islay house, situated in bridgend, was originally built in 1644 by sir hugh campbell of cawdor, though there have been more than just a few additions to that original building over subsequent years. once the stately home of daniel campbell from the mid 18th century, the campbells were declared bankrupt in 1847 and the house and its estates subsequently became the home of james morrison mp when he bought the isle of islay in 1853. the morrison family ended their association with the house in 1985 when it was sold to an american airline pilot.
more recently it has once again changed hands and is currently being remodelled as islay house hotel, an appropriately luxurious accommodation set in its own grounds at the top of loch indaal. though i've never counted them, it reputedly features 365 windows, one of which allegedly fronts a hidden room. this was apparently discovered to be the case when the servants in years gone by were told to hang a white hankie from every window at the front of the building. though they all seemingly occupied adjacent rooms to do so, there was still one window at which no-one stood. no white handkerchief was to be seen.
rapha's new enlarged rucksack apparently inhabits similar ground. admittedly this capacious and well crafted piece of dedicated cycling luggage does not feature any windows whatsoever, but it does purport to conceal a hidden compartment inside which is a fluorescent pink waterproof cover. that's what rapha's website would have you believe.
situated atop the rucksack, behind the carry handle, is a zipped pocket inside which, logically i would have said, the aforementioned waterproof cover ought to have resided. but in point of fact, this top pocket is intended for a set of keys, mobile phone or similar stuff, making it easier to gain entry to a car, van, hotel room or house without having to rummage through the many internal pockets and panels which will likely be filled with all manner of cycling-related accessories. i considered the possibility that the waterproof cover had been ommitted and i searched in vain, but i admit this was something of an unlikely scenario.
with two tagged zips on the main closure system, it is possible to open the rucksack flat in the back of a team bus, on the floor or on top of the hotel bedspread. a wired frame is visible internally, there to maintain a degree of structural integrity when in use. there's room for a 15" slim laptop such as a macbook air in a pocket lined with removable polystyrene, a feature that ought to keep the macbook from receiving any untoward damage when travelling. an outer pocket on the same side will comfortable swallow copies of mondial, rouleur and wired, offering even more protection for the laptop. at the top is a tricot lined pocked into which it's possible to safely encase a pair of rapha sunglasses. this is cleverly positioned to make access simplicity itself, should the sun suddenly and unexpectedly appear. (not a frequent problem up here, it should be said.)
the opposite side of the fully opened rucksack has a double-sided pocket into which a pair of rapha 'cross shoes or climbers' shoes can be safely carried and kept in place with a poppered strap. i'll admit it was a minor struggle to get the shoes in and out, though there is ample space when you get them there. this panel is accessorised with a large zipped pocket, bordered on one side with two elasticated hoops to hold a mini-pump along with long, thin pockets to hold a few pens or pencils.
you just never know when the need to complete a crossword or sudoku will arise.
the outer side, peppered with hundreds of reflective dots exists as another large, zipped compartment that can be closed when not required, or opened out when there's need of stuffing a jacket inside or perchance a 3kg bag of green city jumbo porridge oats. and just in case you have need of secreting a citylink bus ticket or a few tourist leaflets, there's another zipped compartment built in behind the reflective dots.
consider all the foregoing packed into the rucksack's 35 litres and carried on your back on the way to the office, going on holiday or simply as part of the accoutrements that accompany a grand day out on the bicycle; you're going to want to make sure that lot doesn't slip and slide as you crawl your way up alpe d'huez, the ventoux or bowmore main street. that's all well taken care of by means of an elasticated chest strap and a substantial waist strap both of which conspire to keep the rucksack rock solid on your back, no matter the contortions you may find yourself in during bicycle travel.
for those who feel the need to carry their helmet rather than wear them at times, there are elasticated loops on each side of the back panel through which the helmet straps can be threaded and fastened. affixed thus, a helmet offers no obfuscation of matters taking place behind the cyclist, even when turning round to stare out following drivers. the rapha marqued centre strip has a small section on the lower part to facilitate the fitting of a rear light.
like rapha's backpacks before this new enlarged version, the rucksack straps are well padded and remarkably comfortable, even when the luggage is filled to overflowing. like many a rucksack, even when heavy to carry, the weight seems to evaporate when worn while riding your bicycle. the panel that sits on your back is also padded, but in a manner that allows for decent airflow; there's nothing worse than clambering off the bike, divesting yourself of the luggage and finding that your back is all swot and hetty.
did i ever find that secret panel? ultimately yes, but only after about 45 minutes of searching. it's very cleverly concealed and it's not where i expected it to be. though the waterproof cover encases all but the panel that sits against your back, it should be noted that it is not large enough to fit over a helmet being carried on the outer panel.
am i going to tell you where the secret compartment is situated? of course i'm not; then it wouldn't be a secret.
rapha's rucksack retails at £180 and is available in black only. \ rapha rucksack
friday 14 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................