I’ve been using one of these for the past couple of weeks, and thought i’d post a couple of notes about it. The Minnehaha Bags website has background info, but basically it’s a new brand from the guys who make the Banjo Brothers bags. This new line is built with cotton canvas and leather, with plated metal buckles, similar in style to some other traditional bicycle saddlebags over the years.
I’ve used a Carradice bag for the last 4 years or so, and the Minnehaha versions follow a good tradition in this sense. The designs and materials are durable and look good over time. The materials on the Minnehaha are a little lighter-weight than on a comparable Carradice, and the canvas is not waxed, as Carradice does, but there are other bag makers that also use untreated canvas, so i don’t think this is a drawback. You can easily treat the canvas with something like Nikwax for improved water repellence, and for any of these bags you’d use a leather treatment to help preserve the straps and trim. I use a waterproof inner bag for any cargo that needs to stay dry, so the lack of coating isn’t an issue. You’re better off with an inner bag anyway, because with any of these bags a large or oddly-shaped load can create water-inviting gaps no matter the material. The workmanship on the bag is excellent; neat seams and well-centered rivets. The canvas is black and the straps a very light natural tan. I expect the canvas to fade and the leather to darken over time, which should continue to look good.
Blah blah blah… On to the photos! First, rear view.
The attachment system is designed for a standard saddle without rear loops, so no need for a Brooks, this straps right to the rails. The bag will sway some with a heavy load (like only carrying a u-lock), but i didn’t find it to be a problem. I did later change the upper strap so the buckle is inside the bag, as that allowed me to cinch the strap a bit tighter. There’s a plastic upper sheet to hold the bag’s shape, it works well and is unobtrusive.
The reflective straps came with the bag, unattached, so i just looped them around where they’d flap in the breeze. There is a horizontal strap that could accommodate multiple blinkie lights if you were so inclined, and they should actually stay in a useful position when the bag is reasonably full, but would probably flop down if mostly empty. The top closure strap is not sewn down across the whole lid, so you could easily use it to hold down a wet jacket on the outside of the bag.
From the front – slim profile, no worries about thighs touching it while pedaling, if you don’t like that sort of thing.
The lower attachment point is flexible across a range of frame sizes and saddle heights. I chose a lower mount to hold the bag more steady, and the lower strap was just long enough to go around the seatstays.
Here’s what i had in the bag that day; t-shirt, leftovers for lunch and 2 large apples. Not pictured are the u-lock, and the spare tube and tools in the inner pouch. This is a pretty typical summertime commuting load for me, though a little light on the lunch. If you carry more gear or need to change clothes after your ride, you’ll want a larger bag or to keep clothes at work.
In summary; a very nice option for a small saddlebag for light commuting loads or long day trips to the country. The materials are a little thinner/lighter than comparable British bags or the old Rivendell Baggins line, but they don’t feel flimsy or cheap. If anything, for those who care about weight, the weight of these bags should compare favorably to the sort of overbuilt rack trunk bags that are around of similar capacity, and these easily beat them on style points alone. It’s a good-looking and useful bag nice enough to complement any bike.
(Disclaimer: no kickbacks on the bag for me, i don’t have a stake in how well they sell, but this was a production sample that came to the shop i work at that i’m getting to try out for free.)