Editor’s Note: In the merge with Gravel Grinder News we knew there was a wealth of reviewed tires, bicycles, and components that might be a good resource on the new site here. With that in mind here is a condensed version of a review that originally appeared on Gravel Grinder News. Any updates on these reviewed products will appear at the end of the article. Thanks and Enjoy
Last year, in August (Editor’s Note: This would have been 2012) I was contacted by Cristobal & Co., a small company that had a unique take on a bag meant for a front rack. After some discussion, I was sent a sample to check out. Here are my thoughts on this bag after using it for the better part of 5 months. But first, let’s take a closer look at the “El Cofrecito“.
Introduction: The El Cofrecito, (Spanish for “the small trunk or the small jewel case“), is a bag designed to fit on a traditional front “rando” style rack that has a loop on the back side, like the Nitto “M-12”, or the Velo Orange “Pass Hunter” rack, which is what I used for this test. It is made to look like a traditional bag, with real leather trim, but the main body of the bag is made from a much more “modern” material. It is the same stuff used for convertible car tops. It is claimed to be very durable, to repel water, and has U.V. protection. The bag is hand made in Mexico. The El Cofrecito sells for about $160.00
The El Cofrecito also has a rounded front, a nod to aerodynamics, and opens in a clam shell fashion from the front. The leather strip around the bag conceals the zipper and two thick, metal zipper pulls with which you open the bag with. (These may be modified in the future to be a tad longer so they are easier to grasp with gloved hands.) The bag attaches to the rack via the four leather strips at the base of the bag which are backed with Velcro. In the rear of the bag, there is a pocket which slips over the upright section of your rack. Here you will also find a strip of leather which can function as a handle should one want to remove the bag and carry it.
The El Cofrecito also sports a strip of leather on the front end where you can slip on a front “blinky” style light. Additionally, there are three patches of reflective material, one on each side and one up front, for safety in poor lighting or for night riding.
Finally, on the outside of the bag’s top you find four “D” rings with which you can lash larger items to the top of the bag. Inside the bag is stitched with a lining of leather piping wherever seams join, (at the bottom and under the top).
Measurements: The sample I received measures as follows: 9″ long X 6″ high X 6″ wide. (Roughly- I didn’t bother getting too precise.) There are no dividers, or compartments in the interior of this bag. The weight of the El Cofrecito is 330 grams.
Impressions: Right away I was impressed by the look and feel of this bag. It definitely has that “classic” rando bag look down pat, but it also feels robust and durable when you handle it. The material for the bag’s body, the convertible car top stuff, is thick and densely woven stuff. The leather bits are beefy, and evenly tanned and colored.
Cristobal purposely did not make the bag too big due to the belief that too much front weight isn’t a good thing on bicycles with “modern geometry”. It was intended to carry a windbreaker or rain jacket, some food, and perhaps a repair kit. That’s exactly what I put in the review sample, with the addition of an extra rear blinky light. In use it didn’t seem to negatively affect handling at all.
The bag was used on weekly gravel group rides, for a metric century night ride on gravel, and for commuting. It became an “invisible” part, as far as riding went, and was useful as a bag usually is for carrying that extra stuff you want along to make your extended rides more successful and comfortable. The bag got muddy, very dusty, and was rained and snowed on. The bag, despite my best efforts to the contrary, still looks as nice as it did when I got it, albeit a bit dirtier.
Not that I couldn’t easily bring the El Cofrecito back to mint condition. It cleans up very easily. Simply by using a wet rag, or wet-wipe, you can get the bag looking nice in a jiffy. Pretty impressive in that regard.
I did only have one or two nits. The zipper pulls were short enough that with gloved hands, it was a bit more difficult than maybe it needed to be to open the top. Cristobal is aware of the complaint and is making a change to rectify this. Otherwise I had only an aesthetic issue with the reflective patches, which I feel take away from the look, but I realize that being safe might end up being better than looking cool!
Conclusions: The El Cofrecito is a “little trunk” that does a great job of allowing you to bring along that extra something: tools, a jacket, food- that might be necessary for the longer gravel rides, or for training purposes. Gravel conditions do not seem to negatively affect either the stability of this bag, nor its classic good looks, as it affixes to the required rack type securely and is easily cleaned and maintained due to the unique material it is made from. As far as performance, this bag doesn’t seem to deserve anything but high marks.
However; it is a sort of a niche product in that firstly, you need a bike that can mount a front rack like the V.O. Pass Hunter I used, and then you have to be a fan of the look. It isn’t going to be a product that appeals to everyone, but if you have the capabilities to mount a front rack and are thinking about spreading the load you want to carry evenly across the bike, this bag might be just the ticket. I could not find a defect that would take away from this product, and it is well made and unique in its use of materials.
NOTE: Cristobal & Co. sent over the El Cofrecito bag at no charge to Gravel Grinder News for testing and review. Gravel Grinder News was not bribed nor paid for this review. Gravel Grinder News strives to give its honest opinions and thoughts throughout.
Post Ride Refreshments:
Since 2012 I have been using the El Cofrecito on a fairly regular basis. That is to say- whenever I ride my Black Mountain Cycles bike, it is stationed on the front rack there. It was one of the very first review items I ever posted on Gravel Grinder News. So, even though this takes me back to some fond memories of the old GGN days, I’ll admit, I wasn’t thinking I’d keep this bag on there. However; I have found it to be an indispensable component for riding longer routes. Especially if I may find myself adding or shedding layers.
This bag has seen it all: Rain, snow, mud, Sun, wind, and lots of use- opening, closing, and stuffing. The construction of the bag is without defect, and it has been proven to be durable. I have only noticed a bit of rolling on the edges of the leather trim. I probably could treat that with some leather conditioner and bring it back into shape. After all, I have done nothing at all to keep this bag in good shape besides a very rare wipe down with a damp cloth.
So, the long term review of this bag is quite favorable. The initial investment is fairly steep, but in terms of function and durability, the bag is top notch. Add in the classic good looks- even after a couple years of abuse- and if this is your cup-o-tea, then I can highly recommend the El Cofrecito.
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