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Bicycle Commuting

Backpack or messenger bag?

posted over 5 years ago | Report

This is my 3rd week commuting to work. Rain and a few other factors have limited the bike commuting to twice a week for the last two weeks, I'm hoping to ride at least 3 days this week.

I've been using a backpack thus far, padded, no chest or waist support, but has enough room and pockets to hold my clothing, food and all that fun stuff. It doesn't slip around and doesn't bother me much, I've used this while riding motorcycle and have no real issues with it, but...

I'm wondering if there is something better out there, more comfortable and still fit my needs. Idealy I'd like a white or light colored bag (mine is black currently) so it sticks out a bit more while I ride, and possibly one that sits in a different spot on my back.

I've had messenger style bags before and use a Crumpler for my laptop, but have never rode anywhere with one on a bicycle. Most true messenger bags, like r.e. load or timbuk2 bags seem WAY too big for me and only appear to have one main pocket, sometimes with a divinder in the middle and maybe 2 outside pockets. Do they slide around a lot while riding? Are they really that more comfortable. Is it really worth a $150+ investment into a true messenger bag?

Panniers aren't an option for me, since I use my bike for much more than commuting.

25 posts

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  • Always used a backpack for work, my current one is yellow and has lights fitted to it. It's worth investing in a half-decent one but you don't have to be silly and spend loads.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I've been a big fan of panniers for the last year or so. A rack isn't too expensive (mine: http://is.gd/1UPb) and panniers range from cheap saddlebags (like the Banjo Brothers' ones) to crazy Expensive (like the Ortlieb). I'm currently using Axiom LaSalle panniers which retail for about $100. I know, sounds steep but I'm saving 2x that every month in fuel and parking costs making the 29 mile round trip 5 days a week most of the time.

    Panniers snap onto the rack and stay there so you don't get stuck carrying the load. Advantages: More comfort to you, more space, more organization, lower center of gravity, no sweaty back. Disadvantages: Bike feels heavier and less responsive. In reality, the bike/rider/cargo all weighs the same no matter how you load it, but some prefer having the cargo on their back than on their bike.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I prefer the messenger bag. I like the ability to swing it around and quickly pull things out mid-ride. It's harder to load/unload with a backpack.

    Not sure if you can find one - but the old start-up bomb Kozmo bags are supposedly awesome.

    http://www.chromeindustries.com/kozmo.html

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I have 2 timbuk2 bags which I use when I'm doing my longer rides. They both have a tendency to slide to my side which I think it annoying while I'm riding. It seems I'm constantly trying to move it onto my back. I think next ride I will get some type of back pack which won't move around. Good luck on finding something that works for you.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • My husband has a bike rack on the back of his bike and also bought a bag that has panniers that fold out of the side pockets. So, you only need hanging on the side if and when you're going to use them. Also, the bag can clip off the rack if you don't want it on there at all. It's quite nice. We use the panniers for going to the grocery store on quick trips and also use them when we go down to the farmers market. I'll look at the brand name in a bit and let you know if you're interested. The rack was $40 and the bag was around $90.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • in reply to what Kelly K. said:I prefer the messenger bag. I like the ability to swing it around and quickly pull things out mid-ride. It's harder to load/unload with a backpack. Not sure if you can find one - but the old start-up bomb Kozmo bags are supposedly awesome. ... read more

    I actually had one of the orignal Chrome bags from about 1995-6 or so - it's long since gone. This was back before they were really well known on the internet.

    There is actually a Kozmo bag on eBay for $80... but I can get Crumpler bags at cost (have a laptop bag and a huge photo backpack) - or I'm thinking about going to philly one weekend to checkout R.E. Load bags.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I had a Timbuk2 for about a week. Same problem - it slides off to the side and is very annoying. I cannot recommend Timbuk2 bags for this reason.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I usually do backpack. I got a decent Jansport (the Odyssey) a while back (before biking to work) and trade off between that and a Camelbak one. The Jansport is a little bigger - both good and bad as sometimes it tempts me to carry too much but also keeps my clothes slightly less wrinkled. It's padded and has waist straps (which I don't usually use) and a chest strap (which I do). It even has a space for a water reservoir.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • i personally use Chrome...totally expensive and worth every penny. I like the hipbone too, although I can't justify $60 for it.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • i'm a huge fan and user of chrome messenger bags. i picked up the citizen model ( http://www.chromebags.com/products/bags/show/13 ) for cheap on craigslist, but would buy another one new, even at its >$100 price. the larger metropolis bag will offer you a little bit more space, but the citizen offers room for most normal loads (e.g. i have even been able to fit a case of beer in the citizen). it's great for commuting around my college campus, to work, or as a general use backpack.

    posted over 5 years ago | edited over 5 years ago | Report

  • If I could afford one, I'd buy a Chrome bag. But right now I use a backpack I bought from some mall clothing store.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • The problem with a non-backpack is the uneven weight distribution, i used a messenger-bag type bag for a while and it wears on my shoulders more than a backpack because it only has the one strap.

    posted over 5 years ago | Report

  • I've been using Tom Bihn bags for a couple of years now and they are awesome. As soon as they come out with some panniers I will go with those. Until then I am using a pair of waterproof panniers that I bought from Performance.

    When I do ride with a messenger bag, any kind of waist strap will prevent the bag from rolling over to your side. It also helps keep the load close to your back which helps with support.

    posted about 5 years ago | Report

  • I use a timbuk2 messenger bag and I love it. Unlike the other posters, I have a removable cross strap that keeps the bag snug on my back. No sliding around. I had a backpack before, but the messenger bag is so much more comfortable. It almost molds to the shape of my back.

    posted about 5 years ago | Report

  • messenger bag for sure. form follows function.

    posted about 5 years ago | Report

  • I have the large Timbuk2 Laptop Messenger bag that goes with me everywhere. The cross strap is important for any messenger bag I believe, to keep the bag from shifting and sliding around. I use it for commuting, exercising, and just general riding. I like having all my stuff handy.

    http://www.timbuk2.com/tb2/products/messenger/laptop-messenger#product=6-30238

    I generally commute with my work laptop, wallet, phone, removable lights (front and rear), air pump, tire patch kit, tire levers, 15MM wrench, and whatever else seems appropriate at the time.

    posted almost 5 years ago | Report

  • In general, messenger bags will be more stable and backpacks will be more comfortable.
    I've fallen back in love with backpacks after using a messenger bags for a decade. I've got a HUGE Chrome Backbone that I got on sale at their "backdoor" sale on their website. I just got a new smaller one as well from a custom shop.
    There are some new Timbuk2 backpacks that are getting some love on the Single Speed / Fixed Gear section of BikeForums. FixedGrearGallery also has tons of great reviews of both messenger bags and backpacks.

    posted over 4 years ago | Report

  • I too prefer the backpack mainly in terms of weight distribution on the spine. All up I'd prefer panniers but the original choice here was between backpack or messenger bag.

    posted almost 4 years ago | Report

  • http://www.banjobrothers.com/products/cycling-backpacks/commuter-backpack/ I've had every single backpack and messenger bag there is...Crumpler,Timbuk2 ext.. and nothing comes close to this bag! It sits so comfortably on my bike and it holds my Trader Joes and Target groceries. Their price is Great compared to a Chrome bag. It even has a side pocket which holds my u-lock!!!!!!!!!! YOU CAN'T GO WRONG WITH THIS BAG..TRY IT :)

    posted over 2 years ago | Report

  • I Prefer Messenger Bag In my opinion I Like The Bag That has a good flexible

    http://www.onestrap-backpack.com/

    posted over 2 years ago | Report

  • User_avatar Deleted User

    Messenger bags are way more comfortable and pack away more than backpacks in my opinion. I have a Chrome Citizen bag that I bought recently on eBay and I love that I can fit my laptop, a few books and hoodie with ease and still have room. The bag is waterproof so other day I decided to ride to work in the rain just to test it. Got into the office and sure enough everything was dry. I highly recommend this bag.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/270960205983?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649#ht_3073wt_922

    posted almost 2 years ago | Report

  • <a href="http://www.sacslongchamp2012.org/&quot;&gt;&lt;strong&gt;Longchamp handbag</strong></a> is from France. The Le Pliage series is very beautiful and unique. It is very suitable for you to send to your friends. Do you agree with my opinion?

    posted almost 2 years ago | Report

  • Longchamp handbag</strong></a> is from France. The Le Pliage series is very beautiful and unique. It is very suitable for you to send to your friends. Do you agree with my opinion? http://www.sacslongchamp2012.org

    posted almost 2 years ago | Report

  • I know is an old question, but the answer is still useful for new riders...

    It is hard choosing between a messenger bag or a backpack, but to be truly honest it mostly comes down to how you plan to use it. If you are opening and closing it often then a messenger bag is the way to go. If not, then a backpack is more suitable.

    Comfort wise a backpack with its dual shoulder straps will trump all. However a well designed messenger bag which wraps around your body will come a close second. A fashion orientated messenger bag? Forget it. For cycling it would suck.

    In a nutshell, for commuting I would definitely recommend a backpack.

    For a range of cycling backpacks and messenger bags in lots of different sizes check out: http://www.bogear.com.au/packs
    I regularly use the Chunky Toad for my commute!

    posted over 1 year ago | Report

  • I always used to use backpacks when I needed to carry some stuff with me, until I recognized how convenient a vintage style messenger bag. It does not slide and durability gives me the confidence if the weather changes.

    You can check www.serbags.com to find what you're looking for. I think they have the best looking canvas messenger bags I've ever seen!

    posted over 1 year ago | edited 8 months ago | Report

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