At road.cc 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.
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
The Built for Athletes Cycling Backpack is really well made, decently water resistant and comfortable when loaded up. As the looks suggest, though, it's built for athletes who're going on short or gentle rides to some other sport – it soon gets hot and sweaty with effort.
The only things holding this back are the lack of any padded venting on the back (not uncommon for 'urban' packs like this, to be fair) and it only resisting rather than totally stopping water. Everything else about it is great, and it works very well for shortish all-weather commutes and errands.
The maker doesn't give a capacity, but my calculations (okay, Google's calculations) say it's 20L overall, and gives around 10L of usable cargo space when sealed. It's a good size for commuting with a change of clothes and some work stuff, or a quick trip to the shops for, say, a 10L 'family pack' of Belgian buns. And an apple. For health.
The top seals with Velcro and rolls up to keep out rain; the shiny metal hook has four positions to help you keep the contents snugged down even when there aren't many, and makes access quick and easy.
BFA says the fabric is 'fully water resistant', but omits to say how long for. Water certainly beads off the fabric and it keeps out all but the heaviest or most prolonged rain, but eventually – because it only resists water, rather than stopping it – damp creeps through. It's good enough for 99 per cent of the short hops this pack is designed for, I'd say.
The two mesh outer pockets are very useful, and with thick elastic belts and drawstring necks, they're a very secure spot for bottles. Or anything else that can get wet, for that matter. Not every bag of this style has external pockets, so it's a plus.
I found the wide, padded straps very comfortable, and the range of adjustment is good. It's a fairly short bag so it's quite easy to cinch it down tight and get a secure fit, but there's plenty of room to accommodate big civilian coats too.
It's made more secure by the chest strap, which again has a good range of adjustment: the metal buckles adjust vertically over 10cm, while the central plastic one can pull those buckles to within 12.5cm of each other horizontally.
The heavy webbing straps and substantial plastic D-rings can easily support anything you'd seriously want to hang from them, and the straps themselves attach extremely securely. You can really load this thing up without worrying about it breaking free.
The serious build means it's fairly heavy at 810g on our scales, but I never found it an issue myself. There are much lighter options out there, though.
Inside, there's a single laptop pocket (15in max) with a big elastic retaining band that Velcros down at one end. The rear panel is slightly but quite effectively padded to keep your back comfortable. This pocket is useful for stopping things rattling around when you're only loaded very lightly, too.
The reflectives are great, sensibly positioned to allow for your forward lean, and a good size. You get two big patches on the strap for forward visibility, too.
At £49.99 the price is good, especially given the rugged build and quality materials. It's pretty similar to the Altura Heritage 12L backpack in both size and intent, and the Altura is just 1p more at £50. The waxed cotton of the Heritage isn't flawless in heavy rain either, though, and has no external pockets.
The Apidura City Backpack is considerably larger at 17L, yet lighter (750g) and properly waterproof – you might even say 'fully' – but then it's more than twice the price at £120.
The Vaude Isny II is also worth a look (especially if you like eco-friendly builds) as it's only 580g, is actually waterproof and holds 20L. On the downside, it also lacks external pockets or even a handle, and it 'isny' very cheap at £85. Geddit? Sorry.
This is a very sturdily made bag with a useful size and spec for its intended use, and it looks good too – which, let's face it, is important given its place zipping about in towns and cities.
Strong, useful and comfortable pack for commutes, errands and gentle-paced rides
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Built for Athletes Cycling Backpack
Size tested: 60cm x 37cm (fully open)
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?
Built For Athletes says: "Modelled on the hard-wearing bags favoured by bike messengers, the Roll Top Backpack is constructed with fully water resistant fabric. The roll down section at the top is secured by a metal clip.
"The straps are padded for comfort with reflective tabs which, combined with an all striped reflective bottom panel and branding, vastly improves visibility at night."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Two Side Bottle holders with drawcords for quick access on the move
Reflective branding and bottom panel improving visibility
Fully adjustable sternum strap with metal clips for optimal fit and comfort
Padded shoulder straps
Fully water resistant fabric
Padded velcro pocket fits laptop up to 15"
Velcro roll top fastening ensuring the bag closes securely and keeps your valuables secure
Quick grab handle
Dimensions 60cm x 37cm (fully open)
Solid and rugged.
For gentle jaunts, commutes and shopping runs it's great.
It's comfortable and secure enough either loaded or not, but the back has zero ventilation and can get sweaty.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it's only really limited by the sweat-inducing back panel and rather slow-drying fabric.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Rugged build, easy to use, good reflectives, comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Gets sweaty easily, looks waterproof but is only water-resistant.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £49.99 the price is good, especially given the rugged build and quality materials. It's pretty similar to the Altura Heritage 12L backpack in both size and intent, and the Altura is just 1p more at £50. The waxed cotton of the Heritage isn't flawless in heavy rain either, though, and there are no external pockets.
The Apidura City Backpack is considerably larger at 17L, yet lighter (750g) and properly waterproof, but then it's more than twice the price – £120.
The Vaude Isny II is also worth a look (especially if you like eco-friendly builds), as it's only 580g, is actually waterproof and holds 20L. On the downside, it also lacks external pockets or even a handle, and is £85.
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 overall score
This is well made, sturdy, comfortable and useful. Some back padding for airflow would be nice, but isn't a deal-breaker given what it's really intended for. Properly waterproof fabric, though, would be a big benefit and would see it score higher than the very similar Altura Heritage.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,