Tailfin Fork Pack Review
The innovative new Tailfin Fork Pack is a modular bag system featuring a low-profile aluminum mount that bolts to a fork or frame and a waterproof bag with an integrated X-Clamp system, allowing it to attach and detach quickly and securely. We had the chance to test the system for a few months before launch. Find our full review here…
I remember getting one of my first cargo cage bags/cages back around 2012. It was called the Everything Bag from Cleaveland Mountaineering. I always felt like Jeremy Cleaveland was ahead of the game in trying to figure out a universal solution for mounting bags to suspension forks. Although it was heavy, it worked and made our lives easier, which is generally the goal when designing products. And while we have seen a steady evolution of mounts on frames and forks, Tailfin has taken things to the next level with several of their products, making innovative bike storage solutions that are lightweight and functional. To that end, they just launched the all-new Fork Packs. Get to know them in my video review below, followed by a written version and some further thoughts from our own Cass Gilbert, who briefly tested a set of pre-production packs.
NOTE: The bags are sold individually, not as pairs as stated in the video. Sorry for the confusion – Neil
Specs and details
The Tailfin Fork Packs have a roll-top design that come in 5 and 10-liter sizes. Both are made from a welded Hypalon and PU-coated ripstop nylon, making them fully waterproof when closed properly. Unlike their Mini Panniers, these use a cross-shaped aluminum mount that bolts to three-pack mounts on forks or elsewhere, including in conjunction with their Suspension Fork Mounts (SFM). The kit is sold with the bag and the mount together, and has all the hardware needed to mount them.
The system connects to the mounts using their X-Clamp mechanism. It’s basically the same connection type found on their panniers but miniaturized with 10mm clamps instead 16mm, which helps keep the bag and load closer to the bike, helping with maneuverability and weight distribution. That smaller X-Clamp means this system only works with the included aluminum mount and isn’t compatible with other racks. That being said, the hardware from the Tailfin Panniers will fit on these bags, so if you want to use them on a regular rack, you could do so by buying the pannier upper and lower spares.
The bags also come with an internal aluminum frame, which helps create a stiff and stable feeling, and when mounted, it feels flush with the bike. They also have built-in compression straps to help reduce the pack size, but I never used them as I didn’t find the need. The Fork Packs have fully replaceable hardware, and that proved to be beneficial, which we will get into shortly.
Install and in use
I try to avoid adding weight to my suspension fork, but I’m occasionally swayed, and I’m usually pleasantly surprised with how the bike pedals the weight lower and out front. It was no different with the Fork Packs. It’s worth noting that I mostly carried lightweight stuff up front, although I also packed layers and even my drone, basically stowing everything that would typically be in my handlebar bag in the two 5L Fork Packs up front. It felt great and kept the bike well grounded and never felt too cumbersome.
The Fork Pack has a weight capacity of 4.5 kilograms or almost 10 pounds. That’s a lot of weight—more than I would ever used in this application. I had maybe a pound or two in each. Because of this, I used only two Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts I had lying around instead of incorporating the three mounts on the aluminum bracket. A good general rule for those is 1.5 kilograms per mount, so I was in the clear as far as weight capacity. And while you don’t need the Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts, as there are some other cheaper options out there, they’ve proven to be very trustworthy by a few folks on the team, and I really like the how easy they are to install. I also appreciate how you can incorporate the side-mounting position, keeping the load even closer to the fork legs.
As for the 10-liter packs, I decided to toss those on the back mounted to the Old Man Mountain Elkhorn Rack. I installed the packs using the aluminum mount to attach to the three-pack mounts on the rear rack leg. This replaced my seat pack or dry bag on top of the rack itself, at least for the most part. I ended up throwing my Tyvek sheet, seat pad, and some disc golf frisbees on the top deck of the rear rack, but generally speaking, I went pannier-style with the new Tailfin fork packs, and it really simplified the packing process for my Moab trip.
The clamps allow you to easily remove the bags from the bike and pack or unpack your belongings in the tent or at camp. When you need to put them back on the bike, you simply place the little X-Clamp hooks over the aluminum mounts. There’s enough play when they’re loosely installed so you can slide the lower mounting point into position before securing the bag with the X-clamp lever. The actuation is easy, yet it feels very secure when fully tightened down.
This whole system made me a little apprehensive during my first descent. I was worried something would wiggle free, but it didn’t. The load stayed put and felt very secure, with zero play or rattling while descending some rugged, ledgy sandstone roads. I quickly gained a lot of confidence in the bags after those first trail rides.
I only got to test these bags for a few months, but as with system that has moving parts, they’re more prone to, let’s say… things happening. I ultimately had two issues with the Fork Packs. The first wasn’t really the bag’s fault. My buddy rear-ended me after I suddenly slowed down on a descent when I thought I had a flat tire. We were going pretty fast, maybe 15 miles an hour, and his front tire went straight into the right rear bag, snapping one of the X-Clamp mounts off one of the 10L bags and completely bending the aluminum mount on the rack stay. Luckily, we had some extra straps to secure it and get back to Moab. It was a bit of a freak accident, but the neat thing is that all of these bits are replaceable, and Tailfin sent some replacements so I could quickly get back to using the system. Either way, if Dave my friend hit my derailleur, he would have busted that too, and considering the force, there’s rationale for this failure. Chances are that any pannier hooks or mounts would have broken in such a crash.
The other issue I noticed was that one screw almost fell out of the X-Clamp mount on one of the 5L bags. After inspection, I noticed that it didn’t have any threadlocker on it. However, the X-Clamp mounts on the Mini Pannier I have all came with a little threadlocker, so this might be a matter of having pre-production models of the Fork Packs. I ended up putting some on all of the screws to make sure they stay put.
Ortlieb Fork Pack vs. Tailfin Fork Pack
There are many similarities between the Ortlieb Fork Pack and the Tailfin Fork Pack, starting with the name itself and how both are designed to be used on fork legs. That said, there are also quite a few differences. For starters, both brands use a welded dry bag, but the Ortlieb fork packs are slightly smaller, coming in at 4.1-liter and 5.8-liter options. Both bags come with a mount of sorts. Tailfin uses aluminum, and Ortlieb went with a composite plastic. Both can be mounted to steel, aluminum, or carbon forks with three-pack mounts. Both were also designed to work on suspension forks, and while the Tailfin system requires either their suspension fork mounts or another aftermarket mount, the Ortlieb Fork Pack comes with a solution out of the box (note that it’s a slightly time-consuming process). The Tailfin system is sold as a single bag/mount combo, with the 5L version coming in at $100 USD, or $200 per pair (or $280 USD with two sets of Tailfin’s own Suspension Fork Mounts); the Ortlieb bags are also sold separately at $65 USD for the 4.1 Liter version or $130 USD for a pair. The upside to using the Tailfin system is using a similar ecosystem, but either way, both are great solutions to adding capacity to your fork.
- Model Tested: Tailfin Fork Pack 5L and 10L
- Actual Weight (5L bag + Mount): 376 grams (13.3 oz)
- Actual Weight (10L bag + Mount): 460 grams (16.2 oz)
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Price (5L Pack + Mount): £80/$100/€95
- Price (10L Pack + Mount): £100/$125/€115
- Manufacturer’s Details: Tailfin
- Unique quick release design that’s sturdy and easy to use
- Stable and rattle free while riding on rough terrain
- Low-profile mounts keep bags neatly tucked in and can discreetly remain on the fork when not in use
- Waterproof design
- Some of the replaceable hardware and cross-compatible with their Mini Panniers
- Small 5L version is perfect size for a suspension fork
- Compatible with ‘alloy’ Aeropacks, or minimal racks like the Elkhorn and T-rack.
- 10L version is a little bulky
- Moving parts add to complexity and potential for failure or breakage
- May not work on angled three-pack equipped forks such as those from Tumbleweed and Surly; however, angled adapters may be in the works
- Expensive compared to other options, like the Ortlieb Fork Pack
By now, you’ve likely seen that Tailfin’s goal has been to make simple solutions to carrying cargo on your bike, and their addition of the Fork Pack is no different. When it comes to Tailfin products, the brand thinks of every last detail, like the low-profile design, user-friendly functionality, stable and secure fit, cross-compatibility among their lineup, size options, and overall aesthetics, all while still trying to keep the weight to a minimum. Still, there’s is an argument to be made about fewer moving parts, especially when you are out in the middle of nowhere, and I’ve also had a simple seat pack cut a trip short in the past. I’ll leave that for you to ponder.
As I mentioned, the 5L Fork Pack comes in at $100 for one bag and one mount, and $125 for the 10L option. When you add it up, they can get a little pricey as a pair, but it’s still a decent value for what you get. However, if you need to purchase the Suspension Fork Mounts, it will cost you another $60 to get three of them, which is worth keeping in mind. Tailfin offers a five-year warranty for manufacturer’s defects and a 30% crash replacement program if something goes wrong. What do you think about the Tailfin Fork Packs? Let me know in the conversation below!
An Overnight Perspective
By Cass Gilbert
Although I had the opportunity to try out some early prototype Tailfin Fork Packs in Oaxaca some months ago, I only had a brief play with the pre-production version you see in these photos – just enough time to get out on a local overnighter in my favourite Bristolian woodland, which happens to be close to where the company is based. It’s a super fun little route that starts in the city centre and ends up in a wooded coombe that I like to use to test out gear, as it takes in urban bike paths, twisty singletrack, fast gravel roads, and few especially bumpy bridleways.
Still, I reckon how I used them represents a perfect use case for highlighting what they do so well. Let’s presume you’re the owner of a modern gravel bike that you use as your daily commuter – you may even run one of the distinctive Tailfin AeroPacks, if you’re already a fan of the brand. As an example, I borrowed the Mason Bokeh and a Tailfin AP20, which is the removable version of the AeroPack. Come the weekend, however, your commuting rig isn’t quite capacious enough for a couple of nights under tarp on a nearby bikepacking route, or maybe even sufficiently roomy for a quick mid-week S24O. So what do you do?
Cue the Tailfin Fork Packs. It’s simply a case of first fitting the proprietary mounts to your bike’s fork, and then, as soon as you wake up on Saturday, attaching the actual panniers – which is done via a rather cute, miniature version of Tailfin’s impressively secure X-Clamp attachmment system. Like Tailfin’s other panniers, the Fork Packs are 100% waterproof and remain silent over the roughest of terrain – I picked my way down steep and bumpy byways with nary a sound or issue. What’s more, the panniers are quick and easy to remove – open the cam lock and unhook the stabilising rail – should you prefer to stash them in your tent at night. Handling-wise, their low profile and central position on the steering axis makes the bike feels reassuringly stable and planted, though you’ll need to take care of errant rocks and branches if you’re riding more burly and overgrown trails.
Adding these two 10L panniers for my overnighter gave me ample space for a stove, food, and additional camping gear and still fell well within their 4.5kg weight capacity limit; although there are 5L versions, I think these larger ones are more versatile and offer a better weight to capacity ratio, especially if you’re planning longer tours too. Either way, both are the exact same design as the latest version of Tailfin’s Mini Panniers, just with different mounting hardware – which means they feature the same aluminium subframe and interchangeable compression straps, and the overall build quality is identical.
Come the end of your trip, all that’s left is to release the Fork Packs, leaving the proprietary, slimline mounts in place (67g a piece, including bolts and washers), ready for your bike to return to its speedy commuting duties once more. Yes, these mounts are definitely noticeable, but I wouldn’t consider them an eyesore – nor are they likely catch when parking up in a bike rack, as more bulky cargo cages can sometimes do.
If mix and matching your commuting and your bikepacking are the way you roll, I can recommend the Fork Packs highly. They use a miniature version of Tailfin’s tried and tested X-Clamp, they’re well made and completely waterproof, and they have the near obsessive attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from this innovative brand and their premium products. In short, Tailfin’s Fork Packs expand your bike’s capacity quickly and easily when you need it, come rain or shine, whilst being barely noticeable when you don’t!
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