GROUPTEST: Urban Backpacks

While messenger bags may be widly regarded as the ultimate companion for any urban cyclist, backpacks are a practical, versatile (and might we add quite stylish) way of carrying all your daily necessities when traveling by bike, and today's there's more choice than ever on the market.

The LCC team tests the latest urban backpacks to help you find your perfect pack:

BROOKS Hackney £155
Capacity (litres): 24-30L
Weight: 940g
Dimensions (cm): 30 x 47-55 x 16

Brooks saddles have long been favourites with cycling fashionistas (as well as many diehard tourers and endurance riders) and its bag range is aimed squarely at this market; the Hackney sits in the middle both in terms of price and capacity. The canvas-style main textile is claimed to be waterproof but we should stress the bag itself isn’t; we found the seams aren’t sealed and can leak so used a plastic bag to hold valuables on rainy days. There’s a laptop compartment and three inner pockets, plus a further two outside. The capacity’s big enough for a small supermarket shop, with the roll-top allowing it to expand, but lack of padding on the straps proved uncomfortable with heavier loads over longer distances — it’s very much an ‘about town’ bag in our eyes. We particularly like our ‘lime-flecked’ sample’s colour, but there’s four other options if this one doesn’t float your boat. SD

Capacity (litres): 25L
Weight: 1.3kg
Dimensions (cm): 32 x 46 x 17

‘Why didn’t anyone else think of that?’ Our first thought on seeing the retro toe-strap on the Rydal’s main compartment; it’s functional, witty and a nod to the company’s cycling heritage. Another neat touch are shoulder straps made from car seatbelt webbing. They’ve not scrimped on the heavy-duty waterproof cotton duck fabric or substantial leather base either, as it withstood 30 minutes under the shower as an initial test. The tartan-lined interior is closed with a drawcord and we found it could swallow two large box files. Externally there’s two pockets, a minimally padded back panel, carry handle and LED light loop. Surprisingly we didn’t miss a chest-strap because the pack sat firmly, albeit a little higher on the back than usual. Overall, it’s hats off to Carradice for making a pack which shares the quality of its saddlebags. TB

Capacity (litres): 20L
Weight: 500g
Dimensions (cm): 29 x 16-41 x 14

By far the lightest of the packs in this test, the Harbor also has a different feel and construction, more akin to a super-stylish, waterproof pannier. The incredibly tough nylon fabric features a rain-repelling membrane and welded seams; not a drop of rain has penetrated inside even during torrential showers, a real godsend when carrying expensive tablets and cameras. The roll-top and side compression straps use metal hook closures, there’s a waterproof external pocket for wallet, keys and small items, while inside there’s a removable laptop sleeve (15in Macbooks fit fine) with organiser pockets. The straps are strong but perhaps not the most ergononically-shaped and the back panel is lightly padded. It’s perfectly stable when riding around town, though seems to sit best when half-full and the loose base insert can be taken out. Functionally it’s top drawer, however there’s no escaping that premium price tag. JK

Capacity (litres): 20L
Weight: 1.1g
Dimensions (cm): 30 x 46 x 13

Compared to the larger 40-litre MW packs we’ve tested over the years, the Sanction is a more ‘everyday’ option with so many clever storage ideas that we had to double-check its stated capacity. The outer’s made from a robust cotton canvas that easily resists scuffs and showers, the back panel has a mesh-covered foam pad (you can still get a little clammy though), the shoulder straps are wide and well-shaped, and the foldover closure is adjusted using Velcro strips and buckles. The entire interior is lined with tarp-like waterproof material, as is the zipped laptop compartment, while there’s also two waterproof external pockets, one large open stasher and a lower pocket that we’ve been using to hold a midsize D-lock. Fully laden with electronics, spare clothes, bike spares and lunch, it feels comfy and doesn’t sway around when you throw the bike into quick turns. A lifetime warranty adds icing to the cake. Very impressive.  JK

REVIEWS: John K, Tom Bogdanowicz, Stewart Dring

Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash