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Brooks Dalston Knapsack



Well made and very comfortable, but a few minor design niggles make the price somewhat offputting

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Brooks Dalston Knapsack not only takes its name from the heartland of the cycling hipster in London, it's also styled primarily with that market in mind, balancing style with function. At a price.

The name Brooks has long been synonymous with traditional values, high quality and Britishness. Ignoring the fact that the brand has effectively been Italian since 2003, after being bought out by Selle Royal, it has managed to retain that quintessentially British feel to it, not only through its range of traditional leather saddles but also through its ever expanding (thanks to its Italian reinvention) collection of bags.

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Handmade in Italy from rugged 'Bluesign' standard waterproof textile and vegetable tanned leather, the Dalston does exude quality and durability. It's available in a smaller 12-litre version too, for £120.

Features in the zip-top bag include heavy duty fabric webbing shoulder straps, and an adjustable chest strap, but I have to say I was disappointed with the way the shoulder straps fitted. Although stiff to start with, they did soften up over time and were really quite comfortable, but their straight up and down orientation, with no capacity to hinge or move, meant they sat oddly proud rather than flush with the body. I wondered if this was a boob thing, but when I asked a man to try it, it sat oddly on him too.

Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - straps.jpg

The bag itself is very comfortable and stable, either fairly empty or fully laden, so it did jar slightly that the straps don't look good. After all, looks are a primary focus for this bag.

The fabric of the bag is great, and kept out the rain very well, although I'd have liked a more substantial overlap at the zip to protect the bag's contents in persistent downpours, particularly if I was using the padded laptop sleeve (big enough for a 15in device). On the plus side, the zip is positioned at the rear, so it is quite well protected. The base of the bag is heavier-duty waterproofed fabric, too.

Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - side.jpg

As well as that padded laptop sleeve, there's a large internal zipped pocket, smaller pouch pockets, a capacious front pocket with Velcro fastening, and a stretchy side bottle pocket as well as a non-stretch side pouch.

Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - inside.jpg
Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - top flap.jpg

The side pockets are handy, particularly the water bottle one, and the other one could maybe be used for an umbrella if the bag fulfilled its ultimate potential of being one genuinely useful on or off the bike, as its looks would suggest.

> Check out our guide to the best cycling rucksacks here

There's also a riveted leather strap, which doubles up as both a design feature and somewhere to clip on an LED light. Ideally it would be lower and/or longer, as a flashing LED clipped to it isn't as visible as you'd want, especially if riding on a drop-bar bike. It's also a vertical strap rather than an easier-to-use horizontal loop; a loop of some sort where the smart Brooks metal badge is would have been good, though it is possible to clip a light to the Velcro front pocket.

Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - detail.jpg
Brooks England Dalston Utility Knapsack - logo.jpg

Although it's a genuinely comfortable and very well made bag, useful and stylish both on and off the bike, the few minor niggles mean it's hard to justify that £130 price tag. Even more so when it's compared with the superbly designed, British made Trakke Findo. Yes that one is £65 more, but the sense of care and attention put into the details of the Findo make it feel light years different.


Well made and very comfortable, but a few minor design niggles make the price somewhat offputting test report

Make and model: Brooks Dalston

Size tested: Medium, 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?

Brooks says: "The Dalston, a waterproof knapsack ideal for all year round urban cycling and big city adventures."

Aimed primarily at style conscious commuters looking for a rugged and comfortable bag that looks good as well as performing.

It does just what it should.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Volume 20 l

Width 30cm

Height 46 cm

Depth 14.5 cm




The Dalston Knapsack Medium is manufactured in Italy from bluesign® standard waterproof textile and genuine vegetable-tanned leather. Containing a 15" laptop compartment, three wide inner pockets and two outer pockets. The Dalston is completed with practical bottle pouch in tearproof two-way stretch fabric.

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Exceptionally well made (handmade in Italy) from superb quality fabrics and components.

Rate the product for performance:

Very stable and comfortable whether fully laden or quite empty and highly weather resistant.

Rate the product for durability:

Not going anywhere in a hurry!

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)

Quite light for a bag focused on durability and toughness rather than weight.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

Very comfortable to carry.

Rate the product for value:

A sound investment and will last for years, plus it's handmade in Italy. But it does have a few niggles for a bag with such a high price tag.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well indeed.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Shape of pack, weatherproofing and toughness of fabric.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Orientation of straps and how they looked in use, positioning of leather strap for LED light, depth of storm flap on zip.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Probably not.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

An exceptionally high quality bag but it needs a few minor improvements to the straps and leather trim to make it genuinely worth the price tag and to bump the score up.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 1.65m  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi  My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking

Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling. 

Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other. 

She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting. 

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