The Santa Ponza or Torremolinos Bag

I'm not hugely into style. I'll rephrase that. I don't care about style. I prefer function. I've owned many bicycles in my time, certainly more than 30, but I've never bought hugely expensive stylish bikes for the sake of style. On the other hand, I'm keen on function. I've bought all sorts of cycling clothes, all types of shoes, all kinds of gloves and of course all kinds of bags.

When I started serious cycling first, about 30 years ago, it wasn't long before I realised the usefulness of a bag. Now the chaps I cycled with at the time were mostly bike racers or triathletes and they used to carry stuff in their back pockets, as required, but I found, especially in winter, that this approach was a bit limiting. I used to use a bike with mudguards in the winter and a carrier, or a rack as people say in Amerukun. It soon enough occurred to me that carrying a bag with a bit of spare capacity was very useful in that not only could you carry spare clothing, but more importantly, if it got unexpectedly hot you could "peel off the half-coat" and cool down, while your pals were dripping sweat like dodgy dynamite and turning their blood into black pudding. You could also carry extra nosh, more spares, a camera or even a camel if you wanted to have a surprise Arab feast for your friends while you were out.
So, I started to buy such bags. I had one made by Agu which was a carrier-top bag. It was okay but like all such bags it faded with time. Then I had a couple of Carradice bags made of Cotton Duck. These don't fade. I've one made by Altura at the moment, a bad design, a Carradice Carrier-top bag, two Carradice saddlebags and of course Ortlieb panniers and all of that.
A former cycling friend of mine, Christy O'Driscoll who's a bit of a character indirectly christened the first bag by saying "I often went to Torremolinos with less". On another occasion Santa Ponza was alluded to, so my bags since then have been referred to in this irreverential manner.
I can remember one occasion about 15 years ago we did a 100 miler and the lads ran out of gas. They began to look longingly at the Torremolinos bag like small boys at a sweet factory. Eventually I said.. "oh, lads, would you like something to eat?" Lots of gulping and shame that they would have to eat from this shameful bag, but by and by, they all got winter bags. Torremolinos reigns supreme in the Irish winter.

As you can see, I always carry a handlebar bag as well for my camera(s)

16 comments on “The Santa Ponza or Torremolinos Bag”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    You're the bag man Garry!

    I just use a small a rucksack and have done for years. It's partly for the camera (I don't want it bouncing around on the bike) and partly because it's lighter. We only use proper bike bags when we go touring.


    Me last year (photo by Chris)

    One other thing... the rucksack with spare clothes inside might give protection in a crash. It feels a bit strange if I go out without it, which I sometimes do in summer with the camera round my shoulder. Oh – one thing more: if I need to lock the bike somewhere, there are no fixed bags to worry about.

    30 bikes?

  2. Stephen Almond wrote:


    Nice post!
    I want to delve into your bag experience. Just which bag is the best for the sort of riding you describe?
    – Carrier top or pannier?
    – Carradice or some other?
    – WHICH Carradice?



  3. Mick F wrote:


    I'm a minimalist, only taking what I need for the ride. I have four different seat-packs of different sizes! Obviously, when I go away with my trailer, I take everything I'll need plus even more!

    The other day, I was coming home from a 40miler when I was overtaken by a police car on a shout with his lights and sirens blaring. The A390 from Devon into Cornwall goes over a narrow bridge, but there's no other bridges for miles. I started wondering if the police car was going to the bridge because of an accident and if he was, he would have to close the bridge. I started to become a little horrified and agitated by the nightmare thought ......

    The bridge was fine, of course, but I was worried by the idea that I would have to find another way round – nearest bridge would be at least 10 hilly miles extra. The thing was, I was starving hungry! I wasn't "bonking" but not far off and as I was only 5mins from home, I'd be ok, but had the bridge been closed, I could not have done the extra distance.

    Therefore, when speaking about this with Hilary, she said I was stupid for not being prepared, and that I should always take a cereal bar or choccy biscuit with me. She's right of course, because even if my nightmare was a stupid thought, you never know what may happen.

    Minimalism has its problems!


  4. Jim wrote:

    I don't like carrying too much weight although I always carry a couple of pounds of fat around my waist in case I get stuck on an ice floe and have to wait for the helicopter.
    I think carradice bags [of which I have 4] are too heavy. I have just bougt a good quality 40 litre waterproof stuffbag from Sportsdirect sale for £7. This and a bunji on my rack will probably carry all my gear on my forthcoming Danube B&B tour and weigh less than 200g. Everyday stuff can be catered for by a simple cheap handlebar bag that will be secured by velcro straps. The more expensive handlebar clickfit connectors are unecessarily heavy.

  5. Patrick wrote:

    ... my forthcoming Danube B&B tour ...

    Sounds good Jim.

  6. Hilary wrote:

    I like the look of my blue Carradice saddle bag but to be honest the racktop bag on my other bike is a lot more convenient for taking things in and out and doesn't have the same tendency to sag at the corners. However my super-duper Tubus rack altho solid as a rock and great for panniers is too narrow on top to support a rack bag properly.

    I never venture out without a good supply of emergency food altho I doubt if I'm ever more than 5 miles from a shop or cafe on the Isle of Wight! (I used to live in Scotland and old habits die hard!).

    I have wondered if its possible to get minimalist camping gear into the sort of stuff bag Jim mentioned. I might try it one day...

  7. Jim wrote:

    " … my forthcoming Danube B&B tour …

    Sounds good Jim."

    Yes it's a 2 week tour in May. I'm looking forward to it. We've got spare place by the way.

  8. Garry Lee wrote:

    I guffawed at the ice-floe comment!!

  9. Mary wrote:

    Ive tried very hard to be a minimalist. Cant do it. Have to be prepared for all things. It must be a Northern thing, even on a grand day, with a fab forecast, I have to have wet weather gear, extra warm top, bananas or other such scoff, water bottle etc in the rear bag. Currently my commute bike has a pair of wellies in the Carradice rack bag! (Long flap)

    Im a big fan of Carradice too. To me, its not just about the weight, its about the quality of workman or workwomanship together with service from a great British company. The feedback I get from Carradice is second to none, never had I had such good service from a business providing cycling gear. They repair, and give sound solid advice when needed, and keep a Northern workforce in work. Whenever I buy an item or send something back for repair I get a lovely letter from the ladies in Nelson asking about my rides, or my cats or something. They seem to REMEMBER me, which leaves me wiht a lovely warm feeling of love in my tummy. 🙂

    My bags are all packed for my trip on Saturday. I have lent Tina our Carradice Super C panniers sadly Albert's Super C top box bag didnt fit her bike rack, but the panniers did. I am using foreign bags purchased prior to my experiences with Carradice.

    I also LOL at Jim's ice-flo explanation! Look forward to reading about your trip Jim.

  10. Chris wrote:

    Similar to my kit, Garry. I hate anything on my back – even in the rear pockets.

    Kinesis Racelight T2 with Altura handlebar bag and rack bag

    However, sometimes I think I carry stuff just for the sake of it. This is what was in my handlebar bag on Sunday after Sunday's ride:

    Unopened cashews, flapjack bites, garibaldis, fig rolls and rather bruised bananas

    Sunday leftovers: unopened cashews, fig rolls, garibaldis, flapjacks, bananas (slightly bruised) and most of my fun-sized Mars bars.

    But, hey! My new Topeak under-seat pack:

    Topeak pack

    I'm determined to be ruthless and even do away with my rack bag – and rack:

    We'll see...

  11. Patrick wrote:

    Well done Chris! The smart new lightweight wedge will hold a bunch of bananas.

    In response... for our next joint ride I've fitted titanium axles to my magnesium pedals – LOL (my multi-tool is a heavy one, I've noticed)

  12. Chris wrote:

    Oh no, Patrick. The grub will still go in the bar bag, but I'll transfer some things in to it from the rack bag.

    The wedge pack is for the other stuff, which may include a multi-tool 🙂

  13. Garry Lee wrote:

    Mike Harris, a friend of mine once had a couple of bananas and a mobile phone in his back pocket. The bananas semi-liquified, flowed into the innards of his mobile, short-circuited it and killed it. He had to buy a new one.

  14. Alan wrote:

    This reminds me of my "black banana" solution. I dislike the oper-ripening that occurs when they are in bags, especially in warm weather. I'd like a string-bag solution, but this works well:


  15. Hilary wrote:

    I managed to get a stove in one of those Topeak wedge bags!

  16. Garry Lee wrote:

    If you did you'd need an obstetric forceps to get it out!

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