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Hands-on Gear Review
Timbuk2 Classic Review
Cons: Minimal features for electronics
Bottom line: The Classic is a great messenger bag but has a lot of thoughtful competition in the industry.
The Timbuk2 Classic messenger bag didn't earn an award in this review, but the scores reveal just how close a call it was. Realistically, this is an excellent bag that we appreciated and enjoyed using — and ultimately lost sleep over when scoring — but the scores aligned with our preferences in the end. It was just a very, very competitive review. The Classic is, as the name suggests, a very classic messenger bag. It scored above average in all categories, but not quite high enough to nudge ahead of the competition. We enjoyed using this back, and recommend it overall.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Timbuk2 Classic is a well-made messenger that suits a variety of uses.
The Classic is truly a classic messenger bag, scoring well with 74 out of 100 across all of our tests, but only coming in fifth place in a competitive lineup of messenger bags.
The Timbuk2 Classic performed well above average in the comfort metric. It has nice padding on the shoulder strap and a simple design; it is lightweight and sized well for a reasonable comfort to carrying-capacity ratio.
The bag is made of a relatively supple fabric that sits flush on your back while cycling and gains significant security with the removable cross strap installed. The bag has a clever shoulder strap adjustment system involving a camming buckle and doubled-back straps. This design eliminates the excess strap that often dangles in your lap on your ride, but proved to be pretty tricky to get used to, and was much harder to maneuver for users who carry their messenger bag on the left shoulder.
Timbuk2's cross straps are much easier to adjust than Chrome's and allow Timbuk2 bags to be carried over either the left or right shoulder. When installed, however, the cross strap doesn't easily slide out of the way. If you use it, expect it to get in the way when you just throw the bag over one shoulder for a quick jaunt down the hall or across the street to the coffee shop. With a bigger Velcro loop to fasten around the shoulder strap, it would be possible to slide it down and at least briefly out of the way.
The reflective tabs hanging off the bag improved comfort in another way: it helped us feel safer cycling on busy roads. Additionally, there is a piece of webbing sewn to the outside of the bag that is well placed for a bike light.
The Timbuk2 Classic has a simple and effective pocket and organization scheme, complete with a pleasing sneak-access side zipper just under the flap that is great for a wallet. The internal side pockets are intended for water bottles, but they're too tight for a liter Nalgene. They are even more excellent for things often used like laptop or iPad cables or snacks. With no zipper and a loose fit, they make it easy to stow and easy to access awkward items like cords or small bags of snacks; this keeps them tidy and out of the way in the corners of the bag. They might even help prevent your snacks from getting smashed by the books in your bag.
The Classic has effective though minimal electronics-friendly features. It is vastly superior to the Chrome Mini Metro in terms of electronics, which is otherwise a very similar messenger bag. There is an internal divider with light padding for a laptop, and several zippered pockets which also help organize cords and smaller items like a phone.
Ease of Use
The double-loop cam buckle system used in both Timbuk2 bags in this review is designed to allow a quick and easy shoulder strap adjustment while eliminating any excess webbing, but it proved to be relatively unwieldy and ironically slow to adjust. Some of our users got used to it, but others found it cumbersome and irritating. Additionally, this design made the cross strap a bit harder to attach and adjust for comfort when carrying the bag on the left shoulder. We much preferred the quick adjust buckle designs of the Osprey Flapjack Courier and the Outdoor Research Rangefinder.
The bag has a low-profile grab handle which is set slightly toward the back of the bag. This means when you pick the back up without the front flap firmly closed with buckles or sufficiently stuck on the Velcro, the bag will tilt forward and the inner compartment will open wide under the flap.
This bag has compression straps which cinch from the bottom of the bag so you don't end up with the big butt messenger bag effect, a feature we really liked when the bag had very few items in it.
Wear and Tear
This bag performed very well in the rain. It has no external pockets and the sides of the flap overlap when closed to seal the contents from the elements. The fabric wets out a bit but the bag has a rubber feeling liner and great side folding flaps that seal the contents from the rain. The simplicity of the Classic makes it exceptionally durable, though the lighter colors do get dirty relatively quickly. The fabric did show signs of wear in a relatively short amount of time, but this did not compromise the weatherproofness or performance; it was strictly aesthetic.
The Timbuk2 Classic weighs in at a relatively light 2.19 lbs, and with 16 liters of volume measured in our OGL Volume Test, it was a middle-of-the-road bag with regards to the volume-to-weight ratio.
The Timbuk2 Classic is an excellent all-around messenger bag. It didn't stand out for any one user type, but would be adequate for bike commuting with office and/or light gym clothes, simple and easy for international travel, and sleek and low profile enough for congested urban subways.
The Classic is relatively well priced at only $99, though if you choose to customize one of these rather than go for the ready-made unicolor bags, you'll quickly find yourself adding fun features and kicking up that price.
Timbuk2 was born and bred in San Francisco, and they still makes their bags in the Mission District. They created the iconic messenger bag back in 1989 and design their products to last a lifetime. Nostalgia aside, many of our testers now say they prefer to commute on their bikes with a backpack instead of the classic messenger bag. As such, we see the messenger bag as increasingly filling the role of the casual briefcase, the purse or "man-purse," or gym bag. As such, this Classic bag didn't win any awards, though we still really liked the design and high-quality manufacturing; it was ousted by a few bags that blended some of our favorite features with fresh eyes.
Other Versions and Accessories
Check out Timbuk2's backpacks! They're on top of the industry shifts, like any true industry leader would be
— Lyra Pierotti
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