Here is my one word review of the Velocolour Dynamite roll: Buy! If you need more, then read on. But my first question for you is, why haven't you bought this yet?
Let's talk about saddle bags. For whatever reason, the subject of anything under the saddle, whether it's a bag or a roll seems to be a contentious debate. But you know what we can all agree on? Nobody likes being stuck on the side of the road handing out parts and tools to that friend who brought nothing. Even worse, if you're riding solo and calling in friends and family for a pickup. So, unless you're a pro riding with a support vehicle behind you, riding with a saddle something is better than being that person everyone hates.
Over the course of my too many to count years, I've tried and even reviewed a few saddles rolls. Modern takes on the tool carrier like the Fizik 00 saddle bag work but always have draw backs. Custom made copies of the classic three pocket burrito roll like my Yanco Customs may pull at the heart strings but still leave room for improvement. For these reasons, my search had continued (noticed the past tense?)
From the folks who bring you the greatest bicycle paint in the world, Velocolour, comes the best saddle roll on the market - the Dynamite Roll. This little made in Canada gem is clearly made for cyclists, by cyclists. You can tell because it seems to strike the right balance between form and function. It does everything you need it to, does it well, and doesn't try to overextend itself with unnecessary features in order to sell its value. It may look like a regular saddle roll but looks are deceiving. It's a hot little pocket.
Before we get into the specifics on what the Dynamite Roll is and is not, let's wind the clock back a bit and figure out how we got here. Noah and Suzanne have brought a few on bike accessories to market under the VeloColour banner. First there was the Saddle Bag under the former moniker, Carl and Rose. This classic styled cylindrical saddle bag mixed organic and synthetic materials affixed via a repurposed leather toe strap. Or it could be cage mounted when hydration was less required. From there and under the VeloColour banner, the saddle bag evolved to a fully synthetic build and into larger and smaller size standards. Still affixed via a repurposed leather toe strap. Then came the VeloColour Traditional Roll (also in two sizes). Keeping with the Cordura and vinyl materials, the traditional roll dropped the hard shell shape for a flat packed 3 pocket design. This improved both carrying capacity and compactness. It also saw the dropping of the toe strap in favor of a Velcro backed leather strap. While I’ve never used this one myself, a few friends have and were complimentary about their experiences with the traditional roll. It probably would have been fine if the story ended here, but knowing Noah and Suzanne, they would never settle for anything less than doing their best. It's that mindset that I'm sure is the genesis behind what came next.
When I ran into VeloColour at NAHBS 2018, they were really excited to have me try out of their new saddle rolls and review it if I liked it. Not to give it all away, but since you're reading a review, I must like it. Mid-season I dropped by the shop and picked up a sample to try.
Despite not being the first saddle mounted carrier from VeloColour, the Dynamite Roll still took time to develop. Because this is just not a step evolution of what came before it, rather a whole new approach that combines the best aspects of what they've already done, jumbled up with some new ideas.
The original saddle bag had simplicity on its side. A single cavity to just stuff full of goodness and roll on down the road. But its larger and more rigid shape could make it hard to utilize all the available space and the shape made it more difficult to get real snug up under some saddles.
Whereas the traditional roll lays flat and with the three compartments, it allows you to properly sort out the goods. But to get that tight compact package, you have to pack everything just the right way so that when you roll it, it all fits together and up under the saddle.
Over the course of ~40 samples and prototypes, Suzanne worked out how to be able to obtain the smallest form factor, but without having to do it with multiple pockets. And while making sure there was space for the smallest necessities. Being avid and actively cyclists themselves, and having friends on their own CX team gave them means to quick feedback on each change.
Their Dynamite Rolls and hand made by Suzanne in small batches in their workshop, co-located in their paint facility. When I stopped in to see them and take some photos of the production process, Suzanne was proud to show off their work and the effort they went through to find materials that worked and were sourced from producers in North America.
So, what's so special about the design of the Dynamite Roll? It's a bunch of little things. Such as the Velcro tab that keeps the roll firmly closed, independently of the rubber strap. This is fantastic because it means you don't have to awkwardly try and hold it all together while you get the strap under your saddle rails and before it splays the content out on your floor. It's one of those little tweaks that you don't think much about, but appreciate that it's there.
For general purpose road, gravel, and maybe non-racing CX, they’ve got the materials right. The main fabric in the Dynamite roll is 500D Cordura. Cordura is a dyed nylon filament based woven fabric from Koch Industries. Its key benefits are affordability, availability, durability and abrasion resistance. As part of the Cordura Classic category, the 500D used is a plain weave in 500 denier weight. Denier is the classification of weight to individual filaments and thread. The heavier denier (thicker thread) means the material is sturdier and will hold up to the task of road cycling. For reference sake, 70D weight woven fabric is generally used in durable outerwear, and 100D+ is used in pro grade high durability outerwear. So imagine the bomb proofness of 500D.
VeloColour have also incorporated vinyl into the mix. An ample vertical strip of Maharam vinyl is well placed on the final flap of the Dynamite Roll to protect it from tire spray. If you mount it right, the vinyl should face down toward your tire and the road. It would be have been easy to move forward without the addition of this vinyl, but the fact that it's there shows the attention to detail they've put into the design. A cyclist will always make a better cycling product.
In terms of features, there's not much to look at it. But this is a saddle roll after all. When you lay the Dynamite Roll out flat there the single large pocket with a internal divider and a smaller flat pocket. That's about it. The large pocket or cavity is located as you'd expect, right in the middle of the main area. It sits proudly at the bottom edge with its mouth agape, waiting to be stuffed with tubes and levers. The flat pocket is more discreetly located along the fold over. If it weren't for the striped nylon webbing tab, you may even overlook it because Suzanne has smartly aligned it with a natural seem in the pattern. Open it up and you've got a nice little stowaway for loose bits.
On the leading edge of the fold over you've got patch of hook and loop velcro. This is part of that velcro securing system I mentioned before. The softer loop part is located on the exterior of the Dynamite Roll.
Lastly is the new polyurethane strap from Voile. They've now ditched the leather toe strap in favor of the stretchy strap. Thank you! Toe straps look classic but they don't work well. Leather always stretches out. Then it smooths out and loses its grip, and you’ll never get a tight fit again. The Voile strap lets you just ream on it and lock in. If you've ever dropped your saddle bag and littered its contents across the road because your toe straps has softened up, then you'll know why this change matters so much. The strap is long enough to easily fit around a stuffed up roll while being able to turn back and tuck the tail under the discreet tab. For a bit of brand recognition, the Voile strap has the VeloColour logo printed on in a subtle grey.
On the road
Not sure if all Dynamite Rolls are delivered this way, but mine came stuffed with a pack of M&Ms. Talk about starting the relationship off right. #fatkidbikeclub. After quickly downing the whole pack, I got started with the Dynamite Roll.
Thanks to the handy little folding instructions with a packing plan, I was able to move my road essentials over quite quickly. Without any issue, and with room to spare, I'm riding around with a 25c tube, 2 Tacx levers, Silca EOLO III inflator, and a CO2 can. There is a set of Park Tool patches and valve extractor, and a bit of cash in the Velcro pocket. When all rolled up, the Dynamite Roll is about the size of half a hefty burrito and fits in the palm of my hand. This works well for me, but if you need more space, it does come in a larger size.
A good saddle bag or roll really should be a set it and forget it kind of thing. If it's doing its job then you shouldn't pay any mind until your tire goes flat. For the most part, this is how it’s gone with the Dynamite Roll. It did come loose a few times on bumpy roads and gravel. But it never completely fell off. And if it had, I'm very sure that the Velcro would have prevented it from yard sailing. Honestly, it was annoying because either we all had to stop so I could get it sorted out, or I pulled off and then had to chase back on. There's nothing wrong with the bag though. Turns out I was being too cautious about tightening up the Voile strap. Lock her down by going to where you think it’s tight, then go one or two more! Over the course of a season the strap only shows a few wear marks. No drying or cracking.
Another bit of praise I'll give to the practicality of the Dynamite Roll is its weather versatility. The full synthetic materials makeup means it's quite easy to clean. If you roll through a wet and gritty road patch or run amuck in the mud, a quick wipe with a wet cloth gets you feeling fresh again. If not, toss it in the wash machine and hang it to dry. Then you'll be squeaky clean.
If you're looking for a year-round, all-weather roll, you may need a spare. Although synthetic fibers absorb far less water than organics, the nylon quickly wets out, which means it won't keep your spares bone dry. So, on rainy days and in winter slush, be forewarned. The vinyl strip will only cover you against some road spray. Not a down pour or full monster cross mud jams.
By now you've gathered I'm quite happy with the Dynamite Roll, but I'm a tech nerd through and through. I'm always looking at what can be tweaked here and there, and what materials could be used to provide greater gains. And if there was one thing I would change on this product, it would be the choice in material. I get that this was the right choice for the greater masses, but it would be super rad to see a version built out with a technical composite material like GORE-TEX, Dyneema, or X-PAC. These type of composite materials would provide lower overall weight, increased durability, and better weather protection. Especially those that include a waterproof membrane. And now with how tech bikes have become, the materials would complement them well.
The nylon strip is a nice touch but an even more simple compromise for overall weather protection could be a DRW (durable water repellent) coating to the existing Dynamite Roll. This could be done in a number of ways with anything from a natural bees wax such as the Fjallraven Greenland Wax, or one of the synthetic hydrophobic spray ons like Grangers, Nik Wax, or even Arc’Teryx Nu. The downsides to these are that neither is permanent like a membrane, wax adds weight whilst making the Cordura more rigid, and the synthetics require the material to be washed first, then applied and dried. This can mess with the feel and finish of the Cordura.
Lastly, living in a city with unfriendly drivers means I'm always conscious of visibility. Why take any chances when we are so exposed out there? In a future revision, it would be cool to see some light reflective elements added to the saddle roll since it sits so conveniently in the line of sight to drivers. Using reflective ink for the logo on the strap or adding a reflective tab along the seem of the vinyl strip could draw added attention to riders when approached from behind.
I still don't understand why some people get so worked up about saddle bags. In this debate I firmly and happily sit on the side of, for. Having one won't cost you watts, but not having one may cost you some friends. There are a lot of options out there on the market today and not all of them are created equal. But all of them are maybe the last thing you want to think about. So, do it right, do it once, and just get out there and ride.
If you're not satisfied with the saddle bag or roll you have now, or don’t have one yet, I would happily recommend the Dynamite Roll from VeloColour. It works, it's hand made in Canada by cyclists and for cyclists. It looks good, and you can rely on it. It'll cost you $54USD but it's money well spent. And when you consider how much money you'll waste trying out and not liking so many others, that's a pretty good bargain.