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Road Tests

Road Tests :: EVOC FR Enduro 16

by , October 8, 2013

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Early this summer, I connected with EVOC bags, a German company specializing in carry for cycling and snow sports. Why? I’m always on the hunt for innovative product and product that I can take skiing, mountain biking, hiking or bike touring. So when I had the chance to combine the two together, I got pretty excited.

I’ve spent about 3 months with the FR Enduro 16, which you might have guessed is a 16-liter pack. What you cannot see from the outside is an innovative CE certified back protection system designed to pad the user from spinal impacts. The protection plate weighs in at 145 grams, which is similar to the weight of an apple.

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You don’t notice it. Unless, of course, you are riding way too fast, in a place you shouldn’t be – do some wrong steering and find yourself over your handlebars. While you are flying high above the trail, the warm afternoon air smelling of tall grass and pine sap, you hear your expensive bicycle tumbling through rocks then careening down a hill certainly choked with poison ivy. The sound retreats – silence gives you a moment to reflect. “Wow,” you muster, “I am glad I decided to buy a pack designed to absorb up to 95% of this impending impact. Without it, tumbling through rocks and roots might be a slightly more treacherous proposition”.

The point is, it’s there when you need it, unnoticeable when you don’t. Perfect.

The pack is navy blue, with a red, yellow and blue zipper. I didn’t think it was all that functional until I asked for someone to grab an item from my pack, and needed to describe where it was. Aimless searching for something in this pack is folly. There are far too many pockets for that nonsense. The red zippered pocket houses 7 internal pockets, best for extra tubes, small bike bits, patch kit, air pump, multi tools and first-aid supplies – if you are into that kind of thing. The top blue zippered pocket hosts 2 (best for eyewear, keys, wallet). The yellow zipper accesses the main compartment, which only houses a hydration system and sleeve for the protection plate.

Now, I am not the type of person to want or fully utilize this level of pocketry. I typically abhor a pack with 13 places to lose things.  Do I use all of these pockets? Nope. Do I mind them? Not really. Most of them seem to have an intended purpose.

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The pack comes in two sizes, so being 6’1” I went with the M/L size. Wearing the pack felt a little long at first. It seems to cover the majority of the torso, and at 23.5” tall, the numbers confirm it. It really is a tall pack!

I snugged up the straps, attached the stretch neoprene waist belt and went for a ride. I notice the length of the pack quickly doesn’t bother me anymore – in fact it is comfortable in its length. The waist belt really is perfect – the bag is snug to my back without feeling restrictive.

Some of the riding here in Washington involves long dirt road slogs up a mountain then single-track back downhill. It can be hot and without much shade I often find myself looking for ways to keep cool. The designers at EVOC understand a rider’s various needs while on the trail, and have designed pockets that perfectly host the items I shed. A helmet pocket stored mine snugly. Grippy lining tabs are there for added helmet security while stretch mesh pockets on the side hold gloves. There are hidden clips in the bottom which hold additional gear, then tuck away in a zipped pocket when not in use. Poof! Gone!

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Despite otherwise dripping with sweat, my back doesn’t overheat. Could it be the clever mesh-entrapped foam back paneling, or stretch nylon shoulder straps? I appreciate both a lot. Wearing this pack reminds me that the folks at EVOC know something about bike packs that I seem to not.

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Overall, I enjoyed the time spent with this pack, and it (as testament to its quality) has taken the place of my prior one. It has seen a good deal of abuse thus far, and despite relatively lightweight construction it seems to be holding up well. The stitching is consistent and tight, bartacks in high stress areas. Quality thread is apparent.

Honestly it looks no worse for the wear, and I love the feature I hope to never take full advantage of – the back protector. I’ve even thought of a slogan for the Protector series of packs. “We’ve got your back”. Cheesy, I know. Sorry. I won’t let it happen again.

When I get to the top of a climb, I pull the helmet from its pocket, cinch it closed, gloves out from the stretch side pocket, grab a snack from the red zippered pocket, a treat for my pup. While I am at it, I lower my seat and check tire pressure. One last stretch, I take a breath and let gravity guide me home.

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For $165, I file this one in the “Great Deal” category. Learn more at the manufacturer’s site here.

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