Topeak Gravel Gear Bag: Quick Review – by Guitar Ted
Recently I was sent the Topeak Gravel Gear Bag. It is another example of what I think of when it comes to tool rolls, tool wallets, “work station bags”, organizers…….you know, those kinds of things. The Gravel Gear Bag is one of those items, the likes of which kind of defies categorization.
What It Is: I’m not sure here. Just what the heck is this thing? It has straps like a frame bag, but it isn’t really a frame bag, or a bag at all. It has elements of a tool roll, but it doesn’t go under your saddle. It is shaped like an overgrown wallet, but the permanently attached front strap kind of takes it out of that category. Okay, let’s see what Topeak has to say about the Gravel Gear Bag for clues:
“A complete tubeless tire repair / CO2 inflation kit for road and touring enthusiasts packed into a sleek, under top tube mounted organizer case. Internal organizer keeps gear neatly and securely in place. Includes Tubi 11, Power Lever X, 3 pcs of 3.5mm x 5cm tire repair plugs, and AirBooster CO2 inflator with enough room to carry two 16g CO2 cartridges and a spare tube up to 700 x 40c.“
The Gravel Gear Bag comes with a Tubi 11 multi-tool, Topeak’s Power Lever X tire levers, the Air Booster CO2 adapter, tire plug strips, places for two CO2 cartridges, and a place for your tube featuring a stretchy retaining strap. for both your tube and the cartridges. (Note- tube and CO2 cartridges are not included)
The bag it all goes in features 1000D Nylon fabric with a waterproof zipper closure. The bag opens clam-shell style and everything inside lays out flat so you have a nice little ‘work station’ style area to work off of in the field. The bag attaches to your frame via two removable hook and loop style straps which thread through two slots on one side of the bag and with another hook and loop strap which is sewn on one end of the Gravel Gear Bag at the side and which threads through a plastic loop sewn on the opposite side of the bag on the same end. The straps are thoughtfully coated with what appears to be a silicone coating to help prevent damage to a frame finish. Likewise, the side of the Gravel Gear Bag which is intended to rest against your frame has some nice rubberized stand-offs for the same purpose.
First Impressions: A bit puzzled by the ‘bag’, (see the second paragraph), but the tools are cool. Maybe it is the bicycle mechanic in me, but the Tubi 11 and the Power Lever X tire levers are what I was the most impressed by.
The Tubi 11 has a metal cover on one side which, when pulled back, reveals two tools which can be threaded into the side of the Tubi 11’s case and function as a tubeless plug installer and a small blade to trim off the excess plug material after it is installed into a tire. This multi-tool also features Chrome Vanadium tool bits in the regularly expected sizes and types.
The Power Lever X tire levers remind me of that popular meme going around now on social media which is used to contrast two things by way of a ‘wimpy, weak wolf’ and a “He-Man,Hulk Wolf” representing the opposites of weak and strong respectively. In this case we would have a ‘tire lever’ versus a TIRE LEVER with the stronger represented by the mighty looking Power Lever X. Which, when I think of it, sounds like the name of some World Wrestling Federation character. Anyway…..
The Power Lever X levers are longer, for better leverage, and steel reinforced plastic, which should be better for the tighter fit of tubeless tires. The critical lever end looks well shaped and thin enough to get a grip under even the most stubbornly tight bead. But there is more to these levers than meets the eye. They combine to make a chain master link install/remove tool as well. You can also store a spare master link in one lever and the other has a nifty chain jig in it which helps defeat the tension applied by a rear derailleur so you can work on a chain.
The AirBooster CO2 head is about as small and well thought out a CO2 inflator as you can get. I was impressed by its simplicity of design and if I were a CO2 cartridge user, this AirBooster adapter looks to be the one I’d carry with me. (And I’ve seen and handled many of these gizmos in the past.) Since I don’t have any CO2 cartridges, I cannot really say a lot more than that about this bit of the Gravel Gear Bag, but it definitely looks the business.
The Gravel Gear Bag retails for around $140.00 with all the tools. NOTICE- Some sites are selling the Gravel Gear Bag for what appears to be a fantastic deal at around 40-50 bucks, but it has no tools inside. It is just the bag itself, so be aware of that when you go shopping.
In Use: Okay, so this is a tubeless tire repair kit then. I get it. As such, I looked at the tools as being the most important part of this item. I mean, you theoretically could throw the contents of the Gravel Gear Bag and a tube with some CO2 cartridges into any ol’ bag you want. It’s the tools that make or break this item in the end. And in that light, I like what I see here. Everything is well made. You have what you need and there are some clever bits included which you would not expect in a tubeless tire repair kit such as the master link function of the Power lever X. I like how the bits for the tire plug repair function are stored into the Tubi 11 and how they are deployed for use. The AirBooster adapter, again, looks great. The tire levers are beefy and long for great leverage. I’d rely on all of these things to back me up on any race or adventure.
I will say that the Tubi 11 suffers from what I find to be an issue with many mini-tools and that is the difficulty one has in deploying an individual tool to use. This is a common issue, not an issue isolated to the Tubi 11, and I would say it is part of the compromise of going with a multi-tool versus ‘real tools’. But then again, I have been a bicycle mechanic for 25 years, so I have a bias there toward what I call ‘real tools’. The Power Lever X is pretty cool. The one lever with all the ‘business’ for the master link plier function might prove to be a bit of an issue on the hands, but thankfully this is not the case with both of the levers. The master link functionality is a bit confusing at first, so I would recommend familiarizing yourself with that before you find yourself in the field needing to figure it out on the fly.
Of course, the whole package is wrapped up with the bag itself. I like the clam-shell, ‘book-like’ design and the materials and zipper are all top notch. However; I am a bit bummed by the fact that one of the straps is permanently attached to one end of the Gravel Gear Bag. Why? If it were not this way I could use this kit inside a frame bag, hydration pack, or pannier without a long, hook and loop patched strap flopping about. This seems like a missed opportunity to make the Gravel Gear Bag more versatile. There is another reason I feel this way also.
That is because, if this bag is only meant to be strapped to a frame, then the types of frames it will actually work on is limited. In my fleet of bikes, the Gravel Gear Bag really only worked on my Tamland Two because it was the only bike that the bag and my seat tube water bottle could coexist on together. Smaller frames will have issues here as will frames with sloping top tubes or oddly shaped/bent seat tubes. If the Gravel Gear Bag didn’t have that one permanently attached strap, one might be able to find more ways to attach the bag, or the user could opt to use it as a tool wallet instead.
At The Finish: Hmm…. What to think here. The Gravel Gear Bag, with all the tools, is a bit of a conundrum. The tools I have pretty much no quarrel with at all. They are well made and sturdy items. They have functionality and should do what they are purposed to do very well. It’s that darn bag itself that is kind of a bummer. As it is, I thought that it was just fine on my Raleigh Tamland Two. It was out of the way, stable, and nothing rattled inside of it. But it only really worked on that bike, and had I had the option to take off that one strap, it would have been my go-to tool kit for all my bikes since I could have easily stuck the Gravel Gear Bag into a top tube bag, or a larger seat bag, with ease. Without that nuisance of having a long strap attached, at any rate. Oh well….
So, do you just get the tools? You can, you know. A quick look online gave me some prices and I came up with a total of $93.00. Add in shipping prices and you are looking at a hundred bucks for the contents of the Gravel Gear Bag separately. Remember, you can buy the whole enchilada for $140.00, and that is without any discounts. Maybe you get the whole bag and just cut off that strap? Maybe.
But I’m here to review this item as a whole, as it was sent to me. In light of that, I give the Gravel Gear Bag mixed results. I’d absolutely love it but for that strap thing, which is a buzz kill from my point of view. But, if you are okay with a bag that straps onto your bike and stays out of the way, is well organized with some really nice tools inside, and if it all fits your bike, then I can recommend the Gravel Gear Bag to you. It is just that it would work for a lot more folks if it could also be just a wallet-type tool kit as well.
Note: The Topeak Gravel Tool Bag was sent to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not bribed, nor paid, for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.