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Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack review

15 Feb 2018
Verdict:

Early contender for product of the year, the Thule Commuter Backpack leaves you searching for a downside, then you realise it's a bit small

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£129.99
For 
Comfortable on and off the bike; great everyday carry thanks to pockets and sections; sleek, stealthy design
Against 
A larger capacity option as part of a wider range might be good, but the brand offers a pannier range to cover this

Buy now from Tredz

In truth, wearing a backpack to commute isn't that good an idea. At the very least the rider will get a sweaty back, but choose badly and a pack could cause discomfort and even hinder safety if it affects a rider's ability to look over their shoulders. The ideal solution is of course the humble rack-mounted pannier (or perhaps frame-slung bikepacking luggage).

But few road bikes have the means of attachment for panniers and aren't an option for those using folding bikes or hire schemes.

This all means that backpacks are back in the picture as a means of getting a clean change of clothes and a laptop to the office, and the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack is a near-perfect example.

So close to being spot on in fact, that I almost discarded a Cyclist rule about only giving full marks to products with zero faults. Although minor, a gripe there was so I'll cover that first.

Capacity

The only thing I've found to say that's wrong with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack, so far, is its capacity. I'm not known for travelling light - so that should be taken into account - but during these winter months I have struggled to get everything I need in the bag, like a big coat and heavier footwear.

I've found the best way to ride to work is on my winter bike with a small pannier containing footwear and a winter coat, with everything else easily carried in the Thule backpack.

For days when I don't ride all the way to the office, whether entirely on public transport or a combination of folding bike and bus, the bag excels.

Thule's offering moves on to the Pack 'n Pedal pannier range after this backpack, so anyone - like me - looking to lug all sorts of stuff back and forth from the office may want to consider something from that line instead (or indeed, as well as).

Computer

This capacity issue is probably niche anyway, and only really applied to the main body of the pack. Inside there is a removable, padded laptop sleeve that allows a computer to be stored quickly even when the rest of the bag is packed to the seams.

The sleeve has some subsidiary pockets for accessories and furthers its scope as a standalone item.

Closure

The image of the bag above, taken directly from Thule's press material, shows the top closure clipped into the sides of the bag.

This approach works best when the bag is filled to capacity, but my own preference for lighter loads is to twist the roll-top and short-circuit the closure by clipping it to itself, leaving the side buckles unused.

This has the added and originally unintended benefit of providing a makeshift carry handle which is a lot easier to get to grips with than the coat rack hook.

Comfort

At all contact points - the shoulders, the back panel and the front clips - this bag has structure and padding in all the right places.

Hidden in the back of the bag is a small zipped compartment containing the rain cover. If folded incorrectly, this rain cover can make a bulge of discomfort for the lower back, but done properly and you don't know it's there.

The rain cover itself is a bit of belt and braces as the main fabric is said to be waterproof anyway, but the cover also brings some reflective detailing and a loop to attach and additional rear light.

Lids and lenses

Great for travelling or on the non-cycling part of a mixed-mode commute, the front helmet pouch is a great feature. It's key benefit for me over the backpack the Thule has replaced is the avoidance of a helmet swinging around off the bottom of the shoulder strap when I'm walking along.

The net itself may benefit from being slightly longer so as to leave less of the helmet exposed to knocks and scrapes, and make its hold more secure.

Next to the helmet net is a hard case with a half-zip that is ideal for storing glasses. Thule pushes it as somewhere to put anything from smartphones to sunglasses, but for me it has become home to the case of my cycling glasses (double-cased once in the bag, another belt-and-braces).

This has saved me from having to rummage around for my glasses case at the end of the day when wanting to don my cycling glasses for the commute home.

The glasses compartment is one of three outer-pockets, the larger of which contains smaller sub-pockets, which adds to the overall convenience offered by the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack as somewhere to store your keys or mini-pump.

Conclusion

The Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Backpack has become a near-constant feature on my back when I'm out and about, whether cycling or on foot to and from the train station.

It's not far off being the ideal backpack but is let down slightly, for me at least, by the tight capacity on offer in the main compartment.

That aside, the rest of the storage pockets are well placed and easily accessed, and all in all this is a solid option for anyone needing a new bag to lug a clean shirt and laptop to and from the office.

Buy now from Tredz