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The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible 2.0 Lite (22L) is a cracking combination, well suited to all manner of bike-based work or play – the daily commute, cafe-hopping office-in-a-bag, all-day adventures or trips to the shops.
If it looks a bit small for your needs there's a 30L version that's a few inches larger in all directions, but has the same features and functionality. You get a choice of colours, graphite grey and the black on test.
The key feature of the pannier is its ability to transform into a backpack, and this it does very well. The top third of the rear unzips and two thickly padded shoulder straps fold out, which then buckle to the two lower straps that were previously joined to secure the lower part of the pannier to your rack – clever.
With the back zipped up again, there's absolutely nothing to suggest that inside is hidden a pannier mounting bracket. You can't feel the pannier mounts through the padding while wearing the backpack either.
If you want some extra storage for documents or other flattish stuff, the back pocket that held the shoulder straps can hold a fair bit.
Converting back to a pannier is a bit more of an effort, as getting the two shoulder straps tucked down inside the pocket takes a bit of trial and error, but they eventually hide away tidily.
The contoured shoulder straps have an adjustable-height sternum strap that slides up and down on plastic runners. Once set it stays put, allowing you to find a good fit that distributes the load. I found I needed to cinch the straps fully tight to get the weight of the backpack well set on my back.
The pannier fixing system is from German luggage maestro Rixen + Kaul. The pannier hooks can be slid left or right by pressing on a spring-loaded button, giving a considerable adjustment range to suit pretty much any rack.
Two Wheel Gear advises: 'There are 4 different mounting locations for each hook, so they can be adjusted horizontally to best fit your rack. At the widest setting the distance between the hooks (from the outsides of the hooks) is 8.25 inches. When the 2 hooks are closest together, they are 5.25 inches apart (from the outsides of the hooks). The Rixen and Kaul mounting clips themselves are 1 inch wide. But the smallest rack the bag can fit, basically needs to measure 5.5 inches long (where the pannier mounts).'
The hooks can fit over racks from 6-16mm in diameter, and the pannier is held in place with a simple and effective spring-loaded red locking tab that pushes up from underneath the rack to hold the hooks down. This, coupled with the quickly-adjustable wide-diameter hooks, means you can slap the pannier onto pretty much any rack in seconds – great for using city hire bikes.
The hooks are 4.7mm thick, in case you're concerned about clearance between the outside tubing of a rack and any load plate inboard. If you feel it's needed, the buckled lower strap will hold the pannier flat against your rack to prevent flapping.
Moving on to the luggage features, the front pockets aren't gusseted, which means bulky items can be hard to fish out so they're best for smaller, thinner items. The lower external pocket has a lanyard to keep track of your keys or access fobs, while the upper pocket is lined with fluffy material to protect glasses, phones, consoles or ebike displays.
The front of the pannier unzips and folds open three-quarters down, meaning it's able to open almost completely to access the main compartment. There's a large zipped mesh pocket on the inside of the lid, for holding loose items that can be seen and retrieved easily.
Against the back is the padded laptop compartment, good for holding up to a 15in machine. The bottom of the laptop sleeve is about an inch from the bottom of the pannier itself, and is padded, so when you place the pannier down, your laptop's side edge is off the ground slightly and protected. There's a Velcro elastic tab to hold the laptop in place, and the sleeve also holds A4-size documents or magazines. On the front of the laptop sleeve is the obligatory mobile-office area with three pen-holders and another passport-sized mesh pocket.
The whole of the inside, including the lower outside pocket, being lined with a bright orange material makes finding things even in low light very easy.
One notable omission is the lack of any charging cable port between the outer pockets and the inside. These days most travellers live by connectivity, and keeping multiple devices charged without having them all in the same pocket or juggling a mess of battery packs and cables is a valued feature.
On the outside there's a fair number of features. Starting on the front, there are two large buckles either side of the lid, which Two Wheeled Gear calls its 'Modular Attachment System'. The buckles are permanently fixed to the bag, and you can 'undo' the also-fixed loop of webbing from the hook-shaped bottom of the buckle. You can then thread through your helmet straps, or a loop on a water bottle or anything else, then reattach the hook, and it's quickly and firmly affixed to the outside of the bag.
You could also pass a carabiner or two through the loops, to then carry just about anything externally.
Lower down on the outside are two almost unnoticeable plastic tabs, which slot into receivers in Two Wheel Gear's own top tube and saddle bags. The idea here is you can quickly strip your bike of other same-brand storage and attach it to your backpack. This gives you hands-free carriage, avoiding the risk of theft as you wander about or head to work and not needing to try to fit what might be wet or mucky accessories into what might be an already full bag.
The 'waterproof-backed' 600D polyester material feels tough and will easily resist showers. For heavy rain, stashed inside the front pocket is a fluorescent rain cover with an elastic cord to draw tight around the bag in either pannier or backpack mode.
The cover has a reflective light loop, although anything but the lightest of clip-on lights will end up facing downwards as the cover sags under its weight. There's also a light loop on the outside at the bottom of the front pocket, but as with most loops of this ilk, again the light sags downwards so is of questionable value.
An omission of sorts is a lack of a dedicated light loop on the sides of the bag for use in pannier mode, but you could easily clip lights to the water bottle pockets. One has a Velcro strap for holding larger bottles, umbrellas or small D-locks in place, and both pockets have an elastic-gusseted protective patch to protect the pocket bottoms when the bag gets placed on the ground.
All of the quality YKK zips feature chunky pulls that are easy to use even with thick gloves on. The pull tags are made of red cord, which looks snazzy and further aids finding them.
Rounding out the features is a handle on top – this works really well and makes the pannier comfortable to carry as a briefcase.
I found wearing the backpack for a day's ferry and bus tripping about the Isle of Mull perfectly comfortable. And that was with four glass bottles of ale, a box of Mr Kipling's French Fancies and a Warhammer 40K box set aboard (Tobermory, you didn't disappoint). Adding in two water bottles in the external pockets, a battery bank, wallet, two magazines, a newspaper, desert cap and a games console, this family day out bag was pretty much maxed.
Walking around with it for four hours in warm weather, the inherent shape of the bag and stiffener plus padding made for a comfortable if not plush load-bearing experience. I'd have no qualms using this for a daily commute – it would breeze through the transition from bike to train to bus to office. Likewise, mounting it to a bike for a day's exploring of vineyards, distilleries or whatnot, you could carry a coat, a warm layer, and have enough space for a bottle of red, white or amber each to take back home.
At 1.44kg the backpack is getting towards noticeably hefty when empty – that's the cumulative effect of so many functions – but as you're limited to 22L of cargo it doesn't feel overly heavy in use, even maxed out.
Used for lochside picnics aside a hybrid ebike, again it was perfectly functional – and sharp looking – with the almost-fully-opening front flap providing ample access to epicurean comestibles and implements of dining destruction alike.
The Two Wheel Gear is a premium product, but whether that £128 price tag makes it good value or not compared with others is hard to say, as there aren't many other premium backpack-pannier combinations out there.
One convertible option we've reviewed is the Craft Cadence Metro Pannier Backpack that Steve tested earlier this year – £50 less but no longer available, it seems. It offered more volume but lesser functionality, with the need to remove the pannier brackets completely to convert to a backpack looking to be quite a faff. And with the design being a single large roll-top bag with a black interior and separate sleeve organiser, it's not an overly practical on-off-the-bike travel backpack, more a roll-top pannier you can attach straps to if needed.
Decathlon offers some very competitive budget alternatives, such as the 25L Elops Convertible Backpack Pannier for £49.99, a cracking product for the money, with features such as a padded laptop sleeve, waterproof cover, quality Rixen + Kaul adjustable pannier hooks, light loops and an exterior pocket. The process of going from backpack to pannier and back looks to be fast, but you are committed to splitting the 25L across both sides of your rack.
A single-sided option is the Elops Cycling Single 25L Pannier Backpack for £54.99, but it's a roll-top design and, like the Craft Cadence, not as practical a solution.
While you're paying a premium for the Two Wheel Gear option, it is a highly-functional and brilliantly designed product focused on mobile working but equally useful for recreational outings, which lets you quickly transition from cyclist to pedestrian and back.
A very good choice for mobile workers or day trips combining bikes and feet
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible 2.0 Lite
Size tested: 22 litre
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?
It's aimed at mobile office workers or general trippers, using multiple transport modes.
Two Wheel Gear says:
"The Pannier Backpack Revolution
"Quickly transform to pannier or backpack for commuting, touring and bike packing. Loaded with pockets, 15" padded laptop storage and Modular Attachment System for carrying helmets and extra gear. Voted, "Best bike pannier to hold a mobile office" by Wirecutter (NY Times)."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Two Wheel Gear lists:
Converts from pannier to backpack in seconds
Secure, fast attachment to standard racks sized 6-16 mm
Padded 15-inch laptop sleeve
Quick access soft pocket for phone or sunglasses
Bottle pockets with umbrella/U-lock strap
Reflective design with loop for light
Modular Attachment System (M.A.S.) / Helmet Attachment
Includes high visibility rain cover
LITE: Width: 12.5 inch x Height: 18 inch x Depth: 6 inch
PLUS: Width: 14 inch x Height: 19 inch x Depth: 8 inch
Volume: 22 Litres (LITE) | 30 Litres (PLUS)
Weight: 2.8 lbs / 1.27 kg (LITE) | 3.2 lbs / 1.45 kg (PLUS)
Materials: TPE Waterproof Backed 600D Polyester
Excellent build quality.
Very convenient and fast to adapt.
Early days, but the materials used and design point to very long life.
For the functionality, 1.44kg isn't bad.
Very comfortable, even with heavy loads.
Looking at the functionality, compared with other premium options (which are either panniers, or backpacks, but not both), £128 seems a good price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Highly enjoyable experience and one that doesn't detract at all from travel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The orange lining. So easy to find anything.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No cable ports.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a premium product compared with more basic pannier bag designs, which are basically open sacks that can have straps attached, but the backpack functionality is excellent. So a direct comparison is hard to make.
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
It's very good: a reasonable price for the functionality, though it could do with more tech-orientated features like external or internal cable ports. Also, it does weigh a bit.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L