Rain or shine the original has been backing me up for 18 months. I'm so used to wearing it that there's usually a moment on a weekend ride where I imagine something is missing. The minimal, low-profile design doesn't allow for any extra ballast. You pack the essentials and that's it. For my commute that means a clean shirt, briefs, small towel (shoes and trousers are kept at work), a couple of apples, my G9 digital camera, hand pump, 2nd extra tube, multi-tool, spare gloves, Stowaway Jacket and wet-wipes. Wallet and keys in one side pocket, cell phone in the other. The light loops on the shoulder straps and back usually have Knog Frogs or Beetles attached.
The original is a hard act to follow, but there are times when I need to carry a heavier load to or from work, and that's been a problem. Enter the new Large Fixed Backpack.
On first appearance it's surprisingly similar in size to its teammate. A little more square at the shoulders, perhaps half-an inch deeper (meaning away from your back). It has two generous exterior pockets instead of the three exterior pockets on the original. In terms of space it's probably an even trade, but I like the placement of these pockets on the original better. I can unclip the small chest strap, swing the pack off my left shoulder so it's easy to get at my keys and wallet in the right-side pocket. The new pack will require me to take it off to get at my keys and wallet. I'd love to see a shoulder strap phone pocket, like the stretch pockets on my Think Tank photo harness.
The Large Backpack features a familiar internal layout, both packs accommodate my MacBook Pro, though I seldom need to carry it. The additional half inch of depth (front to back) will provide a bit more room for an SLR body so I'm anticipating giving it a try for an upcoming road race shoot where I ride my bike to various points on the course.
It's only when you unzip the expandable rear panel that the LARGE designation make sense. Take a look at the comparison photos of what fits in the respective packs. A couple of caveats. In the photographs where the Large backpack is expanded, it contains the shoes and my MacBook Pro. My Giro Ionos does fit in the expandable section, but not at the same time as a pair of shoes. Fully loaded with laptop and shoes the pack weighed 12 lbs.
Expanded, the Large Backpack loses its svelte profile. Of course, if you want the option of additional capacity, it's a small aesthetic price to pay for practicality. The shoulders straps continue to provide good support for the bigger load, stabilized by the chest strap and the addition of a waist strap. When not in use, the waist strap can be neatly stowed behind the lower section of back padding.
In answer to those of you trying to decide between the two. It really comes down to how much you regularly carry. Both Fixed Backpacks are identical in materials and basic construction. The original has lived up to its waterproof rating and cleans up nicely on the occasions it's been covered in road grime, I'd expect no less of its stablemate.
The Rapha Large Fixed Backpack is priced at £125 $200 €140
If you want or need to carry a full change of clothes (briefs, socks, shoes, trousers and shirt) along with a laptop the Large is the way to go. As you can see, when the expandable section is collapsed, it has a clean profile. On the other hand, if you like the minimalist discipline, go with the original. Both will give you years of good service.