From Deuter's wide range of bike luggage, the solidly-made Operate II messenger bag is part of their business and life style range. It's pleasant to carry and protects a laptop well, but several details let it down.
I used the Operate II for the best part of a month as my take to work bag. I have ridden with it on my 'cross bike, taken it on the tube and brought it in the car too.
The Operate II is designed to take an up to a 15.6 inch laptop, which it carries well, though at 900g the bag is on the heavy side for a messenger bag. My regular messenger bag comes in a little over half that weight. The bag is well padded, with protection for both the laptop section and the lid or front of the bag, which explains the extra weight. The bag on test is all black with no reflective areas.
The Operate II has many pockets and sections. It has quite an opinionated design; there is definitely the Deuter way to use it. From the back to the front there are six separate sections with some additional organizer pockets towards the front. The rearmost pocket is on the back of the bag, closest to your body and good for a kindle, iPad or magazine. This is accessible when the bag is closed. Next is section inside the bag under the large flap, this is the padded section for a laptop, a 15.4 inch MacBook fits well, smaller laptops shift about inside. I use a Macbook Air as my daily computer and it was ok with this. It would be a better fit in the Operator I, but that is a smaller bag.
The next pocket is intended for your change of clothes. There is a big section for trousers and a shirt, plus two half-width sections for smalls or wash products. This works fine, but it leaves little space for the rest of life's clutter. I tended to put cables, glasses and similar, bulkier things under the clothes.
The last big pocket is the organizer section. This is nearly really good. It is about an inch deep projecting from the front of the bag, so not taking space out of the clothes section. However, the final shallow, scooped velcro-ed pocket on the front is flat stitched into place. This makes it hard to use both. I wanted to have a quick stow pocket for bike kit, lights, pump and tools, but these clash with the other personal items like a phone or wallet in the pocket behind.
There are some other useful features. The two external pockets are stretchy spandex and can take a water bottle. I ended up putting some bike kit in these to deal with the clashing front pockets. The organizer pocket has a short, detachable key strap, but this is less useful than it seems. The blue clip of the strap is intended to stay on your keys and it is behind the flap and a zip, so not quickly accessible. An opening clip, like on other messenger bags would be more helpful.
Riding with the bag is good. It sits neatly within my silhouette on my 40 inch chest. The shoulder strap tucks out of the way into one of the spandex pockets on the side, so the bag will not snag on anything. The shoulder pad is the right size and sits in place too. There is a waist strap that's easy to adjust for left and right handed operation and easy to cinch tight to your body; the bag is then really quite stable. Even a decent bit of fast cornering only required a small flick to correct.
The lid of the bag has both velcro and plastic buckle closures. Leaving the buckles undone does lead to a tap, tap sound as the unfastened buckle swings and bumps the base of the bag which is annoying when walking.
The Operate II is described as water resistant. I had no problems in the time I was testing it, but I escaped a drenching. There are other messenger bags that have water proof outers or liners.
Lastly and surprisingly there is no place to attach a rear light. This seems like a curious omission, especially when the bag has no reflective details.
Comfortable bag that rides well, let down by lack of reflective materials, no light mount and poorly designed pockets
road.cc test report
Make and model: Deuter Operate II messenger bag
Size tested: II
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
On your way to the office, the lecture or on a business trip – the Operate organises your gear: the laptop safely rests in a padded sleeve, while books and folders are accommodated in zipped internal and front pockets. And when it comes to carrying comfort, the Operate shows how Deuter's alpine expertise now conquers the urban streets: the buckles can be used single-handedly ensuring an easy, quick adjustment of the shoulder straps. Further, the waist strap is stepless adjustable and grants extra stability on the bike.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Spacious, folder-sized main compartment
Two big dividers inside separate, padded laptop sleeve with zip (15,6'')
Big zipped front pocket with organiser compartment with Velcro closure
Detachable key clip
Height adjustable, stowable hip belt padded back
Spandex side pockets
Stable grab handle
Roomy zipped pocket on the back
Shoulder strap with removable pads can be adjusted single-handedly
Multiple closure: flap, Velcro as well as buckles.
The bag is made from two main materials and a lot of padding
Deuter Super Polytex - Made from 600 den Polyester thread and with a thick PU coating, this multi-purpose fabric is robust and lightweight. It is most suitable for backpacks, used in average conditions to keep the weight to a minimum.
Deuter Ripstop 330 - This technical 330-denier Nylon material is the perfect balance between durability at minimal weight. Thicker reinforcing threads woven into it give it that Ripstop look and technical shiny surface. Top quality PU coating.
Well stitched and good quality materials.
If you can get past the odd front pockets and lack of visibility then it is a good riding bag.
Looks like it would last a long time.
On the heavy side for a messenger bag.
Rides really well.
On the expensive side for a fabric messenger bag.
Did you enjoy using the product? I enjoyed the ride stability.
Would you consider buying the product? No, too expensive and the shared front pockets would annoy me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unlikely, there are better bags on the market.
About the tester
I usually ride: Condor terra-x My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Brompton