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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 06-18-10, 08:28 AM   #1
HiYoSilver
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Backpacks - how long til stop hurting?

Tried using a backpack yesterday. It was not too heavy, just a laptop and power cord. But shoulders hurt from riding with it. I presume this will go away with time, but don't have an idea of how long to expect. I know many use backpacks instead of rack bags, so looking for enlightenment.

Thanks
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Old 06-18-10, 08:42 AM   #2
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I gave up using a backpack shortly after I started commuting. I now use panniers and a trunk bag. That also means I carry a lot more stuff.
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Old 06-18-10, 08:44 AM   #3
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I've only ever used backpacks. But I use a pack with an internal frame, nothing fancy like an expedition pack but something that fits along the curve of the back. Plus it has a waist belt that keeps the weight off my shoulders when I'm sitting up on the bike. It also has a chest strap that keeps it from shifting when I'm riding low. I would definitely recommend something like that if you're going to continue with a pack. It may still hurt for a few rides, but should go away.
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Old 06-18-10, 08:48 AM   #4
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Everyone here has their own opinion. Some love the backpacks and hate panniers, and some go the other way. I rode with a backpack for a year, then switched to panniers and I gotta say, I am way more comfortable with the panniers. But they do cause quite a load on the rear wheel and significant wind resistance. In a tailwind, or riding flat ground at a steady pace, the panniers are wonderful. But taking off from a red light or cornering fast, or riding in a hard crosswind, you definitely feel their presence. But at least my back doesn't ache.
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Old 06-18-10, 08:49 AM   #5
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Yeah, try to find a pack that carries the weight low and has a form that fits so that the weight is sort of resting in the small of your back, just above your butt. I commute with an L.L. Bean Escape - and it works perfect for me - even on days when I have to stuff my laptop in with my clothes. If I tried to ride with my laptop bag (backpack) it would not be fun. If you have a good outdoor store near you go try some on.
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Old 06-18-10, 08:50 AM   #6
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Is it a laptop specific backpack? If no padding, sometimes having a laptop in a backpack causes you to try to compensate for the flatness of the laptop across your shoulder blades causing back/neck pain. Pretty much the same as riding with your back strapped to a board.
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Old 06-18-10, 09:21 AM   #7
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It is padded but does NOT have internal support. Just a freebie laptop bag provided by vendor. I plan later to get a supported backpack, but wanted to test riding with a pack before dropping the cash.
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Old 06-18-10, 10:12 AM   #8
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I use a backpack everyday. The "classic" jansport backpack I guess. No padding just one big compartment and one smaller one. The average temperature this last week was around 95F with a heat index over 100F everyday. On Mondays, I carry all my clothes for the week and a lunch. I leave my bag of clothing at work, and the rest of the week I only take a lunch and a 1L bottle of water for those "just in case I run out of water going each way days." In the afternoon, I take the clothes that I wore that day along with my empty lunch bag, so Friday afternoon there isn't that much stuff to take home. I ride a little under 40miles round trip. My morning commute isn't that bad, but in the afternoon it's pretty hot. The straps on my bag aren't super tight nor are they super loose, but the bag really doesn't move around that much... probably only 1/2" - 1" either way so its not very noticeable. The pack itself isn't all that bad for the commute, but sometime in the future I might install a rear rack to bungee the bag to.

I would imagine if I had to carry a laptop and cord, I would bungee it to the rack so it doesn't move... at all. Or possibly remote into the computer from my home machine. Everyone has their preferences. Good luck!
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Old 06-18-10, 10:27 AM   #9
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I don't remember ever having sore shoulders from commuting with a backpack, but even before I cycle-commuted, I always carried my stuff in a backpack, so maybe that helped.

But anyway, I'll second (or third) the suggestions to find an outdoor store and look for a better pack. Plenty of day packs nowadays will accommodate a laptop and still have a good fit. I use a Deuter Trans-Alpine 30 (big 30 liter pack) which has waist and chest straps to keep it from moving around. I carry a fair amount of weight, but the pack seems to almost disappear while I'm riding. It's not that I forget it's there, but it distributes the weight well enough that it seems lighter than I'd expect.

Also, how you're positioned on your bike may affect how the pack feels. My bikes all have handlebars even with or lower than the seat, so my back is at a good angle. If you're riding more upright, you'll feel the pack more on your shoulders.
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Old 06-18-10, 10:52 AM   #10
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pull the straps up so the bag rides higher, a drooping bag pulls on your shoulders
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Old 06-18-10, 11:03 AM   #11
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Quote:
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pull the straps up so the bag rides higher, a drooping bag pulls on your shoulders
yeah, but:

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Yeah, try to find a pack that carries the weight low and has a form that fits so that the weight is sort of resting in the small of your back, just above your butt.
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Old 06-18-10, 11:08 AM   #12
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Try a lumbar pack (with shoulder straps) like a BBP or the Mountainsmith Day, or the Banjo Bros Commuter pack, which rides lower on your back.
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Old 06-18-10, 11:12 AM   #13
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People opinion will vary depending on MANY things. Pure comfort, what they carry, and possibly most important... riding position/bike type. I ride a road bike and more often than not, my track bike... both have significant saddle to bar drop, but not TT type setups.

For ME, a low backpack is uncomfortable. If it's higher, the weight sits on my back instead of hanging off my back and pulling on my shoulders.

With that said, my shoulders didn't like 2 strap bags... but I ride every day with a messenger bag hiked up nice and high/tight. The one strap, and fitment just works for me.

I hate the feeling of a "heavy bike" so I avoid racks/panniers/etc... but am debating a small rack for a few trips. The big bags just encourages me to bring lots of extra crap along for the ride

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Old 06-18-10, 11:13 AM   #14
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I use one of those Chrome bags and I love it. I'm able to hold my laptop and my clothes, including shoes and it's very comfortable. It contours to my back and doesn't slide. More importantly I no longer suffer from shoulder pain. It's a bit pricey for the larger versions.
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Old 06-18-10, 11:32 AM   #15
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I prefer a rack and bag. It keeps the weight and center of balance low.
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Old 06-18-10, 12:42 PM   #16
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Is it a laptop specific backpack? If no padding, sometimes having a laptop in a backpack causes you to try to compensate for the flatness of the laptop across your shoulder blades causing back/neck pain. Pretty much the same as riding with your back strapped to a board.
An internal frame will prevent this. And the shoulder soreness is almost certainly from supporting the weight of the bag and laptop and power thing on the shoulders; a good backpack will have a hip belt that's actually designed to transfer the weight here. It'll also have a curve that's fit to your back.

I got one of these, on sale, and it's the most comfortable pack I've ever had. Three laptops feel like they aren't even there, whereas SLR camera gear, a heavy tripod, food, water, and a jacket, are very comfortable. While hiking. I got the tall version, and the corners are high enough to just block my vision when I try to look behind me, so it's not fit for riding in traffic, unless I get a mirror attached maybe.

I don't think it's a matter of how long until it stops hurting, though: it's either a good fit for you, or it isn't.
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Old 06-18-10, 02:35 PM   #17
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Your shoulders shouldn't hurt, especially with only a laptop and power cord in it. I'd say you need to look for a more comfortable backpack. I use one with curved and well padded shoulder straps and a padded waist belt. I carry about 30lbs worth of stuff, on average, in my pack which feels comfortable and very much a part of me.
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Old 06-18-10, 02:59 PM   #18
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Has the OP tried panniers?

With my middle aged deteriorating skeleton, that's the only way I can haul stuff.
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Old 06-18-10, 05:11 PM   #19
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Try a lumbar pack (with shoulder straps) like a BBP or the Mountainsmith Day, or the Banjo Bros Commuter pack, which rides lower on your back.
Yes, this. Also, do not tighten down the shoulder straps too tight. Allow it to ride a little loose, but not too loose.
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Old 06-18-10, 05:49 PM   #20
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Seems to be alot of variations even within the backpack crowd. Personally I prefer to have the shoulder straps snug with the pack up high on my back. I don't like it swinging or bouncing around at all. Luckily I don't have to lug my laptop back and forth. I just use an 8Gb flashdrive to copy files and data back and forth, and if need be I have 250 Gb USB drive that is about the size of two decks of cards.
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Old 06-18-10, 06:06 PM   #21
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Yes, not that loose. I have found that if I cinch the straps down really tight, my shoulders tire. Cinch up tight, loosen a tad.
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Old 06-18-10, 06:35 PM   #22
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I'm not a big fan of name brand crap, just stuff that is well made and works. I'm a middle-aged grandfather so my body isn't as resilient and tolerable of hardships as I remember it once being but a good back pack should be comfortable no matter what one's age... and my pack is.

On a side note, I just came from a 2 week trip to what so far is easily my favorite place on this planet... Scotland. I was in a town of Dunvegan when a 100 mile hike was just wrapping up. There were people my parent's age (arthritic looking grey-hairs) finishing their 100 miles wearing huge packs stuffed to the hilt. Is it a matter of the mind, equipment or a combination of both? I think that making the right decision on equipment that works and having the "can do" attitude is what enables people to accomplish what they can.
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Old 06-18-10, 06:48 PM   #23
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Your shoulders will stop hurting as soon as you start putting the backpack into the milk crate.





Y'all knew someone was going to mention milk crate sooner or later.
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Old 06-18-10, 07:03 PM   #24
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I use a Jansport Revolt that I picked up from tj maxx for around $30. Nice shoulder padding and egg crate style backing with chest and waist straps. I've not had a problem with it yet although I only haul around 10 pounds or so worth of stuff at most. I'd say look for a pack with good padding in the back and shoulder area with chest and waist straps. Maybe also a compression strap as well.
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Old 06-18-10, 07:09 PM   #25
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Some backpacks will hurt until you stop using them. Other backpacks don't hurt at all, IME. How long is your commute, timewise?
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