There's no doubt that I was pretty naive when I started this website. I was on day four of an eleven-day trip sitting at a picturesque lake in the mountains when the whole idea came together. “I'm going to be a bike writer.” Looking back at that moment I'm embarrassed to think about it. I didn't know what I didn't know. At the time, I thought I could hack my way through it all with an iPhone camera... sigh.
I eventually came around to the idea of needing better photography and learning how to take good photos. I purchased an entry-level DSLR for my wife's birthday in Japan a bunch of years ago. We haven't used it in years but would be perfect to get started. I started carrying the camera wrapped in a toque (Canadian for “beanie”) which I stowed away in my frame bag. Even though the camera was semi-protected, I could feel that the shock of mountain biking simply wasn't good for it.
This started me on the path of looking for a solid solution to carrying a camera while biking. A friend suggested using a hip pack which I now use regularly. The hip pack got the camera off the bike and works great. However, I took the camera and hip pack on a larger trip this summer and after a few hundred kilometers it started to feel like an anchor.
The second I came across the Viewfinder camera bag from Cedaero, I knew it was what I was looking for all along—a compact 2.8L handlebar bag designed specifically for cameras. It seemed like the perfect size, it had a front pocket for cables, a moveable inner insert to allow for changing the size of compartments, and an optional shoulder strap to use while not riding. Cedaero does mention the Viewfinder was created for mirrorless cameras which I'll be upgrading to soon. In the meantime, I'll be testing out the Viewfinder with this older DSLR.
As usual, finding the bag made me super interested in who made it. I did a deep dive into Cedaero as a company and went hard into their Instagram and website to find out more. For the past 5 years Dan Cruikshank has been creating bags out of SpokeNGear bike shop and Cedar Coffee Company in Two Harbors, MN on the western shores of Lake Superior. Cedaero creates ready-to-order bags and custom frame, top tube, handlebar rolls, and stem bags. Being from Northern Ontario, I identify with the brand and products Cedaero makes especially the Space Heater Pogies.
I was chuffed when Cedaero sent us a Viewfinder to try out.
So far I strapped the Viewfinder to both my Surly Krampus for mountain biking and the Panorama Katahdin for gravel riding. Getting the bag on and off both bikes is a snap. The velcro straps are well thought out and fit around the handlebars and headset under the stem. Once locked in, the bag feels snug like a bug. More than any other handlebar bag I have used to date.
Any handlebar bag fits well on flat bars with a short stem. But on a gravel bike or anything with a longer stem the bag sits out far from the headset. Cedaero was thoughtful enough to add an extra long headset strap for this possibility. However, without a front rack or stabilizer, the bag tilts at a funny angle when installed on a bike with a longer stem. It fit perfectly in 44cm drop bars and left lots of room for my hands to ride.
The first reaction I had taking the Viewfinder out of the shipping box was how small it seemed to be. I'm not sure I fully considered how small 2.8L was until the bag was in my hands. It's tiny. However, it ended up fitting my older, larger camera body, a 50mm prime, a 24mm prime, a mini tripod, the shutter remote, the beefy Canon strap, AND a Clif bar. With camera cables and the shoulder strap in the front pouch. Wow. The bag comes with a moveable insert to allow you to adjust the compartment sizes which would be a great detail for any bag.
The Viewfinder looks great and is exactly what it needs to be. It is available in a variety of colors depending on the material you want. You have a choice between nylon or waxed canvas both available at the same price point. I stupidly made the wrong decision while ordering. I chose the Moss color which looks sharp but only comes in nylon. I missed out on the waxed canvas option which would have helped tremendously with our wet, wet winters here on Vancouver Island.
For an extra $25 USD you can also order the Light Meter shoulder strap which allows you to take off the bag when heading into a gas station for those much-needed carbs.
Mountain biking with cameras. Eeesh. One of the biggest considerations for the Viewfinder for me was how it performed while mountain biking. I find myself spending more and more time on flat pedals in flowy singletrack with some technical bits. It's these technical bits that especially worry me when carrying a camera on my bike. Over rocks and roots, I found the Viewfinder bouncing slightly and taking some shock from my headtube. It did feel safe and secure but I couldn't help but wonder if that shock was making its way into my camera's internals. Logic dictates that no matter how much padding and security there is in a bag there will still be inertia and momentum to deal with. Because of this, I found myself checking the terrain a bit more than I would have to carrying my camera in a hip pack. To be clear, this is not a critique of the Viewfinder but more of the type of biking I do and I consider this trade-off way better than wearing a hip pack.
On the gravel, the Viewfinder shines! So much so that I ended up using the Viewfinder as a regular handlebar bag a few times to carry my lunch. I wish the flip-top opened toward the cockpit. I seemingly find myself trying to open the bag while riding on the gravel more than mountain biking.
The Viewfinder feels secure and does a great job of keeping your valuable camera nice and snug. As I mentioned above, it's the tightest, most secure handlebar bag I have used yet. But some questions remain in my head about how well any bag can protect moving parts from shock, especially while mountain biking. Depending on the type of camera you own this might not be a consideration. If you have a newer mirrorless system like the FujiX you would have nothing to worry about. However, I have an older, clunky Canon Rebel with every moving part imaginable and found myself playing it a bit safe on the more technical parts of my journeys. However, common sense dictates that there isn't such a thing as 100% protection in the context and that the trade-off is well worth it. I also see the Viewfinder making an impact on longer bikepacking trips.
The $124 price tag is a bargain for the piece of mind the Viewfinder provides. Especially when you consider the 1000s of dollars it might save you in costly repairs or new camera equipment. The Viewfinder is a keeper. Get one here.
|A snap to get on and off a bike|
|Provides confidence that your camera is safe|
|Works well off the bike as a regular camera pack with the optional strap|
|Great price, great value|
|I ordered the wrong material 🤦♂️|
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