What Goes Into a Full-suspension Frame Bag

Here’s why we think every full-suspension bike should have a frame bag… even if you’re not a bikepacker. Plus, the full lowdown on different bag types, who builds them, what can actually fit into them, and two suggested pack lists.

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You may never have given much thought to the frame triangle on a full-suspension bike. That negative space is just happenstance… the result of some engineers’ decisions regarding linkage design, tube lengths, and angles. Aside from providing a nest for the rear shock, the frame triangle might even seem kind of useless. On some bikes it can barely squeeze a small water bottle. Enter the tailor-made, custom fit frame bag. Where once there was a void, there’s now useable space. And whether you are hitting the trail for a quick afternoon ride or heading out for a long weekend, that added storage space can make the ride a lot more enjoyable. A full-suspension frame bag can store much more than one might expect. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at a couple of different full-suspension frame packs to see what they can carry, how to go about having one custom made for your bike, and who you can hire to do so.

  • Full Suspension frame Bag
  • Full Suspension frame Bag

As we’ve said before, the frame pack is the nucleus of all bikepacking luggage. That’s based on where it’s located. The frame triangle is easily accessible. Unlike a seat pack, there’s no need to dismount in order to find your gear. And, the frame bag is the lightest bag option. Weighing in at around 200 grams, the standard Xpac frame bag is about a pound less than a standard Camelbak or Osprey backpack (without the hydration bladder!). The frame bag is also the most well-integrated of the bikepacking bags. Unlike the handlebar or seat pack, it doesn’t alter a bike’s balance. On the contrary, packing weighty items in a frame bag lowers the bike’s center of gravity and has almost zero effect on its stability. And if it allows you to eliminate a hydration backpack altogether, that makes it all the more logical, bringing the weight that would otherwise be on your back, below the saddle. We know it’s possible with a bag designed for hard tail frames, but how much can one of these little bags really hold?

Full-sus frame bags are usually made 2.5-3.0” in width and have a volume from anywhere between 1 and 10 liters. Numbers alone make it difficult to visualize space, so we’ve compiled two packlists, one for a large and one for a medium-sized frame, in order to better illustrate what can be carried:

Full-suspension Frame Bag Pack List (for trail riding)

If you’ve ever pedaled up a hill, or down one, and thought to yourself, “I’d probably be a lot more comfortable if I didn’t have this 12 pound hydration pack on my back,” moving all or most of your trail kit to the frame bag is one way to get that monkey off your back. This packlist is based on a big backcountry day ride and includes tools, snacks and other relatively heavy items. And in terms of hydration, see more about that below. This pack list fits in the Rockgeist Mudlust frame bag on a Pivot mach 429 Trail (size medium).

Full-Suspension Frame Bag

Tools

Swift Scout Motto Tool Roll
Crank Brothers M19 Multi-tool
Leatherman Juice CS1
Zip ties
Dynaplug Micro Pro Tool
Clever Standard Tire lever
Patch Kit
Needle/thread
4OZ Orange Seal
Clever Standard barrel chain tool
Super glue
Crank Brothers Klic HV pump

Spares

Spare Tube
Spare brake pads
Spare cable
Derailleur Hanger
Quick-links

Other

3 Lara Bars
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket

  • Rockgeist Mudlust Frame Bag
  • Rockgeist Mudlust Frame Bag

The Rockgeist Mudlust frame bag shown here weighs in at about 228 grams (including bolts and washers) with several patches installed from The Landmark Project (Rockgeist offers these as an add-on). Learn more about Rockgeist here.

Full-suspension Frame Bag Pack List (Bikepacking)

It often surprises me to see just how much can fit into a full-suspension frame pack. This Bedrock frame bag made of X-Pac and Dyneema was custom made for a large Salsa Pony Rustler. Here’s my typical snug-fitting bikepacking packlist. This is especially well suited for an overnight trip:

Full-Suspension Frame Bag

Kitchen

Vargo BOT 700
4oz Fuel Canister
MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Buff
Lighter
Sawed off Ti Spork

Food

Good To-Go Double Serving (dinner)
Green Belly Meal 2Go (breakfast)
Surly Flasky (whiskey)

Tools

Swift Scout Motto Tool Roll
Crank Brothers M19 Multi-tool
Leatherman Juice CS1
Zip ties
Dynaplug Micro Pro Tool
Clever Standard Tire lever
Patch Kit
Needle/thread
4OZ Orange Seal
Clever Standard barrel chain tool
Super glue
Crank Brothers Klic HV pump (strapped to downtube via frame pack straps)

Spares

Spare brake pads
Spare cable
Derailleur Hanger
Quick-links

  • Bedrock Full Suspension frame Bag
  • Bedrock Full Suspension frame Bag

This custom Bedrock frame bag is made from a combination of Dyneema and Xpac. It weighs in at a scant 178 grams and has a nice, burly zipper. Learn more about Bedrock here.

What about water?

Obviously, carrying water was not a factor in either of these packlist scenarios. Around here, in the wet and wonderful Appalachian mountains, I often carry a single water bottle in my Revelate Mountain Feedbag with a Sawyer Mini to filter water as needed. Otherwise, while bikepacking, I usually carry a liter bottle within a cage that’s pipe-clamped to a fork leg, then another under the downtube. The other option, which is the most logical for trail riding, is to use a hydration bladder within the frame bag. Most frame bags are made with a hydration port at the top front of the bag in order to run a hose up to clip to the handlebar. On a large or medium mountain bike, there is often room for a one or two-liter bladder — such as the Platypus Hoser system – as well as tools and a few other odds and ends.

It’s worth noting that on a standard full-sus bike with a horizontal shock, the triangle space is often barely enough to fit a standard 22oz water bottle. So utilizing a frame bag not only allows more weight to go in this space, but also much more water, if needed.

How to Get A Full-Suspension Frame Bag

Some folks might wonder why there aren’t many off-the-shelf frame packs available for full-suspension bikes, like there are triangular models for hardtails. The short answer is that there are just too many variables created by differing suspension configurations and tubeset molding thicknesses, which we’ll talk more about later. This makes it tricky to standardize bags. There are a couple of ready-made options that might work on some bikes, but it’s still worth considering a custom made bag. When a frame bag is tailored to a specific bike, perfectly matching the frame maximizes available space and the full storage capacity of the triangle.

  • Make Your Own Full Suspension frame Bag
  • Make Your Own Full Suspension frame Bag

Make Your Own

I have found that a frame bag is one of the least complicated articles of gear that a do-it-yourselfer can construct. Thus far I’ve made four of them. The gray one shown in the two photos above took me about about two hour’s time. It’s certainly not the nicest, but I must say that it wasn’t too difficult and has held up quite well over many trips. To make one, you can follow the general concept of this tutorial. Keep in mind, that access to a sewing machine and basic sewing skills are required.

Full-Suspension Frame Bag

Have One Made

Even though it’s possible to make your own, having one made by an experienced bag maker will likely result in a far superior product; the two used as examples in this article, by Bedrock and Rockiest, are much more polished, better fitting, and ultimately more reliable than my DIY bags. The process of getting a custom full-suspension frame pack made is pretty straightforward. Most bag makers will have you trace your bike’s triangle shape on a piece of cardboard and mail it to them. Note that if you do this, make sure to note where the shock body is, as well as bottle mounts under the downtube so streps don’t interfere. You then pick your colors, sit back, and wait. Bedrock bags refers to use the template method for accuracy, but they also have hundreds of templates in their library to pull from (as was the case for the bag shown on the Salsa Pony Rustler). Other companies, such as Rockgeist – who made the Mudlust frame bag shown in the photo above — build bags from a strategically taken photograph. We had that Mudlust made via their ‘PhotoFit’ process, in which we emailed over a photo with a measuring tape and, voila, out came a perfectly matched bag.

Bag types

Of the many suspension configurations, the most common these days seems to use a horizontally positioned shock. Its placement leaves a frame void that loosely resembles the silhouette of a bird. For this type of bike, a custom made bag is pretty much the only way to go. This style of bag usually has a top strap, a rear strap for the seat tube, and two or three straps for the downtube. There is also a strap that loops around the shock body, which, contrary to what some people may assume, is not detrimental to the shock itself, as it doesn’t really carry the weight.

Another common suspension configuration uses a vertically positioned shock. This leaves more of a triangle shaped void. While it is still ideal to have a custom made frame bag made, there are other options. For instance, the Oveja Negra Super Wedgie comes in two sizes, and is often a good fit for this type of rig.

Of course, it is important to take into account any other bags you may be carrying as well your bike’s specific frame features. Velcro ‘One-Wrap’ straps and daisy chain webbing allow for repositionable anchoring points along the bike’s top and down tubes. This flexibility means you don’t have to worry about your frame bag clashing with a top tube bag or water bottle mounts. Also, as shown on the Rockgeist bag in some of these photos, consider having a bag made that bolts onto frame mounts when they are available. This keeps straps from interfering with the under bottle cage mounts and generally cleans up the design.

Full Suspension frame Bag

Who makes custom Full-suspension Frame Bags?

There are many companies worldwide that make full-suspension frame bags to order. As mentioned, North Carolina based Rockgeist specializes in made-to-fit frame bags. Their Mudlust bag sells for $130.00 – $165.00. Greg keeps a two and a half week turnaround time and does excellent work. Another favorite is Bedrock Bags out of Durango, Colorado. Their big-zippered, one-pocket frame bags start at $170 with a two or three week turnaround time. They’ve been in business since 2012, and their bags are considered some of the most well crafted in the industry. In addition to these two favorites, here’s a short list of other companies who produce custom frame bags.

Company (location)
 
 
Made
in
Lead
Time
Price
Link
 
 
PE
5 wk
£115
 
 
USA
10 wk
$220
Becker Gear (USA, AK)
 
 
USA
?
?
Bedrock Bags (USA, CO)
 
 
USA
2 wk
$170
 
 
AU
?
250AU
 
 
PL
4 wk
369 zł
Bolder (USA)
 
 
USA
?
$75+
 
 
SWI
?
CHF79
Cedaero (USA, MN)
 
 
USA
?
$199
 
 
USA
?
$110
Defiant Pack (USA, CO)
 
 
USA
2 wk
$170
Dirt Bags (USA, WY)
 
 
USA
2 wk
$165
J.Paks (USA, CO)
 
 
USA
?
?
 
 
USA
?
$110
Oveja Negra (USA, CO)
 
 
USA
?
?
 
 
CAN
?
115CA
Rockgeist (USA, NC)
 
 
USA
2.5wk
$135
 
 
USA
2 wk
$110
 
 
SUI
?
?
 
 
NZ
2 wk
$150
Sturdy Designs (MN, USA)
 
 
USA
?
?
 
 
USA
?
?
Triglav (PL)
 
 
PL
?
?

If you have additional thoughts about full-suspension frame bags, or would like to suggest a custom frame bag bag maker not listed (who you have experience with and highly recommend), please leave a comment below.

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