This is a review of the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible, an extremely useful and adaptable backpack. I have been trying out this pannier for a few weeks. Mainly on my bike, but also at a three-day conference. So I have had a good opportunity to see how the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible works. So the question is:
Aesthetics of the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible
This pannier is the newest creation of Reid Hemsing – the designer and owner of Two Wheel Gear in Vancouver. Nowadays Reid works with MEC, Canada’s largest and most trusted retailer of cycling and outdoor products – but his products retain his very personal, tasteful, and unique style.
The first thing you will notice about the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is that – like all Two Wheel Gear products – it looks great. Mine is black with cleverly thought out red accents. For example, the tie pulls on the zippers have red cords attached to them. These make the zips easier to find, and overall make the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible easier to use. Then there are two blocks of reflective patterning on each side of the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible, which both looks good and has a safety function.
How Does the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible Work for Bike Commuters?
While I like my bike gear to look good, the real issue for me is how well they work. In the case of the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible, does it make my life as a bike commuter easier?
And yes, it really is helpful. In pannier mode it is easy to hitch onto the bike. And it has a great security feature that I have not come across before in panniers – and which I really like. It’s a tiny little lock in the middle of the pannier, which you can snap over your rack, making it pretty much impossible for the pannier to fall off.
This security feature is huge for me. I have previously lost a pannier that contained my wallet, and we all know how much inconvenience that causes. Luckily I was not carrying my camera or my laptop that day. But that worried me enough that I have been nervous since then about carrying valuables on my bike. Problem now solved by Two Wheel Gear!
The bag itself is light, compact and well planned. You’ve got a padded inner pocket for your laptop, which was really handy when I attended a conference. Best of all, the bag is so light that even with my laptop, it was not heavy to carry around with me.
Then there’s a zippered small pouch at the front top, which fits an iPhone 6 and a wallet. It’s lined with a soft, plush material, which I think would protect my phone if I dropped the bag. Just below that pouch is a bigger one, with a graphic of an umbrella on it. It contains, of course, a waterproof cover for those days when you unexpectedly get caught in the rain. I tried it out, and it is quick and easy to deploy this cover. It’s also bright yellow, which is another safety feature.
There are outer pockets on the sides that handily accommodate keys on one side and a traveler cup on the other.
Inside the bag, there is a webbed, zippered pouch at the top. This is a great place to keep items you might need on the run, such as protein bars.
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible in Action
When I tried out the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible at a conference, I biked to the conference on a sunny day, and arrived with about 10 minutes to spare to register and get into the first session. I had the pannier off the bike and converted into a backpack in under a minute, and made it into my session on time.
The backpack was feeling so light that I had a moment of worrying that I had forgotten to bring my laptop. But no, it was there, and the day went well. At the end of the day, I turned the backpack back into a pannier, and was on my way home in no time.
Here’s a video that shows how the pannier converts into a backpack. Don’t adjust your volume – it’s silent (which is kind of a relief, for me. I am tired of being suddenly deafened by irrelevant music that someone else likes every time I start to watch a how-to video).
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is a Backpack AND it’s a Pannier!
So I would say the backpack more than passes the test of doing what it is intended to do: it converts from pannier to backpack in seconds, making it a useful accessory for bike commuters – and pretty much essential for me. I have previously had similar conference days with regular panniers, and it was really uncomfortable carrying around a pannier that not only is not a backpack, but also does not even have handles. The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible has both – there’s a comfortable little carrying handle at the top, for occasions when you don’t want to carry it on your back.
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible vs the Arkel Bug
This is the second convertible backpack/pannier that I have owned. My other one is my Arkel Bug, reviewed here. I gave it a good review, and I still enjoy using it. It has proven to be hard-wearing, and is still undamaged and looking good after years of continuous use.
However, it’s no longer my favorite backpack/pannier. Yep, it’s been replaced by my new best friend – this Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible. In my opinion, the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible has two advantages over the Arkel Bug. First, it is significantly lighter. The Arkel Bug has a hard back, which probably causes the extra weight. The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible does not have that, and honestly does not need it. It is robust enough with its design and its rugged fabric.
Second, the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible has that security lock that I mentioned. The Arkel does not have this feature. In fact, Maggie (Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist) lost one of her Arkel panniers, one dark and stormy night on a busy road. She never did find it, and it was a significant loss, given that it cost well over a a hundred dollars (and also that she really liked it).
The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible vs the Two Wheel Gear Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier
I also own the Two Wheel Gear Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier (reviewed here), which is an entirely different kind of pannier. This one is large, fitting over both sides of your bike rack. It is designed for bike commuters with professional jobs, who want to be able to haul suits, jackets, and/or dresses to work. I believe the Two Wheel Guide intention is that the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier is your everyday office commute pannier, while the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is intended more for Casual Friday. You are not going to be able to transport your suit in it! Even a dress would likely get wrinkled. It is a pretty compact container.
However, for those who don’t need to transport professional attire in their panniers, I think the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible would actually be a good everyday pannier/backpack as well. In fact, the way I tend to do it is this: I use the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier on Monday to bring in a bunch of clothes for the week, and then I use the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible on Tuesday through Friday.
I also find my Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible to be PERFECT for traveling. I carry it on airplanes, then use it while exploring new cities on foot and on bikes. Here is my pannier on a Velib bike share bike in Paris.
Bottom Line on the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible
Obviously, I like this pannier/backpack combo. It makes those panniers that are basically large plastic bags look positively primitive. No fishing around in the depths trying to find your keys and wallet with this pannier!
In short, I highly recommend the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible for bike commuters, and really for anyone who sometimes bikes and sometimes walks (which would probably cover almost all cyclists!) The amphibious nature of the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible, transforming seamlessly from bike pannier to comfortable backpack, makes it not just an accessory for me, but a necessity. (Wow, nearly as important as my phone, come to think of it!)
That means that if I lost it, I would have to get another one. But fortunately, unless I leave it at a conference, I am not going to lose it. Certainly, it is not going to fall off my bike!
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