Commuting to work by bike sounds like a great idea until you lean over the handlebars and your backpack, heavy with a laptop, slides down your back and bonks you on the back of the head. Or maybe you want to bike to the gym, but your gym duffel bag keeps swinging off your shoulder and hanging under your belly like a baby sling, knocking against your top tube.
Having the right equipment makes using your bike as a means of daily transportation far easier. That’s why we love the Osprey Radial 34, a backpack purpose-built for bike commuting. The pack combines the ergonomic needs of gripping your handlebars and pedaling your legs with features that work well with you as you move, and organization that makes it as easy to use in your office as it is in the bike lane.
The Radial’s greatest advantage over standard backpacks comes in its fit and suspension system. It uses ventilated shoulder straps and Airspeed back suspension to allow airflow through the necessary points of contact and down your back. The pack doesn’t actually rest directly on your back, rather a mesh layer touches your back and the pack floats about an inch above that. This limits the drenched-back-sweat-shadow that comes with standard backpacks even on cool days. The hip belt grabs the side of your hips to keep the pack from moving but only crosses your torso with a minimal nylon strap. The pack also has adjustment straps, like load lifters, that are more common on backpacking packs than cycling bags, to help you distribute your load properly. And the entire suspension system adjusts to fit the length of your torso. It all combines to give you a fit that locks into place while keeping you cool and comfortable.
The pack’s external features continue the theme of ease of use and comfort. A clever “Lidlock” attaches your helmet to the pack when you’re off your bike by pulling it with a short elastic loop and plastic chip that pushes through the helmet vent. It works like a tool belt tape chain. A stretch side water bottle and zipper pockets are easily accessible while riding to hydrate or grab your keys. And a stretch rear pocket is great for stuffing in a raincoat or bunch of bananas. If it does rain, the pack’s built-in rain cover pulls out from the bottom and over the entire pack. The pack is also covered in subdued reflective material that pops when it catches car lights, and if you want to be seen more you can add a blinky light to the light loop sewn low on the back of the pack.
The inside of the pack is similarly well designed, with the most noticeable feature being a “kickstand” in the bottom that allows the pack to stand upright on its own, empty or full. It makes looking for your lock or pen without your pack tipping over and spilling all over the street far easier. Our favorite feature, though, is a spacious interior pocket big enough for a pair of shoes and a change of clothes. Whether you want to change when you get to work, bring a spare set of gym clothes, or just not walk around in your dirty riding shoes, the pocket can accommodate it all.
The rest of the pack’s interior more closely resembles a standard work backpack with a padded laptop sleeve, magazine pouch, two separate large zippered compartments, smaller internal organizational pockets and sleeves, and padded pocket for sunglasses or electronics. The pack also adjusts to your space needs with an expansion zipper that adds or takes away 10 liters of empty space in the main compartment.
All in all, the Osprey Radial 34 is a tremendous commuter pack that moves the way you do and has the features you actually need at a desk. It’s the rare example of a piece of gear that does two specific tasks without compromise. When we return to the office this is what we will be using, and in the meantime, this is how we will do our errands around town, head to the grocery store, or go do our work in the park.
$180; orange or black; osprey.com