- Buyer's Guide
Timbuk2 Bruce Pack Review: Drive By
Timbuk2’s Bruce Pack is a heavy-duty, heavy capacity backpack designed with cyclists in mind. Over the past few weeks I’ve rode for a few hundred miles with the Bruce on my back. I’ve carried a week’s worth of groceries, electronics, and even a pair of steel toed boots in this bag. How is this bag (and my back) holding up?
Who It Suits
Someone who is on a bike a lot and needs to carry a day’s (or even week’s) worth of gear or grub. The Bruce is a 60L monster of a pack that can swallow anything thrown at it. And then it expands and can swallow even more gear.
Someone who commutes to work on a bike. The Bruce won’t just appeal to hardcore cyclists. With its laptop sleeve and convenient pocketing it’s fantastic for more casual jaunts to the office.
Who It Doesn’t
Someone not looking to haul a kitchen sink. At 60L the Bruce isn’t a dainty pack any way you look at it. There are much more manageable bags for just hauling a computer and lunch.
Someone with a smaller stature. I’m two meters tall and the Bruce takes up all the real estate on my back. Timbuk2 offers a smaller version of this bag, the Robin (get it?) which slims things down a bit.
There’s a lot of detail in the Bruce Pack that anyone on two wheels will appreciate.
First, the Bruce is not only a massive 60L, but it’s a very accessible space. The main portion of this bag is the rolltop compartment. In the front of this pocket is a stash pocket for keeping folders and other paperwork upright. The rear of the rolltop pocket is made up of a padded laptop sleeve that can fit 15” machines. What’s great is that there’s a side zipper on the exterior of the bag to quickly get to the laptop compartment.
“The Bruce won’t just appeal to hardcore cyclists. With its laptop sleeve and convenient pocketing it’s fantastic for more casual jaunts to the office.”
The front of the Bruce is a veritable terrace of pockets. At the top is a felt lined, zippered pocket that’s great for holding a phone, wallet, cards, and similar pocket fodder. Below that is an expandable flap pocket great for cords and bike lights. Moving down the bag there’s another zippered pocket behind a sheet of reflective material. This pocket has become a bike toolshed of sorts, holding tie levers, multitools, a road pump and spare tubes. Finally at the bottom of the bag is a pocket holding a dedicated rainfly. It’s removable but I personally like the protection it provides, additional space be damned.
On the side of the bag there’s two expandable pockets that easily accommodate water bottles or U-locks. If the 60L space of this bag isn’t enough, there’s two vertical zippers on the side which expand the main compartment even further. Yes, it’s a lot of space to work with but the team at Timbuk2 has made it all highly functional and accessible. Props.
Second, the Bruce employs magnetic buckles for all straps. For a cyclist, these buckles are incredible as they can be opened and closed with one (gloved) hand. There’s a sternum strap and two side compression straps loaded with surprisingly powerful magnets. It’s a small but appreciated feature that makes securing the Bruce while on the go a breeze.
And third, the Bruce rides very well when hunched over handlebars. There’s a slight curve to the back which conforms uber-comfortably when riding a bike. It’s not as noticeable when walking but is immediately felt when my back starts to arch. Add to this a removable sternum strap and hip belt with some beefy back paneling and the Bruce rides on your (non-sweaty) back like a boss.
“The Bruce employs magnetic buckles for all straps that can be opened and closed with one (gloved) hand.”
The Not So Good
Timbuk2 has done some great things with the Bruce but there’s definitely a few points that have been irking me.
First, I may have mentioned that the Bruce is a big pack. Being a bigger guy I personally like a larger pack as it wears on my back better. However, the first time I rode with the Bruce it felt like I had blinders on when glancing over my left shoulder for traffic. This problem stems from the bulky rolltop that is staring you back in the face when you go to peek over your shoulder.
Second, I mentioned above how I like the curve that the Bruce has in the back. This curve however comes at the expense of a rigid back panel. This means that when the Bruce is fully loaded, there’s not a mechanism to effectively transfer the load from your lower back to the nice beefy shoulder straps on this bag.
“The first time I rode with the Bruce it felt like I had blinders on when glancing over my left shoulder for traffic. This problem stems from the bulky rolltop.”
And third, there’s no pocket that can be accessed on the Bruce without taking the bag completely off. This is frustrating when biking and my phone is in the bag as I have to stop, take off the Bruce, pull out my phone, and switch the song back to my Grunge playlist before resuming my roll. A small, quick-access pocket on the side or on the shoulder straps could remedy this gripe of mine.
“There’s no pocket that can be accessed on the Bruce without taking the bag completely off.”
Timbuk2’s Bruce Pack is a heavy-duty pack that will excite anyone who prefers two wheels to four. It boasts some serious cargo capacity, has fantastic access to its 60 liters of space and looks damn good with its sharp, understated lines and color. Yes there’s a few points on the suspension, lack of a phone pocket and the blind spot this bag makes that can be improved, but overall the Bruce is an excellent cycling backpack. True, the Bruce would make a fine pack for a non-cyclist but on two wheels is where it will really shine.
At $249 the Bruce is a really solid bag (with a lifetime warranty to boot) that is a bonafide sidekick for life in the bike lane. Highly recommended.