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This classy bag from German luggage masters Deuter is almost the perfect companion for well-heeled commuters. Not so great if you want to stick a laptop in with your sandwiches though.
I was initially sceptical - the bag looked too small to be properly useful to me, but the main compartment extends once unzipped and has loads of space. It certainly passes the 'pair of shoes and assorted gubbins' test.
The main compartment is straightforward with just two large pockets in the side wall. By contrast the large outer pocket, neatly protected by a substantial flap, has a ridiculous number of sub-pockets and stashing pouches. They look great and will probably win you a game of commuter Top Trumps, provided the other chap chooses 'pockets' as a category.
I'm not convinced that having that many pockets is useful or healthy and anyone who actually uses all of them probably irons their socks and arranges their pencils in order of length. That said, the outer pocket does have a lot of usable space and the zipped external pocket is very handy for keys, change and other stuff you want to get at in a hurry.
The one thing lacking is either a padded laptop sleeve or internal padding on the bag itself. It does seem like an obvious omission and as the bottom of the bag is just thin material, I certainly wouldn't trust my laptop in it. Sure you could get a padded sleeve from elsewhere, but the bag already costs £90. It's pretty much the only thing that irked me about the bag though, and if you don't need to lump a laptop around, pretend I never mentioned it and add half a star back onto the rating.
Water resistance for a commuter bag is pretty impressive. I took it on a soggy Glastonbury 100 mile audax, hardly its intended use, and only remembered to deploy the hi-viz rain cover (stashed, oh yes, in another pocket) after we'd been on the road for more than seven hours. Impressively the only dampness was on the base of the bag, not bad considering the bike (Surly Disc Trucker, review coming later this summer) didn't have mudguards and was giving the bag a gentle pressure-washing with every mile. Really the rain cover is more about keeping the bag clean and free from road filth than it is about stopping your sandwiches from getting unpleasantly moist.
Bike-specific fixings are the same as you'd find on a quality set of panniers. Fully adjustable sprung loaded clips on a canted rail (to avoid heel-strike) are coupled with a lower clip to avoid lateral movement. What is clever is that the fixings can be zipped away once you reach your destination, neatly hiding any road grot that may have sprayed onto the back of the bag and preventing your skirt or trousers from having filth wiped across them. It's a nice touch and instantly improves on using a bog-standard pannier. There are various reflective logos and bits of piping but no light loop.
There's nothing flash about the looks, it's definitely office neutral, but build quality lives up to every cliche about German manufacturing. This is a very nice bag indeed, as it should be with such a price tag.
Excellent bag for the well-heeled commuter, not laptop friendly though.
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Make and model: Deuter Essential Bike bag pannier
Size tested: 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?
"The Essential Bike is a practical and elegant commuter brief case. It will attach to any standard bike rack with the Quick Lock attachment system. When it is not on the bike fold up the back flap and it makes a perfect brief case."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Quick Lock attachment system
Expandable main compartment
Internal document pocket
Zippered front pocket
Weight - 1400g
13 + 3 Litres
Very well made.
Excellent - well thought out as a bike pannier and a nice bag to use anyway. Loses a point for not being laptop friendly though.
At 1400g it's sturdy, but built to last.
Shoulder strap is useful and zipped back flap covers up those awkward and knobbly fixings.
No it isn't cheap, but it is very good quality.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent - even if my testing went beyond the daily commuting that it's designed for!
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solid construction, quality fixings, handy outside and external 'stuff' pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
If you need to carry a laptop then you'll have to buy a padded sleeve from elsewhere - and the bag already costs £90.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Lovely bag, but loses a point for the lack of laptop friendly features.
Age: 42 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....85kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
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: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides