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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 04-18-07, 05:14 PM   #1
Brusheda
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Carry books

What is the best way to carry books? I did my first commute today. I rode home from school, about 7 miles. All I had in my messenger bag on my bag was a notebook and clothes. For summer session I am planning on commuting there and back everyday. I will have to be carrying a couple books, a couple notebooks, and clothes. A rack trunk won't fit notebooks will it? Should I just use a backpack attached to a rack? Do backpacks attach very well to racks? I am planning on buying all the stuff I need before the free shipping at Nashbar runs out.
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Old 04-18-07, 05:22 PM   #2
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Panniers are bike bags that are made to be attachable to the rack. The only downside is that they are quite expensive. If you don't wish to splurge for panniers, you can try attaching your backpack to the rack. A few bungee cords might just do it. Some people, however, come up with really secure and ingenious solutions that involve a bunch of DIY.
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Old 04-18-07, 05:28 PM   #3
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I don't know how well any of this attaches to racks (although i did see a thread earlier about using PVC to mount backpacks to a frame) or how well it holds stuff. However, I will offer you an alternative storage system: See this post - From a 3speed to a 6speed. I got the idea from another thread a number of years back. Basically, I just stapped on a milk crate with some zip ties (I'm actually planning on putting some cheap side bags that I have on my walmart bike to increase my carrying capacity). When I was riding to and from highschool with my bike, my textbooks fit very nicely in that crate. You may want to give it a try.

The thing with mounting anything big on your rack like this is that you've just got to be able to swing your leg nice and high. That is where a step through frame is really nice.

Good Luck.
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Old 04-18-07, 05:52 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sir Lunch-a-lot
The thing with mounting anything big on your rack like this is that you've just got to be able to swing your leg nice and high.
Your centre of gravity becomes kinda high too if you have a big pile of stuff - at least as compared to using panniers.
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Old 04-18-07, 06:29 PM   #5
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I have seen a backpack that converts to panier before, would seem ideal to me if I were still in college.... well, back in my college days we carried slate and an abacus though.
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Old 04-18-07, 07:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chephy
Your centre of gravity becomes kinda high too if you have a big pile of stuff - at least as compared to using panniers.
That is true. I haven't found it to be a huge problem in most of my riding. But most of my loads are that terribly heavy. It's not so much a tall pile going in the crate that would be a problem, it's a heavy load that would be a problem. But certainly, good panniers would avoid that.
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Old 04-18-07, 09:16 PM   #7
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Why not use the messenger bag? If necessary, go for a top quality bag like a Chrome (my favorite), Bailey Works, Timbuk2...etc. Even with a heavy load, once on the bike it seems to lose its weight and is very comfortable.
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Old 04-18-07, 09:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pj7
.... if I were still in college.... well, back in my college days we carried slate and an abacus though.
I wonder how many on this forum know how to use a slide rule??
I've still kept mine for nostalgia, but calculators & spreadsheets are !
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Old 04-18-07, 09:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun
I wonder how many on this forum know how to use a slide rule??
I've still kept mine for nostalgia, but calculators & spreadsheets are !
I still have my Keuffel & Esser in a drawer somewhere.
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Old 04-18-07, 11:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun
I wonder how many on this forum know how to use a slide rule??
I've still kept mine for nostalgia, but calculators & spreadsheets are !
I wonder how many people here even know what a sliderule is
ir computer punchcards
or a barnyard buster
or....
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Old 04-19-07, 12:07 PM   #11
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Some options:
rear rack and :
panniers
side "buckets"
top-mounted crate
front basket

You can either put your backpack into one of the containers or offload most of the weight during your ride and distribute your books around for balance.
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Old 04-19-07, 01:46 PM   #12
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I've experimented with a bunch of different systems, and here is what has worked best:

You probably want to carry books, notebooks, etc. with you, after you leave the bike. A small backpack or a messenger bag works well for this.

It's good to have a system that makes it very easy to put this bag on the bike, when you start out riding -- and very easy to remove when you are finished riding (without unloading and reloading the book bag each time). If you have a large pannier, you can just slip it inside, and slip it out when you're done riding. I've done this, and it works fine. With light loads, balancing or dividing the load is unnecessary. Many people use a single pannier.

The milk crate option is also good. It is even better, for the sort of use you have mentioned. With the sorts of loads you are dealing with, having the weight on top of the rack is not an issue (assuming you have a decent rack that is decently mounted).

Of these two systems, I have to say that the milk crate is simpler and quicker. It is incredibly easy use. There is no need to buckle or unbuckle the pannier, deal with potential pannier problems or tight fits, etc.

Hose clamps are a secure and long-lasting way to mount the milk crate. They last a lot longer that some of the other methods, and they can be tightened better, making for less sway.

***
Make sure you lock you bike well in a secure location! The numbers of bikes that get stolen are very high. Don't make it easy for them....
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Old 04-19-07, 02:00 PM   #13
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One other system I have tried that might be worth mentioning:

If you have a front rack with a good top platform (there are some out there with extra wide platforms; and I have seen one that even has a rail around the platform to keep things from slipping off (Paul (a company name) in Chico, CA might have been the one making it) -- like a milk crate with low sides (I have found that these sides really make things easy -- that's one reason some people like front baskets (speaking of which, they are also an option. Rivendell (see website) sells a large basket made by Wald. They speak highly of it (then again, they tend to speak highly of things they are selling...). It is very reasonably priced, even though is well made (in the Midwest as I recall) and sturdy. It sounds like a good option, actually.).)

The other option I started out mentioning is putting a backpack upright on the (wide) front rack, and securing the top of the backpack (so it doesn't sway or tip or slide off) to something on the handlebars. You could use some kind of clip (like a carabiner). Or (this is what I do sometimes) you can cross the shoulder straps, and loop each one over something (if your bike has something to loop them over).

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-19-07 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 04-19-07, 02:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pj7
I wonder how many people here even know what a sliderule is
ir computer punchcards
or a barnyard buster
or....
I can, and still do, use a sliderule.
I've seen punchcards, and know where the term "stack dump" came from.
I don't know what a barnyard buster is...

How many laboratory scientists know how to use a pipettor bulb?
Who remembers running SAS on a VAX?


OK, as for carrying books, I'm all for a backpack, worn on the back, not hooked as a pannier. I never got used to riding with a single pannier. The balance always felt weird to me, so I just wear a backpack to carry all my stuff, from books and work clothes to grocery runs... It's all about the backpack.
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Old 04-19-07, 02:13 PM   #15
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I just checked the Rivendell site, and the baskets may not be available. http://www.rivbike.com/webalog/baggage_racks/20098.html

On the other hand, you never know.

Apparently, REI has also carried them.

Maybe they are available somewhere.

***
Milk crates are quite similar to a basket (in fact, you could say that they are a form of basket); they are larger (than the wire baskets); the better ones are plenty strong and lasting; and there are black ones (and other colors) that actually look pretty good. I've seen old beaten-up ones that look pretty junky, and others that look just fine.

(Some of the similar-looking storage crates sold in places like Target do not look nearly as sturdy to me. Some are probably better than others, though. And I'm sure there are many brands and styles to choose from; and you could probably find something quite strong if you looked around enough....)

***
If you already have a rear rack, the milk crate (or something similar) is a good way to go. Maybe even better than the front basket.... (more capacity, stronger, taller sides, lower cost, no problems with wire bending (which does happen over time for many people -- bumps and spills happen....))

The crates work great, the stronger ones are bombproof, and they are probably the easiest of all to use.

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-19-07 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 04-19-07, 02:55 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAK
Why not use the messenger bag? If necessary, go for a top quality bag like a Chrome (my favorite), Bailey Works, Timbuk2...etc. Even with a heavy load, once on the bike it seems to lose its weight and is very comfortable.
I agree.

Price is one deterrent...
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Old 04-20-07, 12:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niles H.
One other system I have tried that might be worth mentioning:

If you have a front rack with a good top platform (there are some out there with extra wide platforms; and I have seen one that even has a rail around the platform to keep things from slipping off (Paul (a company name) in Chico, CA might have been the one making it) -- like a milk crate with low sides (I have found that these sides really make things easy -- that's one reason some people like front baskets (speaking of which, they are also an option. Rivendell (see website) sells a large basket made by Wald. They speak highly of it (then again, they tend to speak highly of things they are selling...). It is very reasonably priced, even though is well made (in the Midwest as I recall) and sturdy. It sounds like a good option, actually.).)

The other option I started out mentioning is putting a backpack upright on the (wide) front rack, and securing the top of the backpack (so it doesn't sway or tip or slide off) to something on the handlebars. You could use some kind of clip (like a carabiner). Or (this is what I do sometimes) you can cross the shoulder straps, and loop each one over something (if your bike has something to loop them over).
I use this for trips to the library:
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Old 04-20-07, 12:31 PM   #18
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Some people don't seem to mind having weight on their backs or their shoulders. Other people, though, find it a relief to let the bike (or the rack) carry the load.

You could always try it both ways and see how it goes for you. It seems to be one of those individual things.

(Personally, I much prefer carrying water and other weight on the bike, and freeing up my body. Things aren't in the way, they don't restrict movement, they don't shift around as you move, they don't inhibit air circulation, and they don't weigh down my shoulders or body.)

***
If quickness and convenience and ease of use are a priority, the best system I have found is a good strong well-secured, large milk crate. You just pop a grocery bag in and take off. Or a backpack.

(If you are going over some large bumps, a carabiner clip, or a side-release strap over the top opening, or something similar, is useful.)
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Old 04-20-07, 12:41 PM   #19
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My LBS carries these by Jandd. Seems like it would be easy to remove to carry your books around campus when you got there.

http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FCP
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Old 04-20-07, 02:36 PM   #20
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A couple of other companies have also offered backpacks that convert to panniers. (Or panniers that have shoulder straps and convert to backpacks.)

***
Another possibility (I haven't tried it, but I have seen it done): two milk crates, mounted on both sides of the rack (like panniers), using some good thick hose clamps to secure them to the rack.

You get the weight down low, and double the capacity, and leave the top of the rack free. You just need to watch for heel clearance (as you are pedaling), and mount them accordingly.

***
One of the best, most useful things I have found for a bike is a good, strong rack.

The expedition racks made by Jandd are probably the best ones in their price range. They have great top and side platforms, and are made to be extra strong and reliable.

Blackburn expedition racks are also good for their price range.

(I've used both, and prefer the Jandd. It's a great rack.)
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Old 04-20-07, 02:57 PM   #21
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An Osprey Torque makes for the best student pannier/messenger bag that I have come across. You have to add 2 carribeaners to attach it to your rack
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Old 04-23-07, 01:58 PM   #22
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In the original posting, a question was asked about mounting a backpack onto a rack.

Yes, it can be done.

The best way I have found is to use accessory straps with side-press (side release) buckles. REI and other backpacking suppliers sell them. They are much more secure than bungies, and much easier to click on and off than other straps that require you to thread the strap through the buckle. They are even easier than hooks. And they allow you to cinch tight.

Two would do it -- you could just loop over and under the rack rails, and up and over the backpack. (Longer is better; you can cut them down if needed.)

***
Some people object to milk crates on aesthetic grounds. Some people go back and forth. Some people like them.

There are some other containers you might look into. Some of the Rubbermaid ones look all right. There are many others as well. Stores like Home Depot sell them. Campers use them. Also, there are various (small) tool chests and carriers that would also work well.

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-23-07 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 04-23-07, 04:37 PM   #23
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http://www.u.arizona.edu/~hankinsj/Mytrek2.htm



A milk crate works very well. If you have 2 crates you can cut the bottom off of one and use it as a lid. Drill a couple of holes and add some locks and you have minimal security.

I did this for a while, but it does make the bike top heavy once you put a few books, a change of clothes and lunch in it. SO I took off the milk crate and bought a couple of folding wire baskets. They are just big enough to fit my back pack in it. And now I have room with the second basket for stops at the store on my way home.

Of course I still have the milk crate so I can go back to that way if I ever want too.
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Old 04-24-07, 12:24 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CliftonGK1
I can, and still do, use a sliderule.
I've seen punchcards, and know where the term "stack dump" came from.
I don't know what a barnyard buster is...
no
yes
yes
also no

Quote:
How many laboratory scientists know how to use a pipettor bulb?
Who remembers running SAS on a VAX?
yes
yes

Quote:
OK, as for carrying books, I'm all for a backpack, worn on the back, not hooked as a pannier. I never got used to riding with a single pannier. The balance always felt weird to me, so I just wear a backpack to carry all my stuff, from books and work clothes to grocery runs... It's all about the backpack.
I'm in favor of exploring all options. Start w/ what you have, move on from there if you think there's room to improve. Personally I have no problem w/ one pannier.
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