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Osprey Radial backpack review

17 Dec 2019
Verdict:

A bulky pack but not without reason - the Osprey Radial incorporates a lot of neat features

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
‘LidLock’ helmet attachment • ‘Airspeed’ suspended back panel
Against 
Bulky • No dedicated bottle holder • One or two odd pocket options

The backpack is an essential accessory on a commute despite it invariably causing the rider to arrive at their destination with a sweaty back, having cut off all airflow to the area. Provided the rest of the bag is well-designed, it is the only major drawback to an otherwise invaluable tool.

Osprey has been making well-designed backpacks for years, so in the Radial it has attempted to innovate out this last disadvantage by building in its ‘Airspeed’ design feature.

 

‘Airspeed’ is a ventilated, suspended mesh back panel that projects the main body of the backpack off the user’s back by a couple of centimetres. Osprey says this dramatically increases airflow during commutes, which helps mitigate the clammy feeling of a sweaty back during and after use.

In practice I would say by and large the concept works. On regular commutes of 20-30 minutes - while my back did get sweatier than if I were not wearing a backpack at all - I noticed a significant improvement in ventilation to my back. Consequently I felt less localised heat and moisture buildup underneath the backpack.

 

The Radial is more than just a one trick pony though, it also blends several other neat features into its design. First and foremost is the ‘LidLock’ design - this is an elasticated, rubberised clip that feeds through a helmet vent and secures it against the backpack.

Buy the Osprey Radial rucksack from Blacks

This may have been my favourite feature. While the minimalist clip leaves the helmet exposed compared to bag/sling type storage solutions, it grips helmet polycarbonate very securely and retracts away neatly, becoming unnoticeable when not in use.

 

The Radial has more pocket variations than you could shake a stick at. Split between two main compartments (the first of which is can be unzipped and expanded, increasing the backpack’s capacity from 26 litres to 34 litres) there is a padded laptop sleeve, scratch-free sunglasses pocket, stash pocket, internal zippered shoe compartment and a comprehensive configuration of ‘organiser’ pockets at the front of the backpack.

Most of the pockets are a hit, but one or two could do with a little refinement. There is no dedicated external pocket for a water bottle - I took to shoving one in the stretchy side pocket but that didn’t feel particularly secure and was a pain to remove.

Granted Osprey would say it wasn’t designed for a water bottle and riders would have cages on the bike for bottle storage, but it would be nice to have dedicated space on the backpack for a bottle when using the backpack outside of commuting by bike.

 

Furthermore the front pocket, despite possessing voluminous capacity, only has a narrow stretch opening for access which makes inserting items that would otherwise fit nicely unnecessary difficult. It would be good to see this opening exchanged for a wider zip closure.

While I am on the zips, it should be said that the YKK zips used on the bag are unfailingly high quality. They seem robust and are very easy and comfortable to use.

The strap system attached the the ‘Airspeed’ panel is well thought out. The shoulder straps are lightweight and breathable, yet well padded and wide, and incorporate both chest and waist closure. The chest closure integrates an emergency whistle in the male portion of the clasp too, which is ingenious. There are myriad adjustment options so with a little trial and error I was able to nail down the fit of the backpack, making it utterly secure on my back while riding.

Buy the Osprey Radial rucksack from Blacks

A feature that aided that secure fit was Osprey’s use of an ‘integrated kickstand’ which is basically a hollow aluminium chassis running through the pack. It helps the backpack keep its shape and allows it to stay upright while on the ground.

 

Find out more: ospreyeurope.com 

Knowing the backpack wouldn’t tip when placed on the ground is a nice advantage that is useful in practice when I came to search for items within, pack the bag and even store it. The skeleton does add some bulk and weight to the bag (it weighs 1.5kg empty) but I’d say the advantages of the feature more than offset the penalties of its inclusion.

The Radial’s body fabric easily shrugs off the odd shower but for protection from more prolonged downpours the backpack has a hi-vis raincover tucked away discreetly. It is yet another neat feature which is nicely integrated and well executed - a fitting metaphor for the performance of the backpack in general.

Price: 
£130