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Dennis: Looking at TimBuk2's on-line catalog - they do have a really wide range of models and sizes - too many for me to count. So I sent along an eMail and asked "How many?" The answer came back in a couple of minutes "Wow...good question. I got a lot of blank stares when asked....let me do a quick count and get back to you." And she did "too many to count"

Plus...
New products for Fall 06:
-Single Speed Collection (6 new canvas bags)
-7 new Daypacks (Datadump, Rumor, Underground, Kryptic, Void and Fling)
-1 new computer bag (Blogger)
-6 new wallets (Big Zipper, Square Zip, Joe’s, Biker, Cabbie and Dumpling)
-1 new accessories (iPod flip cases)


What about Customer Service - Correspondence - Etc?

TimBuk2 responded promptly to our concept of the bag review and we were able to pick the bags and even colors that we wanted from their line. The bags came in about a week. Now, of course, you are most likely going to buy a TimBuk2 bag from your local dealer (and they have a ton of them) so you'll be able to actually handle the bag before you buy it (not the case with many of these other bags) so Customer Service and Shipping and all that is different here. FWIW, the staff at TimBuk2 that I dealt with were esy to access and always had prompt replies. Thanks gals.
dennis

  Timbuk2 Classic Cordura Messenger Bag XL
Nils Sandin

From their website: “In continuous production since 1989, our flagship product-- the Classic Messenger Bag--has endured 17 years of field testing and design refinement. Known for its indestructibility and three-panel, multi-colored design, the Classic Messenger Bag was originally built for hard-working bicycle messengers. It has since been adopted in cities around the world as the everyday, all-purpose carryall and today the Classic Messenger remains the bag-of-choice for bicycle messengers, cycling enthusiasts and urban dwellers everywhere. [Made in San Francisco]”

This bag is the reason Timbuk2 has enjoyed record profits the last couple of years. (All right, the reason for profits is multi-faceted: employees, marketing and so forth but let’s keep it simple, OK?) If you look around your town, chances are decent that you will spot Timbuk2’s trademark 3 panel bag on somebody’s shoulder. You probably already know something about this bag, which is still made in San Francisco, as it has been for the last 17 years. This is the highest selling messenger bag on the market and more than any other bag, this bag is the reason for all of these bag reviews. If this bag wasn’t so popular, nobody (beyond a core of messengers and commuters) would care about messenger bags.

This bag has transformed messenger bags into a mass-appeal fashion statement. I challenge anyone to take a stroll through a college campus and not spot one of these bags. Of course this widespread popularity has made a lot of people turned off on this bag and in some circles this bag is looked down upon. I admit that I when I was shopping for a messenger bag, I never gave this bag a chance, although I thought that it was cool to customize the bag with your color choices. Frequently worn incorrectly, bouncing off someone’s ass coming out of the gym, I didn’t want a bag that everybody else had. Whatever your (or my) preconceived feelings about this bag are, you can’t have these kinds of sales numbers without a quality item and some genius marketing so Timbuk2 must be doing something right. This review would give me an opportunity to test this popular bag.

CONSTRUCTION / DESIGN / STORAGE
This bag is friggin’ big! 3067 cubic inches of storage (and I think this published number is a conservative representation of actual volume) swallowed up all my commuting gear and laptop without the seams whimpering! Basic design keeps things simple like the Banjo Brothers bag (technically, I should say the Banjo Brothers bag is like the Timbuk2). Cordura exterior shell material in Navy/Silver/Navy panels with a yellow Timbuk2 swirl logo and a gray-silver vinyl truck tarp liner. Simple, conservative design and color scheme doesn’t stick out in the crowd but looks good anywhere.

Garrett: The construction quality of the bag is hard to dispute. The bag feels strong and closer inspection reveals a well built product. Unfortunately there is a lack of any real style to the bag. It's a basic design and sort of looks like an adapted duffel bag - although the over-the-shoulder style is perhaps more to blame for that anomaly.

Traditional Cordura shell is tough and abrasion resistant and all seams are double-stiched for strength. Vinyl liner is a bit thin compared to other bags but after riding for a week in the rain I was just happy that the bag kept my clothes dry! Lid is secured by four vertical velcro strips and clipped with two straps.

This bag has reflector tails on removable clips that mount onto a strap just below the lid straps. I’m not sure the benefit gained in designing these to be removable but not retainable. Here’s why I found this feature annoying: When I arrived at work and rolled up to my office to unlock the main door, I would attempt to avoid having to take the bag off by sliding the bag around my torso to get access to the front zippered pocket for my keys. Twice I squeezed the wrong clip while trying to open the lid, causing the reflective tails to jettison faster than I could say Schwerkraft!

Just under the lid, there are two pockets: an open pocket and a pocket with a zipper. The pocket with a zipper is a nice size for a wallet, keys and a couple of bike tools, but I’d like a clip for my keys in this pocket. I sometimes used this pocket for my iPod and ran the ear plug cord out the corner of the lid. It worked OK, but a pocket designed for this purpose would be better. The open pocket is meant for a U-lock but it is a bit too shallow for a full size lock. Why don’t bag manufacturers design a U-lock pocket with a velcro strap or something to secure the lock in the pocket?

Garrett: On the brighter side of things, the enormity of materials that can fit within the bag are quite impressive. This is one of the largest bags reviewed and it shows. There is a myriad of pockets to hold everything from a cell phone and iPod to a laptop and a clear plastic sleeve for ID.

Inside the bag is the same pocket conglomerate that is in Timbuk2’s Pro Series backpack. Small zipped pocket and pencil slots sewn onto a larger zipped pocket. The large zipped pocket is good for storing a pump, tube and any loose tools. Small zipped pocket could be used for keys and a wallet instead of the exterior zipped pocket. Fleece-lined cell phone pocket is a nice touch but doesn’t seem to fit all phones.

This bag measures 22.5” by 12.5” by 8.5”, which roughly equates to 3300 cubic inches, 300 cubic inches more than the published volume. Either way, it is a big bag, meant for hauling a ton of gear. With hardly any pockets comprising this massive volume, things tend to get lost in the main compartment. I don’t have a need to be meticulously organized but with a bag this big, it would be nice to keep the gear separated more. Exterior and interior pocket design is minimal. Where are the water bottle pockets that are in so many other bag interiors? Two large pockets in the outer edges of the front interior wall would really help for organization. Maybe an internal divider as a standard option on extra large bags too.

Construction/Design/Storage Rating: 4 out of 5. I was going to rate this design as a 3.5 out of 5 but I love the fact that you can customize the panel colors online with the “Build Your Own” custom messenger bag builder page on the Timbuk2 website. So taking this into account, I bumped the design up to 4 out of 5. I would really like to see interior water bottle pockets added, a brief-case style carrying handle, reflective straps that don’t jettison and a strap pad added to this design as standard features. I was searching the Timbuk2 website and found some responses to some of these issues that I have with this bag.

STRAP SYSTEM
One piece shoulder strap with single tension clip and slide clamp for securing excess strap. Cross stabilizer strap with plastic clip. Available in right or left handed straps. This strap is not padded and does not come with a removable pad. Strap pads are available separately for $10 (in limited colors).

The main strap is made of a thick backpack strap material that is two inches wide. The bag we reviewed is right-handed, so the tension clip for the main strap is located on the right (or down when worn) side of the bag. Strap adjustments must be made while the bag is not worn. To adjust the strap, you pull on the tension clip lever to release the tension on the strap. Then slide the strap to the desired length and push the tension clip lever back down; pretty simple. The cross-stabilizer strap works as advertised and was appreciated with this bag due to its size. When not in use, this strap can be removed so it doesn’t flap at your side.

“Our single-strap bags are meant to be worn over one shoulder and across the body. If you are right-handed, you most likely will want to put the main strap over your left shoulder, so that the bag is resting near your right hip. If you are left handed, then you will likely want to place the main strap over your right shoulder. When you're through getting stuff in or out of your bag, just slide the bag on to your back. The bag will "feel" better with some weight in the bag.

Garrett: Also worth noting is that this bag does not come with a padded shoulder strap (which Dennis was kind enough to add) and otherwise really wears on your shoulder. The pad made a huge difference in comfort and it easily slides on the strap adding great functionality with a variety of loads.

The cross strap is used to secure the bag to your back. After throwing the bag's main strap over your shoulder, slide the female end of the cross strap so that it rests at your sternum. Then just click the male end of the cross strap into the female end and pull the excess slack.”

The design of the strap works as advertised in the above quote from the Timbuk2 website. However, I didn’t like wearing the bag this way. This enormous bag holds a ton of stuff, thus it tends to be pretty heavy and it sucks to have all this weight bouncing off your ass while you’re riding. Plus, without a pad, the strap just digs into your shoulder. With a full load, this bag feels better snugged up high against your back. This keeps the load stable and saves your shoulder. Riding this way means the main and cross straps are snugged down fairly tightly. This is an inconvenience when taking the bag on and off because the strap cannot be adjusted while the bag is worn. So you have to push the bag up with the strap tight against your body to remove the bag. Without fail, this always knocks my helmet askew. Blah, wish it was a split strap or the tension could be adjusted while riding on the fly. Also, with a bag this large, the strap needs to be padded as a standard feature. I’d really like to see the padding sewn into the upper portion of the main strap because when the bag is spun around the torso to gain access to the main compartment, the strap pad slides out of position every time.

Strap System Rating: 3 out of 5. Strap performance meets but does not exceed the standard. For the serious messenger/commuter who will be putting in a lot of hours with a bag, the strap design might be an issue. I think Timbuk2 should redesign this strap to either a split strap and/or a strap that could be adjusted while it is worn. While they’re at it, they should sew some padding into the upper portion of the main strap.

COMFORT / FIT / RIDE
When the bag has a smaller load, all the gear slides down to the bottom of the bag which causes the bag to swing around your torso so you must constantly elbow the bag back around. This is especially prevalent under hard braking, which could be a safety issue.

With a full load, this bag rides better and is less prone to swinging around your torso. Naturally with a full load comes an increase in weight, which can make the bag uncomfortable. The strap pad that Dennis added helps enough that short commutes with heavy loads are bearable. Over the shoulder and peripheral vision is typical for a messenger bag.

Garrett: Under a full load the bag has a tendency to slide around. The bag wants to sit in different places depending on the load, so finding a comfortable position is often difficult. The support of a big load in Timbuk2's Classic Messenger leaves something to be desired. The bag's design holds the bag hammock style which tends to squeeze the contents towards the middle, and sometimes puts the worst of it into the back of the carrier.

Speaking of comfort, overall the bag is comfortable (with the strap pad added) for commuting and short rides. This bag rides very similar to the Banjo Brothers bag. Keep a normal, steady cadence and the bag rides well; bump up the cadence and get more aggressive and this bag is all over the place. Hard riding and/or long rides are miserable; you must constantly fight this bag to stay in one place and since the bag is so big, this is accentuated by the larger load.

I’d rate this bag as being comfortable for commuting, cruising and short rides up (like 10 miles or so). After 10 miles of hard riding, you’ll be ready to throw this bag off your shoulder.

Comfort/Fit/Ride Rating: 3 out of 5. BAG MOVEMENT. With a strap pad, the bag is fairly comfortable but the amount of bag movement trumps all.

PRICE / VALUE
Need a big bag often or even just occasionally? Here is where this big bag shines; it’s a helluva deal for $90. Throw in another $10 for a strap pad (this really should be a standard feature for a bag of this size) and you still can’t beat the price on this bag.

Garrett: Overall the bag offers solid performance and at $80 is a great value. However it might be worth the extra cash for a bag that adds better support and stability. This is a perfect bag if you are looking for something at a good price and have a lot of things to carry, but if you value style and aren't in need of a large capacity bag, look elsewhere. Rating: 3 out of 5

Dennis: Both Garrett and Nils are skinny little guys, the kind that leaves somebody like me way way in the dust going up any hill. So, this XL bag is even extra big on them, and points out the fact that you really should get a bag that is proportional to your body size. Can you imagine this bag on some little 90# gal?

Price/Value Rating: 5 out of 5. For a bag this big, $100 ($90 for bag + $10 for strap pad) is a deal. Hell, for another $10 why not get a custom bag and choose your own colors? This is my favorite thing about this bag and $110 is still a great deal.

Nils - Email me at vuggy13@hotmail.com if you have questions.

From the Timbuk2 website:
“What's the difference between Classic and Custom Messenger Bags?
Classic Messenger and Custom Messenger Bags are similar, yet different. They both have the same form factors -- the same size dimensions and core components. They also both come in Ballistic and Cordura® fabrics. And they both have the Timbuk2 Quality Guarantee.

Classic Messenger Bags are pre-determined color combinations that we think look nice. Think of them as our House Collection. We update these color combinations twice a year. We see a lot of bags and often include some of the most popular selections in the Classic line. However, with Classic Messenger Bags there's no ability to add a center divider, grab strap, or change any other features of the bag.

Custom Messenger Bags are essentially the same bag, however you get to choose the colors, features, and options that YOU want. Custom Messenger Bags cost $10 more than the Classics, but you get to completely tweak the bag to your liking. We build each one to your exact specifications.”

So, Timbuk2 has just opened a retail store in San Francisco, where you can get their full line of messenger bags, custom colors and some special colors/fabrics not available anywhere else. If this store is successful, it’s not a far stretch for Timbuk2 to start opening retail stores in cities across the United States. This could be the next big step for Timbuk2, taking them to the next level. From the Timbuk2 website:

“Timbuk2's first retail location, located in beautiful Hayes Valley, offers a unique spin on the classic messenger bag. These bags introduce a wide range of new colors and fabrics including: Davina Melange wool, graphic prints by artists such as Rex Ray and Laura Jo Wegman, as well as screen prints by local artist Thorina Rose. Other fabrics include colored reflectives, X-PAC, Maharam prints, and an all-canvas bag that gives you the opportunity to be the artist! The expert staff here can assist you in building your own unique messenger bag with the limited edition special fabrics that they have in store. Come in and see for yourself!

Timbuk2 Store
506 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102 ”