Name: Osprey Savu Lumbar Pack
Number of crashes survived: at least 5
Cargo capacity: three beers in main compartment
Best paired with: acid-wash jorts
When fanny packs first infiltrated the cycling scene, I envisioned Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski from the 1990s show “Saved by the Bell” strolling down the hallways of Bayside High School in neon shirts and acid-wash jeans. Fanny packs are tacky, I thought. And they’re too small to be functional.
When I tried several of these packs out while riding, I felt vindicated with my opinion. The packs slipped, and they failed to hold everything I needed. Plus, they were jam-packed with hoses and clips and compartments.
When I first saw the Osprey Savu, I thought that it, too, was trying to do too much. As it turns out, the Savu does just enough, which is exactly what I need for my mountain bike rides.
The Savu features a generous main compartment, which is big enough to stow a rain jacket. But it’s not so massive that you’ll feel compelled to over-stuff it. Get your jacket, your tube, your tools, and a few CO2 cartridges in there and call it good. (They will stay organized in the mesh separator too.) That’s really all you need for a two-hour ride anyway.
Well, except maybe for some nutrition, which coincidentally fits perfectly in either of the two zippered pockets on the hips. They’re large enough to store most mobile phones too, though if you’re into the whole escaping-society thing, just store your phone in the front stash pocket to protect it.
Those are standard features for most hip packs nowadays, but Osprey’s fit and comfort features really set it apart. The Airscape back panel puts a layer of mesh between you and the pack itself to keep air flowing, and the hip straps wrap snugly but comfortably around you, adjusting easily using the pull straps on either side of the buckle.
As a mountain biker who has struggled for years with the infuriating “where do I put my bottles?” conundrum, the Savu comes with two pockets for bottles. Bottles stay put and balance out the pack nicely, and the adjustment straps keep them from flying out when you’re hitting rugged singletrack. Not carrying bottles? Just cinch the straps all the way down.
Hip packs present a unique challenge for designers: Do too much and the bulk makes the pack unwearable. (See: hydration bladders in hip packs!) Do too little and you’re basically just wearing a saggy purse. Osprey hits the perfect middle, balancing useful features with a comfortable fit that disappears once I’m riding. All that for $55 is one heckuva deal.
If it came in Saved-By-The-Bell pink, it might just end up being the perfect hip pack for mountain bikers and gravel riders.
Does that come in a frame bag?
Name: Pro Discover Compact Framepack Bag
Size: 2.7 liters — or two cans of beer
Knee-interference risk factor: Extremely low
When I worked in bike shops in the early 2000s, we sold frame and handlebar bags, mostly to folks who had recently dusted off their bikes for the first time in a decade or so. Those bags were likely destined to go back in the garage with the bikes that got ridden once every few years. We knew that frame bags and handlebar bags were a sign of the noob.
Now that they’re ubiquitous among the gravel scene (and to a lesser extent, the mountain bike world), the quality of said bags has gotten exponentially better. Pro’s Discover Compact Framepack Bag is indicative not only of the sea change but also of the utilitarian bent riders have taken in the last couple of years.
It stows neatly in the front part of your bicycle frame’s front triangle, and it secures via three Velcro straps. The bag doesn’t sway, and more importantly, it won’t interfere with your knees while pedaling.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s easy to fetch food, your phone, or whatever else you’re carrying (by sheer coincidence, a hearty breakfast burrito fits perfectly inside) without having to stop pedaling or reach like a contortionist for your jersey pocket.
It’s slate grey, so perhaps it won’t win you many style points, but it matches with pretty much any bike out there. And while it may not look flashy, its PU-coated nylon construction is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing your expensive phone to the gravel gods.
Speaking of your phone, it slides nicely into the narrow pocket on the side of the pack, which means you can grab it quickly and easily without having to fish through the main compartment, so you can get a quick photo of your riding buddies coming down the trail.
It’s simple and unglamorous, but it does exactly what I want and need it to do without any intrusion to my pedaling. It has become a staple on my gravel bike, and I wouldn’t hesitate to throw it on a road or mountain bike for long days in the saddle either.
If nothing else, I can always strap it to my beach cruiser. I’ve always wanted to try wearing socks and sandals.