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The new Rogue Panda Ripsey Seat Bag is a dropper-compatible saddle bag supported by a unique injection-molded harness and aluminum saddle rail clamp that provides the best tire clearance we’ve seen from a dropper seat bag. In advance of today’s crowdfunding campaign launch, we’ve been testing out a prototype to see how it fares against the competition. Learn more here…
Just last month, we published a comprehensive list of dropper-compatible seat bags, tips on how to pack them, and some alternative suggestions for dropper-friendly ways to store gear when bikepacking. Most of us on the team love bikepacking with a dropper, and with posts becoming more reliable than ever, bag makers have been busy introducing clever ways to carry gear while still having the option to drop your saddle out of way on technical descents.
Almost all dropper post seat bags use some combination of a harness, stabilizer (either at the saddle, seat post stanchion, or both), and a sewn bag. It’s a balancing act of creating of a sway-free setup, providing enough room to carry essential gear, and not being so big as to limit dropper post travel. Most dropper post seat bags require at least ~5″ of clearance between the saddle rails and the top of the rear tire, and when you pair that with modern trail bike geometry, short seat tubes, and long-travel dropper posts, you aren’t left with much room for a bag. This is where shorter riders often run into problems, forcing them to use a rear rack, a tiny seat bag, or even add a backpack into the mix. At 5’6″ tall, My partner Emily rides a medium mountain bike and has only ever been able to use an inch or two of her dropper post while bikepacking with a seat bag. Even the pint-sized Rockgeist Gondola, which only provides 5L of storage, still requires 4-5″ of tire clearance to avoid contact.
Long story short, despite the number of well-designed dropper post seat bags out there, there was a hole in the market that the folks at Rogue Panda Designs in Arizona thought needed filling. They came to this conclusion a few years ago and have been busy developing and testing a new take on the dropper post seat bag ever since. Their goal was to make a bag with best-in-class tire clearance, a stable design for riding bumpy trails, and something perfectly suited for shorter riders and smaller bikes.
The Rogue Panda Ripsey is a unique two-part system that has exceptional tire clearance without sacrificing stability. It’s based around an injection-molded harness, an aluminum saddle rail clamp, and a Wolf Tooth Valais—finished with some CNC-machined Austere Manufacturing cam lock buckles to keep everything tight and secure. While the Ripsey has a familiar silhouette, it’s quite unlike any seat bags we’ve seen or tested before. The rigid injection-molded harness is a first and has likely been avoided due to manufacturing complexities, but it makes sense to support a removable dry bag without flopping around and handling the occasional tire rub.
Developing the Ripsey
While the new Ripsey resembles the original in some ways, it’s a completely different bag. The spark to redesign it came when bikepacker/ultra-endurance athlete Liz Sampey reached out to Nick at Rogue Panda Designs to have him make something for her in 2019. That year, on the Arizona Trail 750, Liz rode the route without incident and with full dropper post function. As someone who has tested a number of dropper post seat bags and has watched many shorter rides struggle to use dropper post bags while bikepacking, I can imagine this felt freeing for Liz. Early prototypes were originally based around a 3D-printed harness, which eventually transitioned to an injection-molded one, and the design has been refined over the last few years.
The version you see in my photos here is a prototype that ultra-endurance athlete Liz Sampey was testing out earlier this year. While it’s not entirely reflective of the final production version, it’s close and gave me a good idea on how it works. In order to get a better understanding of the Ripsey and its evolution, I reached out to Rogue Panda Designs owner Nick Smolinske with some questions. Find a short interview below.
Prototypes from Rogue Panda
Tell us about the history of the Ripsey and why Rogue Panda felt it was time for a redesign.
The Ripsey is deeply rooted in the Arizona Trail Race and how tough it is on gear. I’ve been trying to answer the question, how do we make a bag that works well for dropper posts, for every rider, on full-suspension bikes? It’s easy to make a bag that can fit tall riders, but it’s much harder to make one for anyone else.
I’ve been working on this problem at least since 2017, making more prototypes than I can count. We brought a relatively low-profile design to market in 2019, but we had to discontinue it due to manufacturing concerns (sewing it was very difficult, and that kind of tight finger-crimping work increases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome). We were working on the next version when the project got put on hold with the 2020 bike rush.
For the next year, we were too busy with frame bag orders to make any prototypes. But a lot of my design work happens in my head anyway (usually as I’m falling asleep), so I was able to keep working on the idea. I was sure it was possible to improve tire clearance, even if I couldn’t quite see how. Over the course of a year, the shape in my mind slowly became clear; instead of a large and bulky holster, we would make a slim tray. In late 2021, I was finally able to start prototyping again, to see if the idea would translate to reality.
What were the major design goals with the Ripsey, and how did you achieve them?
The primary goals of the Ripsey are tire clearance, stability, and the ability to withstand tire hits. We were able to achieve all three through careful design, keeping the weight down. I’ll start with the harness. It’s much stiffer than a design using fabric and plastic sheets could ever be. With fabric, there’s always the possibility of some shifting, but with our design, the sides and bottom are the same piece rather than separate stiffeners that can move relative to each other.
Our aluminum saddle clamp also helps with tire clearance and stability in equal measure. It provides a secure attachment for the side straps, and when combined with the Austere Manufacturing buckles, it lets you pull the harness tight to your saddle for a stable ride. We also attach the top strap of the Ripsey directly to the saddle clamp, rather than to fabric, as it’s done on most designs. This way, the strap pulls from a fixed point as high as possible. When combined with the very stiff molded harness, this prevents the dry bag from hanging down toward your tire.
What did the testing and prototyping process look like?
I’ve tested our prototypes as best as I can on my own, but since I’m on the tall side, I’m not the best guinea pig for a seat bag. So, we’ve teamed up with short-legged riders who traditionally have a harder time with tire clearance. Our best tester has been Liz Sampey, not just because of her stature, but because she shreds on a full-squish 29er even when she’s bikepacking. It’s very hard to make a seat bag that she can use at all, let alone one that works well. She was the first one we reached out to when we had an injection-molded prototype to test, and she promptly ran it through its paces on the Colorado Trail. Liz has also tested pretty much all of our prototypes over the years, going back to her AZT750 record run in 2019. So, she has a great handle on how this design compares to what we’ve made before.
The use of an injection-molded harness is unique. How’d you land on this?
We’ve been adding plastic skid plates to the bottom of our prototypes for a long time, but one day I was brainstorming with Liz and we wondered, what if the skid plate was the harness? We made a quick prototype on the spot, which was just a piece of plastic with holes drilled into it for straps. It was a fun design, but only worked for very small loads. Shortly after that, I showed a sewn prototype to my friend Nate, who happens to be a mechanical engineer. He suggested trying carbon fiber, and we made our first prototype in his garage. I took it on a couple of rides, and it was obvious that a molded single-piece harness was the way to go, but carbon fiber was too expensive and not durable enough to handle tire abrasion.
I was researching alternative materials when I met another engineer with a background in injection molding from his work at a major climbing gear manufacturer. He suggested injection-molded nylon as a material, and we hired him to take the carbon fiber prototype and turn it into a molded plastic design. His extensive experience ensures that our design is not only durable but also easy to manufacture so we won’t have any hiccups in the molding process. The final design is very similar in shape to the last sewn prototypes that we made, but it’s on another level when it comes to tire clearance and stability.
How is the molded harness made?
Our prototypes were 3D printed, but the production harness will be injection molded in nylon. Nylon is strong, holds its shape, and is durable enough for intermittent tire hits. Injection molding is a great process for this because we’re able to adjust the thickness of the harness in different areas to optimize strength where it’s needed without excess weight. The only downside is the high startup cost, which is why we’re doing a crowdfunding campaign.
Why Austere buckles over more traditional plastic options?
Hot take: Austere buckles are so much better that it’s unthinkable not to use them. I’ve never been happy with plastic buckles on the side straps of seat bags, and we’ve been looking for an alternative for years. I was stoked when I got my hands on the first Austere buckles. They’re truly a cut above the rest: they never slip, they’re super light, and they’re a lot easier to tighten than a plastic buckle. That makes a big difference when you’re trying to keep a seat bag away from your tire.
Lastly, any words for folks who are on the fence about signing up for the Kickstarter campaign?
We’re going to have to finance the Ripsey’s startup costs no matter what, and crowdfunding is our way of changing who benefits from that. Instead of getting a loan and paying the bank a bunch of interest, we can give our customers a discount in exchange for upfront funding. It comes out the same on our balance sheet, but it means that you’re the one getting a good deal.
Thoughts While Riding
I’m happy to report that much of what Rogue Panda set out to accomplish with the Ripsey holds true in the real world. Even the prototype version I’ve been testing, which doesn’t fully represent the final design, has proven to be thoughtfully constructed and a nice addition to the world of dropper post-compatible seat bags. Since it’s not quite a full harness like the Wayward Riders Louise or fully enclosed like the JPaks DropperPak or Ortlieb Seat-Pack QR, a wiggle-free setup ultimately depends on a tightly packed dry bag. Without the dry bag in place, or if it’s too loosely packed, the lower harness can have a tendency to sway around. When packed tight and with the Austere buckles pulled snug, there’s next to no movement in the entire system.
Emily was able to fully drop her post on her Ibis Ripley AF with the Ripsey installed. She’s on a size medium bike with a 150mm travel dropper post and 29″ wheels, and she’s never been able to run a proper seat bag without either limiting dropper post travel, locking out her rear shock, or both. The minimal tire-to-saddle clearance of the Ripsey is the real star of the show and will likely be a game changer for shorter riders looking for a minimal dropper post bag setup. At 6’1″, rear tire clearance isn’t as much of an issue for me, but I can appreciate its low-profile design, and having a 100% waterproof removable dry bag is great for packing up at camp. I’m also a fan of Austere’s buckles, so it’s cool to see bag makers like Rogue Panda incorporating them into their designs.
Here’s a quick comparison on some of our other favourite dropper-compatible seat bags. I’ve included weight, bag size, minimum tire clearance, and price for each. Note that the 3″ minimum clearance of the Ripsey is only achievable with a partially full dry bag, so you can pull the harness way up into the saddle. The minimum tire clearance at full volume is 4″.
Dropper Post Seat Bags Compared
Thoughts from Liz Sampey
As a 5’2″ bikepacker who loves riding rocky terrain on my full-suspension bike, I’ve long struggled with the options for dropper post seat bags. Even the smallest ones would hit my tire if I rode a chunky section fast or dropped off a tiny ledge. Many bags rip or break with only a couple of hits, and that just didn’t work for me.
So, when I decided to race the Arizona Trail in 2019, I asked my friend Nick at Rogue Panda Designs if he could make a seat bag that would stand up to the abuse I would put it through. I regaled him with stories of my seat bag woes over the years, and he went into his mad scientist lair and emerged a few days later with the first Ripsey prototype.
That first version got me through the AZT 750 without incident, and I was able to ride the way I wanted to without having to compensate for the seat bag. It was the first time that had ever happened, and I had so much fun on that ride! I was happy but Nick kept tinkering, and over the next few years, I tested five more prototypes, each one better than the last.
Before the Colorado Trail Race this past summer, Nick sent me what would become the final version of the Ripsey. I was impressed by its ease of use, sturdy attachments, and the high-quality Austere Manufacturing buckles. I could carry much more with this design than with prior prototypes, and I was excited to try it. It was timely, as the weather forecast for the CTR was ominous, and I’d be taking a lot more gear than my usual ultralight jacket and bivy system. I would need the extra space.
Once on the trail, I basically couldn’t tell that the Ripsey was attached to my bike. This is a good thing! During the long, technical descent off Georgia Pass, the trail slick with rain and the sky cracking with thunder, I flew down the mountain with no thoughts about the security of my gear. I felt like I wasn’t even riding a loaded bike, and had so much fun racing down my favorite sections of the Colorado Trail in those hectic conditions.
At the bottom, I reached behind me to make sure all was good with the Ripsey. Sure enough, the tight little package was right there snuggled up to my saddle. I gave it a jiggle and it didn’t move. No loosening, no swaying, no damage. I definitely hit the harness with my tire, as evidenced by the mud streak on the bottom of the harness, but I didn’t notice it when it happened and it didn’t damage anything. The Ripsey went on to get a lot more tire streaks on that trip, but it took them in stride.
Rogue Panda nailed it on this design, and Nick’s persistence over the past four years has paid off. The Ripsey is a robust product that is well worth the investment, is excellent for riders with minimal clearance, and will be a huge asset to my bikepacking adventures for years to come.
As promised, there have been some significant changes to the both the Ripsey harness and dry bag since the prototype I tested was made. Improvements to durability and safety are the name of the game with the final design. One of the most notable changes is the position and length of the seatpost and Wolf Tooth Valais attachment, which seemed too long on the prototype I tested. Here’s a full list of what has changed on the production version.
- The dry bag has foam padding and durable material on the upper front portion to cushion against the saddle.
- The dry bag is seam taped rather than seam sealed.
- They’ve added a safety hook-and-loop closure to the saddle clamp, just in case the bolts back out. This hasn’t happened but Rogue Panda is covering their bases.
- The saddle clamp will be anodized instead of painted for a more durable finish.
- The harness has some very minor cosmetic changes.
- The seat post attachment has been moved slightly up so it sits in the center of the Valais clamp when using a dropper.
- Best-in-class tire-to-saddle clearance
- Lightweight yet still stable
- 8L storage capacity hits a sweet spot
- 100% waterproof dry bag
- Austere buckles won’t budge
- Interesting and unique design
- Pricey compared to other options
- 8L dry bag won’t be big enough for some trips
- 3″ tire clearance requires a partially packed dry bag
- Positions weight higher than other bags
- Capacity: 8L
- Material: X-Pac / Injection Molded Plastic / Aluminum
- Weight: 368 grams (13oz) no Wolf Tooth Valais
- Place of Manufacture: Arizona, USA
- Price: $220 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: RoguePanda.com
It’s an exciting time to go bikepacking with a dropper post. As mentioned, we recently updated our guide on bikepacking with a dropper post and also published the complete list of dropper post compatible seat bags. There are also a number of solid lightweight rear racks available that allow for fuss-free dropper post function and increased carrying capacity—a setup that we’ve come to appreciate when carrying more gear. The Rogue Panda Ripsey is unlike most seat bags both in its design and what it offers the user. Starting with the smallest tire-to-saddle clearance we’ve seen, the Ripsey is a good option for anyone on a small frame or with sights set on rowdy shredpacking trips. At 8L, it’s not a massive seat bag, but I think it hits a sweet spot for lightweight spring and summer bikepacking trips.
Rogue Panda is offering a discount for anyone who supports their crowdfunding campaign. The crowdfunding price is $175 USD instead of the standard price of $220 USD, and the bags are expected to be delivered by March 2023. You can reserve yours and support the project over at RoguePanda.com.
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