we participate in an activity that prides itself on a self-styled immunity to the worst of the weather, partially achievable through a stoic mental attitude but every bit as much by way of an enviable plethora of waterproof clothing. it has been often said that there is no such things as bad weather, simply poor choice of garmentage, and though we may like to adhere to that philosophy, the truth is not quite so amenable.
of course, in many cases we are but playing in the wilderness, with nowhere else to go other than round in self-described circles. the ubiquitous sunday morning rides are every bit as sociable as they are beneficial to one's sense of fitness and well-being. but irrespective of the form your own particular sunday ride inhabits, ultimately you'll head home post coffee and carrot cake to shower and become a civilian once more. scotland's west coast offers a studious prevalence of wet and windy weather, for which i have an extensive wardrobe of waterproofs: jackets, jerseys, shorts, bibtights, trousers and overshoes all ready and willing to fend off the most invasive precipitation.
but what about stuff and what about those who ride to work, with the prospect of sitting behind their desk, dripping on the carpet tiles, a warm shower at home, something of a distant prospect.
with a substantial percentage of modern-day toil involving use of the personal computer, traipsing in and out to work by bicycle would be every bit less enticing if the computer or ipad had need of being dried out at each or either end. there is many a rucksack and backpack available to assist with the carting of stuff, several of which are waterproof, but not all of which are kitted out to carry the latest in miniaturised electronics. items that fit both requirements while offering on-the-bike-comfort make the intersection between circles on our imaginary venn diagram one that could scarcely be viewed from afar.
portland's showers pass, rightly renowned for the quality and effectiveness of their waterproof clothing, has preceded our own thoughts on the subject with the release of three items of waterproof cycle luggage to ease the act of commuting, weekend activity or foray into the outback. from this choice of three, they sent through their utility waterproof backpack for review in the dreichness of the hebrides.
the utility backpack is a substantial piece of kit, sporting all manner of waterproof cleverness, the most unique of which is the fitting of four replaceable flashing lights; one on each side on elasticated pockets and two on the flap covering a closeable and also elasticated large external pocket. this sits under four rows of elastic loops, the purpose of which i must confess, totally escaped me. adjacent to those is a vertically zipped slot offering access to an internally lined document space.
the panel of the utility backpack that sits against the cyclist's own back is substantially padded with aerated panels to minimise perspiration. the adjustable straps are also well-padded and feature more elastic loops and reflective panels. between those straps is a reinforced fabric loop with which the backpack can be carried. next to this is another zip, allowing access to a full length pocket behind the padded back. those straps are augmented by a thin, elasticated strap at the top clipping onto the leftmost strap once the backpack is being worn. at the waist, there is a far more substantial strap that can not only be fastened in place, but features two zipped bum-bags. this particular strap is completely removable and can be worn independently of the utility backpack as and when necessary.
unlike one of two other cycling backpacks, the showers pass utility backpack does not fully unzip from edge to edge and side to side. the top waterproof zip reaches halfway down each side. internally there is a padded and lined pocket accepting up to a 15" laptop and a smaller pocket for the likes of an ipad. cleverly, those two computer recesses are constructed to avoid them ever touching the ground in the event that the backpack is accidentally dropped.
the opposite side has two elasticated pockets to hold water bottles or similarly shaped containers just below yet another zipped pocket and a metal loop to hold keys etc. it's a substantial piece of kit, yet remains relatively light. even when loaded up with a spare (showers pass) jacket, an ipad, a macbook air, two full water bottles and a folder of books and documents, the weight was easily bearable. the substantial straps, both vertical and horizontal, kept all this in place even when stood on the pedals, wrestling my way up any gradient that got in my way.
however, though any backpack worth its salt ought to swallow as much stuff as possible, carrying it comfortably and safely along highway and byway, what about keeping it all dry? in order that i might better evaluate this particular property, despite the outer construction of the utility backpack being fashioned as a '100% waterproof, fully welded construction with a single thermoplastic polyurethane coating', i placed newspaper over the top and underneath its contents prior to heading out into intermittent heavy rain.
despite getting particularly wet because i'd removed my waterproof overtrousers on the basis that the rain seemed to have gone away, the newspaper was totally dry on opening the backpack when back home. additionally, four frantically flashing light emitting diodes on back and sides, augmented by a bright orange jacket and helmet, meant that any driver using smidsy (sorry mate, i didn't see you) as an excuse, would have found themselves sporting a remarkably frail excuse.
portland's fair city experiences almost as much rain as does the hebrides, making the showers pass utility backpack a more than ideal accoutrement for the intrepid or commuting cyclist during the impending uk winter months. it's not the most aesthetically attractive backpack i've come across, but its pragmatic approach to everything easily outweighs any superficial idiosyncracies.
the showers pass utility backpack retails at £160 ($214) including a pack of four beacon lights.
saturday 13 august 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................