Off to the races.

Off to the races.​

Full disclosure: In the cycling world schwag backpacks get handed out like Halloween candy. Go to a press launch for just about anything, and you're likely to walk away with a backpack. Most are of the carry-textbooks-to-middle-school variety and are quickly donated to the local Goodwill. It's not that we're unappreciative. But one only needs so many backpacks.

That's in part why we decided to pen this loving missive about Bontrager's Flanders Backpack. Yes, it was a freebie passed out at the press launch for Trek's new Émonda road bike. But unlike so many of its predecessors, this pack was worth holding on to. In fact, if we needed a new backpack, we'd buy one of these in a heartbeat. And that's saying something considering the $175 price tag. It's truly a 5-star tote that's become a constant companion for road trips and at local cyclocross races.

The pack opens up, making it easier to keep everything organized.

The pack opens up, making it easier to keep everything organized.​

The Flanders Backpack is designed first and foremost to carry race gear. Among its ten pockets is a wet-dry compartment that's accessible from the outside so you can keep your mud-stained skinsuit separate from the rest of your gear. There's also a mesh interior pocket for your helmet and gloves, and a pair of side zip pockets perfect for stashing water bottles.

Two smaller fleece lined pockets safely store sunglasses or a smart phone, and the main interior pocket accounts for the bulk of the pack's 1900 cubic inch carrying capacity, availing ample room for shoes, a jacket, or whatever else is part of your race day kit. Stuffing in a six pack would be no problem.

Total cargo capacity is 1900 cubic inches (or if you prefer, 31 liters).

Total cargo capacity is 1900 cubic inches (or if you prefer, 31 liters).​

Adjustable chest, waist and shoulder straps ensure a secure fit, while side and rear loops (accented with reflective material) are a perfect spot to attach commuter lights.

When it's time to travel, we've had no problems carrying a weekend's worth of gear inside the Flanders Backpack. There's a 17-inch laptop compartment that's accessible from the exterior, making trips through the TSA line a little less painful. Sturdy handles on the top and one side make stuffing this pack into a crowded overhead bin more manageable. And most important of all, the Flanders Backpack is really well made. After a full summer's worth of travel, plus another half dozen 'cross race excursions, the pack's sturdy zippers continue to zip smoothly, and nary a seam - or even a single thread - has come loose.

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