Rickshaw Commuter 2.1 Bag Is As Well Designed As Apple Gear You’ll Put Inside [Review]


commuter review_001

Commuter 2.1 byRickshaw
Category: Bags
Works With: iPad, MacBook
Price: $180 as tested

I’m a huge fan of Rickshaw’s bags. Pretty much everyone in the Rickshaw office cycles to work, and it shows in the design of the bags. They’re well made, practical and light, but still full of clever design details. The Commuter 2.1 is no exception, somehow managing to offer a huge collection of pickets and cubbyholes, and yet remaining light enough to be more comfy on the shoulder than many more simple messenger bags.

Want to know more? Read on:

What It Is

You could fit like 5 iPads mini in here, in their own little pockets.
You could fit like 5 iPads mini in here, in their own little pockets.

The Commuter is a messenger-style bag. It can be worn over the shoulder, and it can be stabilized with an optional chest strap, and the bag’s (detachable) strap has a cinching mechanism to shorten it for riding. It’s a more complex design than I have on my Zero Messenger bags – the cinching clip itself is still easy to use with one hand, but the strap beneath has a pad to protect your clothes form getting caught, and there are two d-loops for hanging keys or whatever you like, and a webbing loop for hooking on a bike light

In fact, the whole bag has d-hooks at clever spots, plus a pair of carabiner-style clips inside for keeping keys from disappearing into you mess of crap. And as we’re listing features, now seems like a good time to run through everything that’s packed into this bag.

What’s Inside

The main chamber has a pocket at the front and two horizontal velcro strip at the back which hold in the supplied notebook case (which will hold a 15-inch MacBook). On the outside edges are two pockets for phones or anything else you need quick access to, and these pockets are closed with velcro straps, and have d-loops above them.

On the front, there are five pen holders before you even open the two zipper-closed pockets, and these pockets each have a main section plus a flap-pocket on the font and back sides. Total pocket count so far: 11. Let’s take a look around the back.

Here you get two d-loops at the bottom corners, for chest-straps. Open up the bag-width zipper and you get a to-loading magazine pocket with yet more pockets on its sides. On the out back cover there’s a little space perfect for the iPad mini, and on the inside is a phone-sized pocket, plus pen holders and a spot for business cards or your ID.

Total pocket count for the bag? 21. I think anyway.

Finally, there are the closing options. The main bag is covered with a flap that can be clipped closed with plastic clasps, but you can also use the velcro fixings. Velcro to noisy? Then Rickshaw has you (and the velcro) covered: the bag ships with the velcro strips covered by magnetic strips. These stop the hooks and loops from catching each other and making the a loud, library-disturbing rip when you open them. It’s so neat I pull them off and use them in other bags, too.

The Good

The shoulder strap cincher.
The shoulder strap cincher.

This bag will last. I have a Zero Messenger I’ve been using for years, and it’s still pretty much as good as new. The review unit Rickshaw sent me is made from sailcloth with a tarp lining, which also makes it waterproof, and even though the bag is full of pockets, there are only a few zippers and other moving parts, and the parts that are there are tough.

So, longevity is pretty much a given, so it comes down to using the bag.

I have been schlepping my gear back and forth between my home and my office, using the Commuter 2.1 inside my Brompton’s front pannier, a big, open bag that is sat above the front wheel of the bike. The Commuter fits in perfectly, with or without the strap, and can be left on magnet-only mode to make opening it quick and easy. The suspended laptop sleeve means I don’t worry about rattling across Leipzig’s copiously cobbled roads, and the sailcloth top means I don’t have to worry about all but the worst downpours.

The weird thing is, I’m getting more and more attached to this bag. This is odd, as I almost never like padded, pocket-strewn bags. I think the difference here is that the pockets are actually logical and useful. And you don;t have to use all the tiny cubbyholes of you don’t want to: if you are so inclined, you could just use the main section without the laptop sleeve, the front two pockets as big storage bins, and the back flap for papers. You could even slip a repair kit and a small water bottle into the end pockets.

The other thing I like is the weight. Most “pockety” bags are heavy, even when empty. The Commuter 2.1 isn’t.

The Bad

I literally can;t find anything wrong with this bag. The only downsides are inherent to the design: it’s bulkier than Rickshaw’s own Zero range, but it’s structured and padded, so that’s kind of the whole point. It’s bigger than I usually prefer, but it also fits a lot of gear. And I’m not being cute here. Even the handle on the top – normally an afterthought – is a joy to use, sticking up to make it easy to grab, and yet bendy enough that it doesn’t get in the way.

The Verdict

You know how Apple gear seems to be so simple that it looks under-designed? And yet when you start to use it you see that every tiny part has been considered, and is so easy and straightforward in use that it contributes to the impression of simplicity? That’s the same feeling I get with Rickshaw’s bags.

And it’s not just because they send me bags to review. In the past year, I’ve bought two of my own. One was a prototype of a giant-sized version of the Velo backpack (bought at the factory after a visit, with a discount) and the other was a small Zero Messenger in sailcloth, bought at full price.

So you see, then I say these bags are good, I mean it. If you’re looking for this kind of office-in-a-case laptop bag, then the Commuter 2.1 should be at the top of your list. The very top.

stuffed_28Product Name: : Commuter 2.1

The Good: Everything. It’s light, tough, looks great, is customizable, protective and incredibly well thought out.

The Bad: It’s not a messenger sack. But then, it’s not meant to be.

The Verdict Best in class. That’s it.

Buy from: Rickshaw