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Road Tests

Road Tests :: SLICKS Suit25 Backpack

by , March 4, 2011

A purpose built backpack for the cycling commuter

For as much as we may try to restrain ourselves, a ride to work usually results in a at least a few traffic light drag races (and the inevitable sweats that follow). If you don’t much enjoy smelling like a rotting durian for the rest of the work day, you need to pack a change of clothes. Enter the Suit25 from SLICKS

Cycling commuters have it hard. From rain and road scum, to sweat and strain; pushing those pedals is no easy task. This first backpack from SLICKS aims to hide your morning toils and let you look dapper and composed when you step out of your cubicle and in front of your boss.

The backpack was co-developed with Swiss design house Flink, who you might know from the pivoting Ergon packs or our earlier Specialist Carry Novaris Vet pack. It’s not a cheap backpack, but it does come loaded with features. SLICKS kindly provided us with this production pack for testing.

The key feature is an integrated but removable suit carrier, designed to keep that shirt or pin-stripe crease-free during your pedal bashing.

But the Suit25 also adds a high spec rain cover, laptop section, and multi compartment layout for getting those work duds to and from the office in tidy order.

So how did we find it? Let’s begin with the good…

Highlights

Suit Carrier: The suit bag works pretty well, even with my ‘tailor’ made $45 Bali party suit. It fills the space against the stiff laptop section, clips in place, and offers good amounts of protection. If they really wanted to up-spec it, they could add foam tubing in the folds the way some travel brands do, but it works well so long as you don’t overly cram the pack.

Discretion: There’s almost nothing worse than seeing a suited worker carrying a pop-color strap-city outdoor pack (perhaps power-walking suits in white runners just pip it). Thankfully the SLICKS pack lets you tuck straps away and present a clean silhouette if you do need to carry the bag into a meeting. We’d prefer a dark back panel to finish this statement, but it still presents blacker and better than most.

Horizontal and Vertical access: When a bag is at work, you want to reach into it from above. But when you’re packing clothes, you want to lay it out on a bed and access it horizontally. The Slicks works well at allowing both types of access.

Level of finish: On the whole, customers are not good at paying for expensive features. This means that most bag brands design their concept, then start stripping back the level of finish on features until the bag comes in at a ‘good’ price. The SLICKS has resisted this, consistently finishing their features off to a high level.

That front pocket: Bulky and irregular shaped items are the bane of most bags. The front pocket on the SLICKS was surprisingly capable at swallowing a helmet or big DSLR, shoes, food, or those unexpected hitch-hiking objects you pick up when commuting.

General Pocketing: There’s an art to bag pocketing, and most brands fall down with it. You need a variety of pockets that act at different heights and depths. Delicate things need to be high up and padded, flat things against hard things, blah, blah, blah. The SLICKS has a nice spread of pockets to carry most things well. They could do with a little more thought for sunglasses and delicates, but on the whole, it has a good spread.

Laptop section: Compared to other bags that run a laptop against your back, this one does it well.

There’s quick and easy access…

…the laptop section finishes well above the floor of the pack (an inch lower and it would fit my 17″ MacBook with less of a stretch)…

…and it even has a floating wall, which means you can collapse the laptop section to get more room in the main area if you’re not hauling a computer.

Commuter friendly: You’d hope so, but the pack really does do a good job here with lots of reflective bits, and proper seam sealing for the rain cover.

Lowlights

This bit has to come with any pack that tries to do more than just carry a school book or two. The SLICKS is an admirable first pack, but there’s a few niggles we think could be improved…

If backs bend, then why are packs flat? This is a pet peeve for us that the vast majority of the industry is guilty of (for a more in-depth discussion, check an earlier post of ours). If you want to carry a laptop, the SLICKS is very guilty of this, with its structured form really see-sawing against your spine. Without a laptop, it bends well enough.

Weight: This is a heavy pack. All those features add up to 2.4 kilograms, which is noticeable on a long commute. There’s clothes hangers and covers and PE Board structure that all serve a purpose, but also adds to your sore shoulders. Having said that, you can just leave some of those features at home and the underlying pack is not too bad weight wise.

Straps: OK, there’s a bit to cover with this, so we’ll start with the obvious one…

Airmesh sucks. It scratches on bare skin and doesn’t really do the job its meant to. Most backpacks are guilty of using it, so we can’t single out the Slicks too much, and it only uses it on the straps (with a great jersey on the back panel).

The straps are also spaced quite wide apart, and so even though I’m above average shoulder width, I needed to use the chest strap to stop them slipping off my shoulders. Again, this was accentuated any time the laptop was inside.

That chest strap also has a pretty short range for travel, so you might find it riding quite high and close to your neck if you have a bit of bulk to your upper body.

Waist strap: With a laptop in there, you can’t use the waist strap, as it would lock your spine into an impossibly upright position. But waist straps are over-rated in cycling and active packs anyways, better suiting upright walking packs.

Best suited to

Cycling commuters who like to smell nice: It works better than most bags at carrying a suit or shirt and shoes to the office.

Overnight business: If you ditch the rain cover, you actually have a great carry-on bag for that overnight business trip. It is discreet enough, and fits well with a work/hotel routine.

Not suited to

Anyone not fitting the above: This is a purpose built bag to serve a distinct purpose (or two). It would certainly work well enough at uni or for a general bag, but you’ll be paying a premium for features that you don’t really use.

Any niggles?

I’m going to be a little contentious here, just because it kept going through my head as I used this bag…

By Hadrien’s and my reckoning, fashion designers work well designing bags with folds and soft fabrics. Industrial designers like things to be more rigid. The SLICKS has definitely been designed by industrial designers, as it works great so long as you don’t expect to bend and move too much with it. I think the best bag designers learn to mix both disciplines (fashion and industrial), but there’s very few of those…

Any envy for a similar bag?

The main competition for the Suit25 comes from people patching together multiple products. There are lots of neat suit carriers that can be coupled with a cycling bag for a similar outcome, but the SLICKS is one of the few that puts it all together for you.

Conclusion

This is an admirable backpack that brings together a number of previously distinct features. It allows vertical or horizontal access, which is a must for a bag that does both clothing and work stuff. It spends the money on features that most don’t. And it shows a strong purpose in what it wants to be.

If I didn’t carry a laptop, I think I would like the SLICKS even more. With a laptop, it’s just not comfortable for a long or rigorous ride. However, knowing that big laptops like mine are a dying breed, I think there will be plenty of executives and semi-formal workers that find a great friend in the SLICKS Suit25.

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
8
Organization
8
Comfort
7

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
7
Build, Materials & Hardware
7
Features
9

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
6
Brand experience
5
Value
6
X Factor
5

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