Review: Timbuk2 Especial Raider Backpack

Timbuk2 Bag-7

The Timbuk2 Especial Raider is a super-lightweight backpack (weighing less than one pound) specifically created to carry your clothing from home to office by bike. Designed in collaboration with Mission Cycling Club, this pack was graced with an award from the Industrial Designers Society of America shortly after its launch.

I’m generally a curmudgeon about items this specific and while I can empathize with the design inspiration—cyclists sick of using bulky and hot hiking packs to schlep their dress whites to work—I tend to lean toward universal gear.

And yet, it works. While I no longer have a daily commute, I remember the shower-stall dance of trying to keep clean clothes off the floor or in one place. The internal organization and built-in hanging hook of the Especial Raider makes this easy even in small, cramped spaces. The outside mesh pockets can be used to briefly stash your deodorant and socks while you’re hopping around in your shower shoes trying not to touch the walls. Count me impressed.

Timbuk2 Bag-2

Timbuk2 Bag-3

Timbuk2 Bag-4

Inside, you’ll find a removable back board that provides stiffness and keeps your folded clothes from collapsing to the bottom of the bag. It includes a big Velcro strap to use in securing garments in their own, closed pouch, keeping them separate from everything else. Shoes get their own pockets that allow you to face their dirty soles away from other items and keeping access to other items free and clear. Despite a small profile, the pack is rather cavernous even after your workwear is secured. There’s plenty of room left for a rain jacket, a few toiletries, brownbag lunch, tablet and small purse. Just don’t overload it with a bunch of heavy items before a long ride or it won’t be particularly comfortable.

Outside, there’s a top pocket with an internal key clip for small items and mesh side pockets for a water bottle, a (well-sealed) coffee thermos or just a place to stash that fresh croissant you picked up along the way to the office. The bottom of the pack is made from a much tougher material that is covered with reflectivity and wipes clean simply with a wet paper towel. There’s also a place to clip a rear light.

Timbuk2 bag duo back

The machine-washable ripstop fabric is paired with an airmesh ventilated back panel, shoulder straps that have one point of adjustment and a chest strap, but no waist/hip strap. That is my only (slight) peeve with this backpack. On our last ride together, I had somewhat overstuffed the pack and was hammering along the bike path to make it home before sundown. The pack wiggled around on my back, sliding on my smooth wind jacket a little too much despite how much I cinched down the available straps. Even a thin, lightweight waist strap would be much appreciated.

Otherwise, I  have zero complaints; this thing is rad for it’s intended purpose. The pack lays flat once empty, making it easy to stash in a desk drawer or other tiny space for small-cube dwellers. Did I mention it is machine-washable? That’s significant for any piece of gear associated with an office. Once the pack starts to stink, toss that sucker into the wash as a courtesy to your coworkers.

Timbuk2 on back

Overall, the Especial Raider must be thought of as an ultralight pack. Don’t expect to also use it for hauling bulky and heavy items, on rugged mountain bike excursions through the woods or during downpours (it’s not waterproof nor seam-sealed but Timbuk2 does sell a waterproof pack cover that you might want to snag). It wasn’t designed for any of that. It was designed for bicycle commuters and, for that intended purpose, it is very successful.

The Especial Raider comes in several color variations of black, red and grey, and features a lifetime warranty. Considering Timbuk2 items trend toward being indestructible (my Timbuk2 messenger bag is nearly 15 years old), this backpack’s sub-$100 price tag is probably well worth it.

Price: $79 (some colors currently on sale)
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