- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Timbuk2 Especial Raider Backpack
The Timbuk2 Especial Raider Backpack was made in conjunction with Mission Cycling to create a bag that one could carry during a morning or after-work ride containing the bare essentials, and not much more. Designed to be sleek and light, the purpose-built Raider was born.
This backpack is nice for a short bike commute. After putting a button-up shirt, shoes and pants in the bag, there was not space for much else. Timbuk2 designed it to be this way, so plan accordingly.
The upper pocket, accessible via an external zipper, is a key feature in making this bag a useful addition to anyone’s collection. It is small, but large enough for the essentials like a cellphone and wallet, pen and a small notebook. The long webbing with a clip ensured I always had my keys handy. Sure, some people think it’s silly, but if you are like me, and need to sneak into your office because you forgot/lost the damn door key, it is actually quite useful.
After locking up my bike, I oftentimes put my helmet in my pack. This bag did a good job of holding my helmet as long as the pack was relatively empty. Timbuk2’s solution to this that I never did find a use for was the external Velcro loops on either side of the bag. There was a bit of debate on what they were designed for/how they were supposed to be used, so an investigation of the Timbuk2 website commenced, yielding a helmet attachment method that was quite simple. There is, however, a 0% chance that I might do this with my helmet. I appreciate the intention, but it is simply not efficient enough for real life use; in fact it is a bit awkward to use. I’d love to see this idea hashed out a bit more, but until then, I’ll settle for having my helmet swing off my hip, attached to the bottom of the shoulder strap.
The Raider backpack is made of “lightweight ripstop nylon” which feels to be in the 100 denier range and a heavier material with a reflective pattern on the bottom where it might receive the most abuse. The (600 denier, I’d guess) fabric seemed well capable of taking what abuse I offered it.
The pack’s nylon is PU coated on the inside and DWR treated on the outside, which makes it water resistant. While I did not get to test this bag in a downpour, it seems to be capable in light to moderate rain, without the need for a roll-top or some other trickery. This touches on an interesting point. 100% of the time, you don’t need a dry bag for your bike commute. 99% of the time, you don’t even need a waterproof liner. I live in Seattle and will own that my tolerance for rain is slightly higher than most folks, but when commuting to/from work I never carry a “waterproof” bag. Ever.
The body panel and shoulder straps are covered with a lightweight 3D mesh which felt nice in hand, but I found it to be slightly scratchy on my shoulders when riding. While thin, this material is sufficient in padding and regulating body temperature even with a completely full pack. 3D mesh gets a spot on the materials bill of many packs, but it constantly leaves me hoping for a better alternative. In terms of little details, I really enjoy the bike-grip styled zipper pulls on nice YKK zippers.
Wearing it, it feels at first like I had stolen a children’s Ninja Turtle backpack. This might be due to the fact that I am 6’1” tall and also it was designed to be small.
I found that the straps have a well-considered shape and didn’t pinch around the neck like many other smaller packs I’ve worn. The chest strap is adjustable and easy to manipulate while on the go.
This pack is designed to kick your morning/afternoon commute’s butt. Inside, there are specifically designed internal pockets for your shoes, which proved to be beneficial in many ways. I leave a spare pair of shoes at work and normally commute with bike cleats, so I didn’t need this feature, but after a litany of highly scientific experiments, it is confirmed that in addition to shoes, they are capable of carrying water bottles, malty dad-sodas from the bodega around the corner or a Thermos in a safe and upright manner.
There is also a plastic shirt folding board that is designed to keep your shirts nice and crisp. The plastic sheet gave the bag a bit of structure, but is a bit cumbersome in actual use. I felt like I had to force my shirt into the dedicated inner sleeve unless the pack was moderately empty. While clever, folding boards are perhaps better left to employees at the Gap. External stretchy mesh pockets helped a ton in organizing, keeping things like a u-lock outside the pack. I love stretchy outside pockets. There, I said it.
At US$79, this is a great little bag for exploring your urban environs. With it sized similar to many hydration packs, this pack’s overall size limits its usefulness in my daily commute to work. It is, however, a great bag for mobbing around town, going to coffee shops, light grocery runs, picnics at the lake, longer road rides and hiking. I would even consider using this pack as a mountain bike bag if it had a waist strap. All of this in a simple, lightweight package. Cool!