Words and photos by Mike Stead
The EVOC FR Trail E-Ride 20 backpack is a cracking piece of e-MTB luggage that lets you carry the largest batteries all day in comfort and safety. With a smorgasbord of well-executed features, it's a great investment for riding far and high.
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Two years back, Jim really liked the non-eMTB version of the FR Trail backpack giving it just under 5 stars at £165. The new version is a rethink, and there are several differences, including where the bladder is stored. Jim noted the weight at 1480g, and the E-ride version is only another 50g heavier - something of a miracle when you look at all the extra padding needed to accommodate the battery.
That's the E-Ride's party piece - its ability to schlep a full-size battery like a 416mm-long Bosch 625Whr Powertube. EVOC advise it measures 90 x 90 x 460mm - huge. The padded compartment the battery slides into has a long Velcro flap that can tighten down on whatever length of battery you have, and there's also a cinch strap that goes across the battery to hold it real tight - once packed, it's not flopping around at all. The compartment's rated capacity at 460mm is only a smidge smaller than the new Bosch 750Whr Powertube at 484mm long. I don't have a 750 to try, but it looks like you could make it work, at least with a wide strip of double-sided Velcro as an 'adapter' to keep the flap closed. The pack's internal compartment itself is easily big enough for a 750.
Next to the battery sleeve is another cinch strap with a friction pad underneath to hold a charger if you plan a cafe stop and refill. If you aren't carrying a charger, there's tons of extra space down that side for jackets, additional layers, food, etc. At the top of the main compartment, there's a zipped mesh pocket, inside which you'll find a battery keyring with a carabiner clip attached to a fabric loop - order a spare key that lives in the pack, and you'll never be caught short swapping batteries on a ride. Having had this happen once a long, long ride from home, I can assure you it's the best £10 you'll ever spend, investing in a 'pack key'.
On the inside of the main compartment lid is a huge bladder pocket with a slit for the hose. There's a hose port on the bottom right side as you wear the pack; you then need to route all the way to the top and then down a shoulder strap to your face. Or you could route it around your waist, enduro-pack style. Annoyingly EVOC hasn't provided a retaining strap or sleeve on the outside of the pack to guide the hose to the shoulder strap. A workaround is to route it under the helmet holder strap - but it's not ideal. So you'll need a real long bladder tube - as you have to BYO bladder, that's up to you. As Jim noted, it's a disappointment at this price that a bladder isn't included.
There are two zipped pockets on the front lid, with a huge amount of open mesh and zipped storage. The smaller top pocket is fleece-lined for scratch-free stashing of sunnies. Nice. On the outside is the helmet holder, able to swallow normal helmets or hold full-face ones by threading a' tongue' over the chin guard. The bottom of the helmet holder has a fabric loop for a bike light.
Low down on the right side, there's a fleece-lined pocket that can swallow a large e-bike display or phone with ease. There's an open mesh pocket with the depth to hold a standard drink bottle if you aren't running a bladder on the opposite side. Helping to compress things down is a strap on each side. Right at the bottom is a zipped compartment containing a bright blue rain cover - this can be unclipped and removed, saving 70g and freeing up yet more luggage space if needed. The rain cover is well-thought-out with an elastic strap that threads under the shoulder straps to stop the cover from turning into a drag chute - which could be bad at high speed.
The hip belt is wide and padded, with both Velcro and buckle keeping it in place. There's a wee zipped pocket on the right hip, too small for a phone but good for a few gels or mini-tool, maybe. I stash a Garmin inRide GPS tracker/messenger there for solo Highlands backcountry escapades, where if I came a really bad cropper, I could reach it with either hand to SOS for help.
The shoulder straps are nicely-shaped and have a height- and width- adjustable sternum strap incorporating an emergency whistle. They have cinch straps at the top to get the load sitting just right. There's a hydration hose clip on the right side.
The main sell of the FR Trail E-Ride 20 is the battery storage - and with weight and giant metal tube things comes the need for protecting your spine. The thought of falling back-first onto a hard surface with all the force being concentrated through the unyielding corner of a battery doesn't bear thinking about. EVOC has had the protector tested to CE standard EN 1621-2. This is a European motorcycle back protector safety standard, and it's the 'Full Back' version, providing the best level of protection for your torso. Looking at the backside, you can't see the protector - it's hidden in an internal sleeve and resembles a roughly rectangular black pad - the kind of thing you'd carry to sit on at an outdoor concert. In the event of a major crash, it is recommended to be replaced (like your helmet). What's really cool is that EVOC offers a free replacement service. After a 'serious crash' where the protector is noticeably deformed, you register it, send back, and they replace it for free.
Because it's really important to match the back protector with your torso length, on the EVOC website, there's a size guide to get the perfect match. This is one backpack that is definitely not one size fits all. I'm 6' tall, and the M/L size was best for my torso.
So many, many features, but the proof is in the all-day riding. At around £200, you'd expect amazing comfort, and that's what you get. Carrying a 3.5Kg battery plus water, tools, food and clothing for an all-day ride requires a great-fitting pack, and the FR trail E-Ride is up to the challenge.
My longest ride was over 100km with 2,200m of seriously-rocky climb/descent and recharged one battery (and coffee/Cake) at Pitlochry's Escape Route Cafe halfway along. Across this and other rides over six months, the pack was nothing but comfortable and rock-solid. Blasting rolling estate roads at 60kph+ was no problem at all, with the weight staying clamped to my back into corners and getting air - no feeling it was a pendulum swinging about. I used the side 'display' pocket to stash glasses when needed, and with the centre channel and mesh-covered, ribbed padding across the back, I never felt sweaty or clammy, even on 'warm' Scottish days working at 70-80% of max heart rate for prolonged periods. Even worn over a waterproof jacket, the fact there's still a centre channel lifted clear made for comfy riding under effort.
All in all, I highly rate the EVOC FR Trail E-Ride 20 backpack. Yes, it's £200 - but you're getting what you pay for, a two-year warranty plus the free crash replacement of the protector. A bonus if you're into skiing or snowboarding is that many of the benefits of a back-protecting backpack with different storage and hydration capability carry over between sports.
Again the only niggle I have is with the hydration hose routing, but that's one I can live with given all the other benefits. If you can afford an eMTB and then circa £700 for a spare e-bike battery, chances are you're good for a £200 backpack that's practical and enables all-day carrying comfort. Most especially when it could be the difference between walking away and suffering a life-changing injury, it's a case of 'Safety Third' behind 'Getting The Ride Done' and 'Having Fun'. We accept a level of risk and discomfort in MTB riding but carrying a huge battery done wrong adds both discomfort and risk. The EVOC FR Trail E-Ride 20 sorts both of those with ease.