- Buyer's Guide
Velomacchi Speedway Roll-Top Review :: Drive-By
Standing in line outside the One Motorcycle Show in Portland I saw the beacon: a shiny, knurled aluminum Fidlock Mini Turn squarely placed on a chest harness. It tractor-beamed me over to Velomacchi’s Speedway Roll-Top backpack, and as I inspected it, detail after detail held me tighter. Never have I seen so many clever (fighting the use of “brilliant…”) solutions to the same design problems that carry designers wrench on day after day. Within hours I was writing my Carryology editor; I was dying for an excuse to dive deep into this bag and process it both mentally and verbally. Within a week, I was sitting down with Kevin and Gregor for an inside briefing, and they enlightened me on the more nuanced details of its innovative construction, which I expected.
“Never have I seen so many clever (fighting the use of “brilliant…”) solutions to the same design problems that carry designers wrench on day after day.”
What I didn’t expect, though, were their fascinating insights on how they built their company, and as an independent designer with my own fledgling brand, I was just as interested in that as I was the bag. Stay tuned for a follow-up article; Kevin’s distilled experience from 18 years in the industry designing for carry heavyweights like The North Face, Black Diamond and Mammut left my head spinning in an inspiring way. I felt like I had just played chess with Yoda, except these biker dudes are visually about as far as you could get from a wizened little Jedi muppet. Kevin’s crisp white dress shirt under the tiniest-bit-greasy Carhartt jacket struck me as a perfect analogy for who the “Velomacchi Privateer” is: refined and timelessly stylish, yet accustomed to getting dirty turning his own wrenches.
Who It Suits
Motorcyclists and bicyclists primarily, especially the aggressive rider.
Who It Doesn’t
The shirtless and the cheap. The bottom corners of the back panel are textured for positive grip on a motorcycle jacket, but would be rough on bare skin. It’s also not inexpensive at $299, but quality construction costs, and the Speedway is as robust a bag as I have seen.
The 25-liter Speedway Roll-Top is gorgeously rendered in custom-weave 1000D 66 nylon with a heavy TPU laminate (not a coating) topped with a TPU “kiss-coat” on the exterior to shed water and road grime. Every detail has been engineered for speed, and this robust fabric structure fights the cavitation phenomenon that happens at high velocity. They also capitalized on this beefy fabric’s characteristics by patterning the bag with external seams, making it hug the rider’s body as you cinch it down, something they learned from their experience in designing gloves.
The biggest standout, however, is the game-changing 3-point-pivot harness. Without getting too deep into the business side of our conversation, I will just say that year after year, most brands turn out style after style of pack, without having the time to really reimagine things on a fundamental level. These guys knew that if they wanted to compete as a startup brand in the saturated field of carry products, they would have to offer something truly unique. So, rather than base their pack on the venerable alpine harness, they started from scratch, examining what they, as motorcycle riders, really need to help them carry a load efficiently and nimbly. The alpine harness, while great for carrying heavy loads in an upright posture, pins your shoulders back, which hampers your ability to twist and maneuver your bike while riding aggressively.
While the concept of easing shoulder straps inward, connecting them, and ditching the hip belt has been in the public domain for some time (too many to list comprehensively: Leatt, Kriega, American Kargo, The North Face…) Velomacchi’s 3-point-pivot harness differs from all of them in three key ways. First, the use of the Fidlock closure makes it effortless to take on and off while wearing a helmet, a perfect use of this user-interface technology. Second, the creation of two articulation points at the clavicles allows the harness to flex with the rider in a way I have never experienced with any harness system (the swiveling of the Fidlock provides a third point of articulation). Incidentally, this layout also makes the pack fit women beautifully; no small feat when snugness is essential.
“First, the use of the Fidlock closure makes it effortless to take on and off while wearing a helmet, a perfect use of this user-interface technology.”
Finally, the adjustment straps are designed to not leave any excess webbing to flap in the breeze as you ride. Strap management is one of the most elusive holy grails of carry design; anyone who rides will immediately appreciate their attention to detail in creating a quiet, stable carry experience at high speeds, and this design intent weaves its way through all the features of this piece. It is the best example of human-centered design I’ve seen in the carry world; it’s refreshing to see someone go to these lengths.
From the helmet hook to the glove-manipulable aluminum toggles that secure the outside pockets, from the clearly marked medical ID pocket on your chest to the GoPro mounting plate below it (providing better stability and a more interesting field of view than a helmet or motorcycle mount), they absolutely loaded this pack with purpose-built functionality. (Bonus points for embroidering the branding on elastic welting, which holds a tire gauge, on the shoulder strap.)
You’ll also appreciate the waterproofness as you drool over the construction of the front pockets. Artful origami, affixed through heat pressing and stitching, gives them “memory” to snap back and hold their contents snugly. The mouth of the pocket also folds over when closed, creating another two rainproof volumes on the back, and, as with the roll-top, their failsafe design holds them closed even if you forget to fasten them. This is bag-nerd nirvana; their mastery would piss me off if they weren’t such damned nice guys.
The Speedway also excels in weatherproofness: nothing is getting through that TPU sheet, and their clever patterning and construction makes the most of it. A seam-taped, roll-top liner keeps dry stuff dry, and they designed it so that it can expand or contract depending on your needs. On a dry day, you can easily access your stuff through the zipper on the front, while on a wet day, you can put everything in the dry part, which will expand to fill the whole bag. The details on the roll-top are perfectly dialed to boot: a magnetic strip closure keeps it shut even if you forget to strap it down, and triangular flaps at the corners of the opening add an extra level of seal.
The Not So Good
As I mentioned above, the bottom corners of the back panel are textured to grip a motorcycle jacket, and there’s a small ridge at its base for the same reason, so it’s not great to wear on bare skin or with a thin T-shirt.
It’s not an inexpensive pack at $299, so it’s not a fast-fashion vanity piece. That said, it’s one of the most bomber constructions I’ve seen, and I have no doubt it will last a very long time.
“…the bottom corners of the back panel are textured to grip a motorcycle jacket, and there’s a small ridge at its base for the same reason, so it’s not great to wear on bare skin or with a thin T-shirt.”
Velomacchi has chosen a modular design for organization, meaning there isn’t a laptop sleeve or organizer section with pen loops; instead, they make a variety of accessories to protect and organize your tech and other items. Personally, I love this system, as I am an incessant tinkerer with my own carry, and love bags inside bags inside bags, but I also recognize that this isn’t for everyone.
Others to Consider
The Speedway is still hands down my favorite for both materiality and function, but the less expensive Kriega R25 gives you the same volume (25L) with a somewhat similar harness, at two-thirds the price.
Cheaper still is the American Kargo Commuter at $120, and it has an integrated laptop sleeve.
I love this pack. As my bag hoard grows and grows, it takes a standout piece to make the cut, and this one has earned a place. Looking forward to wiping out at high speed with it.
*This review was written by Andy Storms, Seattle-based softgoods designer, motorcyclist and self-confessed bag geek of epic proportions.