge-style bag that features two expandable flip-top lids with quick-access bungee closures. Miles has been testing out two sizes over the last year to find out just how practical the design is. Find his review here…
These days, there are countless options when it comes to frame bags. There are half-frame bags that run underneath the top tube, leaving room for a bottle or two. Wedge-style bags fill the front portion of your main triangle, leaving room on the downtube for a bottle or cargo cage. And, of course, there are full-frame bags that are designed to fill every last bit of space, providing loads of capacity for snacks, water bladders, stoves, and other gear. Then there are custom options with odd shapes and frame-specific designs that take full advantage of any size or type of bike.
Most frame bags are based around a zippered drive-side opening, velcro straps, and some combination of internal sleeves, dividers, or exterior pockets for organization. In 2017, Porcelain Rocket changed the frame bag game forever with the world’s first fully waterproof, seam-sealed roll-top frame bag (which is now made by Rockgeist). Since then, we’ve seen more waterproof bag options, photo-generated custom frame bags, custom-printed fabrics, and new mounting options. However, the classic horizontal zippered opening has stayed strong and true, as nylon molded zippers do a good job at keeping the elements out and hold up well to constant use.
In 2020, Tucson-based Bags by Bird (BXB) entered the frame bag game with the Better Half Framebag, offering a fresh take on a somewhat stale piece of the bikepacking bag puzzle. Originally designed for classic road and gravel bikes with near horizontal top tubes, the Better Half is a wedge-style frame bag with two expandable compartments on either side, accessed via flip-top lids. The lids are held closed with your choice of a metal hook and bungee or a magnetic Fidlock buckle and bungee. Both options provide one-handed operation and are easily repairable/replaceable if either the bungee or hardware breaks.
On the inside, the large drive-side compartment holds bulkier items, and the non-drive side is slimmed down for phones, keys, and smaller items. The interior is finished with a high-visibility yellow ripstop fabric, and the exterior is constructed with your choice of several X-Pac colors. The exterior edges are wrapped in daisy chain webbing, providing lots of space for straps or cord for lace-up setups, and the sides that contact that bike are padded with foam. Every Better Half framebag has a water bladder hose/charge cable porthole at the front and comes shipped with six double-sided velcro straps.
At the time of the original release, the Better Half was offered in three sizes, all based around a 12″ length (top of the bag) with the downtube-facing side and front length changing between them. While this was adequate at the time, BXB has since expanded the lineup to now include four sizes: Small/Short, Small/Long, Large/Short, and Large/Long. Referencing the size chart below, you’ll notice the smallest front dimensions stay the same on both sizes, but the wedge shape extends in both length and height between the short and long versions. The best size ultimately depends on your frame size and shape, and whether or not you’re planning on mounting water bottles anywhere inside your frame. In the case of Emily’s medium All-City Super Professional, the small Better Half leaves plenty of room for a seat tube-mounted bottle. There isn’t much wasted space with this setup.
I’ve also had a Large Coyote X-Pac Better Half Framebag making its rounds between various bikes over the last two yeas. I don’t spend that much time riding bikes with near-horizontal top tubes, so the fit isn’t perfect, but the shape works pretty well with modern gravel bikes with slightly sloping top tubes as well. Since the opening is positioned further toward the front of the bike, it’s easy to get in and out of without having to work around your legs. The metal loop with bungee closure is easily operated with one hand and is just as easily closed after some practice as well.
I’ve found the size and shape of the Better Half to hit a sweet spot for everyday use and bikepacking. When packed strategically, you can fit a fair amount of gear inside. The sturdy, semi-rigid construction and slim profile work well with a water bladder, although Emily has noticed the camouflage bag she’s been using has bulged slightly after packing it tight with one. Due to its slim profile and shape, the Better Half seems to work best with steel touring bikes and road bikes. Neither Emily nor I have had issues with the bag rubbing on our legs, and it fits the aesthetics of a near-horizontal top tube seamlessly. I appreciate that Jay honed in on a specific type of bike and designed a frame bag for it, but it would be cool to see a custom option or a sloping top tube option, as that seems to be the way many modern bikes are going.
- Designed for bikes with horizontal top tubes, road bikes, steel touring bikes
- Bungee/flap opening is quick and simple
- Handmade in Arizona
- Lots of attachment points for straps, lace-up, etc.
- Several sizes for different bikes
- Not ideal for sloping top tubes
- No internal divider to limit bulge over time
- Wait times before orders open + 3-4 week turnaround
- Capacity: 2-5.5L
- Material (as tested): X-Pac
- Weight: TBD grams (large) / TBD grams (small)
- Place of Manufacture: Arizona, USA
- Price: $110-135 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: BagsxBird.com
The Bags by Bird Better Half frame bag is an elegant and unique option for bikes with a near-horizontal top tube. It shares the same quality construction and attention to detail we’ve come to expect from BXB and seems to have become quite popular with the expansion of their size options. The metal hook and bungee closure, paired with the semi-rigid panel opening, is practical, easy to use, and affected less by overstuffing compared to zippered bags. The Better Half is another great bag from Bags by Bird, and I’m curious to see if they expand the size options to include sloping top tubes or if they’ll stick with what they know. Either way, I think it’s money well spent.
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