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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 12-31-10, 08:34 AM   #1
These go to eleven
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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Rei novara backpack 1-month review


USE: Daily by bike, car, train, bus or some combo thereof.
BIKE DISTANCE: 11-13 r/t miles for the commute
WEAR&TEAR: No signs of any wear/tear this first month. I don’t baby this pack. It gets slung around train stations, etc.

FEATURES: I love all the features of this pack. It’s got pockets where you need them. For example, a small zip pocket right across the top which is perfect for car keys and cell phone. Next I love the small pocket attached to the hip belt. That’s where I stow my train pass for easy access without removing the pack.
The zips all have pulls on them. Anyone who rides in the cold or who has ever backpacked appreciates zipper pulls! The main compartment is quite roomy. I can stuff a lunch sack in there and spare clothes. The outer pocket is slimmer but holds books etc. Then there’s still another pocket with a key clip and organizers. Oh, and the main compartment has an internal, zippered mesh pocket. That’s where my wallet goes. Nice and safe in there. Other features I have not used are a U-lock compartment that is accessed from the side and is basically a sleeve inside one of the other compartments (nice I would think to keep a dirty u-lock away from other items); and the ability to insert a hydration pack bladder and thread it through the shoulder straps (either side). Instant Camelback! Great features I might someday use. Stretchy pockets low on either side of the pack will hold a waterbottle, FYI.

COMFORT: Very slightly long-waisted for me at 5’ 8”and a short torso, but not at all uncomfortable, and the hip belt still rides at the appropriate level to distribute weight. The shoulder straps are nicely but not overly padded. The hip belt is minimal but comfortable—no digging into the hip. The chest strap is wonderfully quick to adjust in height—it slides up and down so you can put it where you need it across your chest—and it stays in place. Very nice feature. The pack rides well on the back when riding. It does not sway or dip, and does not obscure my view when looking back. Like a good backpack should, it seems to “sit” on the hip to take the weight most comfortably and not feel like a frightened lemur plastered to your back.

OTHER: Reflective elements and the overall gag-me yellow of the pack are nice for visibility. There is also a built-in rain cover, neatly zipped into its own compartment at the bottom of the pack. It unfurls easily and covers the whole pack. I have not had a chance to test it in the rain.

WOULD I RECOMMEND? Without hesitation. There is no laptop sleeve, so be mindful of that, but for any other purpose, this pack has all the features, a good price, and so far good workmanship. Oh, there’s also a built-in safety whistle on the chest strap. Hoping I never have to use that!

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Old 12-31-10, 02:28 PM   #2
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Thanks for the review, I've looked at that pack and nearly bought it. Like most REI items it's pretty expensive, but it looks like it has nice features. I'm just not sure it's big enough for my needs (usually I can store clothes at work but occasionally I have to bring a pair of pants and/or shoes). The other small concern I have is sweating, it doesn't appear to be elevated off the back like some of the nicer packs have to reduce sweating. I thought it had a special hookup to hold a helmet, is that not the case?
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Old 01-05-11, 11:39 AM   #3
These go to eleven
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1. it rides a little off the back due to the hip belt, but there is some sweating. Not bad though.
2. There's no helmet hitch I can find, though you can easily clip the helmet chinstrap through the top handle on the bag.
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Old 01-05-11, 12:15 PM   #4
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Good review. I just got one of these for Christmas, and after using it for just a few commutes, I agree with your assessments. It's surprisingly comfortable. My biggest complaint so far is that the hip pocket is too close to the pack for me to be able to access it easily with the pack on.

I used this pack today in a steady rain, and the rain cover seems to have performed flawlessly. It was slightly awkward putting the pack on with the rain cover in place without hooking my hand in the rain cover.
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Old 01-29-11, 10:18 AM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2010
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I just recently started commuting to work and saw this bag at REI. I have been looking at the Rocket Science triathlon bag up until I ran into the Novara. Unfortunately they don't have a lot of pictures of the Rocket Science bag opened up etc on their website, so I have been hesitant to purchase.

It was nice to be able to play with the bag, check out all the compartments etc and this review is spot on in regards to features. After reading the comments here and all the positive reviews on REI I'm going to buy it.
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Old 01-31-11, 01:27 AM   #6
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I bought this pack in May of 2010, and I love it so much! Granted, I had never paid so much for a backpack in my life. This bag was to rich for my blood, but I managed to snag it during a 20% off any single item member promotion. I LOVE THIS BAG. I have used it in rain with the fly and have never had trouble with it. The chest and hip straps are great at securing and disbursing weight.

The single complaint I would have express is that it does make my back sweat a lot in the middle of a Texas summer, but most bags probably would.
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