*This is a 2016 update to a 2014 guide*
Backpacks and rucksacks for cycling come in all shapes and sizes.
Whilst it is more than possible to use any kind of backpack while cycling, there are benefits of having a travel backpack designed with the bike rider in mind.
Cycling backpacks will usually have adjustable straps on the shoulders, chest and waist. These are there to hold the pack in position, so getting out the saddle to ride away from traffic lights or up a hill doesn’t involve the feeling of being a tortoise about to lose its shell.
A quality rucksack for cycling will also generally have a number of different pockets for keeping things segregated and an attachment or two for lights/helmet etc. Many also come with high viz waterproof covers, and the material is generally designed with ‘getting caught in a downpour’ in mind.
Top 4 Best Cycling Backpacks for Commuters
dhb Slice 30 – £26.99
A bargain of a backpack, the Slice has the space to carry a full change of clothes and office bumf. It also has some nice big reflective logos on the back – these can never hurt going home in the winter.
The Slice comes with a bright waterproof cover, although the bag material itself will withstand most light showers. The hip belt has pockets for quick access items and there are more than enough other little pockets to keep your on bike and off bike life organised.
Andreas did a full review of the bag a few years ago – spec wise it hasn’t really changed since.
Deuter Speedlight 10L Backpack – £29.99
This is Michelle’s top pick and has been dutifully serving me for close to three years. The 10L pack is good for basics and not being weighed down, but larger sizes are available. At £29.99 its really good value for a solid pack.
The Speedlite is fit for a range of sports, cycling included – but reassuringly running and skiing too. It’s fair to say those involve much more movement, and the Deuter rucksack certainly sits still and comfortably when used for riding.
The fabric is ‘HexLite210 / Ribstop 210’ – and it’s always been resilient, I’ve only experienced ‘wet socks and trousers’ from leakage through the fabric on very wet days, and never severely. The straps are adjustable and do their job, and there are some reflective details, though I wouldn’t class this as a particularly visibility focused pack.
Osprey Talon 22L/ Tempest 20L – £67-£76
These are multi-sport bags with great features for cycling. The Talon is the men’s/unisex version, while the Tempest is a women’s specific pack. They share the same features, the women’s one just has a shorter back and narrower shoulder straps – great for making sure the bag fits you on the bike. The shoulder straps are nice and soft so they don’t dig in at all.
Both the Talon and Tempest have a large main compartment for food, clothes, laptop in a sleeve, etc. There is a small top pocket for easy access items such as wallet and phone. The hip belt has two pockets which are great for things you might want to get out very quickly, like keys. There is a helmet holder on the front and a loop for a light, along with great stretchy pockets for gloves, jacket etc. The back system is also pretty breathable in warmer weather without being too stiff.
The bags don’t come with a rain cover, but for anything other than prolonged, intense rain it will not be needed. A standard hi-viz cover will fit great if you want something for the winter.
I personally have the 33L version, great if you need to carry a lot of stuff. It does lack the convenient zip entry and helmet holder but is great at keeping water out and your back cool.
Ortlieb Velocity Back Pack – £65.99
Ortleib are like the crème de le crème of backpacks (and panniers…), they know about rain and they know how to create waterproof material. The Velocity is a dedicated rucksack, rather than a pannier that converts to a rucksack, so it performs well while riding.
Pleasantly plastically, you know this rucksack won’t leak, and as well as adjustable shoulder, chest and waist straps, you get a handle to carry it nonchalantly into the office. The inner pocket is removable too, so you can even leave the soggy shell to dry and carry just what you want to your desk.
You get 20L with this one, but as it is all in one main space it feels pretty large. There is a great range of colours available – including a high-viz yellow option – so you can stand out or blend in.
Check out our detailed review of the Ortlieb Messenger Bag, similar to the Velocity, from Georgie here.
If you want even more options for commuter bags and backpacks to carry about your person while on a bike check out these reviews:
- Brooks Pickwick
- Henty Wingman
- Slicks Expanded
- Trakke Wee Lug
- Mission Workshop Rummy
- Vulpine Laptop Commuter backpack
What do you use to carry your kit around on the bike?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.