One of the hallmarks of great gear is the ability to literally change how we do things. Whether it’s a slick turntable that gets us back into vinyl or a transcendent toaster that revitalizes our breakfast routine, such products motivate us to live different, more satisfying lives.
The item doesn’t need to be flashy or fancy though. For instance, I’ve been having a moment lately with a find that costs 60 bucks and is no bigger than a blueberry muffin. It’s Apidura’s Packable Backpack, and it has changed the way I ride my bike and run errands.
More specifically, it has allowed me to dovetail these two activities in a way that was always tricky before. When you go for a long ride, you want to be as lean and mean as possible, with just a couple of water bottles on your tubes and some energy gels, a bike tool, some cash and keys stashed in your jersey pockets. The notion of also shouldering a backpack to pick up some groceries on the way home is totally antithetical.
As a brand founded by long-distance cyclists, Apidura understands this reality. The London-based outfit has been making streamlined, high-performance saddle, frame and handlebar packs and bags — for cyclists who ride much farther than I do — since 2013.
So it’s no surprise that this pack is so discreet and handy. It weighs less than four ounces and, in its condensed, muffin-sized form, you can easily attach it to your top tube using the Velcro strap and forget all about it during your ride.
Later, when you are rounding toward home and want to stop by the shops to pick up, say a copy of Diamond Dogs on vinyl or a loaf of sourdough or some Dale’s Pale Ale to reward yourself for that high-wattage half-century, the pack deploys into a surprisingly spacious, 13-liter backpack.
It’s got some smart features too, including a highly adjustable chest strap, a Velcro-lined rolltop and two stretchy outer pockets that are perfect for stashing a couple 19.2-oz cans of Dale’s when space gets tight. (I know this because I’ve tried, all in the interest of thorough testing, of course.)
When you’re all loaded up, you can simply throw the pack on and complete your ride. It is also waterproof, so your purchases will be safe from raindrops, and it has reflective graphics, so you’ll be safe from darkness.
If you’d like to go even more streamlined, Apidura also makes a 7-liter Packable Musette ($44) that condenses even smaller and expands out to kind of a small messenger bag. But I’ll continue to swear by the backpack, which has become a staple of my long rides — and is always ready when I need it.