Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $160
Pros: Good laptop protection, great storage for small and large items, protective document sleeve, magnetic and velcro closure, two side pockets, removable shoulder strap, waterproof, very durable, dozens of color options.
Cons: Boxy shape, uncomfortable for biking, better for offices than grocery shopping.
Best Uses: Office oriented commutes with short walks.
The Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 is an innovative, fully featured, and well-made laptop bag best suited to those who commute directly to and from an office environment. The bag offers excellent storage for all office essentials: documents, loose papers, and a 15" laptop are well protected; pens and pencils are easy to access and organize; and the bag opens and closes silently with a removable magnetic closure (one of three five features). Of the sixteen laptop backpacks and messenger bags reviewed here this is our favorite for office work, meetings, and conferences. It's highly functional, waterproof, durable, and looks good.
Other bags, however, are much better for mobile lifestyles. Our top rated messenger bag is the Mission Workshop Rummy ($175), a luxuriously comfortable, watertight, and very durable messenger for active lifestyles and biking. Where the Rummy is comfortable on and off the bike, it's comparatively poor at storing documents and small items. Can't afford the Rummy? Get the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger which is available at many major online retailers often for half the price of the Commuter 2.0.
Rickshaw bags are only available online directly from Rickshaw Bagworks.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 is a great messenger bag for those who go straight to and from work. The bag is much more of an office style computer bag/ briefcase than a versatile messenger bag for biking. Its construction provides good protection for documents and has an excellent removable 15" laptop case, slots for pens and pencils, phones, and other office goodies. The bag closes with a single flap that can either be secured with buckles, velcro or magnets!! Two magnets are sewn into the top flap and two magnetic strips can be attached to the front of the bag's velcro (see photos). This unique feature allows you to close the bag silently, a benefit when in meetings and conferences. We also found the bag's two mesh side pockets (most bags have one or none) be useful for water bottles and travel mugs.
The Commuter 2.0's removable shoulder strap (unique feature number two) further reinforces its office-oriented design. Unclip it and you have yourself a reasonably elegant briefcase. The bag's third unique feature is the brushed fleece front pockets that are soft to the touch and wont scratch your sunglasses, eyeglasses, or the screen of your smartphone. Number four: the Commuter 2.0 is the only messenger bag with a document sleeve in the front of the main compartment. We found this to be slightly more protective than the Osprey Elroy, which has the next best document sleeve.
In general we aren't very fond of built-in laptop sleeves. Timbuk2 aces the Swig's case, but others are not so hot. Patagonia went all out with the Half Mass' removable case that buckles (bulky, heavy, awkward). The best, by far, is the Commuter 2.0's, which fits a variety of 15" laptops and attaches with velcro- low profile, quick and easy. Keep it in if you need it or take it out if you don't.
Finally, this is no sissy computer case. The Commuter 2.0 walks the fine line between aesthetics and durability. It's the only messenger bag that has a separate material on the bottom to protect the bag from ten years of abrasion, bus floors and subway grunge (unique feature number five). This is an extremely well designed bag. And you can get it in one of over twenty colors for no additional charge!
Unlike most messenger bags reviewed here the Commuter 2.0 has semi rigid corners that protect the bag's contents. Unfortunately, they also prevent the bag from conforming to your back, which makes the bag comfortable when biking (it slides off your back and hangs in front like a purse). We also found the strap to be too long for biking- I.E., we couldn't tighten it enough- but fine for walking.
Through testing fifteen backpacks and messenger bags over the course of three months (one bag per tester per week) we found that messenger bags are good for one thing only: getting to the contents of your bag quickly and easily. Where other messengers excel at providing quick access on the go (Mission Workshop Rummy, Chrome Buran), the Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 provides quick access in stationary environments like offices. This is a fantastic computer bag, but a bad all-purpose mobile bag; it's terrible, for example, for grocery shopping. If you're like the majority of Americas, however, who drive or take public transit to work this will be a great bag for you.
Be patient, though. The Commuter 2.0 is made to order in SF. You'll have to wait a few weeks.
Although $150 is a lot for a briefcase style computer bag Rickshaw makes all of their products by hand in San Francisco with high quality materials. Their designs are also innovative and the Commuter 2.0 is much more versatile than a $500 leather briefcase. Yes, you can find computer bags that are cheaper, but we don't know of any that are as functional and as high quality as the Commuter 2.0.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: October 17, 2011
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