76 Projects A.S.S. Top Tube Bag Review
76 Projects is a company from the UK, that is using in-house manufacturing techniques to address gaps in the market, quickly and efficiently. We recently tried out their new top-tube bag that uses the A.S.S. system mount to attach to a top tube in a whole new way. We tested the system and bag for a few months and had some thoughts. Read on.
So bikepacking is a thing. Due to the tremendous popularity of adventure cycling and self-supported ultra races, there are so many companies making so many types of bags: frame bags, seat bags, rack bags, handlebar bags, and cockpit bags, both off-the-shelf and custom. Choosing the right bag seems endless and overwhelming. First, you have to decide on which type of bag you want and then the hunt starts for the right manufacturer. You can usually never go wrong with the bigger brands but with so many new, younger makers you might find something that will serve your needs better. A lot of smaller makers are more nimble and have come up with new and interesting solutions to bikepacking problems.
One of those newer companies is 76 Projects from the U.K. A team of industrial designers making products that, in their own words, “solve issues that the mass market products do not address”. One of those issues is that modern frames, especially carbon frames, often lack the possibility to mount racks.
Over the last few months, I have been testing their A.S.S. top tube bag. Yes, you read that correctly and A.S.S. stands for Anti Strap System and here at Bike Gear Database, we always appreciate a bit of sass ;) Instead of strapping to your frame or bolting in like most bags, the A.S.S. system uses a quick-release slider and ring to clip around the headset. This system is supposed to make for a sturdier connection that prevents the bag from rubbing on your frame.
The A.S.S. Top Tube bag comes in a gray, welded 600d fabric with DWR treatment and a pink inner liner for increased visibility. It offers two outer side pockets, an internal mesh pocket and a phone retainer, a cable port and utilizes the proven YKK Aquaguard zip. With a size of 50x110x220 [mm], it offers approximately 1 L of volume or enough to store your phone, sunglasses, gloves, and an energy bar. Most of 76 Projects' hardware (aka plastic parts) is made in-house using an industrial 3D printer.
The A.S.S. bag mount attaches in two ways: you can either bolt it into your frame bosses or, what I did, use the 3M double-sided foam tape to stick it directly to your top tube. If you are like me and worry about your frame's paint, a stick-on system offers a nice solution. In addition to the bag, you get all the accessories needed: 4 flat-headed hex screws, 2 plastic nuts, 2 extra screws, 1 clip-slider set, 1 spacer-clip set, pre-injection swabs, and the aforementioned double-sided foam tape.
All the bags I have used so far use velcro or voile straps to attach to the frame, so I thought it would be good to follow the the instruction manual to get started. The instructions seemed more like an overview of what I needed to do rather than a step-by-step guide. I would have preferred a more structured or numbered guide like the ones from IKEA. Therefore it took a few minutes longer to figure out a mistake-free way to mount the bag.
Here is my approach. First, mount all bag sliders and the L-shaped clip to the bag. I found the installation of the hex nuts for the L-clip a bit fiddly but my hands are not the smallest. After the clips are installed, I would recommend fitting the ring clip to the stem. The ring clip is meant to replace a standard 10mm stem spacer. Be careful when reinstalling the stem cap since it adjusts your headset's bearing play.
Next, attach the L-clip to the clip ring as described in the instructions. With the bag in place mark the top and end position of the slider, then remove the bag and mark the centerline of the top tube. Make sure everything is correct and mount the bike slider according to the manual. That's it! Depending on your top tube's slope some bending to the L-clip may be required.
Once mounted correctly the A.S.S. bag worked exactly as advertised. There is literally no noticeable bouncing of the bag even on rougher terrain and it proved to be a really convenient add-on. All the small things I needed were within my reach - sunglasses, energy bars, the phone. However, the bag would benefit from a padded bottom to prevent heavier things like a mini tool from 'dinging' against the frame.
The two outer side pockets of the A.S.S. bag gave me a bit of a head scratch. I couldn't figure out what to use them for since their opening faces angle slightly downwards on sloped top tubes. But I found the answer after looking into this on the 76 Projects website, they write: “external stash pockets - keep sticky used wrappers separate”. Also, the phone holder comes in handy but to be honest I would prefer a separate inner pocket for better protection. It is also a bit tight and fiddly to squeeze phones into.
For a recent trip to Tuscany, I wanted to remount the A.S.S. bag onto my girlfriend's bike. 76 Projects also offers their A.S.S. system separately which you may need if you want to run the bag on multiple bikes. Since I didn't have a separate Anti-Strap-System, I decided to remove it with a hair dryer and acetone. I then applied a new 3M double foam sticker to my girlfriend's top tube. Her bike has a strongly sloped top tube which requires a heavy bend in the L-shaped clip. Therefore, I omitted the ring clip and “strapped” the L-clip around the steerer tube. It worked ok on most surfaces and only started to rattle around on washboard sections of our ride. A good idea for future iterations of the A.S.S. bag might be to have a more flexible L-clip without the ring clip for faster and easier installation—a more “flexible” design.
Out of curiosity, I mounted the bag on the rear of the top tube and clipped it to the seat tube. This actually worked surprisingly well and could be another way to install your A.S.S. bag completely.
All in all, the A.S.S. top-tube bag is a great bag. With a few iterations in its design, it will be amazing and I am looking forward to trying future updates.
We love what 76 Projects is doing and how they approach product design. We align very closely with their mission of considering the ideas that the mass market might not find feasible or profitable. With in-house manufacturing becoming more popular we really hope to see more companies like 76 Projects bringing new innovations to the table-like the A.S.S. system. We also hope they have names that are just as fun.
|Works as advertised|
|Weatherproofing handles well in the rain and elements|
|Perfect price point for the value|
|Installation instructions could be a bit more clear|
|The L-shaped mounting clip would benefit from a more flexible design|
|External pockets have no closure|