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by Dave Rome
December 11, 2019
Photography by Dave Rome
The mobile phone wasn’t even a sci-fi concept when cycling jerseys and their handy pockets were created. And while the cycling jersey pocket has remained much the same since then, the things we carry certainly have not.
Phones are taller, slimmer, heavier, slipperier and more delicate than ever. And with all that has come a growing number of phone cases and wallet-replacements designed specifically with cyclists in mind.
As a long-time fan of the humble zip-lock (sandwich) bag, these newer dedicated cases have always seemed a little odd to me. Starting with such a bias, I wanted to know what these cases have to offer, which features are genuinely useful, and whether there are reasons to ditch the zip-lock.
I tested eight popular cycling brand phone wallets plus a couple of even more popular (and cheaper) alternatives. Yes, there are other (even more niche) offerings out there, and even more from outside the cycling fraternity. While I didn’t get to review them all, this article should offer you some valuable insight into features to look for and how to size for the occasion.
Want to skip straight to the test wallets and cases? Click the links below:
– Bellroy-MAAP All Conditions Phone Pocket
– Rapha Rainproof Essentials Case
– Zilfer Cycling Phone Wallet
– Silca Phone Wallet
– Attaquer Pocket Pouch
– Topeak Cycling Wallet
– Spurcycle Multi Pouch
– EVOC Phone Case
– PocPac plastic sleeve
– Zip-Lock (sandwich) bag
In less than a decade modern phones went from being low-cost drop-proof devices to objects that are seemingly more delicate and valuable than your family’s heirloom fine china. I used to throw my Nokia 3310 into a jersey with my keys and cash and never give it much thought. But you’ll likely cause damage to a modern smartphone with that approach.
Many of the cycling-focussed phone wallets on the market seek to work as a jersey pocket organiser. Many offer a protected sleeve for your phone, along with a separate area for small items like a credit card, a key, and some cash. They keep these valuables in a pocket-shaped case, free of rattles and risk of loss.
In some cases, these cases are shaped as such to reduce pocket bouncing and sagging, and it is possible for a phone case to help toward a more care-free ride. If you’re the type that reaches back every 10 minutes to check that your phone, keys and cash haven’t slipped out of your pocket, then a phone wallet may prove the perfect accessory.
There are a growing number of cycling phone wallets hitting the market, and like regular wallets, there’s plenty of variety.
These cycling wallets can be a little hit-and-miss for everyday usage. Most cycling wallets aim to conceal your phone for protection, however, in my opinion, this makes them a little tedious to use in daily social/work situations where fast access to your phone is required. However, wallets like those from Zilfer aim to be a true do-it-all everyday solution.
However, with all that said, we’re at the tipping point of technology where mobile phones are replacing the need for credit cards, ID, and even keys. Certain parts of the world are quickly becoming digital economies, and even the need to carry cash for coffee is diminishing.
Similarly, phones are starting to once again become more robust, and the latest crop of high-priced smartphones aren’t afraid of a little rainfall.
And with that, a number of these cases, while good for stashing a phone, can be used for carrying other things too. For example, both Rapha and Attaquer designed their phone cases to double up in stashing a road tube, a CO2 cannister, a multi-tool, a tyre lever, a key, and some cash into your pocket. The likes of SpurCycle just offer a pouch that can be used for whatever you like.
“But Dave,” I hear you ask, “haven’t you noticed that most new jerseys come with a zippered pocket for such small valuables?” It’s funny you mention it, and I have noticed this. Unfortunately, I’ve managed to lose my car key out of a zippered pocket mid-ride (the vertical type; it worked itself undone) and so I no longer fully trust those zippered pockets I can’t see.
Knowing whether your phone will fit into a particular case and if that case will fit into the pocket of your favourite jersey is obviously the trickiest part here. And in order to optimise for the latter, you’ll want to pick the smallest functional size wallet possible.
Unfortunately, there is no standard sizing for a jersey pocket and there are great variances between brands, models and sizes. Larger jerseys commonly feature larger pockets, as do more recreational fitting ones versus the latest crop of aero nipple-flashers. Many of the cycling phone wallets on the market will fit most jersey pockets, but it’s not a given with some of the wider cases. Generally you should be fine, but do watch out with some of the newer Plus-sized cases.
A number of cycling phone cases are available in two sizes. The “Regular” size is often designed for modern touchscreen smartphones such as the iPhone 6, 7, 8 (138 mm x 67 mm) and Samsung Galaxy S-series. Whereas the “Plus” and “XL” sized wallets are designed with newer phablet-type phones (often over 152×70 mm) in mind, such as the Samsung Galary A-series, Google Pixel XL or iPhone Plus.
Given that phone cases and stick-on accessories can change a phone’s dimensions, it’s best to measure your phone. If you’re too impatient for that, then PhoneSized offers a deep list of popular mobile phone sizes. Alternatively, your phone should fit a case as long as it’s approximately 10 mm smaller in length and width than the case’s external dimensions.
Arguably the most stylish and undeniably the most expensive on the test, the All Conditions Phone Pocket is a collaboration between Melbourne-based cycling clothing company MAAP and leather goods specialists Bellroy.
Made of “environmentally friendly” embossed leather, the case offers a soft-lined interior with a divided pocket for cards and cash. Things like keys or a patch kit can easily be squeezed in, while a large zipper pull makes it all easy to use with freezing hands and/or gloves. Water beads off the leather without issue and the zipper impressively only let through minimal moisture in my 15-second submersion test – your phone will be safe in this one in the event of a downpour.
Available in two sizes and a few colours, this is sure to be well-received if you’re looking to give a phone case as a gift. However, that leather does mean it’s a lot of money for what it does.
Good: Wonderful quality, dignified style, minimal but effective organisation, decent water resistance.
Bad: Price, take care when opening that phone doesn’t drop.
Price: US$102 / AU$149
Weight: 77 g (Plus size)
External sizing: 156 x 92 mm (Regular), 175 x 108 mm (Plus)
Maximum phone size: 146 x 82 mm (Regular), 168 x 90mm (Plus)
Rapha may not have been the first company to create a phone pouch for cycling, but it’s certainly the most prolific in the space. The British company’s latest offering, the Rainproof Essentials Case, is a far more economical option to the original leather choice.
This case offers a nylon exterior which along with the AquaGuard zipper proved to be pretty effective at resisting a complete submersion. Inside is a divided area along with a zippered pocket – perfect for storing your phone, cards, keys and some cash. Equally, this case can be used for carrying spares in place of a phone.
The styling of this one is elegant, the large zipper ring makes it easy to open, and there’s just not much not to like here. Even the price is more than fair.
Good: Effective storage organisation, durable design, easy to use, good water resistance, colour options.
Bad: Material is a touch slippery in hand.
Price: US$35 / AU$45
Weight: 52 g (Large)
External sizing: 150 x 90mm (Regular), 170 x 90 mm (Large)
Maximum phone size: 140 x 85 mm (Regular), 160 x 85 mm (Large)
The Australian-designed Zilfer offers a unique approach in that it’s a functional everyday phone wallet that’s made with cycling in mind, too. It’s made of a water-resistant coated material that offers space for your phone on one side, along with four cards slots and a sleeve on the other.
On the outside is a central zipper, designed for stashing your phone within it in case of a downpour, or alternatively, it can be used to hold a small key and cash. The pocket looks waterproof but really it’s only water resistant and won’t take kindly to a full submersion.
Still, this is a wallet that looks fairly stylish and offers easy, everyday access to your phone. It also happens to ship in a classy gift-style box and includes a carry bag that ironically makes a pretty good phone case in itself.
Note: Zilfer is currently only available in a single “regular” size, but come early next year the regular is getting a size update alongside the release of a Plus model. The sizing quoted is for the soon-to-be-released models. The existing model can fit phones up to 145 x 70 mm.
Good: Functional everyday wallet with thoughtful features, lightly padded construction, nice grippy material in hand, easy access to contents.
Bad: Didn’t pass submersion test (water does bead off exterior), outdated size option at time of publishing.
Price: US$50 / AU$70
Weight: 51 g
External sizing: 183 x 85 mm (Regular) and 200 x 95 mm (Plus)
Maximum phone size: 151 x 75 mm (Revised regular),160 x 80 mm (Plus)
With Silca’s signature duck-waxed canvas, there’s no mistaking who designed this one. The Silca Phone Wallet offers a number of truly unique features, such as a reflective band that fits over a jersey pocket and then clips back onto the bag via a magnet. Similarly, the inside reveals a dry bag (which creates a waterproof seal!) for the phone that still allows the touchscreen to be used.
Interestingly this is the widest case tested, and yet the internal dry bag won’t fit a Plus-sized phone. That width will create issues with some jersey pockets; with others it may result in bounce-free perfection.
Choose this one if you’re somewhat of a maximalist and want what’s effectively a miniature tablet organiser in your pocket.
Good: Nice construction, a true everyday-carry option, reflective loop, organised storage.
Bad: High weight and cumbersome width, the phone can be a little tricky to get in and out of dry bag pouch.
Price: US$39 / AU$76
Weight: 130 g
External sizing: 185 x 112 mm
Maximum phone size: 149 x 80 mm
Like the Zilfer, this comes in a branded box that you’d expect of a high-end bow-tie or similar accessory. The shape, internal divider, and zippered security pocket all point to Attaquer taking a large spoon full of inspiration from Rapha on this product.
However, while the Rapha offers impressive protection from water, this one seems to soak it up. The material wets through rather quickly, but surprisingly doesn’t let it into the case all that easily. The exterior material feels like a canvas, and it grips with the jersey pocket in a comforting and secure way. The lightly padded construction also seems to do a good job at muting rattly items within while providing comfort through the jersey.
Attaquer isn’t asking big money for its Pocket Pouch, and assuming the single sizing option works for you, it’s a decent choice.
Good: Simple and effective design, internal organisation, grippy exterior, good for phone or spares.
Bad: Only wallet tested that doesn’t bead water, a close copy to Rapha case.
Price: US$28 / AU$40
Weight: 40 g
External sizing: 155 x 95 mm
Maximum phone size: 151 x 84 mm
If Attaquer was inspired by Rapha’s case design, then Topeak is a straight-up fan of Bellroy-MAAP. Where MAAP chooses leather, Topeak uses a DWR-treated 600D polyester outer, and that’s where the differences seemingly end. Topeak has even merged that polyester with a strip of leather.
Inside you’ll find an almost exact copy of MAAP’s simple but effective internal layout, albeit with a non-scratch liner that’s not quite as soft or grippy. Still, this wallet is priced at the premium end and overall feels like a nice item to use.
However, that DWR coating is sure to wear off with use (especially if used as an everyday carry) and will need maintenance to ensure water beads off the surface. And even when new this wallet does little to stop the water from flooding through the zipper joins if submerged.
Note: The Topeak Cycling Wallet is only available in select markets such as Germany, Australia and Japan. Check with your local distributor for availability.
Good: Quality construction with useful interior, modern phone sizing with choice of black or grey.
Bad: Water protection requires maintenance, not waterproof, expensive.
Price: US$N/A / AU$90
Weight: 60 g (4.7 in)
External sizing: 156 x 85 mm (4.7 in), 170 x 92 mm (5.5 in)
Maximum phone size: 150 x 79 mm (4.7 in), 164 x 86 mm (5.5in)
Best known for its brilliant bells, Spurcycle has its name on a few other basic but useful accessories – the titanium bit-based multitool is one, and the American-made MultiPouch is another.
A phone’s screen can be operated through this semi-transparent Dyneema pouch. That material is perhaps best known in cycling for its use in the uppers of Specialized S-Works shoes, but its applications as a wonder-fibre are far wider-reaching. In Spurcycle’s case, the pouch is designed specifically for cycling and isn’t intended for the abusive abrasion of denim pockets. And with that, the complete function over form is easily excused.
This zippered pouch offers no internal organisation, but it does offer a snap button on each corner which allows you to effectively split it in half to keep sharp objects away from the delicate ones. I was able to fit a road inner tube on one end, with the other end holding a tool and CO2 cannister – all folded to easily fit into any jersey pocket.
It’s the simplicity and feathery weight that I like most. Just don’t expect it to keep your belongings dry if you end up crossing a river – it failed that test.
Good: Versatile pouch with easy sizing options, interesting material choice, spare room for future larger phones.
Bad: No internal dividers, not as waterproof as it looks.
Price: US$29 / AU$45
Weight: 11 g
External sizing: 191 x 121 mm
Maximum phone size: 180 x 115 mm
EVOC’s Phone Case is different from the others in this test in that it’s designed for carrying your phone off the shoulder strap of a backpack. It offers a well-padded and soft-lined interior, a sturdy velcro strap, and pretty much nothing else.
It’s sizing is somewhat dated and my iPhone XR only just fit into the XL version. Certainly Plus phone users should keep looking.
If you ride with a backpack and want your phone out of the way but also at easy reach, then this one is well worth consideration. Hard pass if want a phone case or wallet for any other purpose.
Good: Well padded, attaches to backpack strap, soft lining.
Bad: Limited usefulness beyond backpack carrying, not for submersion.
Price: US$25 / AU$35
Weight: 64 g (XL size)
External sizing: 155 x 75 mm (L), 160 x 80 mm (XL)
Maximum phone size: 148 x 70 mm (L), 152 x 75 mm (XL)
PocPac make what’s effectively a very nice version of the plastic phone cases that were commonly handed out as promotional items just a few years ago. In many ways these are the more durable version of a zip-lok bag, and provide almost as good water protection while still allowing the phone screen to be operated.
The PocPac cases offer a zipper-style closure while an internal dividing sleeve keeps keys, cards and cash away from your phone.
Whether it’s a generic version or one from PocPac, my personal experience has been a little hit-and-miss with this style of case. The durability and ease of closure is certainly better than a zip-lock bag, but either the closure or seams have proven to be weak points with age.
Good: Almost as waterproof as a zip-lock bag, touchscreen can still be operated, more durable than zip-lock bag.
Bad: Inconsistent reliability.
Price: Approx US$13 / AU$20
Weight: 10 g (varies)
External sizing: Variable
Maximum phone size: Variable
The thrifty option. It’s truly waterproof, allows you to operate the touchscreen with the phone stashed, is available in a huge variety of sizes and can be bought in bulk.
But here’s the issue with the thrifty option. It makes you look thrifty. And all that money you spent on matching your socks to your jersey is undone the second you go to pay for your piccolo with a creased plastic bag as a wallet.
Ok, so reasons of vanity are not the real issue of zip-lock bags. They’re certainly not as durable as a dedicated case, and so you’ll be slowly adding to landfill every few weeks (but hey, it may still be less than the packaging supplied with the dedicated phone cases). They offer no impact protection for your phone or organisation to small items like keys and cash. And any sharp objects stashed can indeed rattle, poke and prod you as you ride.
Still, that’s a pretty short negatives list for a product that costs a few cents (or can be found in your neighbour’s bins) – and so it’s no wonder that so many of the CT staffers continue to choose the humble zip-lock bag.
Good: Waterproof, can easily use a touchscreen when stored, re-usable, lowest cost
Bad: Lacking in impact protection, no internal organisation, can be a little poky and rattly, durability.
Price: Variable, but easily under 50c.
Weight: 1-3 g
External sizing: Variable
Maximum phone size: Variable
There are no bad options in the selection tested. So much of this choice will come down to personal needs and style, and whether you want something that can pull your phone and wallet into one item. And if all you want is waterproof protection for your phone, then the humble zip-lock bag remains a truly valid choice.
My ideal use for a cycling wallet (or case) is for combining a bunch of rattly things you don’t want to lose while making it easy to grab and go for a ride. For me, that’s my house key, perhaps some cash, a small bit-based multitool and a Dynaplug. My phone is waterproof and offers payment functionality, and I’m quite content with just dropping it into its own jersey pocket where I can access it quickly.
For my usage, I’ve found the padded nature and internal organisation of the Attaquer and Rapha cases to be quite good at reducing rattles and pocket bounce of all the small bits – and it’s an expense that leads to a little luxury over a simple plastic bag. Rapha’s case offers better water-shedding, but I prefer the Attaquer’s rougher external material for its additional grip inside of a jersey pocket. Lastly, Spurcycle’s Multi Pouch also impressed me for its sheer minimalism.
MAAP’s phone wallet offers two internal pockets – one of which is perfectly sized for a couple of cards.
A look inside the Topeak Cycling Wallet reveals an almost exact match to MAAP’s design.
The Zilfer cycling wallet features a water resistant pocket on the outside. This is sized to carry a phone in the event of a downpour, but can also be used to stash keys and other small valuables.
Rapha’s Essential Phone Case offers generous room and clever dividers. A zippered pocket is ideal for small change and a key, while the simple sleeve saves your phone from your other items.
Attaquer’s wallet offers the same internal divider design as Rapha. No points for originality, but it does work a treat.
Silca’s Phone Wallet is the widest on test and is often a snug fit with most jersey pockets. The reflective loop with a magnetic button that clips over your jersey pocket is a nice touch.