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  1. #1
    anything but last rOOster14's Avatar
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    commuting bags, pro's and cons.

    so im currently trying to think of a good bag, something of moderate size because i want to be able to carry anything from my school books/binders, some clothing, snacks pretty much anything just depending on what im doing.
    i commute pretty heavily around campus and ride my bike to get food/grocerys, sometimes i carry packages to send or go and get mail etc so i want a bag that will do everything well.
    i was wanting to get a crumpler mahoubar backpack style bag but today i started thinking of the advantages of having a messenger bag...as in i dont have to take it off to put stuff in it.
    so im looking for some recommendations and the pro's and con's of having a messenger bag vs. a messenger style backpack.

    i have seen things from different companies that i like and what ive found to be almost mandatory is
    -weather resistance
    -adjust-ability/stability
    -ability to wear it over my right shoulder (if its a messengerbag)
    -ability to wear it ontop of a winter jacket comfortably as well as over just a shirt/jersey
    -something of moderate to smallarge size
    lemme know
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  2. #2
    VOTE FOR KEN WIND Ken Wind's Avatar
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    This topic has been covered thousands of times. Unfortunately the forum's search is the worst I have ever used. Check out these threads for some good ideas and input.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&c...et&btnG=Search

    I personally prefer a backpack over a messenger bag. I commuted with a Chrome Metropolis exclusively for over a year, and it got annoying if I had to walk anywhere with it (weighing down one shoulder). You need to be more careful about how you pack a messenger bag too; otherwise, you will have things jabbing you in the back the whole ride. I agree that a weatherproof bag is the only way to go when you're commuting on a bike. My current bag of choice is the Ortlieb Flight which I reviewed on the forums a while ago. The other weatherproof backpacks I've heard good stuff about are from Reload, Seal Line, and Freight Baggage.

    If you truly have your heart set on a messenger bag, then there are many many companies that make them. Some of the more popular companies are Chrome, Reload, Under The Weather, Timbuk2 (questionable quality), Crumpler (Are these totally weatherproof?), Pac Designs, Seagull (relatively new company, but Ohio based), Bailey Works, Freight Baggage, Bagaboo, Banjo Brothers, and Chicago Wig, to name a few.

    Somebody may recommend panniers, but I don't like that solution. There are panniers that can hold a lot, and they are easy to detach, but most of the larger ones won't be very easy to transport off the bike. If I'm using panniers it's because I have too much stuff to fit in my messenger bag or backpack. I can't leave them on my bike because somebody could walk off with them and my stuff, and carrying them around with a shoulder strap is a pain.
    Last edited by Ken Wind; 02-25-08 at 12:17 PM.

  3. #3
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Baileyworks size large. I wear my bags on the right shoulder too(from motorcycle riding),and their Pro bag has a reversible strap. Best strap out there,IMHO. Lots of pockets,holds a ton of crap,built tough,comfortable to wear.

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  4. #4
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    Baileyworks here as well.
    I have a medium pro bag and it is huge IMHO. Very well made.
    I frequently use multi mode commutes that involve loading my bike onto a bus or into the back of my van. I keep things off of my bike to make this easier.
    Did I forget to mention...my baileyworks is one comfortable bag! I use mine on centuries and out of the 200 miles I ride each week it is usually with me for around 150 or more.

    I think for what the OP is pondering hauling a large would do.

  5. #5
    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    Try a grocery pannier, like this one:

    http://www.breezerbikes.com/CatDetai...=35&category=2
    I got that one free with my bike--here's another one that looks nice:
    http://www.lickbike.com/productpage.aspx?PART_NUM_SUB='3657-00'

    I used mine for everything. It has a shoulder strap, which I use to carry it into stores with me. Last week I flew to Florida. Well, Tues morning I put my clothes/toiletries/snacks in this pannier, put the rain cover on tight, loaded it on the bike and biked to work and then caught the shuttle/taxi to the airport. It can hold two sacks of groceries, or a combination of groceries, books, laptop, and the like.

    I wouldn't do without one. They attach to the rack in seconds. Much prefered, for what I do, to a backpack.
    Cleveland, OH
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  6. #6
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    tad gear packs
    bombproof
    modualr
    versatile
    can go from very small when unloaded to very large when loaded with groceries

    http://www.tadgear.com/x-treme%20gea...gear_packs.htm



    I prefer back packs for an even load on my shoulders but if you're looking for a messenger bag then

    pac designs ultimate oversize
    massive load carrying capacity
    totally waterproof
    bombproof
    the couriers' favorite

    http://www.pacdesigns.com/oversize.htm


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    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rOOster14 View Post
    i have seen things from different companies that i like and what ive found to be almost mandatory is
    -weather resistance
    -adjust-ability/stability
    -ability to wear it over my right shoulder (if its a messengerbag)
    -ability to wear it ontop of a winter jacket comfortably as well as over just a shirt/jersey
    -something of moderate to smallarge size
    lemme know

    I'm a backpack fan because I find them easier to carry on and especially off the bike. If something must not get wet, put it in a plastic bag, even if you have a "waterproof" bag. I think the cheaper bags like North Face and Columbia are as good as the designer labels. Shop for price, features and appearance. Also check out the durability of the zippers, which are usually the first thing to give out.

    I shopped around a little for my last backpack. I ended up with a Columbia that cost about $70, on sale for $50. I liked the orange color, the large main compartment and the heavier zippers. At 2100 ci, it's plenty big for the uses you're describing.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    tad gear packs
    bombproof
    modualr
    versatile
    can go from very small when unloaded to very large when loaded with groceries

    I prefer back packs for an even load on my shoulders but if you're looking for a messenger bag then

    pac designs ultimate oversize
    massive load carrying capacity
    totally waterproof
    bombproof
    the couriers' favorite
    Nice bags, but at 3600 ci, a lot bigger than the OP asked for. Now, I OTH, will consider that big bag!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  9. #9
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Nice bags, but at 3600 ci, a lot bigger than the OP asked for. Now, I OTH, will consider that big bag!
    yeah...but both bags cinch down very small and, with the back packs, almost totally flat. The cinch straps and sternum strap on the back pack and cross strap system, unique to pac designs, also mean that, when loaded, the bags don't move.
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
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    Condor Cycles - quite possibly the best bike shop in London
    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  10. #10
    VOTE FOR KEN WIND Ken Wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    tad gear packs
    bombproof
    modualr
    versatile
    can go from very small when unloaded to very large when loaded with groceries

    http://www.tadgear.com/x-treme%20gea...gear_packs.htm


    I prefer back packs for an even load on my shoulders but if you're looking for a messenger bag then

    pac designs ultimate oversize
    massive load carrying capacity
    totally waterproof
    bombproof
    the couriers' favorite

    http://www.pacdesigns.com/oversize.htm
    The Tad Gear backpacks seem nice, but I see no mention of being waterproof or weatherproof on their website. My Ortlieb backpack has a special coating on it that prevents water from getting inside. It also uses Tizip zippers, which are waterproof zippers that are used on wetsuits. The backpacks made by messenger bag companies (Freight Baggage, Ortlieb, Seagull) typically have an inner layer of waterproof vinyl that prevents water from reaching anything inside the bag. Normal cordura is alright for a light shower, but I would be willing to submerge my backpack in water with my laptop inside it.

    I've heard nothing but good stuff about the Pac Designs bags. They are supposedly the best. If you order one of the larger, more expensive bags you can also request the X-Strap option, which adds another strap to the bag effectively making it a backpack whenever you want.
    Last edited by Ken Wind; 02-25-08 at 01:33 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Wind View Post

    I've heard nothing but good stuff about the Pac Designs bags. They are supposedly the best. If you order one of the larger, more expensive bags you can also request the X-Strap option, which adds another strap to the bag effectively making it a backpack whenever you want.
    Another vote for Pac Designs. I spent weeks researching different carrying options, tried the backpack, the rack and pannier route, the Timbuk2 messenger bag, and finally settled on saving up for and getting a Pac Designs Ultimate (not the OS). It's huge, comfy, waterproof, bombproof and its width contracts and expands with its compression straps depending on how much you're carrying. You can overstuff the bag comfortably too.

    I got mine with the X-Strap and the U-Lock Loop which combined with the Tom Bihn mods and the actual Tom Bihn Brain Cell for my laptop ended up running about $450 USD. Worth every penny.

    The Ultimate OS is supposed to be insane as far as its size and carrying capacity (there's a thread here that shows a guy carrying his 5'9" female friend around in the Ultimate OS), and while I was somewhat worried that I would regret not getting the OS, I have never run out of of space in the regular Ultimate.

    Edit: oh yeah, and like every decent messenger bag company, they offer their bags in right and left swing.

  12. #12
    Comfortably Numb! BA Commuter's Avatar
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    Not sure what you're looking to spend, but I use the Metro from Performance Bike. It was $39.99. It's not huge, but has a shoulder strap and it works well to carry some tools/spare tube, my lunch, coffee thermos, and a few extra goodies.

    A new supermarket opened down the street, so I'm looking forward to try it to pick up a few things on the way home from work...

    “Cycling is like church. Many attend, but few understand." -Jim Burlant

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  13. #13
    Senior Member Mr York's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BA Commuter View Post
    Not sure what you're looking to spend, but I use the Metro from Performance Bike. It was $39.99. It's not huge, but has a shoulder strap and it works well to carry some tools/spare tube, my lunch, coffee thermos, and a few extra goodies.

    A new supermarket opened down the street, so I'm looking forward to try it to pick up a few things on the way home from work...
    Love that Metro bag, it looks big enough to fit groceries in too. It's 14x11x6 and a grocery bag pannier is 11.75 x 12.75 x 7.75

  14. #14
    Senior Member Bolo Grubb's Avatar
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    My only concern with the metro is its shape and heel strike

  15. #15
    Perineal Pressurized dobber's Avatar
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    My experience with worthiness:

    1- Baskets, front & rear
    2- Ortlieb Flight Back Pack
    3- Really good messenger backpack (Crumpler Wine or Chrome Sultan)
    4- Panniers
    5- Good messenger bag
    6- Good sling bag
    7- Backpack
    8- Messenger bag
    This is Africa, 1943. War spits out its violence overhead and the sandy graveyard swallows it up. Her name is King Nine, B-25, medium bomber, Twelfth Air Force. On a hot, still morning she took off from Tunisia to bomb the southern tip of Italy. An errant piece of flak tore a hole in a wing tank and, like a wounded bird, this is where she landed, not to return on this day, or any other day.

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    I've used every kind of bag you can use...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Wind View Post
    Somebody may recommend panniers, but I don't like that solution. There are panniers that can hold a lot, and they are easy to detach, but most of the larger ones won't be very easy to transport off the bike. If I'm using panniers it's because I have too much stuff to fit in my messenger bag or backpack. I can't leave them on my bike because somebody could walk off with them and my stuff, and carrying them around with a shoulder strap is a pain.
    Arkel makes several excellent solutions that are very easy to carry off the bike:
    http://www.arkel-od.com/panniers/bac...asp?fl=1&site=

    The Bug is a large pannier bag that converts to a backpack that actually has decent straps (some backpack panniers have lousy straps for carrying off the bike).

    Arkel also makes briefcase and commuter bag panniers that have shoulder straps and flaps that cover the mounting hardware (so it doesn't stab you in the side while you're carrying it off the bike). They also have rain covers that zip out and provide waterproof coverage in a downpour (although they are quite water resistant even without the cover), and are fully adjustable to avoid heal strike. They are pricey, but I've used an Arkel Utility Bag heavily for four years and it is still like new. I've worn lesser bags out in the same amount of time.

    I've been carrying heavy loads on bicycles for over 20 years, and I've used everything: Messenger bags (I own four of them), backpacks, panniers (I own several of those as well), trunk bags for the top of the rack, handlebar bags, and seat bags. If you ride a lot...especially in hot weather... a pannier is the best way to carry your stuff. I could carry heavy loads in messenger bags and backpacks while riding many miles when I was in my twenties, but it was always a sweaty experience. Now than I'm in my mid-30s I find it downright uncomfortable. Once you try a pannier or two you just won't go back to carrying stuff on your back unless it's a really light load. It's soooo nice to ride unencumbered by all that baggage on your back! I find messenger bags convenient when it isn't terribly hot and you just want to carry a light load and get in and out of it easily throughout the day. The big advantage is you don't have to dismount... you just swing the bag around. For my daily commute I just use panniers, and I've also been using a handlebar bag for the last four years and it's fantastic! It's like having a dashboard and glove compartment on your bicycle. I keep my warm hat, gloves, camera, wallet, keys, snacks, etc. in my handlebar bag within easy reach. All the heavy stuff goes into a single pannier that I can also use to haul groceries (I usually carry my Arkel Utility Bag pannier).

    Messenger bags are for messengers who are on and off their bike a hundred times a day, and for non-cyclists who want to look cool. Yes I own and enjoy messenger bags, but I think of them as shoulder bags that are easier to carry on a bike than other shoulder bags... when you need to do that. Panniers are bags actually designed to be carried by a bicycle... which is what you want to do when you need to pedal you and your stuff from point A to B. That's my two cents anyway. Yes college students are on and off the bike several times a day... I used to work and teach a college and followed a similar pattern. I found panniers with good straps to be the best solution. For the original poster I would recommend a utility/grocery pannier and another pannier for the books... or one larger pannier and maybe a messenger bag (although books can get really heavy) since he really wants to stick with a messenger bag or backpack. A basket can also be a good solution for students since baskets can fold against the rack and are less likely to get ripped off. You have to take a nice pannier bag into class with you, but I always used the pannier bag to carry my helmet, pump, tools, etc. when I locked my bike up on campus. A cargo net for the rear rack can also help carry awkward loads that don't quite fit in your bag.

    Now that I professed my love for panniers, I gotta say that I really really want a Brooks Barbican Messenger bag... if only they didn't cost upwards of $400!

    Sean
    Last edited by sean000; 02-26-08 at 12:12 AM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    I just got the Sunlite Grocery Pannier. The last couple days, I've been riding with one on my left side. I was originally worried about heel clearance, but the bag is far enough back that it doesn't bother me.

  18. #18
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    i'm thinking of ordering the market pannier from banjo brothers
    http://www.banjobrothers.com/products/01085.php#
    looks pretty good.

  19. #19
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    My grocery pannier is permanently attached to my rack with bolts. This ensures it will not flop around or fly off. I use any of a few different backpacks and just drop it in and go. When I arrive at my destination, it is nice to have a real backpack. It's also nice to be able to put my son's school backpack in the grocery pannier, while I wear my backpack. When we get to school, he gets his backpack and I put mine in the grocery pannier...

  20. #20
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    +1 for the Baileyworks. I've got a medium. I really like the quick adjust shoulder strap. Weatherproof. Works perfect for two boxes of raisin bran and two half gallons of soymilk.

  21. #21
    Daily Rider hairlessbill's Avatar
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    I switch between my backpacks (got six of them with two of them cycle specific) and my messenger bags (got three of them - Chrome, Baileyworks, Reload) every so often. I find the backpacks the most comfortable for longer rides as the pack never moves and the load weight is distributed evenly. But I hate having to dig through them to find my stuff - the vertical packing of the bag guarantees that the thing I need to find will find its way to the bottom of the pack. I also find having to take the whole bag off to get to something really annoying.

    The messenger bags have the advantage of being able to handle awkward and oversized loads. This is especially useful when going grocery shopping too. I've managed to carry crazy sized boxes and mailing tubes with my bag whereas the backpacks have no provision for holding anything you can't get into the main compartment (outside 'shove-it' style pockets are okay but still not as versatile).

    It sounds like for what you going to do with it that a messenger bag would work out best. The split-strap design like on the Chrome, Baileyworks, PAC, etc. are great when you are wearing a bulky jacket (lets you take it off easier).

  22. #22
    Reeks of aged cotton duck Hydrated's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean000 View Post
    Messenger bags are for messengers who are on and off their bike a hundred times a day, and for non-cyclists who want to look cool.
    Two things to worry about when using messenger bags:
    • They make you sweat badly in the heat. Here in Georgia, I can't stand to wear one in the summer... which runs from about March to November!
    • The good bags are VERY expensive! I love the PacDesigns bags... but I'm sorry... I'm not going to drop almost $400 USD on a single bag. I can buy the best rack and very nice panniers for that kind of coin. And the cheap messenger bags are simply too uncomfortable or too small to be really useful.
    "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." George Orwell

  23. #23
    Cheese toThinkistoBe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean000 View Post
    Arkel makes several excellent solutions that are very easy to carry off the bike:
    http://www.arkel-od.com/panniers/bac...asp?fl=1&site=

    The Bug is a large pannier bag that converts to a backpack that actually has decent straps (some backpack panniers have lousy straps for carrying off the bike).
    +1

    I was kinda iffy about the price at first, but I couldn't be happier with this bag. Plus Arkel's guarantee/warranty is about as good as it gets. The fabric they use is incredibly strong and pretty much impossible to tear. One of these days I'm going to get around to doing a review of it.

    edit: ahh! I posted in the wrong thread. *walks away in shame*
    Last edited by toThinkistoBe; 04-11-08 at 08:58 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    I've very much enjoyed my 1st generation Patagonia Critical Mass bag and for the last 7 years I've used it daily. Patagonia makes bombproof, well-designed and thought out gear that's guaranteed for life.

    I just picked up the half mass bag. They're on their 3rd generation, and they've made some very good improvements clearly thought out by bike commuters. The only negative thing they've done is removed the strap that allowed you to hang/clip a light.
    One Less Car
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  25. #25
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    I have used panniers, a trailer, and a backpack. Panniers are great for grocery shopping and library trips, or anything else where I'm carrying a dense load. Mine are small (about 28L). This works well for keeping me within my bike's cargo limits.

    Trailer is great for bulky loads, but I just don't have bulky loads all that often.

    Backpacks and messenger bags are good for days where I'm carrying a light load or wandering all over creation. I have an LL Bean backpack, and it'll handle 40-50lb loads when I'm walking. On the bike, that kind of load is uncomfortable.

    I keep a cargo net around, since it lets me haul awkward objects *much* more easily. They're cheap and a huge win if you end up with more stuff than you expected.

    I want baskets. A basket that's always on the bike will be hard for someone to walk off with, and it's a good place to stick a backpack or a canvas bag full of groceries. Combos nicely with a cargo net too, and is similarly cheap.

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