Review: Could Deuter’s Superbike 18 EXP be the perfect commuter bag?
Deuter’s Superbike 18 EXP is a simple, moderate capacity, commuter-oriented pack. Sounds simple, right? A cavernous main compartment, a couple of small organization pockets, foam against the back, and provision for a hydration bladder. Pretty standard stuff. People don’t even get excited about a hi-vis raincover, reflective piping, or mesh side pockets any more. Granted, the built-in wind vest is interesting- but it’s hardly anything most of us would think to seek out.
What is exceptional is when all of these features come together in a well-made, attractive, and essentially flawless package. Over a year’s worth of daily commutes, in temperatures from 20-95 degrees, Deuter’s Superbike 18 EXP has proved itself to be a capable, low-maintenance companion. Cross the line for the details.
At 2.3lb, the Superbike 18 EXP isn’t a superlight bag, though it does weigh a fair bit less than messenger-inspired Cordura packs. The body’s blend of midweight ripstop nylons, shared with the Compact EXP 12, has worn extremely well and the white panels, like the Compact’s, are impressively stain-resistant. In order to provide a comfortable, stable, and cool interface with the rider’s back, Deuter have used their Airstripes system for this pack, which consists a tube of dense, breathable padding on either side of the spine. Beneath each Airstripe is an aluminum stay, which can be bent to fit the wearer’s back. Where the bag initially felt perched on my curved cyclist’s spine, a quick bending session had it hugging my back, where it’s been stable and comfortable ever since. Coming from a bow-style back system, I was concerned that the Airstripes wouldn’t be up to summer desert riding- but was surprised to find them nearly as comfortable as the bow well into the 80s, without a bow designs’ packaging issues.
The waist belt are made of an open rubber-coated mesh for breathability and grip and their zippered pockets easy access to keys and small tools. The 3D mesh shoulder straps are more than able to handle the loaded pack comfortably but aren’t overly wide or bulky. Hydration tube routing is provided–but a bladder is not–and a removable sternum strap helps keep things stable when loads are heavy.
The waterproof rain cover has saved my clothes and laptop from numerous downpours and is easily removed for cleaning- a nice touch. A helmet carrier deploys from its own pocket if needed and the blinky tab has held my backup light for a year without complaint. The bag has hung, often heavily loaded, from sturdy grab handle whenever not on the road. Inside, the 18L capacity is just about right for a full change of clothes, lunch, and a mid-sized laptop. A 13in laptop in its sleeve, and letter-size file folders, or magazines fit comfortably in the hydration bladder area and with some careful packing a pair of shoes will fit as well. The additional 4L promised by the “EXP” in the Superbike’s name allows the bag to swallow bulky winter layers for warm afternoon commutes.
Is there anything about the Superbike that isn’t just about right? To be honest, I’ve never had the occasion to use the wind vest on my commutes. Not that it doesn’t get windy- far from it. It’s just not that easy to deploy and I usually have a proper windbreaker or wind vest along instead. I’ve thought about cutting it out, but as it doesn’t add much weight or consume much space, it’s better to have it for that one unexpectedly cold commute.
On the occasions that I’ve used it off road, the Superbike has been similarly excellent. As on the Compact EXP 12, Deuter’s Airstripes system keeps the pack stable and cool. The addition of padded shoulder straps (and 50% more carrying capacity) make the Superbike a good pack for bigger days- but it isn’t nearly as massive as the company’s Trans Alpine series. Fastidious packers will need to provide their own organization, however.
Anyone looking for a well made, well thought out pack for commuting and/or big days on the trail will be well served by the Superbike. It may not be as flashy as some packs, but given the Deuter’s build quality and longevity, it’s probably best not to be too trendy. Given the pack’s performance so far, the $120 retail price is more than reasonable.