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  1. #1
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    Panniers or Backpack for a college student

    Hello, I've got a question about whether to use panniers or a cycling backpack for my commute to and from the train station near my college (8 miles each way):

    I carry two large volumes and a 6 pound laptop daily on this commute, which I have to get through in at the most 40 mins.

    Would a pannier (convertible to a backpack if possible) or a cycling backpack be better? I don't like using the backpack because its stiflingly hot out here, and I will arrive at class drenched in sweat; however I don't like using the pannier because it changes the handling of the bike, and it's kind of a hassle to take off the bike when getting on the commuter bus back home.

    Can anyone recommend a good backpack that will keep the weight off my back so I don't sweat as much, and/or a pannier that can be removed very quickly and converts to a backpack?

  2. #2
    Senior Member johnr783's Avatar
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    I dont believe there is a BACKpack that keeps the weight off the back.

    If price is not an issue, there are backpack pannier hybrids. The popular one is the Arkel Bug. One that I plan on getting when I want to throw the cash into it (college here too) is the Aquapac Pannier/Backpack. It is waterproof and is a pannier on one side, a backpack on the other.

  3. #3
    Senior Member commo_soulja's Avatar
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    Nuther vote for the Arkel Bug (pricey, but well worth it) or the cheaper Switchback.
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    snob rogwilco's Avatar
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    Backpacks are annoying for cycling imo, especially when they are heavy because you do sweat a lot more. Just get a pannier or a bike basket or something like that; it may not be as stylish, but it's a lot more useful.

  5. #5
    Senior Member SouthFLpix's Avatar
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    When I first started commuting I used a backpack for about a week and hated it. I switched to a large trunk bag and the ride immediately became a lot more enjoyable. I think having the bike carry the weight is the way to go.

  6. #6
    Bicikli Huszár sudo bike's Avatar
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    I recently bought an M-Wave 3 piece traveler from Amazon for $44. The top section is connected by clips and breaks away from the rest. It also has a little handle and shoulder strap and acts as a convenient laptop bag/briefcase. The other two bags drape over the rack, and can easily be disconnected and carried with a handle in the middle if needed. You can also purchase a separate rain fly for around $12 if you so choose. No complaints as of yet. Lots of pockets, big, cheap. Fits all my requirements .

    btw, I definitely recommend panniers over backpack (especially for heavier loads). For me personally, backpacks were uncomfortable, hurt my back, and made me sweat more than usual.
    "The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. I love the bicycle. I always have. I can think of no sincere, decent human being, male or female, young or old, saint or sinner, who can resist the bicycle."

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    Go with panniers, a fully load & heavy backpack will raise your center of balance. If your bike can take them, load panniers on the front. More times than not, the bike will handle better.

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    The Inertia Design Business Pannier works well for me. It has a padded laptop sleeve and a lot of room for other stuff. It quickly zips off a rigid panel that mounts to the rack and then you can carry it like a brief case.

    https://www.workbycycle.com/store/in...ct_detail&p=11

  9. #9
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnr783 View Post
    I dont believe there is a BACKpack that keeps the weight off the back.

    If price is not an issue, there are backpack pannier hybrids. The popular one is the Arkel Bug. One that I plan on getting when I want to throw the cash into it (college here too) is the Aquapac Pannier/Backpack. It is waterproof and is a pannier on one side, a backpack on the other.
    A good backpack actually puts the weight on your hips. Not sure it really works for cycling though. This thread discusses some good backpacks for cycling. Some use different types of suspension mechanisms for maintaining airflow across your back.

    Considering the weight your carrying, a simple option may be to put a milk crate on the back of your bike and bungie a backpack inside. Extra weight on your bike does change the ride but it might be the lesser of evils. I prefer to carry stuff on my back too but there's a limit. If it was just a laptop and some extra clothes, I'd say no problem. Throwing a couple of heavy books in there would make it uncomfortable for me. You can always try it though.

  10. #10
    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    I am generally a backpack fan, because I think they're more versatile, generally, and they make the transition to the train easier than a pannier would (I think -- I'm basing this on years of motorcycle saddlebags -- I've never used bicycle panniers). However, the weight you're talking about probably exceeds my comfort zone for cycling with a backpack.

    While a well fitted and packed backpack is very stable, and works more like an extension of your 'self', I would actually start to get nervous about the weight altering your own balance if you're talking about a full size laptop plus two major texts (I'm imagining my largest law school or science texts, here). I carry a lunch, a change of clothes, one or two casual reading books, a spare water bottle, minimal bike parts (tubes, patch kit, lights, etc...) MP3 players, PDA, phone charger, etc. -- heavy load is probably 20 lbs with backpack itself. Once you get much over 30 lbs, though, I think balance would be an issue (depending on your own size, of course... the percentage of your own weight that you're carrying matters).

    I don't know that the sweaty back is the huge deal people make of it; if it is hot, you're going to sweat anyway, and I don't think the addition of the backpack makes a big difference (to me). Sure, the backpack holds more of it and on your back, but for a 6 mile ride, this is a minor inconvenience at worst. Perhaps if I were riding more than an hour I'd feel differently.

  11. #11
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    Panniers!
    Two Wheels One Love

  12. #12
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    *Sigh*

    OP- a lot of the advice given to you so far is biased upon the poster's personal preferences. The one who suggested the tried and true milk crate was spot on. Or consider getting a Wald basket- either front or rear (just measure before you order). If it's raining, then just put your current bag into a trash bag. Most of the rain covers for backpacks aren't waterproof- the part against your body is unprotected. And waterproof backpacks tend to be pricey, lack organization, and are sweaty beasts when worn in hot weather.
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  13. #13
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    I just bungee my backpack to the top of my rack when I want to (shoulder straps up). Otherwise I just wear it on a ride. I feel it affects the handling of my bike more when its on the rack.
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  14. #14
    commuter and barbarian scroca's Avatar
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    I carry my back pack in my panniers. Best of both worlds.

  15. #15
    Senior Member ScottNotBombs's Avatar
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    I strap my messenger bag to my rear rack with bungie cords
    I'm just a kid who gets in trouble sometimes

  16. #16
    Senior Member badrad's Avatar
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    i have both a laptop pannier (axiom transition) and a deuter race exp air backpack. depending on the mood and the weather i will use one or the other, but find both are quite comfortable. the deuter has a suspension back that raises the bag off the body. there is a mesh but that allows air to circulate between the back and the bag.
    with the laptop pannier, i also use the narrower axiom streamliner rack which is only about 2 inches wide so it keeps the pannier bag quite close to the center of the bike.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudjessie42 View Post
    Hello, I've got a question about whether to use panniers or a cycling backpack for my commute to and from the train station near my college (8 miles each way):

    I carry two large volumes and a 6 pound laptop daily on this commute, which I have to get through in at the most 40 mins.

    Would a pannier (convertible to a backpack if possible) or a cycling backpack be better? I don't like using the backpack because its stiflingly hot out here, and I will arrive at class drenched in sweat; however I don't like using the pannier because it changes the handling of the bike, and it's kind of a hassle to take off the bike when getting on the commuter bus back home.

    Can anyone recommend a good backpack that will keep the weight off my back so I don't sweat as much, and/or a pannier that can be removed very quickly and converts to a backpack?
    1. Get a rack.
    2. Get a cheap grocery type pannier bag/basket
    3. Get a light-weight but large backpack like a Jansport (not a lot of frills).
    4. Put the backpack in the soft bag/basket, tie a bungee cord around it to keep it sinched up to the bike.
    5. Park your bike, take out your backpack from the basket.

    I just discovered this amazing method last week, and I can't imagine doing it any other way. I don't need an expensive pannier, just something that works, combined with a lightweight backpack. You can't beat the convenience, it really combines the best of both worlds (convenience of a backpack and the comfort of panniers).

  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Gnashbar has a backpack with pannier hooks under the back pad to hang it from a rack.

    Ortlieb has excellent panniers that can take their accesory back pack kit to clic on the pannier

    They keep stuff inside Dry .. you can buy just one, aka the Shopping Bag It uses a Waterproof Zipper

    With a Brompton Folding bike they have a large bag It goes on the front
    ride to the train station Fold the bike up and Get on the train with it .
    sling the front bag over your shoulder..
    thats what they were made to do..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-24-10 at 06:42 PM.

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