34L £140 ospreyeurope.com
The modern day commuter has a lot to contend with on a daily basis. If it's not potholes, it's bad drivers. If it's not the rain, it's the heat. If it's not a flat tyre at the start of the day, it's the flat battery for your light when you're about to go home. So when it comes to the right commuting bag, you need something which will make your life a little easier in very little way. Let us re-introduce you to Osprey, the Swiss army knife of rucksacks with probably their most commuter friendly bag yet...
Love a bag here at NITP HQ. We've been commuting by bike now for around 6 years and we have gone through a good range of bags, some cheap and cheerful, some a little bit pricey and not adaptable enough for our daily requirements. Because it's not all about look, you have think about what do I need to carry, even the type of clothes you wear effects your decision. Stuffing a hoodie inside is much different to a neatly folded shirt and trousers which will take up less room. Then there's compartments like personal valuables, is it accessible for me but in a safe place so that some little tea leaf won't help themselves to my finances for the day?!
The Radial is Osprey's latest offering for the commuting market. It's stealth, a good size and with many zips comes many questions as to which door to Narnia will it open?! It's a 34 litre, we know this not because we poured 34 1L bottles of water in to prove it (really?!), it's clearly labelled on the side! The Radial comes in a choice of two colours, the stealth black or the bold red. The lack of colour choices is probably explained by the integrated and detachable rain cover which features quite commonly now on their other models such as the Escapist that we reviewed last year. We will confess, we still haven't unpacked this yet but as you will find out, the external layer of the bag does well in the wet.
The USP of this particular bag though must be the kickstand. It's probably one of the annoyances the commuter can do without, rummaging through a packed bag trying to find that odd sock as the bag is wedged in between your feet to stop it from falling. Like a well drilled toddler, this bag claims to stand by itself...
It just happened to be the weekend of Revolve24 when the Radial arrived so we thought why not, let's take it on a blind test. We literally avoided knowing anything about the bag and it's features. This was a bit risky as we had a bit of kit to carry. We took along our KitBrix for our bike tools and electricals etc. so we packed our cycling clothes and anything else we could fit in. One thing we noticed quite quickly was that the bag was not a fan of being made to bulk out. It's deep vertically but we believe because of the integrated kickstand structure, it doesn't like to stretch out horizontally. Not a massive issue as it makes you PPA (teacher term - plan, prepare and assess) what you're packing. You better up your folding game as it's more of a game of jenga then stuffing everything your own for a round the world travelling trip. The upside to this and again due to the kickstand, is that the bag will stand by itself and your content is packed neatly and in an organised fashion as a result. It does look a little smug when you prop it up against it's fallen comrades especially in the pit garage at Revolve.
Now, obviously at Revolve24 we didn't ride around Brands Hatch with the bag on our back, that would of been weird and not very aero friendly. Who wants to climb with extra weight up Druids?! So we swapped over bags for the work run, we've already been made aware that this bag will require some planning with organising content. Our size 9 loathers were the first thing to enter, we're not a fan of putting your shoes on top of your clothes in case you mark them with a bit of hidden dog poo but also because it puts stresses on the zips if it's a full bag you're packing. Our neatly folded shirt, tie, socks and boxers neatly wrapped in our trousers were next. This filled up 2/3s of the bag so still plenty of room for lunch. We also learnt the wrap or sandwich lunch had no problems lying on top but once I changed to a tub of pasta for example, the resistance from the bag showed it's fist. It fits but it's tighter on the zips than we liked it to be.
The rear of the bag has a mesh covering, this is to help with ventilation. On a hot summer day, that sweat dripping down your back will soak through your clothes and onto the straps and the bag itself. Not washed, you are left with an off smell or an odd colouring. For your work colleagues, this will shout Rab C Nesbitt (if you don't know, get on UK Gold - what's that? They've stopped airing?! How old am I?!!). It's Autumn turning a bit Winter currently, the heat will not be an issue but you will still sweat especially if you're over dressed. We are in the middle of baselayer weather in the morning and short sleeve afternoons but you want to make sure your bag is kept as hygienic as you. When it has rained, it's been quite impressive, the water has just rolled off and thankfully our clothes for the day are saved from embarrassing wet patches! We have even forgotten it has it's own rain cover stowed away!
If you ride on the drops with your head down for most of the commute, this is not much of an issue. But we noticed when we did prop our head back. the rear of our helmet would press on the top of the bag. Again, small annoyance solved by relieving the straps so the bag sits lower on the back. Personally, this is not ideal for us as in the past we have suffered from a lower back and having a tight rucksack with a higher placement on our back helps immensely. Safe to say, if you wear your TT helmet to work, this is not the bag for you!!!
Picking up a full Radial, it does feel heavy. You have to remind yourself that the kickstand structure has been designed to be strong enough to counteract any weight from the front to prevent tipping. Whilst riding, the weight of the bag spreads easily across the back, there's no lopsidedness that I have experienced with other bags. Thumbs up, nothing more irritating than a bag trying to do the floss behind you as you're concentrating on your surroundings!
As we've said before, Osprey are the Swiss army knife of rucksacks, for all the features they tell you about, you often find another hidden compartment or different uses for them. One thing we didn't take advantage of in previous Osprey bags we have owned is the inclusion of the Lid Lock helmet attachment feature. Attached on a stretchy cord, you thread the lid between the air vents on your helmet and you never have to search again for your bike helmet. Only downside we found to this that with a full bag and too much weight at the front, the kickstand can be compromised.
This next section is for our good pal Nick Boyle who gives us grief at our now past saddle bags. We rarely now use them not just because of peer pressure (and we must agree, it does make the bike look better but would rather have a full kit of tools if we ever got stranded in the middle of nowhere than making sure our Insta' game is on point!). The Radial includes a neat little section specifically for your inner tubes, tyre levers and multi tool. I've also thrown in some spare lights and a gel or two. One thing we would recommend would be maybe a small LED light inside that compartment as we did get a puncture a week ago and the light was fading, a small light inside would of helped finding what we needed.
We have mentioned before that hygiene can be an issue so we have learnt to carry a mini bag of man stuff on us to freshen up. Our place of work does not have showers and as it's usually a 30 minute ride in, it wouldn't be practical to shower then dress only then to commute home in the same cycling gear we wore in the morning. In our KitBrix man bag, you will find a deodorant, hair product, beard oil (essential!), moisturiser (also essential to take of that lovely skin of ours!) and a bit of deep freeze in case of any niggles especially when it comes to our lower back. We've adopted the front compartment for our man bag and it fits just about right. Planning with this bag will result in saving time, not having to rummage through clothes to find a deodorant which is probably on it's last spray!
When it comes to personal belongings (keys and wallet mainly), you don't want to leave yourself vulnerable to theft or even the simplest case of them falling out of a side pocket you haven't closed. We found the compartment in front of the laptop sleeve the ideal place. The pocket is deep to fit keys, wallet, ID card for work and our Wahoo when we're not riding (never leave it on the bike!). If the bag is full to the brim though, the pocket can become squashed which makes it a little squeeze to grab the keys out and go. A slight criticism with the outer layer of the bag is the zips themselves. No problem with them working but as the compartments are found quite close together and all the zip rings are the same, we sometimes open up the wrong section. First world problem for sure, in all honesty, it doesn't bother us but for those with a slight OCD condition, it might play on your mind. We are slightly disappointed with the restriction of only one bottle pocket, the Escapist gave you two and whilst we used our bottle cages for our bidons when we were riding, on hot days, carrying two bottles around neatly tucked away on the side of your bag was very helpful and appreciated.
Verdict? More like recommendations for the next model! Let's get the issue of price out the way. At £140, it's pricey, no denying it, but what you get with an Osprey is an investment. The Radial has a lot going for it. Our other Ospreys are still going strong after a few years, just oil marks from our own grubby bike hands letting it down.
Like we said, little tweaks here and there would just put the icing on the cake. The zip rings could do with a slight colour code (even if it was a small strip to identify each compartment would be handy). A small interior light for the bike tools pocket will get a massive thumbs up from us. The re-inclusion of another bottle holder would be grateful especially if you're a commuter/hiker. We're even wondering what's stopping Osprey offering customised colour options, at the end of the day, the consumer will be wearing it so giving it that personalisation option might appeal to the hipster commuters.
All in all, Osprey have really thought about the demands and requirements of a commuter's daily life, the Radial defines practical, just as the word refers to the radius of a circle, it's an definitely an all rounder...