A review of Cycling Backpacks
We take a look at two cycling backpacks, the Solo Everyday Max Hybrid and the Douchebags Carryall 40L.
My life is pretty busy with kids and jobs and responsibilities, it’s hard to get out of town. Most of my riding begins and ends at my house even if I’m gone for most of the day. When I do manage to get away, it’s never for racing, but it does typically involve cycling. What that means is lightweight luggage options need to fit a category that isn’t easily defined. I need to carry cycling gear but also enough regular clothes for overnight, or even multiple days.
Typical luggage comes in a lot of variations but lacks features for helmets, cycling shoes, and stinky cycling clothing. In the other extreme, you’ll find race day options, such as the Castelli Race Rain Bag or the Silca Maritona Gear Bag, that are really better suited to showing up for a day or racing and heading home. In between these extremes, there’s a space that covers my needs and, I expect, the needs of a lot of other cyclists juggling their desire to be cycling with all the other demands of life. I searched far and wide for high quality products that live in this space, and I landed on the Solo Everyday Max Hybrid Backpack and Douchebags carryall 40L.
The first product I tested was Solo Everyday Max Hybrid Backpack. The Solo Everyday Max carries the Hybrid label because although it leans heavily in the backpack direction, it does have sufficient carry handles, one on each side, plus the traditional top loop to be used as a duffel bag. This is one of the more important features I looked for in a bag as it allows for a more diverse range of uses than a traditional backpack, or duffel, would allow. Often, I need the ability to throw my stuff on my back, sometimes so that I can ride my bike to or from a train or temporary lodging, but it’s also important that it’s easy to carry and to grab by hand when it’s being put into a car, train, or airplane.
The Solo Everyday Max Hybrid has three main compartments. Situated so that it lays closest to the wearers back, when used as a backpack, is a padded laptop compartment with room for a 17” laptop. As time has marched on, I find myself travelling with my laptop less and less, and so I used this section to hold my stinky, but dry, cycling clothes and the laptop sleeve carried my tablet. The big advantage here is that I am able to keep my tablet safe while also keeping my other clothes safe from smelling like cycling clothes that I’d been wearing everyday and washing in sinks.
Next up is a main compartment that is not particularly large but with careful consideration was able to be enough for an extremely minimally packed two weeks of travel. The overall capacity of the Solo Everyday Max Hybrid is listed as 35.2 litres, but that isn’t all in the main compartment. When the third section of the bag, an outwardly accessible shoe compartment, was packed with cycling shoes, the main section isn’t what I would describe as overly large. But as I said, with careful packing, I was able to fit all the various accessories I needed for daily rides in the 50-80 mile range as well as my helmet, my cycling shoes, my cycling clothes, and everything I needed to live out of a car and various airbnb locations for two weeks.
This was, obviously, a rather extreme way to test this bag, but it has also served me well in a variety of more typical weekend uses. Basically, I fit my helmet and shoes then pack everything around those items, and there’s just enough space as long as I’m travelling light. The bag retails for $86.99, with a five year warranty, and given the exceptional quality, I find that to be an absolute bargain. Even when fully loaded, it’s comfortable to carry, and one of the things I really think speaks to a well thought through design are the opposing pull tabs. Everytime I pack this bag up and zip, it I grab the pull tab opposite of the zipper, then grab the pull tab on the zipper, and it brings a little smile to my face. Perhaps it’s silly, but it’s one of those small details that shows how much someone thought about the experience of actually using the bag.
As I said before I have a lot of competing interests and getting away isn’t an easy thing for me to do. As such, I wasn’t sure I’d have the opportunity to travel multiple times and test multiple bags. I did want to present another bag, so the way I handled it was to allow my wife to take a look at the Carryall 40L from douchebags.
Take it away Amy: So, I really didn’t want to love a douchebag. Who wants to love a douchebag? But I have to admit, I ended up loving it. We first used this on our two week road trip, and I used it to pack lightly for me and my 6-year-old. I was hand-washing every couple of days, so it was really about three days worth of clothes for each of us. That’s our toiletries, extra pair of shoes, and my obscene amount of dietary supplements. With some time and patience, I was able to fit all of that in.
The bag has a small zippered section on one end that easily takes toiletries. The other end also has a zippered section that is great for sliding in cycling shoes or damp spandex. We used it for my supplements and flip-flops at one point and later for dirty, dusty clothes waiting for wash day.
The zippers are super sturdy on this bag and seem like they will hold up to anything. And the backpack straps mean it is super easy to toss it on your shoulder and head out. If you prefer a duffel bag style, you can tuck away the backpack straps. The bottom of the backpack strap disassembles and the straps tuck away into a pocket, and a snap at the top of each strap snaps each strap in place.
It has an EVA backplate that mean your belongings are well protected and that the bag is super sturdy. Additional pockets inside the bag help keep you organised, and there are even cinch straps inside to make the bag more compact. I recently used the bag as a carry on for a quick cross-country trip, and I had no problem stuffing it full and throwing it around the airport and airplane. It was even gate checked for one flight, and it was no worse for the wear.
The Douchebags Carryall 40L retails for $179 and is a more expensive bag than the Solos Max Hybrid Backpack. When you hold the Douchebags Carryall 40L, it’s easy to see the outstanding quality, and given the context, I’d call the asking price more than reasonable. This is a bag that will see you through whatever adventures you can throw at it for years to come.
Both the Solos Solo Everyday Max Hybrid Backpack and Douchebags carryall 40L are bags that fit into my imagined category of useful for cycling but not race-day specific bags. They do occupy different price categories, but when fully examined, I think it’s entirely reasonable to call either a bargain. Aside from pricing and features, there is also the area of styling. Typically, I like to stay out of the styling discussion because it’s so subjective. I feel like it has to be commented on, though, in relation to the douchebags carryall 40L. In a world of increased responsibility for being aware of how the details of our life affect other people, it’s not terrifically appropriate to name a company Douchbags.
Of course, only you can decide how much that’s going to affect your decision to purchase the product, but I can say that in person, the name has been stylistically handled well. Branding is subtle and the Carryall 40L is a bag that carries a timeless and quality design. The Solos Everyday Max Hybrid Backpack is a completely different style, much more eye-catching, but without a name that needs to be addressed, they have more freedom to call attention. The Solos design is clearly not as high-end as what douchbags is offering, but it’s also well thought out and definitely not lacking. Whichever choice you make these are two quality offerings.