Port Designs' Go LED Backpack is a superbly made rucksack with copious refinement and an onboard LED indicator system controlled by a wireless bar-mounted pod. Although I've really enjoyed using the bag, those electrics are little more than a gimmick, and the full asking price is hard to swallow.
Talking of which, it's an extremely well-organised 35-litre design made from a very rugged 210 nylon, coated polyester and PU leatherette mix. It's shrugged at the usual rough 'n' tumble of daily commuting, and the wrap-over storm cover means contents will remain dry come hell or high water. It carries a lifetime warranty against defects too.
The slate grey is as neutral as you'll ever need, though reflective piping at select points prevents it becoming too stealthy, and webbed nylon loops make good hosts for flashing red lights.
It's the big flashing electrics on the bag that are its USP though. A removable tablet-sized LED board displays a large blue/green directional arrow denoting left/right/forward, along with an emergency function. It reminded me of motorway gantry boards.
Instructions are sent wirelessly via a strap- or handlebar-mounted switch, which is fuelled by two CR2032 batteries and pretty intuitive, even in gloved hands. Aside from a quick precautionary lick of Vaseline on the battery contacts, it seems robust, sniggering at persistent wintry showers and a blast from my garden hose.
In common with bar-mounted computers and similar wireless gizmos, pylons, electricity substations and other sources of interference have made no impression. It has an operating range of 9ft, and at night those chunky arrows were visible to around 250m, though this dips to 100 around town.
Other traffic typically responded with greater caution, in many cases giving more room, but I'm pretty sure this just boiled down to novelty.
Daylight performance isn't comparable with indicators on cars and motorbikes, and after 10 hours of nocturnal riding and five hours during daylight I'm still not convinced that it's a substitute for hand signals (something a smooth-talking defence lawyer could readily exploit in the event of a collision with a negligent driver). And the danger/stop modes managed to confuse my riding companions, who had some inkling as to what they might be, let alone other traffic.
As for the bag itself, it's very well made, with the storage space neat and orderly throughout. Outside there's a handy helmet caddy and zippered cubby holes for keys, mini pumps and so on, while inside, a large main compartment swallows a lock, change of clothes, shoes, toiletries, lunch, an A4 pad and other stationery.
Laptop sleeves have been standard issue on messenger bags and better quality rucksacks for the last decade or so. This and the tablet slot are well padded and will manage 15.6in notebooks and 9.5in tablets respectively. There's the obligatory headphone port too, should you fancy some music or take calls during your commute.
Now, I should point out that this isn't a cycling-specific rucksack; it's aimed at runners and other outdoor activities, but it sits low enough not to brush against most helmets when glancing over the shoulder.
Personally, anything longer than 10 miles and I'll opt for panniers every time. That said, even with five or six kilos on board, the densely padded shoulder and waist straps offer ample support and prevent it bounding around like a playful labrador. Airflow is very reasonable too, although that familiar damp patch became apparent after seven miles at a steady 18mph.
The £170 price tag can be bettered in many places online, typically £129.99, though it can be found cheaper still, bringing it more in line with other quality luggage.
The LED board charges via USB cable in 4hrs from the mains, 4hrs 35mins from laptops/PCs. Run times will depend upon use, but I've managed about 33 hours from a single charge. By comparison, a waterproof high-vis rucksack cover and winter gloves proved more effective at communicating intentions and require virtually zero maintenance, save for once-overs with a damp cloth.
High quality rucksack but the indicator system seems little more than an expensive gimmick
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Port Designs Go LED Backpack
Size tested: 35L, Black
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?
Port Designs says: "Over 3000 cyclists are killed or seriously injured in the UK every year. As cycling becomes increasingly popular, this figure is growing – especially in busy urban areas where the biggest problem is visibility; all too often, riders just aren't being seen by drivers. With nearly two thirds of accidents happening at junctions, it's clear that letting other road users know where you're heading is also vital to staying safe.
"GO LED is a revolutionary backpack with integrated indicator light display. Made for mobility and commuting, GO LED backpack has a flashing LED panel increasing visibility during journeys, sport activities or leisure trips. Developed for cyclists, joggers, skaters and even scooter and roller use, it brings an increased security and visibility day and night thanks to the flashing LED panel and its light reflective bands."
Good quality rucksack but over the shoulder checks and hand signals give much clearer intentions.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Port Designs says: "The LED system can display 4 extra visible navigation signs (left turn, forward, right turn, stop/danger) to inform of direction changes. The LED panel is controlled by a wireless remote control that can be placed on a handlebar or in the dedicated shoulder strap pocket. GO LED has a wide capacity of 35 liters for a ultra-light weight of only 1 kilo. It has all the features of a contemporary backpack with padded laptop and tablet compartments to keep electronic devices safe and various useful pockets. It also has a translucent rain cover protecting the backpack and its content in case of heavy rain and letting LED light flash through".
Really solid rucksack but electrical components are only guaranteed for two years.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Port Designs Go LED rucksack is extremely well made and generally comfortable to use – at least over moderate distances with middling loads. However, while the electrical components are similarly well made, for most riders, glancing over the shoulder, hand signalling and manoeuvring is much safer than relying on a very expensive system whose codes are not universally clear.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solid bag with some nice touches.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Price and gimmick factor of the electrics.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not unless there was a budget version without the technology.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
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: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)