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Sep 05 2013

Rickshaw Bagworks Velo Backpack Review

Albert Einstein said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

It is a philosophy that has much to do with being featured enough or complicated enough but not stepping one iota past that.

It is a challenging piece of discipline that too many companies (who confuse features and benefits) mangle beyond belief when they make a product that looks good on a spec sheet, and is completely unusable in reality.

Rickshaw Bagworks knows where that line is and they are not afraid to make something elegantly simple.

The Velo Backpack is a study in low profile, clean-lined elegance. It is made from a rugged combination of waterproof sailcloth and Cordura nylon and weighs a pound and a half. The sailcloth has a really cool sheen to it that will show an underlying diamond-shaped pattern when under light.

The front of the Velo has a simple, gusseted pocket with a YKK zipper to keep it closed. Opening it up reveals an eight by nine-inch pocket with a pen slot and a slot sized for a smartphone. An iPad mini will fit in this pocket nicely, but beware that it is not padded so you will want to have a sleeve before you drop it in the pocket.

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My iPad Mini sticking out of the front pocket for scale

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Inside of the front pocket

The bottom of the pocket has a long reflective strip and no less than five loops for clip lights. If you want to ride at night this is definitely the pack for you!

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I do mean reflective!

Flipping the Velo around reveals two shoulder straps made of seat belt material and a loop at the top for hand carry. The bottom of the bag has quarter-inch padding in it that curves up around the back side about four inches to make a lumbar pad. This padding does a great job of keeping stuff that collects in the bottom of the Velo from digging into your kidneys. The slim profile of the Velo means it rides right against your back so it is great in a crowded environment where a heftier pack might clobber somebody if you turn quickly.

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You can see the diamond pattern in this pic

Opening up the top YKK zipper reveals the inside of the bag. Again, I love the simplicity of this approach and how easy it makes it to get in and out of this top loading pack. No flaps, no velcro, just zip open, zip closed.

The inside of the Velo is simplicity itself. A large open section that you can stuff to your heart’s content. The back of this section has a simple, minimally padded envelope with a velcro top closure to tuck your laptop into. Not going to carry a laptop today? No problem, it is velcroed to the back wall of the Velo and you can pull it out and set it aside. The remaining strip of velcro inside is the soft side and it will not scratch up anything you tuck in here.

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The inside of the Velo

Should you want to add a little more organization, Rickshaw has another strip of velcro on the front wall of the pack to allow you to attach one of their modular pouches. I love the deluxe drop pocket for flexibility because I can’t picture a bag without a key fob in it.

In use

I had a madcap trade show to do recently and I took the Velo along to be my daily carry bag. Because it is so slim, it slipped into my luggage easily and came out to hold my EDC (every day carry) while I wandered around the trade show. That is not a small amount of crap important stuff, as I was reporting on this particular show. The Velo swallowed an iPad, keyboard, notebooks, backup batteries and a host of other things I probably didn’t need. It was easy to carry and the straps were far more comfortable than I thought they would be based on their thickness.

At the end of the show, I found that I still preferred a messenger style bag as getting things in and out of the Velo required me to shrug it off my shoulders set it down. The simple, open top made it easy to get at stuff once I had it off.

As a simple commute bag though it is hard to beat. You can throw a lot of stuff at it and it smiles and asks, “Is that all you got?” My only small complaint with the Velo is also one of its strengths. It has very little structure. This means it can compress very small if you are tucking it somewhere for storage. It also means that it will not stand up on its own, so be sure to lean it against something if you set it down on the ground.

Being able to strip the guts out of it also makes it a perfect go to market bag. “Paper or plastic?” No thanks, I brought my own!

Conclusions

Rickshaw amazes me. They can take a simple idea like this and make it tough, elegant and perfectly usable. They do all that while still making the bag from scratch here in the USA, in their perfect little factory in Dogpatch in San Francisco.

So what would I add or remove from the Velo? Not a thing; it is exactly as simple as needs to be.

Highly recommended.

Rickshaw Bagworks Velo Backpack Available in medium and large $139-$159

Rickshaw Bagworks, Inc.
904 22nd Street
San Francisco, California 94107
Phone: 415.904.8368
Fax: 415.723.7530
General Questions: info@rickshawbags.com

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