The Deuter Bike One Air EXP 16 rucksack is a well-built bag that keeps a gap between your back and your luggage. It has nice touches like a built-in raincover, a helmet holder and the ability to carry a water bladder as well as a couple of bidons in its side pockets. Perhaps best suited to an overnight bike trip, it also works well for commuting – as long as you don't need a laptop compartment.
The Bike 1 bag is based on a design that the German company has been selling for 25 years, updated and refined for today's market. Its features include comfortable padded shoulder straps and hip pads, with waist and sternum straps to keep everything from moving around when the route gets bumpy; side pockets and a big valuables pocket on the back with several compartments; a built-in rain cover; a built-in helmet carrier; and the ability to carry a two-litre hydration bladder and expand the main compartment for larger loads.
The bag feels like good quality, with tidy stitching and good zips that never felt sticky or likely to jam. The padded shoulder straps connect to similarly padded zones at the top and bottom of the main bag, providing cushioning for your shoulder blades and hips respectively.
Between these two padded zones lies the Deuter 'Aircomfort System'. This is an arrangement of two crossed wires that provide shape and structure to the rear of the bag by running from corner to corner and so holding the rear of the rucksack away from your back when you are wearing it. Despite initial scepticism, I have to admit that I really did seem to be getting to my destinations with a drier back than I have with other rucksacks. It's not perfect, and you're still going to have some sweat, but it did feel like an improvement.
With rucksacks, you generally want the contents as close to your body as possible to avoid changing your centre of gravity too much. Thankfully, I never felt that the Aircomfort System had this effect, despite the gap it introduced between me and the bag. Even with a few kilograms in the bag, everything felt planted and stable. There are side compression straps for if you have the bag part empty and want to cinch the load closer to your body.
Inside, there's a single main compartment which can be expanded by opening a zip that runs around the outside of the bag. The main compartment is a single space except for a tall vertical pocket that sits on the interior face closest to your body. This is for holding a water bladder, which can be suspended inside the pocket from a Velcro loop that sits above.
The exit port for the drinking tube is cleverly designed to let you run the tube right or left as you prefer, and both shoulder straps have elasticated bands to hold the tube in place on its way to the sternum strap, which seems the most likely place you'd clip the mouthpiece. A flap of fabric sits over the exit hole at the top of the bag and should prevent rain or dust dripping down the vent when you're in action.
On the back there is a valuables pocket containing a main pouch large enough to hold, say, a phone, wallet and a toolkit all at the same time. Behind this pouch there are two mesh pockets for storing small items and a zipped compartment with a key holder.
What the bag does not have, it has to be noted, is a separate compartment for a laptop. This is something that might or might not affect you if you're looking for a bag for commuting. As long as you don't need laptop protection, or are happy to use a standalone padded case for your computer, this bag would be fine as a commuter option thanks to its ability to manage a change of clothes, set of shoes and a packed lunch easily. I commuted a few times with a laptop in a sleeve and it worked fine. If you're not carrying a water bladder, that pocket could also be used as a holder for wet kit – as long as you've not got too much of it, because it only stretches out so far.
This is a comfortable bag. The padded straps sat nicely for me and even when I had about 5kg on board I wasn't bothered by the load when I rode.
The bag has two zipped pockets on the outside – one on the back and one on the bottom. The former has a label saying 'rain cover', but actually holds a little net that can secure your helmet to the back of the rucksack when you're walking around. I tried this several times, and walked a few miles in total, without my helmet ever wanting to come loose.
The other pocket, which does not say 'rain cover', holds the rain cover. This is a nice piece of kit. It has a big reflective logo printed on the back and is a shockingly high-vis green. In my testing, the rain cover's elasticated edges stayed put just fine and it didn't show any signs of wanting to pop off. Were it to do so, it's permanently anchored to a strap inside its pocket so you wouldn't lose it anyway – a nice touch.
Speaking of reflective details, there's also a thin retroreflective strip on the left shoulder strap and a big one running diagonally across the valuables pocket on the back. A companion who was walking behind me at night described this as being very effective.
The bag is rated at 16 litres, but that sort of number is always difficult to visualise. I found I could get a change of clothing, a pair of shoes, and a rain jacket into it without having to open the expansion zip. It could very easily carry whatever you might need for a day's riding (which is what Deuter markets the bag for) or an overnighter.
A lot of thought has gone into this bag, and it feels like the mature product it is. Perhaps best suited for day rides or an overnight cycle trip, it's also big enough for commuting – as long as you don't need a padded laptop sleeve (and if you do, have a look at Deuter's Giga Pro). With features like its water bladder capacity, it would also be good off the bike, when hiking or skiing.
There are other bags that will hold things on your back for less money – the Upso Rivington at £65 is well worth a look, and if size isn't so much of an issue for your commute there's Oxford's 12 litre Aqua V12 – but if you want a bag for the long-haul then consider this.
A neat bag with some nice features; a dependable companion for day rides and maybe even longer trips
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Deuter Bike One Air EXP 16 backpack
Size tested: Midnight-Moss
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?
Deuter describes the bag as being suitable for day tours. It would certainly work for this, and i would use this for an overnight trip too.
Deuter says: "What a story! The ancestor of bike backpacks is a quarter of a century old – and is about to become one of the coolest packs of all. The classic design reflects its glorious history, yet the hipster is completely up to date with regard to technological know-how The Bike I is completely at home on day tours, in the country and in urban settings."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The bag has:
- A raincover
- The 'Aircomfort System' to hold the bag away from your back
- A zipped valuables pocket
- Two side pockets
- A thin compartment inside
- The ability to work with a hydration bladder
- An expanding main compartment
- Waist and sternum straps
- A helmet holder
The bag feels well constructed and good quality.
It works perfectly fine. I'd perhaps have liked the ability to organise the contents in the main compartment a bit more, as the little stretch compartment is, in reality, going to be used for only one of its two possible purposes (water bladder or wet clothing) at once. And having had rucksacks with useful pockets on the waist belt, I missed these here.
It looks well made. I wouldn't have concerns here.
It's slightly over a kilo when empty, which is on a par with other bags.
I very occasionally felt the wire support structure pressing into the back of my shoulder, but this was minor and occasional. Otherwise the bag was comfortable in use.
It's not the cheapest, and if all you want to do is carry tools, food, a jacket and a sandwich for a day ride, there are cheaper bags out there. But that said, the Deuter Bike 1 rucksack is well made and has some clever touches that mean it could easily be your go-to bag for years to come.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On the sort of day rides that Deuter suggests this bag is designed for, I found it worked really well. I could also see myself using it for a lot of other things too. It's large enough for an overnight trip, and its features – particularly the bladder capacity – mean it would also be great for hiking or skiing trips.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Generally it was comfortable and I could carry quite a lot of weight without really being aware of it. The raincover worked well when I was out in a heavy shower and the reflective details seem good for visibility.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing in particular.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I think this is a very good as a bag for day rides or overnighters. I'd certainly reach for this bag if I were doing a mountain bike trip, for example – and in that capacity it would even be up to a multi-day journey along a trail like the South Downs Way. The only real reservation is that there are cheaper bags out there that, in many cases, would do the same job. But set against this is the Deuter's clear quality and nice features.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Synapse My best bike is: Whyte Wessex One
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, audax and long-distance riding
A research psychologist by day, Ian spends quite a lot of time on bikes, particularly commuting between Bristol and Bath or doing audax rides. For years he was an ultradistance runner, but this came to an end when he realised getting back onto a bicycle offered the chance to race over much more preposterous distances. In recent years he has ridden in the Transcontinental Race, the TransWales and the North Cape 4000. He has even finished first in some of these.