Tuesday 8 November 2011

The Ultimate Cycle Commute Rucksack?

There are two distinct camps of cycle commuters. I'm not talking about those that want to cycle on the roads and those that want lanes. That's for another blog post. I'm talking about a far more contentious division.

Panniers or rucksack!?!

You have to get stuff to work, and unfortunately you sometimes have to bring work home. But how do you get it there? Some cyclists swear by Panniers as the answer. You will certainly have less issues with sweaty back syndrome. However, I am proud to be a Rucksack wearer, and have been since I started commuting.

So if you fall into the Rucksack crew, I can heartily recommend a rucksack.

The Deuter Trans Alpine 30. Trans Alpine? Remember I cycle in Scotland!

Seriously though this has been an amazing bag for me.

How many times have you read a review saying something was amazing only to find out that the reviewer had only had the item for 2 weeks?! Can you trust reviews like that? Rest assured this is no short term use review. I have in fact been cycle commuting with this rucksack since October 2006. The same one throughout.

I have had this bag just over 5 years. Think about that. That's 5 summers, and 5 winters. I've had this bag longer than I have been filming my rides with a helmet camera! It's been rained on, snowed on, I've came off my bike (a few times) with it on. It has been on my back in temperatures of 28C and temperatures of -15C. Over that time I have cycled many thousands of miles. It has taken a beating.

So what about the bag itself?

It's not a small bag, and that is exactly why I bought it. I needed space, as I tend to carry quite a bit. It's not unusual for me to be carrying, clothes for work, shoes for work, a note book or two, wallet, spare cycling jacket, spare batteries, tubes, multi-tool, puncture repair kit, water, mobile phone etc. So it can carry a lot! It has a nice number and nicely proportioned compartments and very importantly for the poor weather a rain cover (that is Hi-Vis yellow).

It also fits very well with restraining straps on the main shoulder straps and around the users waist. Once it's on I forget it is there. Do I get a sweaty back? Of course I do, but its not too bad, and with the Airstripes system, better than average. Mind you, it doesn't really bother me, and I think it is a price worth paying for the convenience of a rucksack.

Here is what it looks like new.
Looks good new...

So what does it look like now, having been through all weathers etc? Not too bad!

Ok, so it's understandably a bit tatty, but pretty good considering its use. Most importantly it has plenty of life left in it.

So how much is the 'ultimate commute rucksack'? Currently it is just over £80 from Amazon. Not cheap, but for a bag that does what it should and is built to last, its a good investment.

UpdateJan 213
Chain Reaction  are doing these bags at an excellent price of £65.99. A bargain at that price.


  1. Nice one! I'm in the backpack camp, mainly as my commute bike is my (occasional) Sunday bike so putting racks on it was a no no ;-)
    I've been through 2 so far, first was a Bikehut bag that was actually rather nifty. Came with a drinks bladder and the main backpack could seperate from the smaller bladder holder section :-) Eventually got rid of it when the zip that held the 2 together gave up completely. It was also rather small given the bulky laptop I had for work.

    Have since purchased a much larger bag from a local store called Clas Ohlson, a fanstastic store that is like the bastard lovechild of Ikea and Argos :-) Plenty of space and rather comfortable. My only complaint so far was that during the monsoon we had a few months back bits inside did get a little wet, thankfully the laptop wasn't being transported that evening :-P

    I guess if/when this one gives up I'll defo bear this bag in mind :-)

  2. Almost 4 years with a Deuter Race Exp Air here - like you, in all weathers and it's been landed on a few times too. Still in cracking shape like yours. Mine was just over £40 but has been worth every penny!

  3. Humm, reminds my why I use panniers... ;-)

  4. Mark, I forgot to add, it has certainly been used in rain and I've never had anything wet inside. The cover works a treat. :-)

    Goo, yes that's a smaller version. I need the space. Must do more work than you... ;-)

    Kim, I thought you'd pop your head in. Surprised you didn't provide a panniers is better tba rucksack link.... :-)

  5. The key for me is whether it is waterproof and my Ortlieb Sling-It is about 5 years old and has never leaked. It's comfortable, spacious and takes the bangs.

    Not every likes the single shoulder bag, but I think it's comfortable and wouldn't swap it for anything!

  6. I'm a pannier fan myself as I feel more free not having something on my back.

    I am really pleased with my Topeak beam rack and MTX trunk bag. The rack has a clamp that fits around the seat post and can be fitted and removed in seconds, so I use it for commuting but take it off if going out for a lunch time ride.
    This also means that I can easily use it on any bike.

    The bag is not huge but enough for me and easily clips onto the rack securely. It comes with a detachable shoulder strap which I keep in one of the side pouches.

    I paid £40 for the rack and £60 for the bag, so not cheap, but I love the convenience.

  7. Deuter make great rucksacks. They are designed by a number of active climbers so they know what features are important. I am a walker / climber and cyclist. I recently set out to do the Black Cullin ridge on the Isle of Skye and needed a good climbing pack. I got an Dueter Guide 45 off ebay, in brand new unused condition for £70 (bargain as they are normally £140). I have to say it is a fine bit of kit. Lots of very useful features and very good quality. The zips, for example, see to be industrial strength. The Dueter gear may not be the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. I completed my ridge attempt sucessfully, the pack certainly contributing to the success as it was simply superb.

  8. I've got a Timbuk2 courier bag that's five years old, used literally every day on and off the bike.. Never leaked, nothing broke, and it looks literally the same as the day I got it. And it was second hand when I got it, so I've no idea how old it really is.

    Its been through a few scrapes including being used as a kind of pack sledge containing a heavy load being dragged over some ice! The cordura is pretty abrasion resistant.

    Courier bags may be posey, and shoulder bags are an acquired taste, but real courier bags are undoubtedly extremely well made.

  9. I use panniers. I used to use a backpack but as the academic year goes on I sadly seem to gather more books etc. I also need a change of clothes and everything else a girl needs to transform herself fom cyclist to a normal person as my college has no showering or locker facilities!!

  10. I'm always slightly baffled by the sight of someone on a lightweight roadbike with skinny tyres, no mudguards, wearing special cycling clothes who then also wears a backpack. Having the load inefficiently moving along with the natural movements in the upper body whilst cycling seems massively at odds with the desire for maximum performance in all the other choices made in bicycle and associated attire and gear. Almost as if somewhere perspective has been lost somewhat...

  11. LOL! No loss of perspective, just a lack of cash to buy a bike that I could use for sportives and for commuting. Don't want panniers on a sportive bike! :-)

  12. I've used both in the past. For panniers, I use a removable rack from deltacycle.com called a "Megarack Post Porter Seatpost Pannier Rack." It's stable and comes off easily when I want to go out for fun.

    I followed this link looking for reviews of the Trans Alpine 30. I've using a backpack more since I've been too lazy to use my panniers. Thanks for the review.

  13. Excellent everyone. What about a bag that can take a 17inch Laptop and still retain all the "aero" features of these packs, or is there just the office on the back bags? and yes I have the slick bike, cycle specific clothes and huge bag on the back, why? Cash. Though at least I now know where to look for a bag to replace my 14 year old North Face! Thanks.

  14. When I have to take my 17 inch HP laptop (v heavy) home I use a Wenger 17" laptop rucksack. Normally a good price from misco.co.uk and I got my firm to buy it. Durable rucksack had no problems with it for 2 years. Duncan