Osprey Radial 26 Pack Review

I’ve been commuting Marin – SF for the last 4 months.
One month in it became apparent that there were better cycle commute packs than the completely adequate Burton BC snowboard pack that I was using.
It had plenty of space in the main bag but it didn’t have a secure easy access outer compartment & it was hot. Perfect for BC snowboarding but not for cycling.
Karrie consulted with 3RingCircus’ commute gear go-to geek Brett Lider, a long time, high mileage bike rider/commuter and surprised me with the Osprey 26.

“The Radial 26 is a deluxe, ventilated technical daily commute pack offering 26 liters of storage capacity with practical solutions for the bike commuter lifestyle and also ideal for active, everyday use.”

Initial perceptions were :
1. Swanky & good looking.
2. Functional.
3. Might be perfect.

Current opinions:
Positives:
1. Good looking (see above) they got me the Black one. I think I could have rocked the mantis green but the thinking was that black was less likely to show dirt.
2. Functional deluxe.
It has 2 bottle/cup pockets on the side
1 Ulock pocket on back. I use that to stuff a vest or light jacket in.
A “helmet clip” on back that I never really figured out how/why to use.
1 outside single zipper pocket with key clip for wallet/etc
1 larger 2 zipper pocket outside with ‘office type’ organizer for larger items like glasses, bike lights/etc.
Main pocket.
This has lots of room for clothes, 3 sleeve pockets for toiletries (I guess) and a full length “document sleeve”
This compartment is ample for clothes and the massive lunches that Karrie often packs for me.
The zippers go down far enough for easy access but not so far that anything falls out easily
Computer pocket.
This is closest to your back & completely padded.
It’s the full width & depth of the bag and if your laptop doesn’t fit you shouldn’t be hauling it around.
This pocket also has a zippered & padded tablet compartment. 2fer!
The zipper goes a few inches around the top of the bag so it’s super secure.
My Mac Air and a small towel fit fine.
The key to the Ospreys is the back pad & strapping system. The pack has some sort of light internal frame.
This supports a mesh panel that allows air between your back & the bag reducing heat & sweat & chafe.
The straps are well padded and curved so that my arms are super comfortable on the bars.
The straps adjust at top & bottom to adjust for various loads/etc. They also have chest and waist straps.
Built-in rain cover. I try not to ride in the rain but sometimes you just have too &the rain cover is really easy to deploy and store plus it’s high visibility.

Osprey Back padding and ventilation

Suspended back allows for air flow

Suspended back allows for air flow

Negatives:
1. Due to the tension of the internal frame, the fabric on the corners by the waist strap take the bulk of the chafe when the bag is standing on surfaces.
They are going to be the eventual failure point and are just starting to show some wear.
I think i can avoid this by laying the bag flat instead of standing it up.

Osprey Pack - wear spot

2. The stretchy fabric on the bottle & Ulock pockets seems a bit flimsy. It looks like it is going to sag, but maybe that is just me cramming a jacket in it.
3. The light strap is positioned way down on the bottom of the pack at the bottom of the jacket pocket..
Given the aforementioned stretchy issue, I think this makes the light point too far down & leaves the light vulnerable to getting hit.
My brand new NiteRider Solas 2 Watt USB Tail Light got knocked off the first time I ever set the bag down with the light on, never to be seen again.
After I have adequately mourned the loss of that awesome light, Im going to buy a new one and clip it to the helmet holder.
Note that many reviews of the NiteRider Solas 2 Watt USB Tail Light say that the clips breaks easily – maybe that is what happened.

Info from the owners manual:

laptop/tablet Compartment
Every Radial Series pack features a separate, padded laptop compartment with a zippered, internal padded tablet compartment for secure carry and quick access.
The Radial features dedicated, top zippered access to this compartment.
Integrated raincover
Every Radial Series pack features a built-in, high visibility raincover designed to protect your bag’s contents in even the most adverse conditions.
The raincover features reflective materials and a built-in blinker attachment tab to increase safety. To operate,
A) locate the raincover icon and zippered storage pocket at the bottom of the pack’s front panel and remove raincover.
B) unfold the raincover and drape over the top and bottom of the pack and the elastic holds it securely in place. Reverse to return to compartment.
u-lock Storage
All of the Radial Series packs feature dedicated U-Lock storage compartments.
The Radial Series features a stretch woven front pocket with buckle closure for this purpose.
Blinker light attachment
A reinforced blinker light attachment tab found at the base of every Radial Series pack along reflective detailing help to provide safety and visibility during commutes.
Hipbelt
Every Radial Series removable nylon waist strap features a modified, straight ErgoPullTM closure for increased stability.
To operate the ErgoPullTM, loosen the webbing enough so you can connect the center buckle.
Then grasp the loose ends of the webbing on either side, and pull in and across evenly with both hands at the same time.
The Radial Series hipbelt features an integrated strap keeper system eliminating strap flap during movement.
Create a loop on either side and pull in and across evenly with both hands at the same time.

UPDATE – October 20, 2014
re: my claims in the Built-in rain cover section about “ I try not to ride in the rain but sometimes you just have too “
I woke up this morning and looked out the window. I noted that there was low fog in the golden gate and a murky cloud layer but i could see blue patches and thought it would be fine to ride in to SF.
Karrie was in Wyoming and Guston and I accidentally fell back asleep during a belly pat session to be wakened by the sounds of power tools on the construction site next door which indicated that I was now really late.
I made coffee & guzzled it while stuffing some clothes in the Osprey. Grabbed some clear glasses since it’s getting dark earlier and pulled out Tuesday the road bike. It kind of seemed like it was going to start drizzling. When i got to the driveway, it actually looked like drizzle so i went back in and grabbed my $20 plastic raincoat – just in case.
I made it about 100 yards down the hill when it started to rain, pretty serious rain. At that point my options were to continue or ride back up the hill, shower, drive in with the crazy people, drop 25$ on toll and parking or pedal on.
I stopped in a driveway and donned my plastic raincoat from the handy laptop compartment, pulled the high visibility rain cover over the pack and acknowledged the neighbor sort of shaking his head at me.
Remember the part about : ”the rain cover is really easy to deploy and store plus it’s high visibility.”?
I’m loving that rain cover. Out of his bemused yet disapproving glare in 30 seconds and cars could see me.
It was pouring by the time got to the bottom of our hill and continued all the way though Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge 8 miles later.
After that it eased up. I was soaked from the waist down but when i got to work my torso was warm & comfortable and my bag and all its contents were bone dry. Im pretty sure Guton stayed in bed.
I don’t always ride in the rain, but when I do, I prefer the Osprey rain cover.