Could it be that, after spending a lifetime looking, I have finally found the perfect bag? Of course not. There’s no single bag that can perform every task.
But I might just have found the perfect day-to-day backpack. It’s the medium Velo from Rickshaw Bagworks in San Fransisco, and it’s pretty damn awesome.
Rickshaw makes excellent bags. I already own and use a Zero Messenger, an ultralight yet tough and stylish over-the-shoulder number that is still one of my favorites. The bags are hand-sewn to order in SF, and will last forever (the Zero Messenger is a few years old and still comes out of the washing machine looking like new).
The Velo is, as you’d guess from the name, a bag designed for cyclists. To this end it has a reflective strip on the back, along with loops for hooking on lights. It also has waterproof YKK zippers to keep out the rain, and can be customized within using Rickshaw’s clever velcro pockets and pouches.
The standard version comes with seatbelt-webbing straps. I tested the upgraded version with padded straps and a cross-strap on the chest.
The Velo is light and thin. There’s some padding on the bottom (and lumbar area), and the review unit arrived with a padded, removable laptop sleeve (sized to fit a 15-inch MacBook Pro), but the bag itself is made from a sail-cloth outer (black, with a neat diamond-shaped pattern) with a tough Cordura nylon interior.
It weighs around 1.5 pounds, and adding the fancy straps makes almost no difference to this.
On the bike, I got compliments from fellow cyclists, and also comments on my array of lights (I follow the Christmas-tree school of bike lighting) which hung from the rear hooks. The bag is comfy, and thanks to the gasping opening on the top, it’s easy to load. You could even ride with it open if you need to carry an oversized package.
The straps are well-placed, and have loops on their outer surface for attaching pockets and pouches, if that’s your thing. I will probably add a cellphone holster, but I can’t actually find one here in Spain.
I also took the bag on a recent trip to Paris, where it was my walkaround bag. I wore it with a camel-colored pea coat, and despite its technical looks it still looked pretty cool.
Paris was rainy and cold, so the waterproofing got tested, and the interior remained bone dry. The main chamber swallowed a water bottle, an iPad, plus a zip-up pocket (supplied, and velcroed onto the waiting strips) with wallet and passport inside. It also variously carried bread and cheese (for lunch), plus a folding umbrella, a scarf, hat and gloves when the weather warmed up.
And through all this it remained comfortable and easy to use. One note: If you’re flying with Easyjet, you’ll be forced to put all of your carry on items into one bag. One, single bag. This is enforced with a spiteful enthusiasm only the jobsworth Brit can muster, and is as annoying as it sounds.
Luckily, the Velo can be rolled or folded into a tiny package, ready for stuffing inside another bag. This allows you to stick it to the man in style: Thanks, Rickshaw!
Talking (sorta) of pockets, the Velo has a single, zip-fastening exterior pocket, with a phone-shaped pocket inside that, along with a spot for pens. I used this for a spare phone battery, plus other bits and pieces of low value (a pocket on a backpack is a magnet to pickpockets on the Paris Metro).
And talking of security, the Velo uses a pair of zippers for the main section. To add a little extra protection I used a carabiner to clip them together. You could of course use a lock.
Are you kidding me? There’s nothing bad about this bag.
If you hadn’t guessed already, I love the Velo. It’s light, comfy, cool-looking and can be customized into a padded monster or left as a minimal sac (as the Parisians would call it if they could stop sneering at everybody for a few seconds).
The only thing I miss is the ability to quickly grab something from the bag, but that’s a quirk of backpacks in general, and the reason why no bag will ever be the perfect alrounder.
Despite this, the Velo comes pretty close. It’ll cost you $150 in standard spec, plus another $25 for the “deluxe” shoulder straps (recommended), and it’s worth every penny.
Source: Rickshaw Bagworks.