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  1. #1
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    Carrying stuff on short jaunts?

    Hey, everyone. I wasn't sure exactly where to post this question, but I thought it might be good to put it up to you commuters, who obviously have experience carrying stuff. So, the situation is this: I just bought my first serious bike, a Bianchi Volpe (which I LOVE) and I suddenly was confronted with the problem of carrying stuff. I need something to carry light loads (my U-lock, possibly some books, a flat-repair kit, etc) when going to the library, the coffee shop, or a friend's house, all of which are within 5 miles of my house. What form of carrying would you recommend? Would a backpack be too big? Would a rack and panniers be overkill?

  2. #2
    Pokemon Master Darth_Firebolt's Avatar
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    rack and panniers would be a good investment for groceries etc.
    messenger bag or backpack would probably be fine for the 5 mile trip. if it were a cruiser, you could get away with a lift-off basket. probably not going to go for a basket on a road bike, though.

  3. #3
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    For general tearing around I use a small seat bag to carry tools etc and I have a lock that is mounted to the frame. If I am just going around with a few papers or a book or two I use a soft sided briefcase with a shoulder strap in conjunction with the seat bag. When fully loaded for work or running out for groceries I will then drag out the full paniers. My Mongoose is like the trusty CF-18, the load out all depends on the mission.

    BTW congrats on the new machine. Hope you and the Volpe have many happy miles together.
    Last edited by nelson249; 12-28-10 at 02:16 AM.
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  4. #4
    Noobie of the year :) MijnWraak's Avatar
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    Rack is always a good investment, and you have the option of getting a backpack/pannier or just a pannier. I love having the convenience of my panniers, always having a permanent spot for my u-lock and riding clothes (balaclava, goggles, gloves, ankle straps)

  5. #5
    tsl
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    First, thank you for cycling to the library! (See my sig line, below.)

    A friend has a Volpe. Very nice bike. And it has mounts for a rear rack.

    Occasional use such as you describe doesn't warrant anything fancy or expensive in a rack. Inexpensive and plain-jane will do. A nice extra to have is a bracket on the back to mount a taillight, and a taillight that screws on to it. Then you don't have to worry about someone stealing your light when locked in the rack at the library. Better still, you can never forget your light.

    A rack-top trunk bag is a good place to start for carrying small amounts of stuff. They come in different sizes and configurations, but in the main, "black nylon shoebox" describes most. I can fit two or three hardcover novels in mine, along with my lock and toolkit. TIP: If buying in-person, take along some books and your lock to be sure they fit. Not all makers think of library books as potential cargo.

    When your carrying needs become larger and more regular, then look at panniers. Over the years I've collected four sets as my needs changed. Most days, though, a trunk bag is more than I need.

    Trunk bags work nicely on recreational rides too. Great way to back a lunch.


    And here's another of my bikes with the trunk bag and small panniers. These panniers will each hold three hardcover novels.
    Last edited by tsl; 12-28-10 at 07:58 AM.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  6. #6
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    A lot of it has to do with your personal style. Anything that holds stuff has merit, of course, but you want to use what works for you...for example:

    1. a messenger-type bag is great if you want to keep the bike simple and like being on and off it quickly. They're more comfy and balanced to ride with than a backpack, easy to load/unload, and they're big enough to carry a wide range of stuff, without any penalty for being virtually empty. Cost is very low.

    2. if you prefer to ride unencumbered at all, panniers are a great choice. They're roomy and make carrying stuff a snap, but you need a rack--the mounting of which may or may not be a bit of a PITA--and the bags themselves cost more than a messenger bag, for example. They also take a little more time to mount/unmount, but some types do offer shoulder straps to make carrying off the bike easier.

    3. backpacks are similarly inexpensive as messenger bags, but are generally less appealing because they put the load higher up on the back which is inherently less stable, and if it shifts in the pack, particularly so. It also covers the back, trapping heat. Depending on your physique and ride position, backpacks may also put the weight uncomfortably on your back, however, for a shortish ride of 5mi, that may be sufferable if an issue at all.

    4. handlebar bags and seatbags, such as those from Carradice, can carry stuff easily but have a very distinct style, which may suit or not, and are rather expensive bits to be leaving out and about if you don't unmount them.

    Anyway, lots of options, any of which alone or in combination, may work best for you. Have fun setting it up and happy riding!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  7. #7
    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    A lot of this depends on how frequently you're looking at carrying stuff. As others have mentioned, things like locks and flat kits are generally easily located on the bike itself/ in a smaller, bike mounted bag. Books, laptops, clothing, and other larger, heavier, bulkier items require more thought, but it isn't a 'one size fits all' world. There's lots of great advice above, but I thought I'd give you another different perspective. I like backpacks just fine. They're useful, easy to carry, and generally extremely stable (I can't imagine how one packs a backpack if load shifting is a major concern). I prefer them for flexibility/comfort when moving around off the bike, non-biking utility and price. You can often find a reasonable general duty backpack for under $50 (depending on your needs/ preferences, and if you're willing to accept a non-cycling specific pack) and really nice ones are still under $100. A cheap rack will set you back $20 (and they can potentially cost way more) and decent panniers will usually cost more than that.

    I think panniers are great as long as you don't expect to be doing much moving off the bike, such as walking to and from classes within enormous university or within large office buildings, for example, unless they have decent carrying straps or backpack straps (which usually puts you into the higher price points, in my experience). I cycled with a backpack until just recently, and it wasn't til I started riding more than 10 miles each way that I really felt the desire/need to switch over. The down side to non-cycling backpacks is that they don't always place the load where you want it for cycling, esp. if you're riding in the drops. But this is a highly personal choice/tolerance issue. Some people complain a lot about sweaty backs. I sweat no matter what, and the backpack just collects the sweat in a different place. Another thing to remember: a rack and panniers will add weight on the bike, and the rack, at least, is not so easy to remove for fun rides. It also means the bike is heavier if you have to carry it up stairs, or lift it onto a storage rack.

    I've never tried a messenger bag, but if you go that route, be sure to get a real one, not a messenger look alike -- it needs to be properly stabilized for riding. My one experience was trying to use a briefcase with a shoulder strap, and that was near disastrous. I think a good messenger bag would be ideal for the riding/carrying you've described, however.

    Whatever you choose, be ready to consider alternatives as circumstances change or your preference become refined. Keep riding!

  8. #8
    Senior Member EKW in DC's Avatar
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    It all depends on how often you'll need to carry things. A backpack might work well, but if it's warm out (and even if it's not), be ready for SBS (sweaty back syndrome).

    I will suggest you check out a Topeak rack and a matching Topeak rack trunk. The Topeak Explorer rack is a solid, basic rear rack, and it pairs nicely with a Topeak rack trunk with MTX mounting system. You could get a rack trunk with fold down panniers. That way if you have a lot to carry you can zip out/fold down the panniers. If you're not carrying a lot, you could leave them zipped up. Or you could use just one pannier. The MTX stuff from Topeak is nice because of how easy it is to attach to the rack and take back off (all securely). The items linked above are what I've been using for commuting every day for about a year. I've been very happy.

    Whatever you settle on, congrats on the new bike and happy riding!

  9. #9
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Here is a shameless plug for my blog: How to carry stuff on a bicycle and Introduction to bicycle bags. Although I'm a little biased against backpacks.

    Adam

  10. #10
    Senior Member adaminlc's Avatar
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    +1 For the messenger bag. I have tried backpacks, panniers, handlebar bags, etc. Panniers are good for more stuff, especially if you don't need to load and unload very often. I love handle bar bags for tools, tubes, etc. For larger stuff when you need to carry it I prefer a messenger bag. They carry plenty and a re more comfy on the bike than backpacks, which are also a good choice.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    To carry my U-lock I have a TwoFish BikeBlock.

    I have an Axiom Odyssee Rack on my main bike I use to carry stuff.

    With a rack you have a lot of versatility. I can bungee my backpack to it, or you can buy panniers, or make your own. Recently I attached a milk crate to it with bungee cords so when I go shopping I can drop items into it.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Depends on the bike, but a backpack is my last choice. I usually use racks with trunks as my first choice. My favorite rack trunk is the Banjo Brothers with the drop down panniers. They don't hold a massive amount but they do work well.

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  13. #13
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    Somehow part of my post got deleted so I will add to it.

    To carry small items like a multitool, keys, wallet, etc., all you need is a saddle bag. I have the Avenir Metro 2 bag on one bike, but I do have others.
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  14. #14
    nashcommguy
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    Quote Originally Posted by happa95 View Post
    Hey, everyone. I wasn't sure exactly where to post this question, but I thought it might be good to put it up to you commuters, who obviously have experience carrying stuff. So, the situation is this: I just bought my first serious bike, a Bianchi Volpe (which I LOVE) and I suddenly was confronted with the problem of carrying stuff. I need something to carry light loads (my U-lock, possibly some books, a flat-repair kit, etc) when going to the library, the coffee shop, or a friend's house, all of which are within 5 miles of my house. What form of carrying would you recommend? Would a backpack be too big? Would a rack and panniers be overkill?
    Delta makes a great seatpost rack and Sunlite, Topeak, etc. all make trunk bags in various sizes. Your u-lock should've come w/some sort of frame mount. I would do that to save space in your bag. All tools, tube(s), patch-kit, etc needed will fit in one of the pouches. Or get an under-the-saddle tool bag. Frame pump will mount along side one of you wb cages. Well, most of them do, anyway.

    Btw, congrats on making the jump to being a utilitarian cyclist.

  15. #15
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    Personally, I would suggest some small front rack+bag or basket.
    1988 Miele Azsora

  16. #16
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    I use a simple book bag slung over my shoulders messenger-style when the load is light, but for anything with weight I rely on my pannier. I have a trunk bag coming soon (bought with Christmas money) to replace my lunchbox/bungee net combo:

    Gettin' my Fred on.

  17. #17
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    I prefer a rack and panniers for carrying most things. However, my road bike is not equipped that way. I have a carradice SQR slim on the road bike. SQR = seatpost quick release. The SQR mount stays on the seatpost, however, it is very lightweight and not really noticeable. The slim bag fits right underneath the saddle and is attached and unattached to the mount very easily. You can check out the pictures and description at:

    http://peterwhitecycles.com/carradice.asp

  18. #18
    Senior Member bluenote157's Avatar
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    I have both a rear and a front. The front rack gets the most use because I end up using a bunge cord to hold my lock, sweater, etc down. ..then again, you can probably do the same thing with the rear.
    I also have a wald basket that i fasten with plastic zip ties on occasion to the front rack.

    Keep in mind..some ppl dont like the heavy front load feeling. It also has a lot to do with your frame geometry.

    Last edited by bluenote157; 12-29-10 at 07:35 AM.

  19. #19
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    I'm a rack & Backpack guy. I'd put the flat stuff into a small bag to keep under the seat & attach the lock to the bike (on the rack for a u-lock, on the seatpost, rack or wherever it fits for one of those chain locks). Put a cargo net or some bungee cords on the rack & you are always ready to carry someething should you need it. I bring a bakcpack along if I want some protection from the elements, or I have more than a few items. The backpack goes on the rack so I don't get a sweaty back, but once I'm at work, the store, home, etc, I can carry it much easier than I can a pannier.

  20. #20
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
    I'm a rack & Backpack guy. I'd put the flat stuff into a small bag to keep under the seat & attach the lock to the bike (on the rack for a u-lock, on the seatpost, rack or wherever it fits for one of those chain locks). Put a cargo net or some bungee cords on the rack & you are always ready to carry something should you need it. I bring a backpack along if I want some protection from the elements, or I have more than a few items. The backpack goes on the rack so I don't get a sweaty back, but once I'm at work, the store, home, etc, I can carry it much easier than I can a pannier.
    As always, YMMV and opinions found here on the best way to carry gear will vary greatly. For those who prefer a backpack when not on the bike, there are a number of panniers that double as backpacks (or vice versa). I've only ever used Arkel panniers, and have been highly impressed by their construction and features. They make two backpack/pannier products for commuters; the Switchback and the Bug. They have a whole Urban/Commuting lineup that also includes messenger- and shopping-type bags. Personally, I've been using the Commuter for a few years now and have been very happy with it. It still looks and works like new despite riding through all weather conditions, including winter. Arkel's products aren't cheap, but they're worth it.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  21. #21
    Day trip lover mr geeker's Avatar
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    you can never go wrong with a rack trunk bag. topeak makes ones with locks on them so people cant just come up and take your stuff out of it while you're indoors or what not. mine is brightly colored and from nashbar (no lock though).
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  22. #22
    Gouge Away kaliayev's Avatar
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    Carradice makes some great saddle bags. Just picked up a lightly used Nelson Longflap for my rando bike, but it will also be a great bag for the commute.

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