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  1. #1
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    Test packing Synapses for bike commuting

    Not sure if this is the right forum, but here it goes.

    I have been OCD'ing over the right all-in bike bag for my 45 minute, 11 mile commute to work. I'd like to find a bag that works well for the commute, but also can be used for other purposes. I've looked at a bunch of Ospreys, but after having used TB products for a year or two now, it's hard for me to go with something less beautiful than a TB bag, especially for the office I work in. (I use a Black Cordura Pilot.)

    I had four different Synapses arrive in the mail yesterday. Two S19's, two S25's, plus a bunch of new accessories (needed an excuse for buy up some Island stuff). The S19's were Red Blend/NWS and Cloud/Island, and the S25's were Black Halcyon / Island and Mars Red / NWS.

    Ultimately, I don't think I found the right bag, yet. Here are my thoughts.

    S19

    I think the S19's are a nice size. For a short, handsome midget like me (5'6''), they might even be proportioned a bit better. However, it is almost impossible for me to fit my bike commuting gear in the bag: laptop w/ cache, 3DOC w/ charger cord, wireless mouse, etc., plus Maxpedition pack with EDC items. I also bring a pair of shoes plus that days clothes. All of this, especially the shoes, make it difficult to use an S19. I'm probably a terrible packer, and I've also considered that I can just keep my laptop locked up at work. But it would be nice to have the option to bring it home.

    S25

    Then, I tried the S25's. The good news is that I can easily fit everything, no surprise there. I was surprised by how much everything weighed. Without a water bottle or computer gear, the bag plus empty cache plus Maxped plus change of clothes was 10 pounds. The computer gear made it 14 pounds, and a water bottle (32oz) made it 16-17 pounds. Heavy!!

    I was pretty disappointed by how heavy it all felt. Not a problem with the Synapse, obviously. I guess I was just hoping to get it all on my back without feeling like I was carrying a small child. However, I think I can jettison the water bottle or carry it on my bike. I also think, realistically, I can keep my laptop and 3DOC locked up at work almost every night, and keep the cache in the backpack just in case. It's not *that* heavy w/o the laptop.

    I also think the S25 is going to be a lot more versatile than the S19. I like the challenge of one-bagging it for quick, overnight trips or even weekend trips.

    Colors

    I have really liked the Mars Red accessories I've seen posted here. They look great. But I was surprised that I didn't love the Mars Red / NWS combo. I was surprised by how much I liked Cloud / Island. I think my hangup is that I am going to be bringing this in to work everyday. Even though I work in an office, most people do not have fancy bags. But, I like to look a little nicer, and in general I think briefcases are more grown-up at the office. And my Black Cordura Pilot is just .... perfection. I have had it for over a year, and it took me 2+ years to find TB and then to go with this Pilot, after swearing I would never own another black bag.

    So I guess I'm seriously thinking about going with Black Ballistic or Cordura.

    I also found, hopefully for the last time, that the Black Halcyon just doesn't fit for me for a larger bag (smaller accessories are a different story).

  2. #2
    Forum Member Rocks's Avatar
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    If you can hold out for another month, take a look at the Smart Alec. For commuting by bike and all the extra stuff that entails, it’s a great bag. I’ve found it to be more comfortable than the Synapse 25.
    The Brain Bag is also worth a look. It holds everything!

  3. #3
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    I'm curious. Is it possible to ditch the 3DOC and Maxpedition inside the S19 and simply put the same items straight into the S19?

    I am a huge, huge S19 fan and one thing that I found with the S19 versus other bags is it tends to carry best without additional organizers, as they add bulk that the S19 can't accommodate well. There's plenty of pockets, so if you reserve one for each type of carry items, you might find that the extra pouches and bags inside are less necessary than you think. When I do carry my S25 (far more rarely than the S19), I do enjoy using organizers inside.

    I would also say as a fellow bike commuter, I prefer to put water on the bike, where it is easy to access as I am not going to stop in the middle of my commute to take off my bag. I try to minimize the amount of weight on my back when riding, so if I were carrying a bottle of water in my bag and another on my bike I'd probably empty out the bottle from my bag.

    I leave an insulated drinking cup and spare shoes at work, so I don't have to carry them around every day. I also keep a small duffel with a few pieces of clothes, so I don't have to cart around a change of clothes every single day and if I forget to pack something to change into it's also no big deal.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocks View Post
    If you can hold out for another month, take a look at the Smart Alec. For commuting by bike and all the extra stuff that entails, itís a great bag. Iíve found it to be more comfortable than the Synapse 25.
    The Brain Bag is also worth a look. It holds everything!
    I've heard this a few times from people. I think TB is out, but I am going to take a look. I'm not necessarily a fan of the exterior cord, but people seem to love the bag, including for biking.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by carrot View Post
    I'm curious. Is it possible to ditch the 3DOC and Maxpedition inside the S19 and simply put the same items straight into the S19?

    I am a huge, huge S19 fan and one thing that I found with the S19 versus other bags is it tends to carry best without additional organizers, as they add bulk that the S19 can't accommodate well. There's plenty of pockets, so if you reserve one for each type of carry items, you might find that the extra pouches and bags inside are less necessary than you think. When I do carry my S25 (far more rarely than the S19), I do enjoy using organizers inside.

    I would also say as a fellow bike commuter, I prefer to put water on the bike, where it is easy to access as I am not going to stop in the middle of my commute to take off my bag. I try to minimize the amount of weight on my back when riding, so if I were carrying a bottle of water in my bag and another on my bike I'd probably empty out the bottle from my bag.

    I leave an insulated drinking cup and spare shoes at work, so I don't have to carry them around every day. I also keep a small duffel with a few pieces of clothes, so I don't have to cart around a change of clothes every single day and if I forget to pack something to change into it's also no big deal.
    Good questions! For the 3DOC, I tend to keep items that I actually need for the computer - cord, wireless mouse, spare battery, 5-inch phone charger. It's not even half-full. But it's a nice little thing to bring with me to meetings. For the Maxped, after going through a heavy EDC period, this is about the minimum emergency equipment I'd like on me in an EDC bag. I am open to other arrangements, but I like that it keeps things in place, and it's all infrequently used to the point where it makes sense to keep these things together.

    I could add the Maxped to another bag, like the Side Effect, and add the computer stuff to the Side Effect. The current arrangement, for organization if not travel, is hard to beat. Ultimately, I would keep the 3DOC at work if I kept the laptop at work.

    I'll probably keep the water on the bike regardless of which bag I use.

    I like your idea re: shoes. That would save an easy 2-4 liters worth of space.

    Something I've also played with is using the water bottle pocket for something other than the water bottle, like a pair of shoes.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by zephyr View Post
    The current arrangement, for organization if not travel, is hard to beat.
    [...]
    Something I've also played with is using the water bottle pocket for something other than the water bottle, like a pair of shoes.
    If you prefer to stay organized but want to try to gain a little space, soft pouches like the Eagle Creek Specter Sac zipper pouches are awesome and much, much tougher than they look. If you want to stay in the Bihn family, you could try the Halcyon OP. I've owned some Maxpedition gear and while it is nice, the stiffness of their pouches really sucks up space. The 3DOC is a bit stiff too, but it exudes so much cool I can't fight it.

    The water bottle pocket is tremendously versatile. If I am not riding my bike and it is raining, I can put a slim bottle AND a short umbrella inside. If I'm taking mass transit or flying, my Nintendo Switch in a padded case can fit with room to spare.

    I have never tried fitting shoes, but if yours aren't too big and can pack relatively flat I'm sure they will fit great too!

    I am 6'0 and I also feel the same about the S25. When it is getting close to full, it does start to feel heavy. I probably need to exercise better restraint when I'm out with the S25 and carry it more empty.

  7. #7
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    @ carrot

    I should ask, what do you take with you every day? And is it usually in the S19? Do you take a laptop?

  8. #8
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    I'll try to take a picture of my bag contents later but to sum it up:

    Side Pocket 1:
    - small notebook
    - penlight
    - 4 color pen
    - shears

    Side Pocket 2:
    - keys on a leash
    - snack bar

    Chin Pocket:
    - Qliplet
    - usb phone charger
    - Patagonia Houdini jacket
    - small headlamp
    - collapsable water bottle

    Bottle Pocket:
    - Nintendo Switch, but sometimes a water bottle and/or umbrella

    Main Compartment:
    - lunch
    - plastic bag with gym clothes
    - compact mirrorless camera

    I'd say with this loadout my bag is about 50-60% full with enough extra space if I pick something up along the way.

  9. #9
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    I prefer not to carry things on my back when I bike because it is inevitably warmer...
    I have panniers on my bike... one can hold my lunch in a neoprene sack plus an Eagle Creek cube of clothes...I either wear the same shoes on the bike as at work (California casual baby!) or leave the work pair at work (much easier).
    Random EDC stuff can be in an EC cube or TB cube or in the TB Luminary and I stick that inside the other pannier.... lately I've been loving my Dark Blue Luminary as my EDC for work. If I need to take the laptop home, it fits in the pannier with (but not inside) the Luminary.

    I definitely think your water should be in the bike cage and shoes left at work... after that, you could probably put everything in the S19.

  10. #10
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    First of all, 45 min 11 mile commute. I am either impressed by your speed or jealous of your lack of hills!

    I would go with panniers. You can just pop your pilot on there and be good to go! Or if you are really keen for the s19 you could use that too.

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk

  11. #11
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    It's immediately adjacent to the Mississippi River, so, yes, fairly flat!

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