Rockgeist Gondola Dropper Post Saddlebag: A Lesson in Minimalism
The Rockgeist Gondola is a lightweight, dropper post compatible saddlebag that offers a race-ready, minimalist design and pairs well with any post out there. Here are Miles’ first impressions after a few months of fast and rowdy riding in British Columbia, and a look at why size isn’t everything when it comes to dropper post seat bags for bikepacking.
If you saw Logan’s site visit with Greg Hardy, it will likely come as little surprise to see a super light and ultra durable dropper post seat bag as one of Rockgeist’s readymade offerings. It’s not huge, that’s for sure, but a smaller bag means less room for crap, which equals a better handling bike when loaded for bikepacking. In anticipation of using the Rockgeist Gondola, I prepared myself to enter the mindset of a backcountry endurance cyclist, but, as it turns out, this bag is just as appealing for summer overnighters, weekend trips, and day rides where you could benefit from having just a pinch more packing space. In the case of dropper post compatible seat bags, perhaps bigger doesn’t always mean better.
The original Gondola received an update this past year after two weeks of testing on the Colorado Trail, where technical singletrack, rough terrain, and steep descents gave Greg all the insight he needed to create the improved design we see today. These changes include a more refined connection from the bag to the saddle rails and a reinforced spine in the bag itself. When set up properly, these features ensure there’s a constant separation between the bag and the post’s stanchion. The Gondola’s four webbing attachment points connect with the lower and upper-back section of the saddle rails, making it compatible with any dropper post, rigid post, and saddle out there. However, I did notice that there wasn’t much clearance between the Gondola and the post when using it with a shorter-railed saddle. Rubbing was never an issue, but taller rails or some setback will give the bag a better chance of holding itself further from the dropper post.
There are several other dropper post compatible saddlebags available right now, including the Bedrock Black Dragon and Porcelain Rocket Albert, both of which make use of specifically designed hardware to reduce sway and keep the bag away from the tire and the seat post. Although the Gondola may not offer as many sway-resisting features, the simplicity of four webbing straps and a rigid plastic spine certainly has its appeal. And its unique strap system makes it incredibly stable.
As with most standard saddlebags, setting up the Gondola is easy. However, it does take a little thought. The two rearward straps actually loop under then over the rails, then back through, creating a twist around each rail. This provides a very secure fitting that makes the Gondola one of the most stable rackless seat packs I’ve used. With the other two straps, it’s just a matter of looping them over the rear of saddle rails and locking the buckles. All four are then tightened to secure the bag. A fifth webbing strap offers another locking buckle to accompany a simple, roll-top velcro closure. This forward compression ensures all of your contents are stored securely in the bag. The webbing-only design does mean I wouldn’t want to be removing and reattaching the bag each night at camp, as it can be a little finicky.
The Gondola isn’t the biggest dropper bag on the market. Actually, it may be one of the smallest, coming in at a capacity of just 4L for the small and 5L for the large version. Limiting your seat pack setup to a maximum of 4-5L of gear makes it pretty easy to forget you’ve got a bag back there. And this is what makes bikepacking with a dropper post that much more enjoyable. When packed at around 60% capacity (as seen in many of the photos here on the Norco Search XR), the Gondola doesn’t interfere with the rider or the bike, regardless of whether the post is dropped or extended. As with other bikepacking seat bags, when fully packed, you’ll see the bag extending a bit further out and above the top of the saddle, which has the potential to get get hung up on your shorts when descending technical trails. However, the minimal design shouldn’t cause any issues if used as intended with a dropper post.
The expert craftsmanship behind Rockgeist’s work is readily apparent. When I first received the bag, I couldn’t help but marvel at the impressive build quality, clean stitching, bartacks made visible with vibrant colors, and material choices that are specific to the function of the bag. All of the Gondola bags use durable nylon webbing straps, an X-Pac VX42 bottom panel, and Hypalon rubber for the spine and side panels. The bag we tested was made from X-Pac VX21, a lighter material that has been the gold standard for numerous bikepacking bag manufacturers out there because of its durable water and abrasion resistance. If X-Pac isn’t your thing, Rockgeist also offers a wide range of material and colour options from 500D Cordura in Hot Pink to super burly X50 in MultiCam Black, not to mention the custom colours and gear options that Rockgeist is famous for.
It might be small, but with careful packing the Gondola dropper post saddlebag can definitely hold its fair share of bikepacking gear. In the photo below, I have a Sea To Summit Spark SPI sleeping bag, spare tube, multitool, tubeless sealant, tire levers, patches, tire boot, valve core tool, and a gourmet dehydrated meal. Even after packing all of this, there was still a tiny bit of room left for a few snacks. I usually find that removing items like sleeping bags from their compression sacks and stuffing them directly into the tapered end of the saddle bag makes for a more efficient use of space. I used a similar method on some longer rides this fall, stuffing my insulated jacket in first, freeing up the larger part of the bag for food and other items. I was also able to fit a two-person Rab Siltarp shelter, summer sleeping bag, and groundsheet, all with room for a light puffy and light hardshell jacket. It’s amazing what just a little extra time and effort put into packing can do for a clean and organized setup, and the Gondola bag pretty much forces you to embrace the minimalist lifestyle.
Group Tested, Group Approved
A few of us have ridden two versions of this bag now. Logan got a couple rides on it, Gin took it out on the trail, and Ryan Sigsbey used it on the P36 (36 hour Pisgah endurance race) a couple weeks ago. We all agree that between the Gondola’s size, sturdy construction, and the internal plastic supports, this bag is super solid. And, as far as dropper-specific seat packs goes, it minimizes interference while riding just as well, or better, than any other bag out there. The looped straps keep the Gondola stable and it has very little, if any, sway, and there’s something to be said about having an ultra-compact seat bag when it comes to bikepacking with a dropper post, especially on rugged trails. Being able to get fairly low and have less weight and bulk to interfere with you or your rear tire is the name of the game when it comes to riding technical downhill trails.
- Handmade in Asheville, North Carolina.
- Designed and tested against the rigours of the Colorado Trail…and beyond.
- Compact, simple design translates to a solid and stable ride, as well as a limited chance of failure.
- Full dropper post compatibility due to the four webbing strap mounting system, no other components needed.
- Custom colours and materials available.
- Maximum 5L capacity might require some special attention when packing.
- Slightly more difficult to remove than saddlebags with separate dry bags or mounting systems.
- Not 100% waterproof on its own.
- VOLUME: 5L max (large) 4L max (small)
- WEIGHT: 204 grams
- Required Clearance: 5″ (12.7cm) between saddle rails and rear tire
- PLACE OF MANUFACTURE: NORTH CAROLINA, USA
- PRICE: $110
- Manufacturer’s Details: Rockgeist.com
While there are definite advantages to having a specific mounting system like the ones found on other seat bags, there’s a lot to be said about the simplicity of Rockgeist’s Gondola bag. Even though it appears rather basic, the strap system’s unique twist does an incredible job of keeping the bag stable. The design screams ultralight and fast, two buzzwords dominating the endurance bikepacking world that I don’t see that going out of style any time soon. Those accustomed to full-sized saddle bags may feel limited by the Gondola’s diminutive size, but, given its very reasonable price tag, I can see a lot of weekend warriors using this for rowdy day rides or fast and light overnighters. The impressive quality, choice of materials, and thoroughly tested design make Rockgeist’s Gondola bag worth at least every penny you’ll spend on it. And, as one of the least expensive dropper bags on the market, you’ll hopefully have some money left over for that super lightweight sleeping bag we’ve all been dreaming of owning.
New in gear
- Apr 26, 20192019 Sea Otter Finds (Part 2)
- Apr 23, 2019Endura MT500 Kit Review: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
- Apr 18, 20192019 Sea Otter Finds (Part 1)
- Apr 17, 2019Hexlox Review: Miniature Crime Fighters
- Apr 10, 2019Frances Cycles and the Farfarer Trailer