How do you carry stuff to work?

IMG_9842In this weeks comment Friday I want to talk bags! How do you go about getting the bits you need into work. Whether that be a laptop, a change of clothes or any other items you keep in your bag.

After my brief brush with panniers, I’m currently relying on a messenger bag. My choice is between the Timbuk2 messenger bag which I bought second hand off the LFGSS forum and the Chrome Buran (which I’ve been sent for review). Messenger bags are comfortable, provide quick access as you can swing it around your shoulder and tend to have plenty of capacity.

Why I couldn’t stick the panniers? The wider bike made me feel less nimble.

On to you – what do you use?

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88 Responses to How do you carry stuff to work?

  1. Iain 01/04/2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I’m still new to cycle commuting – lugging too much stuff back and forth! I use panniers (Avenir) which were meant to be waterproof, but aren’t… which doesn’t help when you can be on the bike for 4 hours… Can see shoes living n the office (there are a few pairs lurking under desks from previous occupants! which would cut down on weight and space. This week I used the train three days thanks to the forecasted heavy rain (there was a hint of dampness…) but gtting to work to find your clothes are damp isn’t really something I want… Like the idea of leaving a lock at work, although seeing locks on the racks always seems to me to be like putting out towels on sunloungers before breakfast! It would certainly save some weight – indeed working in a secure site has its benefits, left a “crap” light on my bike a few times and no one nicked it, then thought I really should take it off and now can’t get the daft strap mechanism to tighten…)

    So, enough of my rambling, at present its panniers and a backpack, but intending to cut down to just panniers, With a long commute I can’t cycle in work clothes so that doesn’t help. The bike feels heavy with panniers, but as I use my bike a lot when I’m out with my camera it has the panniers plus a tripod bungeed on the rack, so I’m used to the weight, and the handling isn’t an issue if you keep the loading roughly even. The other benefit of panniers is the mega acceleration downhill and if you can keep the momentum you can surprise a few people!

    • Peter 01/04/2011 at 9:14 pm #

      Iain, some tips for you.

      Leaving shoes and all your shower stuff at work cuts down the weight hugely. I also keep my lock at work and I’d say if there is no bike parked there then you are free to lock up your bike regardless if there is lock there or not.

      My rule is if it is raining more than a light drizzle I will take the train. In London at least it usually does not rain for that long and often stops shortly after I set off.

    • John 02/04/2011 at 6:27 pm #

      Where I work everyone who leaves a lock at work simply locks it to the bike shelter supports, that way they don’t ‘claim’ a rack as they may not be in that day, but simply
      find a space, get their lock and secure their bike.


      • Iain 04/04/2011 at 8:44 pm #

        Thanks for the tips, although leaving the heavy lock and shoes at the office helped lighten the bike for the ride home, the headwind still meant 10 mins extra riding tonight… Worst bit was 5 miles from home someone came past and I couldn’t even get his wheel… Still, it must work out at around 25miles of uphill riding when the drag of the wind is factored in!

  2. Peter 01/04/2011 at 9:10 pm #

    I used to be firmly in the backpack camp but after training for my End to End I started on the panniers while commuting to get used to them and I now regret not switching sooner.

    After switching to the pannier I found it easier to look over my shoulder to see what is behind me, never realised how much a backpack cuts your field of vision. The tradeoff I have found is that it does make the bike handling a bit heavier but then it’s not really a race is it 🙂

    I use the Altura Dryline pannier and can speek from personal experience they are super waterproof. I have been caught in a fair few showers and it has never leaked water through. Even on the End to End ride where it rained pretty much every day everything was bone dry inside.

  3. Piyush 02/04/2011 at 10:06 am #

    I too am new to cycle commuting. I was looking for smaller sized panniers and bought Ortlieb Front Roller Plus Pannier ( for my daily commute. I only use a single, its light and small enough to carry my personal stuff and change of clothing. Ortileb are supposed to be 100% waterproof, have to say not been properly tested yet. Very happy with the quality of Ortlieb.

    When I first started cycle commuting I carried everything daily but now I tend to leave my shoes and some items of clothing at work, as well as my lock in our bike park. Bike is much lighter now!

    Also have an Evoc 16ltr which I use occasionally. Nice bit of kit. Fits all that I need for a day out, snug fit no problem looking back and not had a problem with sweaty back. (

  4. Rick 02/04/2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I used to use a messenger bag all he time, but I ride very long distances quite often, and it wasn’t good for my back. Use panniers mostly now, saving the bag for carrying bulkier items a long way. It’s also very hot in Los angeles, where I live, so it’s nice having one’s back clear. Plus when it does rain, I can use a cape instead of a rainsuit; capes are much cooler but won’t fit over a shoulder-carried bag.

    On the ride to work, when I worked the 9-to-5, I used either messenger bag or panniers depending on season and mood. sometimes both.

    I design and sell bike clothing now, so “work” is mostly meetings, requiring no luggage. When I bring home inventory I throw it in a bike trailer.

  5. adventure! 02/04/2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I do both the messenger bag/backpack and panniers. Both have their pluses and minuses, so I choose depending on what I’m going to do. Just riding to work with a few things? Messenger bag. Groceries? Panniers.

    I’m getting a custom made bag that easily converts between backpack and pannier, so soon I won’t have to worry either way!

  6. leslie 02/04/2011 at 6:47 pm #

    My 12 year old Timbuk2 every time or Rapha backpack if I really must carry the laptop.
    Sweaty back… No problem, I just bungie strap it to the rear rack of my restored 1964 Moulton 🙂

  7. Dave 02/04/2011 at 10:00 pm #

    I use a rucsac for my commute, but bungee it onto my rear carrier. This gives me the best of both worlds – no sweaty back, and easy to carry when off the bike. As a bonus, I can wear it on the bike for very short journeys. Simples!

  8. Winston's Wheels 03/04/2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Panniers, and since i switched I’ve never looked back.

  9. Zeds 03/04/2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I use a Creek-2-Peak rack-top bag. it doesn’t claim to be waterproof but has kept the rain out so far during hour-long commutes and it can expand if needed.
    I used to use Halfords basic panniers which would probably have been OK but the old Blackburn rack didn’t support the pannier back across its whole width near the bottom so, over time, the back became less stiff and eventually flexed into the wheel. It broke a spoke and ripped the retaining strap off, so I gave up using panniers for the commute.

  10. Fly til London 04/04/2011 at 2:38 am #

    I use a basket too. Sometimes I use a rucksack depending on how much gear I’m carrying. But generally the basket is sufficient enough.

  11. georgie 04/04/2011 at 10:06 am #

    i use my trusty black Altura Arran panniers; they have a top, side and front pocket and are very robust (so far have lasted about 5 years and only just starting to fall apart, and i ride every day).

    The yellow waterproof cover lives in the top pocket, along with an old inner tube which i loop under the clips and over my shoulder if i want to carry the bag when off the bike.

  12. SM 04/04/2011 at 11:32 am #

    I have been using a cheapo Altura pannier for the last few months and It works great for me. I have been able to squeeze in 2 laptops and my change of shirt and honestly I don’t feel the weight that much.

    I did try out a rucksack a couple of times, but as others have said, you just end up with a sweaty back.

  13. robbie craig 04/04/2011 at 8:30 pm #

    I have two smallish Trek interchange panniers – one has bike stuff (rain wear, xtra warm layer, tools, lock and spare inner) the other has office/travel stuff (headphones, computer, phone, files, lunch). Important to be balanced – skidded off the road on ice once because I had only one bag.

    I bought the smaller size of pannier because of my habit of carrying all manner of things ‘just in case’.

  14. Brian O'Donovan 05/04/2011 at 9:23 am #

    >After my brief brush with panniers,
    Why did you give up on panniers?

    I currently use a Halfords Laptop Pannier and it works well for me.

  15. Gareth 05/04/2011 at 11:00 am #

    I have a rack with my lock ziptied to one side. The rest of my stuff goes in an Altura pannier on the other side. Tools in the zip compartment, rest of my daily junk in the bottom, pump sticking out of the back.

    I find anything more than 3 miles and my back gets too sweaty and I feel top heavy if I put the same amount of junk in a backpack. So my 10 mile ride would be hell

  16. Fitzroy 05/04/2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I have a messager bag I find this the best bag to cycle with, I also carry my lunch with me in a drawstring bag which I can also throw over my shoulder, I like to feel less restricted when I cycle.

  17. Andrew 05/04/2011 at 6:57 pm #

    My commute is 20 miles, so (when I’m not on the train) I want minimal weight. Currently I use my road bike with a large Ortlieb saddle bag. It fits basic tools, spare inner-tube and lunch. Even a shirt if necessary. I leave most items at work (lock, change of clothes, shoes, towel etc) and take clean clothes whenever I’m next on the train (which is most days at the moment). Looking forward to the warmer weather.

    Previously I have used a hybrid with panniers but now that I have a road bike that’s too slow! Unless I need to carry the bike up/down stairs I wouldn’t use a backpack (sweaty back syndrome).

  18. David 05/04/2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Altura Pannier, definitly better than rucksack…. lower centre of gravity much more stable. Bike is slightly wider but I do not find that a problem at all

  19. James 06/04/2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I started with a backpack but didn’t like the weight. Ordered some Vaude hardback panniers and haven’t looked back. Hold heaps, easy to clip on and off and not too wide (still narrower than the bars on my flat barred bike). They are also VERY waterproof – even when it’s raining hard enough to make it hard to see the next lights and the puddles go accross all 4 lanes, everything inside stayed dry. (more than could be said for me!).

  20. Fi 07/04/2011 at 7:56 pm #

    I don’t mind the cycle, it’s the fact I end up laden like a mule that pisses me off! I only have a short cycle (30 mins tops) but the hour train journey either end is the killer. Not only have to carry lock, lights, repair kit etc, but also gym stuff, lunch, work clothes and all my girlie handbag stuff, AND a fleece and scarf coz the train’s aircon chills my sweaty body to the bone! Two ortlieb panniers are doing the job at the moment, but life does feel like a constant round of luggage management. I just give up in winter….

  21. SM 14/04/2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I have to put in a special mention for my 30 squid Altura Pannier. I got my laptop, gripe water bottle for the baby and a pair of cricket batting pads in there the other night (the top didn’t close), and I didn’t notice the weight and everything got back in one piece.

  22. James 18/04/2011 at 11:29 am #

    I’ve tried almost everything over the years – and have pushed luggage management to the minimalist limit. There is no satisfactory solution. I have never been lucky enough to have a sympathetic employer/ facilities management who lay on suitable facilities for cyclists. Surely there is a market for a clean, well organised changing/ secure bike/ drying facility in the centre of the city. What I’d give for a decent shower, a couple of nicely dry-cleaned suits, a freshly ironed shirt and a pair of shiny shoes for the last 10 minute walk to the office. Given that I save £6 a day from using the train – I’d probably fork most of that so I don’t appear at work as a wet-lycra fetishist. At 47 there’s no dignity in that.

  23. JF 11/05/2011 at 8:57 am #

    I’ve tried panniers and also found them too cumbersome in London traffic (although still the best for loads of stuff). Rucksacks are better for your back but do make you sweat more. I’ve been through plenty of courier bags but when carrying a laptop they do start to impact your shoulder. Additionally you get the sweat patch in the small of your back and trying to get them exactly in the right position is a challenge.

    What I think I’ve found is the best solution so far – Rixen Kaul Freepack. It’s a mix between a small rucksack/pannier/seatpost bag. It clicks on and off very easily and manages a change of clothes, small washbag/towel and occasionally a small laptop.

    You can see them here:

    I bought mine off ebay about 3 years ago and it’s been great. comes with the seat post attachment plus a waterproof cover. Back light fits into the loop and nice pocket for tyre changing kit.

    Only problem I’ve had was the piece to attach bag to the post system broke but I found a UK distributor and they sent me 3 replacement parts and a few minutes later all was fixed.

    If you have a lot of weighty stuff this probably isn’t for you but if you need to carry in a change of clothes, washbag and small laptop I can’t rate this highly enough!

    It does change the bike handling slightly but as with panniers you get used to it and as the weight is close to you it doesn’t mean it wobbles like you can feel with loaded panniers.

    give it a try!

  24. Pedalingfuriously 05/08/2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Panniers, I did switch to a rucksack in a moment of vanity when I felt my Bob Jackson looked bad with a rack and then remembered why I spec’d it with rack bolts in the first place. If I’m doing a very short hop then a rucksack but otherwise it’s an Ortlieb Office Bag plus a Classic for the monthly changing room deep clean at work (shoes, shower gel etc etc need to be moved out of lockers) I know we all like to think we have the right solution, but seriously, if you ride a reasonable distance daily, and need to carry more than a phone then panniers are the only way, so there 🙂

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