Friday, October 4, 2013

wet weather prep: proofing cotton canvas

I scored this pair of Carradice front panniers a few years back.


I got them on eBay from a seller who was unloading a ton of old, used Carradice. These bags were in the worst shape of the lot and I got them at an affordable price. I knew they would fit perfectly on the front rack of my All-Rounder.
I rode with them occasionally the first winter, taking care not to leave them out on the bike in long periods of downpour because I hadn't had time to re-proof them before the rainy season began that year.
Last year I used them hardly at all.
This year, As soon as I came back from my summer travels, I knew I wanted to carry less on my back and more on my bike; so out they came again. This past week, the rainy season began here in earnest; so I knew that on the first available dry day it would be time to re-proof them at last.

For those unacquainted with the process, here's how it works:

1. Brush off as much loose dirt and dust as possible from all surfaces. You won't get it all off if the bags are old and have seen a lot of use, but any effort will help. A brass-bristle brush is very useful here; this can often be found at nicer shoe shops and, locally, at Oregon Leather Company in downtown Portland.

2. Apply Carradice cotton proofing paste (available here, scroll down to "Reproofing wax for cotton duck") by hand. You may want to warm it a little bit; setting the tin in a very shallow dish of warm water for a few minutes will do the trick). Some people wear gloves, but I don't bother. The wax has a bit of lanolin in it which isn't bad for the skin. Make sure you apply to every side of the bag, including the visible stitching. Take your time and be thorough.

3. When the wax has been fully applied, warm the surface of the bag with a hand-held hair dryer. Be careful not the hold the dryer nozzle too close to the fabric for safety's sake. You will begin to see the wax melt into the fabric and stitching. When the wax has melted in the fabric will appear slightly darker and a little dryer than before heat was applied.

And that's basically it. The reproofing wax can also be used on lighter-weight cotton rain gear (like capes and spats), though the lighter fabric seems a little more tedious because of its greater flexibility. Also, bags will generally hold the proofing wax long between applications than rain gear will. I reproofed my Acorn saddlebag three years ago and it's still retaining a fair bit of the wax. I will probably reproof it again in time for next winter. In fact, any cotton canvas bike bag (Carradice, Acord, Zimbale, etc.) takes the reproofing wax well.

(Note to American readers: Some shops may stock Carradice's reproofing wax in the US, though they often stock only very small quantities and only seasonally. This would be a good time of year to check with your nearest Carradice dealer to see if they also stock the wax.)

Once you've applied the reproofing wax to the cotton canvas and heated it into the fabric, the final step is to apply some Brooks Proofhide (or other leather treatment) to the leather straps. A little goes a long way here; don't overcoat the leather!

When that's done and the Proofhide has had a chance to soak in (I usually let it take overnight), re-mount the bags and go ride in the rain.

Coming soon: Coffeenering ride # 1. Have a great weekend.

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