Timbuk2 started out as a small company producing messenger bags in a garage in 1989. Ten years later, they had an online presence. Today, they’re one of the major players when it comes to bags for cyclists. Part of that is because unlike big companies operated by men in suits, Timbuk2 is run by everyday people that happen to be cyclists too. And they understand the unique needs of cyclists when it comes to transporting our electronic gadgets and other gear. That’s why their range has expanded to include not just messenger bags and backpacks, but all sorts of luggage, camera bags, panniers, and other functional, practical products. Which brings us to the Power Commute Laptop Messenger bag. Yeah, that’s a long name, but perfectly descriptive too. The idea was pretty simple – take all the great features Timbuk2 is known for, and throw in a Joey® T1 power supply to keep your devices going when you’re on the go. The fact that it was sold out as of this writing should be a good indicator of how successful the design is. Luckily, we got our hands on one to review.
Expected features include a TSA-compliant compartment for laptops up to 15″, pockets sized just right for power supplies and an iPad, and a host of other smaller open top, velcro-closing, and zippered compartments for organization. One end has an elastic pocket for a water bottle, the back has a luggage pass through, and the front side has a loop at the bottom for attaching your blinky. Ride with it across your back and chest, messenger-style, then remove the strap and carry it like a briefcase, corporate-style. It’s as versatile as a mullet. Now for the reason you’re reading this article – the Joey® T1 battery. Nestled in its own dedicated pocket, this charging device is TSA-compliant, and should provide two full charges to most cell phones. It can also be used for cameras, GPS units, or just about any other small electronics that charge via USB. Unlike some battery units with the USB ports right on the battery, the T1 has a short cable with the ports and an LED “fuel gauge”. This allows the battery to stay tucked into the pocket, while you can easily access the port to both charge it, or charge your device. Although we’re generally wary of extra cords, this one exits across the top of the battery, rather than straight out, and has a sturdy strain relief, so it should hold up well.
After loading up all my usual stuff – laptop, iPod, tablet, compact camera, business cards, penlight, nail clippers, thumb drives, Clif bars, a Park Tool I-Beam mini tool (I’ve actually assembled a bike at the office, and always seem to have tools on me, even when I drive), plus a coffee thermos and lunch, I set out to give this bag a week-long test drive. Once I remembered where everything was located, accessing it was easy enough, but the sound of the velcro gets old quickly. Having the T1 definitely made up for that. My phone gets a lot of use during the day, and the battery is pretty beat by lunch. After about 20 minutes on the charger, I’ve got enough juice left to get through the rest of my work day without worrying it’s going to die. I used a similar setup at Interbike 2012, and it’s ideal for situations like that, where you don’t have access to a wall outlet, or can’t be stuck in one location, waiting for your phone to charge. And not doing a full charge each time means that the battery will last for several days, in case you forget to charge it.
Timbuk2 has applied their usual expertise to this bag, and then raised the bar a bit by partnering with Joey®. If you’re looking for an integrated carrying and charging solution, the Power Commute Laptop Messenger may be your first and last stop. All the features you could ask for, plus the ability to charge on the go. Construction was up to their usual high standards, with uniform stitching and no loose threads. I only had one complaint (not a fan of velcro), and the only other downside is that finding one may not be easy, given how fast they sell out. www.timbuk2.com
*Note that all photos are stock images provided by Timbuk2. I rarely have much luck with this sort of photography.