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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 07-29-09, 09:46 PM   #1
divtag
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Panniers Commuting, Touring, Laptop

I read the previous thread on laptop pannier recommendations. I notice that Arkel has a laptop commuter bag, which seems ideal. However, it is pricey and not waterproof. Most seem to prefer Ortlieb and since REI carries them and an end of summer 20% coupon might come up, they could be a good deal.

I don't want two sets of panniers, one for touring, one for commuting. I also plan to get groceries for myself on occasion. It seems none of the Ortliebs have a laptop/commuter option, correct? However, does it really make that big of a difference? Also, Ortlieb has a few styles: Backroller Classic, BackPacker Plus, and SportPacker Plus. Either more desirable than the other?
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Old 07-29-09, 10:26 PM   #2
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http://www.bikebagshop.com

I bought my Ortliebs (backroller classic) there and the price was great. I use them for everything I need commuting. I do pack my Macbook inside a thick neoprene case before putting them in the ortliebs since they don't have much padding. Otherwise, they hold lots, are very secure on the bike, and are designed like a drybag, so they are waterproof. Beyond that they are very easy to put on and remove from the bike.

For groceries, I use a rigid-frame pair of jandd open-top panniers. I am sure the Ortliebs would do great, I just had the grocery panniers first so I still use them.

I don't regret the Ortlieb purchase one bit.
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Old 07-30-09, 09:58 AM   #3
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The Arkel commuter is fantastic and worth every cent as a laptop friendly and protective pannier. Everything about it is heavy duty and well designed and manufactured

True it's not waterproof, but Ive ridden in some long down pours and very little get's in the bag. A Hi viz rain cover is optional, but I just keep a plastic bag stuffed in there in case I'll need it on a really rainy day. If I lived in a rainy place I'd probably get the cover.

It's not a grocery getter for me, although it's got a lot of capacity, I use a couple of older model banjo brother grocery panniers for that duty.
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Old 07-30-09, 11:21 AM   #4
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When i ride with a laptop I keep the laptop in a soft padded laptop bag and then stuff it into a pannier which I leave on the bike.

That way it is double-protected and I have a reasonable way to carry my laptop around at my destination.

At times i have also ridden with my laptop and laptop bag stuffed into a large Marmot daypack. Again, for the double protection. But them I did most of my serious bike commuting in the harsh climates of Seattle and Juneau before moving to Texas.
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Old 07-30-09, 02:15 PM   #5
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I have the Arkel and it is extremely water resistant. With the optional cover I have never had water get inside (during Portland, OR winter commutes... i.e. constantly wet). However, I would not want to use it as an extended touring pannier (too small).
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Old 07-30-09, 02:39 PM   #6
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How rainy is it where you are? If it rains a lot I would go with the Ortliebs. But you are trading off waterproof for lack of pockets and compartments (which would compromise the waterproofness). Otherwise I have regular somewhat water-resistant cordura panniers for commuting, and I put waterproof rain covers on them when I tour.
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Old 07-30-09, 02:50 PM   #7
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Just a note, recently treated my Arkel with this... not had a chance to test it in a downpour yet... but initial tests are quite good.
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Old 07-30-09, 02:52 PM   #8
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While I have taken my laptop with me in my Ortlieb rollers once in a while (they have a basic inside pocket), I personally would avoid it as a common commuting practice due the vibrational shocks you're giving the hard-drive read/write mechanism.
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Old 07-30-09, 04:47 PM   #9
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I was trying to find something that will do dual duty. Seems the Arkel Commuter isn't ideal for touring and the Ortlieb not good for laptops?

It never rains in Southern California, but I will be touring next summer through the PNW and hopeful cross country at some point.
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Old 07-30-09, 05:09 PM   #10
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I have both Arkels (T-something or others) and Ortliebs (classic rollers). I guess they only real difference (in terms of a computer) is that the Arkels provide a snugger "fit" for the laptop and it doesn't rattle around as much.

On the other hand, since the Ortliebs are pretty roomy, they'll give you the opportunity to place cushioning around your laptop. Either do as the previous poster suggested and transport it in a laptop bag placed inside your pannier or wrap a fluffy towel (clothes?) around it.

In either case, what I was trying to say is that the rattles, bumps and jolts of a typical bike commute can do damage to your hard drive. Perhaps laptops are built a tougher these days and you can ignore my naysaying!
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Old 07-30-09, 06:34 PM   #11
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I use a Basil laptop carrier that also works as a nylon briefcase. I hang it from a suspension rail I made as I was not comfortable risking my data with a bag directly mounted to the rack. I also attach the bag near the hub with a clip so it does not flop around
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Old 07-30-09, 07:42 PM   #12
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I use the Ortlieb office pannier. It doesn't have a laptop sleeve, but it works well as a briefcase and I have a separate laptop sleeve.
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Old 07-31-09, 05:37 PM   #13
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IMO, if you are bringing clothes to the office in your pannier then any bag would work (in terms of laptop protection). Just wrap the clothes around the laptop and you'll be fine. Note regarding Ortlieb: they do not breathe, at all. Wet items (or a wet bag inside) will NOT dry out. For some people this is not a problem, for others it can be an issue (personal preference).
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Old 08-01-09, 05:38 AM   #14
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When I had decided to start commuting I took a real hard look at what I real needed to bring to work everyday. My laptop was a very big consideration & I do leave it home. I do however use a terminal server and try to keep my work on the server or email it to myself. It doesn't work for everyone but it is worth considering.
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Old 08-01-09, 10:02 AM   #15
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When I had decided to start commuting I took a real hard look at what I real needed to bring to work everyday. My laptop was a very big consideration & I do leave it home. I do however use a terminal server and try to keep my work on the server or email it to myself. It doesn't work for everyone but it is worth considering.
There are quite a few around here who've transitioned to a self contained USB drive. (portable apps and the like)
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Old 08-01-09, 05:32 PM   #16
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It is odd what you think you need when you drive a car to work. I took stock of what I really needed to bring to work everyday and realized I didn't need most of it. I will say it does take some preparation to make the changes and adjustments if you do any remote work as many of us do these days. I love not running my laptop so many hours for the company. If you can remove your laptop from your commute it makes biking to work so much more pleasant
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Old 08-03-09, 02:04 PM   #17
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You gotta ask yourself what you're going to spend the most of your time doing with your panniers. I was recently in a similar situation as you describe - I needed panniers for groceries and that could possibly carry a laptop to work, and I figured I'd just buy a waterproof Ortlieb set to cover everything.

My primary use was grocery shopping, however. And what I found is that commuting panniers can suck for grocery shopping.

Touring panniers are shaped pretty terribly for groceries. They tend to be tapered at the top and bottom, which works fine for clothes but works really terrible for groceries which are designed to fit into a grocery bag. For example, I buy a fair amount of frozen pizza, so I took a Digorno box, taped it up to it's original shape, and took it with me. I wouldn't even fit in some panniers. In others, like some of the Ortlieb's, it would fit but it was really akwardly placed in there - it couldn't sit flatly against the back, but it fit in the middle of the bag, but I ended up with a lot of extra space on the bottom of the bag because of the tapering it wouldn't go in all the way to the bottom. You can't line up something like cans of soup or half-gallons of milk because the bottom isn't square. And it's really akward to load square items like a pizza box into the top because it's tapered at the top, making it difficult to get something wide in and out of it.

So not only is it difficult to get groceries into a touring pannier, and it often has a non-rectangular shape which makes it difficult to efficiently use the space you do have, but touring panniers are also not quite big enough. Touring panniers try to be slim to be more aerodynamic, but for groceries you just plain need a lot of space. How many times have you gone to the grocery store and bought more than two bags of groceries? A typical touring pannier carries about 1/2 to 2/3rds the amount of stuff that a paper grocery bag holds.

Of course, if you're just biking to the store to pick up a couple of things, you need to make sure your panniers that will fit the largest item you buy (like a pizza) but beyond that you can certainly make due, it's just annoying. But if you do it all the time, or if you need to carry a full load of groceries, a grocery specific pannier (I found) was *way* better suited for the task than touring panniers. So I bought of pair of Banjo Brothers Market panniers:
http://www.banjobrothers.com/products/01085.php


I also bought a set of the Arkel waterproof pannier covers which fit these panniers - I know Arkel makes a waterproof cover for their laptop bag.

I spent most of the pannier time doing grocery shopping and carrying stuff to and from work, so I went with the best panniers for that. I figured if I needed to carry my laptop I could just put the laptop in a cushioned case and put that inside the panniers. And if I needed panniers for more touring kind of stuff, while not the perfect tool for the good, these panniers combined with a rain cover would be "good enough".

As for specific bags, I know my pizza box would fit (though akwardly) in the Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Panniers and the Ortlieb bike shopper:
http://www.calhouncycle.com/productc...idproduct=1670

The bike packer plus has a hood covering w/drawstring thing that made it a little akward to get stuff in and out. The Bike Shopper had a zipper that was a pain to open and close. Apparently it comes with some sort of paste or something that helps that wasn't on the bag at the store. Both are tapered at the bottom so not ideal for grocery shopping.

However, though I really like the panniers I got for grocery shopping, if that's not a priority you can also buy baskets for less money:
http://www.amazon.com/Wald-Folding-B.../dp/B000BPNK7O
http://www.calhouncycle.com/productc...&idproduct=560

I dunno, I guess I'm kind of rambling on here. Sorry. :-) My point was - take the most common activity you'll use them for, then see if you can buy the best panniers for that while getting by using them for the other less common ones.

P.S. fyi, I know REI sells the Topeak office bag if you have a topeak rack:
http://www.rei.com/product/784652
I believe to make it waterproof you use a rain cover.
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Old 08-03-09, 02:36 PM   #18
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I have to carry my laptop home every day, no choice. I can't just carry a USB key or something, as much as I'd like that. Our IT Operations staff isn't very savvy on VPN and Remote Desktop options, unfortunately. There are certain aspects of my job that require me to be available 24x7 to handle technical issues, and connect to servers to fix them. And I have to dress Business Casual, and in a climate that varies up to 100+ degrees in the summer that's not something I can ride in work clothes in, and I have a locker room/shower at work, so taking in clothes makes sense.

I dropped the cash on a good Rivendell Sackville Sack, Medium. It fits a 15 inch laptop in a protective sleeve with enough room for work clothes on top and a side pocket for my bike tools. I didn't like how the pannier tended to change the low speed handling of my bike (whichever side the laptop was on was way heavier) or the dismounted handling of the bike (walking it into my garage at home, or into the garage at work), and really didn't care for the looks either (very subjective). So I started looking at saddle bags for my commute, and there are a few options out there. The Rivendell bag is very nice but somewhat expensive, the Carridice Super C will hold a standard laptop, however nobody has them in stock, and Velo-Orange has an Ostrich that looks like it might work.

The Riv bag is made here in the States from high-quality materials and is just a bit shy of "insanely expensive" but appears to be worth it from a materials perspective. I'm quite happy with it.
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Old 08-03-09, 02:49 PM   #19
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lol, I gotta learn not to spend to much time replying to these posts - these are always how these go!

OP: I'm thinking about buying something. It has requirements A, B, and C and I'm think of #1, #2, or #3.
Poster: *responses*
Poster: *responses*
Poster: *responses*
OP (later): Ok, I bought something completely different that no one mentioned that isn't even quite what I described to begin with!

Lol. :-D :-D They all go this way...it's way better than the "never hear back from the original guy" thread, though! :-)

P.S. Though you preferred the looks of *this* to a pannier? :-P
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Old 08-03-09, 03:22 PM   #20
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lol, I gotta learn not to spend to much time replying to these posts - these are always how these go!

OP: I'm thinking about buying something. It has requirements A, B, and C and I'm think of #1, #2, or #3.
Poster: *responses*
Poster: *responses*
Poster: *responses*
OP (later): Ok, I bought something completely different that no one mentioned that isn't even quite what I described to begin with!
Do not worry. 332 views on this thread so far. A lot of peopel reading and learning from your experiences, most of them say nothing.

Personally keep way too many bags and baskets, but like you I do not like the waterproof "drybag type" panniers for shopping. First time I`ve seen somebody else than me said that. I like basketsfor shopping, lined with bags of thn ripstop instead of plasticbags.

The waterproofs is great for touring but i avoid them for anything else.
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Old 08-08-09, 12:22 PM   #21
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I teach computer graphics, Web design, video, etc. So, getting my MacBook Pro to school is essential. Since the grocery store is on the way home I figured I'd pick up groceries, too. That is what I do when I drive to work. I didn't think about the weight only being on one side. That could be awkward. Could I bungee cord my Timbuk2 to the top of the rack or would that have too much vibration?
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Old 08-08-09, 12:32 PM   #22
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P.S. fyi, I know REI sells the Topeak office bag if you have a topeak rack:
http://www.rei.com/product/784652
I believe to make it waterproof you use a rain cover.
This is looking promising. My commute is only ~5 miles. This could work and I could still get panniers for groceries and other stuff.
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Old 08-09-09, 07:46 AM   #23
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I am very pleased with Topeak products, The quick track system is fantastic and well thought out
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Old 08-09-09, 08:11 AM   #24
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I have the big trunk bag, it is great except . . . it is too big and won't fit under the seat. So, I can never slide it all the way back and lock it in. I got it for christmas and my dad didn't buy from REI, so no taking it back.
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Old 08-09-09, 09:07 AM   #25
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I teach computer graphics, Web design, video, etc. So, getting my MacBook Pro to school is essential. Since the grocery store is on the way home I figured I'd pick up groceries, too. That is what I do when I drive to work. I didn't think about the weight only being on one side. That could be awkward. Could I bungee cord my Timbuk2 to the top of the rack or would that have too much vibration?
I regurlarly ride with my 26 kg dog sitting on one side of the bike. A bit difficult the first few times but now I do not think about it at all. Maybe a small light person would find it difficult, but since I am not tiny I just shift my bodyweght to the side the dog is not sitting on and I do it without thinking. For sure you can ride with a pannier on one side.

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