Of late, I’ve had the opportunity to add a few chapters to my continuing saga for the “perfect” gear bag (for me at least), the most recent being an evaluation of the Tom Bihn Cadet. Being mainly a messenger bag fan(atic), I’d been wondering if there was one out there that could supplant my venerable Timbuk2 Commute from its daily carry status. One bags that kept resurfacing in my searches was the Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 Laptop Bag. I had the chance to check one out, as well asa Rickshaw MacBook Pro Sleeve. Onward, Gadgeteers!
As I’ve described in previous reviews, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect bag to haul my gear. What does “perfect” mean? It’s a bit of a moving target for me— a mix of style, organizational features and capacity that seems right for my needs and tastes. I’ve been partial to messenger style bags, with their cavernous interiors and buckle-down flaps. I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect bag for me yet, but my Timbuk 2 Commute comes pretty darn close. But I’m still open to trying out others!
Rickshaw Bagworks, also known as Rickshaw Bags, also known as simply Rickshaw, is a small, urban San Fran-based company that is best known for producing bike messenger-style bags and backpacks, many of them custom made-to-order in their shop. Though they may not yet have the name recognition of some of the bigger boys, their product offering has grown steadily over the past several years.
Rickshaw’s Commuter product line of bags includes four versions: the Commuter 2.0 Laptop Bag (reviewed here), the Skinny Commuter 2.0 Laptop Bag, the Commuter 2.0 Backpack and the Skinny Commuter 2.0 Backpack. Reviews of the other Commuter 2.0 products may come another day, but for now we’ll focus on the Commuter 2.0 Laptop Bag. When ordering the Commuter 2.0 from the Rickshaw site, there are several options from which you can select:
You can select your choice of materials from among the following:
- Classic Cordura® – Cordura nylon exterior/Cordura nylon binding
- Performance Tweed™ – Performance tweed exterior/Cordura nylon binding
- Waterproof Sailcloth – X-Pac™ sailcloth exterior/Cordura nylon binding
After selecting the version and materials, you can select from several stock color combinations for each material. Alternatively, you can also choose to customize your own Commuter 2.0 by selecting from a growing list of materials and colors, and your personally-designed bag will be hand-assembled to order in Rickshaw’s San Francisco shop.
From the Rickshaw site, specs for the Commuter 2.0 Laptop Bag:
- Holds up to 15” laptop
- Waterproof, wipe clean liner
- Briefcase laptop bag or messenger
- Removable laptop sleeve
- Organizational pockets, metal hardware
- Assembled-to-order in San Francisco
- Dimensions: 15.75″W x 11″H x 4.75″ D
Since, as the expression goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the customizability of the Commuter 2.0 means you can make it beautiful to your own liking. The front of the bag has one of features that is obiigatory of messenger-style bags, a large flap. For this particular bag, the flap was covered with Rickshaw’s Performance Tweed material in a reddish-pink color, with camouflage nylon binding along the flap’s edge and a red-lettered Rickshaw logo patch. Probably not the colors I would have selected, but I do like the Performance Tweed—it’s a different fabric from what you’ll find on most messengers.
The rear of the Commuter 2.0 features a grab handle and a large double-zippered pocket. The double-zippered pocket is an example of the ambidexterity that Rickshaw has designed into the Commuter 2.0.
Closeup of the grab handle. It is padded and circular in cross-section and stitched securely to the bag. In addition, you can see another small loop of material that I suppose can be used to hang the bag on a hook or something similar.
The generous padding in the handle makes a big difference in the comfort level of carrying the bag. I’ve used a lot of bags that had grab handles that were so thin that they felt like they were cutting into your hand. Not so here.
Closeup of the Performance Tweed flap, binding and the Rickshaw logo tag. All of these can be customized by color and/or pattern.
The Commuter 2.0 features a mesh pocket with toggle-drawstring closure on either end—another feature geared toward ambidexterity. Although I suspect this was designed to hold water bottles and the like, these could really be used to hold just about anything to which you may want to have quick access. The toggle-drawstring closure is a particularly great feature. If you have something smallish in the pocket, rather than worry if it will slide out if you toss your bag into a trunk, just pull the tab on the drawstring and the toggle holds the pocket closed. A lot of companies include pockets like this on their bags, but I really wish more companies would add this toggle-drawstring feature.
On the back of the Commuter 2.0, near the bottom corners, are two small plastic D-rings. To these D-rings, you can attach a Cross Strap, offered by Rickshaw as an optional accessory for $5. The Cross Strap helps stabilize the bag against your body for when you are biking or engaging in otherwise active activities. There is a D-ring on either corner for ambidexterity.
At first glance, the Commuter 2.0’s shoulder strap appears pretty standard. Like many similar bags, its includes a strip of nylon webbing metal attachment hooks and a velcro strap pad. Also included is a rather unique adjustment buckle. More on that below. The shoulder strap from the top:
And the underside of the shoulder strap:
The strap pad has a velcro closure and can be removed. The adjustment buckle is rather unique. More and more messenger bags are featuring the capability of altering strap length “on the fly” so that it can be adjusted for the desired comfort level or wearing style. However, this one has a few extra features. For starters, the back of the adjustment buckle is padded on the back side for comfort, so the buckle isn’t digging into your torso. It also includes a couple of D-rings that can be used as attachment points for the Cross Strap, or for carabiners and other items. Note two D-rings for ambidexterity.
The swivel-hooks that attach the shoulder strap to the D-rings on either end of the bag are metal and solidly constructed. The hooks are spring-loaded with a fair amount of spring-back force, so you shouldn’t have to worry much about them spontaneously unhooking themselves if your bag gets jostled.
The main closure mechanism of the Commute 2.0’s flap is a pair of side-release plastic buckles on nylon webbing. The straps are adjustable which allows them to act as compression straps and give some expandability to the bag. The are also mounted under the flap, as opposed to on top of it like many messengers.
Lifting the flap reveals a bunch of additional features. For starters, the inside is lined with a waterproof, wipe-clean liner in a grayish color. The light color makes it easier to see that elusive pen when you are rooting around the bottom of your bag.
Like the drawstring-toggle pockets on the outside ends, the exclusive “magnetic silencers” are another great feature of the Commuter 2.0. What are they, you ask? Let’s just say the Commuter 2.0 might have the most versatile closure system ever. OK, you’ve already seen the side-release buckles. Pretty standard fare for messengers. There are also two strips of Velcro under the flap, with opposing strips on the bag. Again, pretty standard. But here’s where the fun begins. Rickshaw has included four magnetic silencers, two for the flap, two for the bag. One side of the silencers is a layer of Velcro, the other side a layer of the same material as the interior of the bag. Embedded between the layers is a thin magnet. The magnets in the flap silencers and in the bag silencers are aligned such that they can be used to keep the bag’s flap closed much like the Velcro. But unlike the Velcro, the magnets allow much quieter opening. Below, I’ve shown the magnetic silencer removed on the left and attached on the right.
Again, below I’ve shown the magnetic silencer removed on the left and attached on the right. You can also see the small strip of horizontal webbing for attaching a blinking light, reflector or other item.
Another shot, looking down the front of the bag. Here you can see the twin zippered compartments (ambidexterity again) with the trademark Rickshaw zipper pulls. You can also see a vertical strip of webbing to which can be attached carabiners or other items.
Opening the zipper on the left, we find a fairly decently sized compartment inside, with a two diagonal interior pockets, one on the inside of the compartment, the other on the inside of the compartment’s flap. This compartment also contains a small, spring-loaded hook suspended from the top of the compartment. To this is attached a length of webbing with an identical spring hook for keys, USB sticks and so forth.
Unzipping the zipper on the right reveals an identical compartment to its opposing twin, sans the extra spring clip extended. Here, I’ve placed my MacBook Pro’s power supply and a small Moleskine notebook to illustrate the type and size of things can toss in here. The diagonal pockets give some nice organization of smaller and/or thinner items, while the compartment itself has a good amount of space for larger items.
Looking down into the Commuter 2.0’s main compartment, you can see a large pocket on the inside of the front of the bag for folders, magazines, and so forth. Along the inside of the back of the bag you can see the laptop sleeve. More on this below. Here I’d also point out that, with the laptop sleeve in place, there is not a lot of extra room in the bag’s main compartment, as least compared to most other messengers. You’ll have room for a textbook or two, or a 3-ring binder, or some additional computer accessories, those sorts of things. But this bag probably isn’t going to be the kind that will allow you to just open the flap and chuck stuff in all day, and sort it out when you get home, or to put your lunch, school books, workout clothes and DSLR camera all inside. This is a great bag, it’s just not that kind of bag.
The laptop sleeve is attached to the inside of the bag with two generous strips of Velcro.
Having removed the laptop sleeve, and looking down into the bag’s main compartment once again, you can see that it is a quite simple, rectangular shape.
Another shot looking down into the main compartment.
The laptop sleeve is made from the same grayish, waterproof, wipable material as the interior of the bag itself. It is a simple, effective design. The laptop sleeve from the front:
And from the back. Note the two Velcro strips that attach the sleeve to the inside of the bag.
My 15″ MacBook Pro fits in the sleeve like a glove.
The inside of the laptop sleeve is lined with a plush material that helps cushion the laptop against impacts and also allows it to slide in and out easily.
Turning our attention back to the exterior rear of the Commuter 2.0 and unzipping the large compartment reveals an organizer area.
The organizer has pockets for several writing implements, notebooks, USB sticks, business cards and the like. I’ve thrown in a few of my oft-carried items to illustrate. Yes, that is indeed a Lego Yoda pen on the far left.
In true messenger fashion, the Commuter 2.0 can be carried in multiple ways, a few of which I’ve illustrated below. In honor of this bag’s color scheme, I wore my pink T-shirt. Hey, it was a freebie I got for helping out at a kids’ triathlon. Working left to right, the first pic is the simple over-the-shoulder method. The second and third are with the strap across the chest, which is more of the classic “messenger” style. The sliding adjustment on the strap makes this across the chest style even easier, as you can lift the strap over your head, then cinch up the slack in the strap to whatever position you like best—some like their messenger to ride higher on their back, more like a backpack, while some prefer it lower, as I’ve shown in the far right pic. Again I would point out that this bag has been designed for ambidexterity; any of these carrying configurations can be set up for either right- or left-hand carry.
An Extra Accessory – The MacBook Pro Sleeve
The Rickshaw folks also included one of their 13″ MacBook Pro Sleeves in Performance Tweed fabric. However, I don’t have a MPB in that size, but if a 13″ fits in here like my 15″ fits in the Commuter 2.0’s sleeve, it should be a perfect fit. From the Rickshaw site:
- Perfectly sized for 13″ MacBook or MacBook Pro
- Elegant velcro flap-closure design
- Ultra plush, soft, durable liner
- Plush laptop-grade padding to protect your laptop
- Made to order in our SF factory
- Graphite Performance Tweed™ Exterior
- 14.25″W x 10.9″H x .75″ D (empty)
- 14.”W x 10.75″H x 1.75″ D (stuffed)
Yeah, that’s right. The interior is Cookie Monster blue. And almost that fuzzy.
The Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 laptop messenger bag has both the main features that are essential to a typical messenger bag, and also some features that are quite unique. Ability to select materials and colors, ambidexterity, useful organizational features and the unique “magnetic silencer” closure system make this bag a great choice if you like customization and options. The only downside I saw was that the main compartment doesn’t have an abundance of cargo space compared to other messenger bags, so if you’re in need of a gaping-maw, throw-everything-in carry-all-and-then-some, this probably isn’t your bag. However, if you’re after a bag that is a bit more streamlined, with style customization and lots of organizational features, the Rickshaw Commute 2.0 is worth a look.