Ergon BC3 Backpack
Bring on the rain. Bring on the heat. Bring on the epic rides. Bring on Bike to Work Week. The Ergon BC3 pack , the latest offering in the German company's lineup of cycling backpacks, fills the role of all 'round carryall fit for any season. At 1500+ cubic inches the BC3 is big enough to hold just about anything while the high tech carrying system makes it seem light and solid even when you're pushing you and your bike to the limits.
The Ergon BC3 pack utilizes Ergon's back-saving Flexible Link (Flink) system to transfer the bulk of the pack's weight to your hips while allowing your shoulders and upper torso to move freely and independently of the load. It also provides ample ventilation between your jersey and the pack. Basically the bag is suspended inside a semi-rigid external frame that attaches to the shoulder straps via a ball-and-socket joint about the size of a racquetball and extends out around the hip/waist band to move most of the work in supporting the load away from your shoulders to your core. The Ergon BC3-M comes in two sizes -- small or large, specific to the size of the torso. At 6'5", our choice was easy, and the large pack fit like a glove. Within each size is room for ample fine-tuning of fit through three positions of the Flink ball joint and numerous shoulder strap and hip belt adjustments. Don't worry -- the instructions are printed right inside the back pocket. It takes just a matter of minutes to get things dialed.
The Ergon BC3 is constructed from a hefty coated nylon material that offers waterproof peace of mind and feels super-durable to the touch. The pack should be able to stand up to years of (ab)use with its external frame extending continuously around the perimeter, the rubbery helmet carrier offering further protection, and burly construction holding everything together. The designers at Ergon managed to pack a lot of features into the Ergon BC3 while keeping the number of external seams fairly small. What seams there are on the pack all sport traditional threaded construction but are taped from the inside to strengthen the joints and help keep the less desirable elements away from your stuff. The massive zippers glide under strips of waterproof material that come together to form a tight seal when the zippers are closed.
For organizational purposes the Ergon BC3 has a large compartment for an H2O bladder (not included), a voluminous main compartment, a smaller pocket for maps or keys, a helmet/jacket pouch, and another chamber tucked between the bladder zone and the Flink socket. The last pocket is accessible while riding and can be used to store energy bars, slim cameras, and other things you might want without having to stop. The large main space is further broken up into two elastic pouches at the front and rear and a removable unit sporting quite a few hidey-holes for your all your tools and other knickknacks. The shoulder straps have various hooks and loops for attaching things, including a handy pair of holes perfect for securing your sunglasses for easy access. The chest strap also has a whistle built in, just in case you need it.
Unlike its sister packs, the BD1 and BD2, the Ergon BC3 does not come with a rain cover. It's meant to handle whatever you're willing to ride through right out of the box. So when a typical Arkansas spring rain doused plans for a canoe/camping trip recently, we decided to take advantage of the perfect opportunity to really put the BC3 through its all-weather paces after a lot of fair-weather rides under the pack. An afternoon of spinning our beater bike around a rain soaked Little Rock did nothing to dampen the wad of tissues we had stuffed into the main compartment. They came out at the end of the ride as dry as they were at the beginning. However, a subsequent trip into the shower to simulate a completely unrealistic combination of water pressure and volume did manage to force some H2O past the BC3's defenses. A couple of tablespoons of liquid got through and collected at the bottom of the pack. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, though, none of us is going to try to ride around during a rainstorm as powerful as a shower head flowing at full blast, at point blank range. Maybe unless you're tackling La Ruta the Ergon BC3 should be more than adequate for whatever riding conditions you throw at it. If absolute dryness is paramount during a deluge, you may want to use some supplementary plastic bags as an added layer of protection.
The Ergon BC3 is not meant to serve as a svelte minimal form-fitting hydration bag for the state XC-championship-winning ride. Designed to hold a lot of stuff comfortably, we found ourselves having to compensate for the pack's bulk when winding between tightly-spaced trees or under ones with low limbs. While it did an incredible job of keeping the load centered over the bike, it tends to catch on things if you're not careful and you might even bonk someone in the face if you find yourself turning around rapidly in tight quarters very often. However, it never shifted as we went through tight corners, nor threatened to throw off our balance.
Our jersey bunched up slightly under the hip belt during rougher off-road rides. Fiddling with the Flink and shoulder strap adjustments helped a little, but the problem never completely went away. It doesn't seem to be any worse than the bunching that occurs under packs from other brands though. Finally, all the various straps on the Ergon BC3 might cause a minor annoyance when the relative wind speed passing over the pack exceeds 12 mph, but that can be fixed with just a little attention to detail. If you don't like the sound of nylon flapping in the breeze it's easy to tuck or tie the straps out of the way without compromising access to any of the compartments at all. There probably wouldn't be any harm in trimming some of the straps once you get everything dialed in for your personal fit either. If you do decide to perform some strap-utations go to your local hardware store and see if they'll let you use their heated cutting iron at the rope station in the back. It'll make a nice clean break and melt the webbing back together to prevent fraying.
The Ergon BC3 pack would be a great addition for anyone who needs to carry a few things on a bike. Commuters, endurance riders, those heading out for an over-nighter -- anyone who needs to haul some gear around would be well-served slinging one of these over their back. We liked the throw-it-all-in size of the Ergon BC3 coupled with the well-designed carrying system that makes for absolute comfort under load. It is solid, well-designed and constructed, and incredibly comfortable.