The Craft Cadence Backpack is a tough, capable, and cavernous no-frills backpack designed for the commuter cyclist who REALLY doesn't want their stuff to get wet. I like it a lot.
- Pros: Big, waterproof, tough
- Cons: I'm struggling... sticks out a bit at the top
If you're a commuter cyclist or indeed any sort of cyclist who regularly carries stuff on your bike without the benefit of a rack or panniers, there's a lot to like about this backpack – designed by a bunch of London commuter cyclists.
Let's start with its carrying capacity. In backpack terms 30 litres makes it a big medium, but its shape – basically it's like a roll top pannier but in backpack form – means you can utilise all of the main (and indeed only) compartment's carrying capacity; it's very easy to cram stuff in. A lot of stuff.
I routinely carried a 13in laptop – there's a laptop sleeve incorporated in the removable inner liner to the main compartment that will take up to a 15in laptop – plus charger, a windproof jacket, and a regular foodshop. You can get a decent load of groceries in here easily. The inner sleeve also leaves useful space at the sides where you can stow a water bottle/wine bottle – depending on how/where you roll.
If you want to boost the main compartment's carrying capacity even further you can take out the inner sleeve – an all-in-one affair that comprises the main compartment liner, a mesh compartment designed for keys, wallet and the like, and the laptop compartment. Removing this gives you full access to the bottom of the pack and offers a surprising amount more loading capacity. (It's also useful if you want to separate some of the stuff you're carrying – say, wet shoes or kit – from your main cargo. Simply whip the inner sleeve out, pack the stuff you want to keep separate, then whack the sleeve back in again.)
But I digress, because the Craft Cadence's load expanding capabilities are still not exhausted. if you need to and it's not raining, just like with a roll top pannier you can keep on loading beyond the 30L point until you've pretty much reached the top – ideal if you're either very strong, or your shop includes lighter but bulky items like bread. Or if you just got carried away in the cakes aisle.
To give you an idea of its carrying capacity, here's what I carried home in the main compartment after post work shop. (The Jaffa Cakes aren't mine. Yuk.)
Finally, there's a zipped front compartment on the outside of the pack. Craft Cadence says this is designed as a place to keep tools, a pump and the like, while more valuable stuff goes in the inner mesh compartment. I found it easier to reverse that – simply cos it's more of a faff to undo the whole bag to get at your keys or wallet than it is to simply unzip that front pocket (which swallows up a lot of small stuff) and has an easy-to-grab, even in winter gloves, loop on the end of the water-resistant YKK zip.
It's worth noting that the outer pocket, while very weather resistant, is not rated to IPX5 like the rest of the bag. That said, nothing I carried in there got wet in getting on for three months of testing and in some very wet winter weather.
Getting a load of stuff in your backpack is only half the job, though, you've then got to carry it as comfortably as possible. And again the Craft Cadence comes up trumps.
As fully loaded backpacks go, this is comfortable. Obviously 'comfort' in this context is a relative concept – you're not going to arrive at your destination feeling like you've had an invigorating sports massage, but then neither are you going to get there feeling like you've had the bejesus beaten out of you. You'll basically be unscathed, which in my experience is about as good as it's going to get.
The harness offers a decent amount of height adjustability on your back, and is designed to spread the load across your shoulders when riding in a more forward position. A sternum strap plus a waist strap help keep everything stable and stop the pack rolling around on your back as you ride, particularly useful if you're riding in the drops or getting out of the saddle on bigger hills.
That's not the only comfort feature, though. The back of the pack also incorporates an air channel made from ridged foam and covered in mesh – the idea being to keep the bag off your back and get some air flowing through the gap so you arrive at your destination without a sweaty back. I'm a big fan of air channels on a commuter rucksack – I wouldn't buy one that didn't have any.
Craft Cadence has further tried to boost airflow around your shoulders by putting ventilation holes in the padded parts of the shoulder straps.
I tested the bag over winter so I can't definitively vouch for its sweat-wicking capabilities but I can say that I didn't ever suffer a sweaty back even after lugging some big loads up some of Bath's biggest hills. So I reckon it works. I was at first doubtful as to the durability of the air channel and its mesh covering but after almost three months of pretty much daily use it still looks like new – indeed, so does the rest of the bag.
At this point I should probably mention the IPX5 waterproofing rating – which may well be this bag's big selling point for a lot of you. IPX5 means that, short of riding underwater through a pond, the contents of the bag shouldn't get wet. I haven't performed the riding underwater through a pond test, but I have done the next best thing – ridden through three months of West Country winter – and I can confirm that it lives up to its waterproof promise. Given that it's put together from sonically welded 0.6mm tarp, that's not a surprise, plus the roll top closure is extremely effective at keeping out watery ingress.
Value? Well, £69.99 isn't cheap but when you consider that the two bags I'd say it's most comparable to – the Ortlieb Velocity (more on that below) and the Sealine Urban Backpack – are £85 and £120 respectively, then it starts to look like pretty good value. Add into the mix that the Velocity is smaller than the Craft Cadence (the £120 version of the Sealine is 7 litres bigger) and the fact that the Craft Cadence has been available for £59.99 for the duration of the time I've been reviewing it, and it starts to look better value still.
It also has to be said that the quality of construction suggests a higher price tag than £60/£70. Craft Cadence says on its website, "We don't price to sell. We price to enjoy". Leaving aside the fact that too much of that sort of talk will see the capitalist system crumble before our very eyes, the company does seem to have put its money where its mouth is, with the pricing of its backpack seeming to reflect that ethos.
It also says that all its manufacturing is done in "small scale factories" and that everything is "touched by the hand of a craftsman". Hmm... there's got to be a joke there, but we'd probably better leave it. The point is, though, that this is a short-run, high-quality bag, and as such I reckon it's very good value.
Any niggles? Well, for me at least, when the bag is rolled down with a standard load, the roll bit of the top sticks out a bit at the sides – awkward in confined spaces (a couple of times I've come close to knocking a picture off the wall in our hallway as I walked past, or inadvertently nudged a stranger in Sainsbury's). More importantly, it also restricts my view slightly when glancing back over my shoulder. I wouldn't want to overplay the level of obstruction – it partially blocks my peripheral vision – a proper sit up and turn of the head is fine, it's the quick glance that it affects. I should also say that this isn't a problem when the bag is fuller than normal, so that the top of the bag is higher on your back (as in the pic of my extra loaded bag). Reading around, this does seem to be something that affects other roll-top cycling rucksacks, so it's not something that's specific to the Craft Cadence.
Anything else? Well, this wasn't an issue for me but I can imagine it might be for some people. The internal mesh pocket for stowing valuables, wallet and so on, is just a big pocket. I wouldn't be happy sticking a phone without a cover (like mine) in there with keys and valuables, but then I always carry my phone in a jersey or jacket pocket anyway, and I put my keys in the outer pocket. Some packs, such as the Ortlieb Velocity – offer a degree more internal organisation, but whether it's any more useful, as Ash pointed out in his review, is open to question.
The Velocity is probably the pack the Craft Cadence is most similar to (there is also a similar fluoro yellow version of the Velocity). Main points of difference are that at 24L the Velocity is smaller. I can make a direct daily comparison because my colleague Pat who sits just behind me at road.cc Towers uses one and parks it within a couple of feet of the Craft Cadence. That 6 litre difference shows – the Ortlieb is noticeably smaller; full, it's a neater, squarer looking package too. Pat's commute is a longer, flatter ride than mine and he carries a laptop and some clothing, but much less stuff; if that's your standard commute and you don't need a bag for carrying shopping too then the Velocity might be worth checking out. You will be paying a price premium over the Craft Cadence – which as I write you can buy for £59.99. The Craft Cadence is very well made for the money.
Finally, while it may be fluoro yellow, I personally wouldn't mind a bit more reflective detailing – there are refective patches on the shoulder straps plus a small patch and light loop on the back of the pack. I'm more keen on reflectives than fluoro as the former offers more effective visibility under car headlights, and because if I was buying I'd definitely be choosing the very cool looking black version of this.
If you want waterproofness and very high visibility, then Oxford's Aqua V12 would fit the bill; at 12 litres it's diddy, mind, and minimalist in terms of internal organisation too. There is a 20L version, the V20. Again, visibility aside, it's a more basic pack.
If you're in the market for a versatile, durable, waterproof commuter bag that gives you the option of lugging a fair chunk of stuff comfortably, I really don't think you can go wrong with the Craft Cadence.
Extremely capable commuter backpack built to take whatever you chuck in it or at it
road.cc test report
Make and model: Craft Cadence IPX5 Waterproof 30 Litre Roll Top Backpack
Size tested: 30 litres
Tell us what the product is for
Craft Cadence says this:
"The Cadence backpack from Craft Cadence is a cycling backpack/rucksack designed by cycling commuters for use as a cycling backpack. As cycle commuters, we have listened to feedback from the cycling community. Commuters need full weather protection against the elements. The Cadence is certified to IPX5 against water ingress in its main compartment. Commuters want organisation of their belongings. The Cadence has a large water resistant pocket to fit bike essentials such as repair kit, spare tubes and even most lock types. Inside, there is a sleeve with two compartments – one dedicated laptop compartment supporting laptops up to 15 inches, as well as a mesh pocket for small items such as wallets, keys and phones. The sleeve can be easily removed by velcro. The bike commuter wishes to be comfortable on the ride, and avoid the dreaded 'sweaty back'. Cadence answers this by having a foam padded back panels separated by mesh, aiding airflow between the rider's back and the bag. The should straps also have air vents to maximise air flow. There are chest and waist straps to fully secure the bag to the rider. The cycle commuters needs to be seen on the road. That's why Cadence has a reflective strips at the bottom, which doubles as an attachment for rear lights. There are also reflective strips on the shoulder straps, as well as a bright orange whistle. Finally, all that commuters want is for their bags to last. That's why Cadence uses the toughest wearing, tear resistant tarpaulin materials that is 0.6mm thick – the thickest on the market for roll-top cycling backpacks."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Craft Cadence:
Main compartment is IPX5 certified waterproof
Dedicated laptop compartment up to 15 inches
Large front pocket for cycling repair kit and mini pumps
Air flow system at the back to avoid sweaty backs
Chest and waist straps
Internal pocket for wallets and small items
Seems very well put together.
Swallows commuter essentials, shopping, tools. If you're the sort of commuter who often stops at the shops on the way home, this is the bag for you. Comfortable to carry too.
Two months of use have left barely a mark on it. I did wonder how the mesh back would fare over time when carrying heavy loads and it got more crushed against your back, but it still looks like new. Testing period wasn't warm enough to really feel how well it worked at keeping my back cool – though I never had a sweaty back while using it and that included trips up a very long hill with a full 30L of food shopping + laptop, charger and assorted gubbins on my back.
Always felt light when not packed to the gunnels.
Very comfortable in use, even fully loaded.
Very good value for such a rugged and versatile bag, especially as Craft Cadence was selling it for 10 quid below the £69.99 list price for the whole time we had the bag in for review.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Does what it sets out to do very well indeed; an impressively tough, waterproof, and capacious commuter bag.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
How much stuff you could comfortably get in it, and how comfortable it was to lug around when loaded up.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only minor niggle would be that the corners at the top of the pack stick out a bit when the roll top is closed – it'd be good to have some sort of side strap to fold them down.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I've given the Craft Cadence backpack an 8 overall but it's straining towards a 9 and would be if the corners folded down to make for a neater overall package when in use. The fact that it sticks out slightly wider than your back can be annoying if you find yourself wearing it in any sort of confined space – hallways, corridors at work etc, and it also slightly restricts rear visibility when glancing to the side, but I wouldn't want to overplay that. It's an issue but for me not a major one and is also something you're likely to encounter using other roll top backpacks too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cotic Roadrat My best bike is: Whatever I'm testing at the moment
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.