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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 09-25-07, 06:56 PM   #1
Cassiel
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Carrying the laptop

I used to commute to school (30 mi rt) with just one ortlieb pannier, which held books and a change of clothes. This term I've found it necessary to obtain a laptop, and while it came with its own backpack, this backpack sucks. I tried it today and found it the most painful commute in history. So, I won't be doing that again. I've also got a timbuk2 messenger bag which I use from time to time, when I don't have much to carry, but it isn't padded like the backpack is. Finally, I also have a gregory backpack with a hipbelt which I hike with, and which carries great but I haven't tried it on the bike before.

So here's the question. I vastly prefer carrying everything in the pannier, and I'll take two if I need to, but I wonder how good it is for the laptop to ride there. Obviously I don't plan on falling, but even outside of that I worry about vibration. On your back I would assume there's some buffering in the vibes, since they travel through half your body before getting there. Are they that significant, and if they are, is there a way to mitigate them if I wanted to put the laptop in the pannier? Are there other variables I haven't considered?
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Old 09-25-07, 07:05 PM   #2
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I've been commuting with mine in a pannier for about three months now, no problems so far.
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Old 09-25-07, 07:09 PM   #3
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A well built laptop like a Mac or a Lenovo should handle it fine. I do laptop support for an art school, and people do way worse stuff to those machines than a little bit of vibration could do.
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Old 09-25-07, 07:10 PM   #4
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I've owned the toshiba laptop on which I am writing this message for over a year, and it has gone on a good number of trips on the back of my bike. I used to be more worried but I've gotten less and less careful as time has gone on. I ride fairly bumpy roads here in Philadelphia and I just put the laptop in its carry bag, which has only a little bit of padding.

I've been tempted to try to build my own highly-padded laptop carrier out of corrugated plastic (coroplast) and foam (I was thinking foam from one of those inexpensive yellow mattress pad things).
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Old 09-25-07, 07:34 PM   #5
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At my office, I have a perfectly good desktop machine that I use, so when I commute by bicycle, I bring a removable USB hard drive with the stuff I need for work on it. Much smaller and lighter than a full laptop.
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Old 09-25-07, 07:38 PM   #6
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I put it in a old shirt and put it into the messenger bag,
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Old 09-25-07, 07:42 PM   #7
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My MacBook makes the daily journey in my panniers. If in doubt, get a nice padded laptop cell.
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Old 09-25-07, 08:01 PM   #8
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I have a padded pouch that my laptop goes in when it's in my pannier. So far 3 years and a couple of falls and it's still working fine.
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Old 09-25-07, 08:26 PM   #9
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I use carabiners to clip my laptop backpack to the side of the rack, tilted for heel clearance.
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Old 09-25-07, 08:34 PM   #10
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I slide mine into a lightly padded pouch and then toss it into my Arkel bug pannier. I don't think the pouch does much to mitigate vibration or shock. I use it mainly to keep the exterior of the laptop from getting scratched up from the other junk in my pannier. I have done this daily for a couple of years and haven't had a problem.
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Old 09-25-07, 08:39 PM   #11
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I slide mine into a lightly padded pouch and then toss it into my Arkel bug pannier. I don't think the pouch does much to mitigate vibration or shock. I use it mainly to keep the exterior of the laptop from getting scratched up from the other junk in my pannier. I have done this daily for a couple of years and haven't had a problem.
I use a lightly padded pouch inside my backpack, even when I'm walking. Mine is a Tucano Second Skin, and it looks and works great.



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Old 09-25-07, 09:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spreggy View Post
I use carabiners to clip my laptop backpack to the side of the rack, tilted for heel clearance.
In Portland, the rain might cause issues. Still, I like this. Way to shave a few ounces.

Thanks, all. I suppose laptops are probably not what they used to be. The last one I had anything to do with was the one my dad had when I was a kid, and it weighed about 20 lbs and you pretty much couldn't look at it sidewise without it blowing a gasket. So I'm intimidated by the little investment I'm currently typing on, but you would think they'd be made to travel, considering what they're for.
Into the pannier she goes.
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Old 09-25-07, 10:22 PM   #13
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If you're not certain your panniers are waterproof, toss the laptop into a plastic grocery bag if it's raining.

Other than that, the only precaution I take is to shut the computer down, rather than just putting it to sleep, so that it doesn't wake up and spin the hard drive while I'm riding. Except when I forget.

I've used to use a padded case to shield the outside of the laptop from getting scratched by other things in my panniers, but I forgot (or couldn't find the case) so often that the computer looks like it's been through a war zone. So I've stopped even trying to protect it; scraping up the exterior doesn't hurt the machine at all, and I've decided it looks kind of badass.
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Old 09-25-07, 11:00 PM   #14
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I use Ortlieb Classic panniers and a neoprene sleeve for the laptop. It's a Thinkpad. No problems at all. I stuff clothes on the outside just in case. Totally waterproof. Filled the pannier with water and had no leaks.

I am also lusting over an Ortlieb Office Bag or an Arkel equivalent. Maybe next year.
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Old 09-25-07, 11:29 PM   #15
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I put the foam from a laptop shipping carton into the laptop backpack that I had, then slid the laptop in next to that.

I used a plastic cutting board for a stiffener beside the foam (Against the bike) and then I either strap the backpack directly to the side of the rack, or put it into my grocery pannier.

Carried it that way for 9 months, 25 miles a day, 5 days a week. never had an issue with the laptop.
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Old 09-25-07, 11:38 PM   #16
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I've been carrying a laptop and camera gear in a pannier for several years with no problems.
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Old 09-26-07, 05:46 AM   #17
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I only commute with mine occasionally (maybe twice a month). It usually goes in the messenger bag (just the laptop, no case) and I put my work clothes in between me and the laptop for a cushion. I've also panniered the lt and a few times have just slung it on my back in the case. I wrap in grocery bags for rainy weather, no problems with the laptop from the commute
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Old 09-26-07, 08:24 AM   #18
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I commute with my iBook daily in the Arkel commuter pannier. It has a padded and suspended laptop pouch. On occasion, I've even put my wifes laptop in there with mine, no problem. I've even taken a couple falls last winter, no problems.

Pannier(s) are the way to go, reading this thread it seems like there is plenty of evidence.

2 things tips I agree with, if your pannier isn't waterproof keep an extra plastic bag in there, throw it over your laptop in case of rain. And turn off the laptop completely before you ride to park the drive.
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Old 09-26-07, 09:53 AM   #19
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If you like panniers and can get a pannier that will stay on, absolutely bomber, with the weight of a laptop, then go for it. I couldn't get them stable enough to suit me, not on Boston pavement, so I use a Swiss Gear laptop backpack.
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Old 09-26-07, 09:55 AM   #20
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I put my Dell in the TransIt bag I got from Performance, It barely fits, but when its not raining its great. for rainy days, I'll just leave it at the office and be happy I'm not working in the evening that day or get one of those waterproof bags that showed up on the forum the other day...

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR DELL OWNERS:
the Dell hard drives continue to spin (slowly) when the machine is simply closed and not shut down (per computer shop)...my boss just cratered his HD when going home from work and jaring it a bit...
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Old 09-26-07, 10:02 AM   #21
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I just picked up a pair of Ortlieb panniers- I also bought a sleeve for my laptop. Turns out, the entire Dell laptop bag fits into my pannier. (admittedly, it is only a 14.1" screen, so it isn't the largest o' computers). The slim bag fills the pannier quite nicely, so much so that it doesn't bounce around very much. I will use the other pannier for a change of clothes and my lunch.

My only problem is that, despite not needing the sleeve, I can't decide whether to return it or keep it for times I take the laptop sans accessories.
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Old 09-26-07, 10:07 AM   #22
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I put my Dell in the TransIt bag I got from Performance, It barely fits, but when its not raining its great. for rainy days, I'll just leave it at the office and be happy I'm not working in the evening that day or get one of those waterproof bags that showed up on the forum the other day...

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR DELL OWNERS:
the Dell hard drives continue to spin (slowly) when the machine is simply closed and not shut down (per computer shop)...my boss just cratered his HD when going home from work and jaring it a bit...
Hibernate is a great feature.
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Old 09-26-07, 10:40 AM   #23
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FedEx padded mailer over the laptop. Laptop in pannier. Want more protection? Add a second layer. Worried about water? Seal the FedEx mailer.

DHL makes a nice laptop protecting sleeve too.

Both "vendors" offer their products from conveniently located self service boxes all over town. Their pricing model is VERY attractive even for thrifty bike commuters.

Hmm, I just thought of this. For the ultimate in lightweight commuting, you could OVERNIGHT ship the laptop to your destination!
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Old 09-26-07, 10:49 AM   #24
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I have a laptop shell that I've had for years, and it's supposedly waterproof. I've, unfortunately, tested this in the past and found it to be true. I'd suggest getting that, or having some water plan in place.

Currently I'm using a Cannondale backpack I got off Nashbar, and love for my commuting needs. It seems to sit "just right" on my back.

One thing to think about is the weight of your laptop. The work laptop I had up until last week was a behemoth of a Dell, weighing in at 8 pounds by itself, and tipping the scales over 10 with the power adapter. Great as a "mobile workstation" but horrible for, you know, transporting. My new laptop is a IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad T-series, that tips the scales at 4.7 pounds (I purposely purchased the 14 in model to shave weight), or a hair over 6 with the adapter. I noticed an immediate difference when I carried that on my back the first time. Not only is it smaller, so it doesn't for an uncomfortable "back board", but it's weight is soo much better. As I have thinkpad power bricks coming out of my ears at work, I only have to carry 4.7 extra pounds as opposed to 10.. and it's a world of difference.

Anyway, I'd suggest a waterproof sleeve, then you should be good.
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