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Crumpler is an Australian company that makes a vast array of bags, pouches, sleeves, luggage and sacks. The Free Wheeler Messenger Bag, as the name might suggest, is a cyclist-friendly, over the shoulder courier bag.
The Free Wheeler comes in a stealthy and stylish black. It doesn't even have any reflective doodads which won't please the Be Safe Be Seen crowd but people who have to be smart in an office will appreciate the understated looks. In stark contrast to the subtle exterior the internals of the bag are a bright yellow ripstop fabric, this makes it a lot easier to find things in the corners while you're rummaging about in the capacious interior.
What the Free Wheeler Messenger Bag does very well is pockets; there are A Lot of Pockets. If you're an organized person you will love this as everything will have its right place. If you're a disorganized person it will infuriate you as you will spend a lot of time riffling through all the pockets looking for that thing you want. If you're not that interested in pockets it's probably best you skip this next bit.
Inside the main compartment there's a large lightly padded divider that splits the insides in two with a Velcro tab at the top to keep things secure inside. Alongside the internal wall there's a large zipped mesh pocket that's divided into three sections. The flap has a similar internal large zipped mesh pocket.
There's a zipped outside compartment that has its own separate zipped compartment inside, along with a line of five sewn-in open topped compartments, one mesh, one fabric and three pen pockets. Another large zipped pocket is on the outside back of the bag and there's even a little zipped pouch on the padded section of the shoulder strap.
Pittaphobia sufferers, you can come back now.
The most useful of all the myriad of pockets were the one built into the padded section of the strap, handy for getting at keys without having to fiddle about in the main body, and the large pocket that was on the outside against the back which lent a certain amount of security to important things, especially when traveling. The large central divider was handy for keeping laptops and important files away from all the scruffy grubble of tools and kerfuffle that tends to accumulate inside messenger bags.
The Crumpler is designed to be worn over the left shoulder. There's a large but thinly padded section on the strap that runs almost the whole way across the chest tapering as it goes making carrying even the heaviest hauls of shopping a comfortable trial, helped by the fact that the padded bit is tailored on a curve so it ergonomically hugs the body. This makes walking off the bike with it dangling off that shoulder supremely comfortable too. It's also really easy to adjust the tension of the shoulder strap thanks to a large D-ring at each end of the Single Hand™ adjustment system. Top strap marks there.
The Free Wheeler Messenger Bag doesn't come with a cross-strap that most courier bags need to keep everything stable, although there is a buckle in the bottom corner should you want to fit one. If you don't, and you won't, it tucks away to hide into a little pocket, something it does so well it took some time to actually find it. The cut of the Crumpler bag is so well designed it doesn't need a stability strap, the width and curve of the shoulder-strap is enough to keep the bag secure and stable enough on your back without the safety net and sweaty mark of an extra cross strap. Throughout the entire duration of testing there wasn't one oh-shit-I'm-going-to-die moment where the bag swung round in traffic, despite some deliberately overladen thrashy efforts.
This bag is the XL but it's more of a large medium compared to other bags, swallowing 25 litres of stuff, other smaller sizes are available if your life is less demanding ability to carry belongings. It's big enough to take about as much as you'd fancy carrying on a bike without it getting too ridiculously heavy and having a can of cat food painfully digging into your kidneys.
But it's best not to get too over-excited by the 2-for-1 deals and overfill the bag though, for you'll discover the only failing with this bag, and it's quite a big one. If you fill the bag over maximum capacity, you'll find that the straps aren't long enough to reach up to meet their corresponding buckles on the bag flap to close it down. It doesn't help that the tabs of Velcro on the flaps aren't big enough or strong enough to hold the flap down on their own. That's all a bit of a bummer at the checkout or when needing to take more of the office home than you thought.
That's the only drawback to the Free Wheeler Messenger Bag. It's been subjected to the usual poor quality of life that messenger bags suffer. It's got wet and gritty, been put away dirty, carelessly thrown into the back of all kinds of vehicles and kicked under too many pub tables and the Crumpler is just showing a softening of the edges rather than any actual tatty age.
The 1000d Chicken Tex Supreme™ hyper performance fabric is to thank for this, it's a tough material whilst also being soft and yielding enough to be comfortable to have against your back, and while not making the bag totally waterproof is somewhere between that and water-resistant. While it did need hanging up to dry off after particularly miserable soakings on the way home none of the contents ever got damp edges. If the bag does let you down then Crumpler offer a lifetime no-questions-asked warranty.
Good-looking, comfortable, compartment-laden bag that unfortunately doesn't like being over filled.
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Make and model: Crumpler Free Wheeler Messenger Bag
Size tested: ?
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?
Crumpler say their Free Wheeler Messenger bags allow you to carry more, worry less while you roll through modern life.
"Life should be easy. Good weather, plenty of free-time, perfect dress-sense and everyone laughs at your jokes. But even if you're not a courier, you can get your slice of the good life with the new Free Wheeler range. The Free Wheeler messenger bags come in 10 different sizes, and three carefree colours. Every Free Wheeler messenger bag takes tender, loving care of your stuff, giving you a lot less to worry about. Roll effortlessly through your daily grind."
I say it's a bag, you can put things you need in it.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The XL Free Wheeler Messenger Bag has external dimensions of 50.5 x 31.0 x 18.5 cm and internal ones of 38.5 x 30.5 x 4.0 cm. Made from a 1000d Chicken Tex Supreme™ hyper performance fabric it has a ripstop lining. It has an internal laptop compartment with Velcro tongue closure, internal slip pockets, external zip pockets, and an external zip-fastened pocket under main flap. The Third Leg Stabiliser tucks in out the way. The shoulder strap is adjustable with the Single Hand™ buckle. The flap is clip and Velcro-fastened.
It's very well put together and tough as old boots.
Marked down for the inability for the flap and buckle to deal with an over-stuffed bag.
It's held together well and still looks good even after the usual appalling misuse.
It's one of the most comfortable courier bags I've used, as long as you wear it on your left-shoulder.
It might seem like a lot of coin for a bag but you'll have forgotten about that long before the Crumpler shows any sign of fading.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It was a good bag, big enough, pockets for everything and comfortable on and off the bag. The only let-down was the overfill strap issue.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
All the pockets, on and off bike comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
All the pockets. The too-short straps.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, but there's a lot of competition to choose from.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
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, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.