Recently we’ve seen a lot of new gear from Scottish company Endura in the way of clothing, whether it was to deal with wet riding on the road or trail, or on the backs of women’s and men’s road pros. But they’ve also done some good work as one of the early companies to work with the alt material Koroyd in protection gear. One of those new products was the MT500 trail backpack that we first glimpsed last winter. And when we had a chance to test one ourselves, we jumped to see how it would perform on our regular rides and catch us when we came crashing back down…
Overview & Specs
A couple of our European testers have been riding with Endura gear for a while already, so it was a bit of a toss up to see who got their hands on the new combined pack/back protector. In the end we compromised and did a bit of sharing. The MT500 edition is meant to be used for all day riding with a bit of gravity focus. Based on Endura’s own description, the pack is for riders who are not afraid to hit the ground (not on purpose ideally) and expect their gear to survive some rough handling & landings. We’ve given the bag a solid run through over the last half-year or so, in a bunch of different trail riding scenarios, terrain, and all types of weather conditions, even putting in on the ground once or twice.
The MT500 backpack is available with a 3l Hydrapak hydration bladder (£120) or without (£100.) Our test pack showed up without a bladder, so we dropped our own inside. The main body of the bag is made of a relatively light ripstop type fabric with a coated inside, and it weighed just 824g without a bladder or its Koroyd back protector. It then gets a reinforced, coated fabric on the bottom to stand up to trail debris and being taken off and placed on the ground.
Being sold as an aggressive trail pack, we were a bit worried at first glance by a lot of open mesh that looked like it might not hold up to proper trail abuse. The entirely of the back panel, shoulder straps, and wings for the waist strap are all made of an open mesh, as are the pockets on the hips. It does seem that there was no need for concern though as they’ve all held up well in regular (ab)use.
The standout feature of the pack is the inclusion of the integrated CE 1621-2 Level 2 Koroyd back protector. Made out of what looks like green plastic straws fused together in a honeycomb, it is the same lightweight, breathable foam-alternative material we’ve seen in helmets from Smith, and Endura who also have put it in their new knee pads. ‘Integrated’ means the back protector comes with the pack, and gets its own pocket inside the bag. It is a standalone piece though and can be taken out to make the bag a bit more flexible, but we didn’t really find much use in not having it there, and its 207g weight is pretty minimal and if anything it improves the pack’s breathability.
The MT500 comes in just one color, which curiously Endura calls Black. We’d probably more mention the bright yellow, but whatever. It is bright, so it will help keep you visible on those road sections linking one trail to the next, we only wondered how that would hold up to muddy trail riding?
Another nice feature of the bag is the bright yellow removable tool roll included inside, that helped us stay a bit more organized. This yellow one is gonna get dirty though, as it ends up getting handled a lot by greasy fingers. Oh well.
Overall there are plenty of storage options inside and out. Inside the first zippered pocket you get the sleeve for the back protector with a velcro closure and an elastic pocket for a hydration bladder with a loop to hang the bladder from, plus space to stash some extra clothing. The next is the main zippered body pocket with a key loop, a sleeve containing the tool roll and a divided mesh pocket, plus plenty of extra loose storage space. The from the outside there is a small valuables pocket with a waterproof zip, an adjustable helmet carry strap/pouch system, a pair of mesh pockets on the hip belt, and adjustable lashing straps on the bottom to attach some knee pads. Total capacity including water is 15l.
We have been using the backpack for all around trail & enduro riding for half a year from the cold, wet & mud of early spring, thorough to warm, sunny & dusty summer trails and back again. The pack has been on long, all-day endurance rides as often as the regular after work trail escapes. It’s even spent its time in the bike parks. Spoiler alert – to be honest, we haven’t really found much a flaw in this bag. Due to its lightweight feel on your shoulders and back, it is at home on every style of mountain biking we get into. No matter if we wanted long XC trail riding or shorter & more intense downhill action, it did the job well.
All that mesh on the back and the raised foam blacks that actually press against your back proved to be great in hot weather, ensuring at least little ventilation that kept our backs from getting too sweaty, and the light perforated mesh shoulder straps kept it all from moving around. It was as comfortable with a 1.5l of water and a small rain shell as it was with 2.5l of water and loaded down with spare clothes, tools, and food for our all day trips. We used at most a 2.5l Camelbak bladder, but are pretty sure it would digest most every type of hydration pack you’ll find on the market.
Besides the nice days of trail riding, there were plenty when the rain was pouring hard, but we couldn’t resist the urge to go for a ride, or even just got trapped in the middle of the forest during a summer downpour. On a 3 hour ride on trails that turned into creeks, everything inside the pack stayed completely dry. That’s maybe a benefit to buying a bag from the Scottish, even though it isn’t rated as waterproof, it has kept our valuables safe on more than one poorly planned occasion.
Our real question was, how to test the Koroyd spine protector without causing any harm to our testers. An excellent opportunity came out of blue (as it tends to), while riding wet roots and rocks in one of our regional bike parks. Landing on your back is not a very pleasant way of dismounting the bike, but the MT500 backpack came out of that without a scratch as did our tester. After the ride we went over the Koroyd carefully and couldn’t find any damage to the grid, but thanks to the honeycomb structure it seems like it will retain the majority of its protection after minor impacts like we experienced.
Since the pack sits on your back in a comfortable and stable position while riding (assuming you keep all the straps adjusted and tightened), the back protector stays in its place and delivers good protection whether the pack is empty or full. We’ve ridden with the pack in various setups – w/ back protector + hydration pack, no back protector but hydration pack, or back protector without hydration pack – and the fit and feel doesn’t change. The only minor difference might be that when (over)stuffed full the back protector gives a bit of rigidity to the shape that keeps the pack from pushing against you back, allowing for space around the foam pads and slightly better ventilation. With 15l capacity there is plenty of room to stuff it. We’d regularly squeeze in 2.5l of water, a long sleeve jersey & jacket, a basic first aid kit, the filled tool roll, a spare tube & pump, and of course some snacks, and with its relatively wide base the backpack still looked and felt fairly thin on the back.
The only real problem we had was getting the zipper to open when we overloaded the bag (adding some overdressed friend’s extra kit during a ride). Other than that we had no problem hauling our own knee pads at the bottom of the pack and full-face helmet using the carry system, even when fully loaded, and climbed comfortably for longer than planned after ending on the wrong side of a mountain after riding some hidden locals’ trail.
In the end the MT500 backpack looks as good as new even after 8 months of rough handling and frequent use. The yellow color stayed bright (and cleans up nicely) after equal time in mud & sun. Its zippers are all still in excellent condition (even after being overtaxed a few times) and those feared back and strap mesh sections don’t show any evidence of wear.
So the MT500 enduro backpack is probably a great choice for riders looking to combine trail and enduro use with a bit of added protection. It has served us well for all day mountain bike trips, as well as in the bike park too. It’s built tough, but still feels light on the back, and we really appreciated its easy to adjust & operate buckles and straps (& stow their slack), and the tiny convenience of the included tool roll. Adding the Koroyd back protector was icing on the cake, giving just that little bit of an extra sense of security without encouraging us to push it too far.