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  1. #1
    Senior Member seafood's Avatar
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    panniers vs backpack for carrying a laptop

    I've been slowly adapting my Raleigh to my own tastes and utility for urban commuting. My route is not long (3.5 mi each way), and the typical hazards I deal with are pretty crappy roads (including a little bit of cobblestones), weather, and your typical road debris. For work, I have to carry a laptop to and from the office. When I've ridden a motorcycle to the office before getting frustrated with traffic along the same route, I had no qualms about throwing the computer into saddle bags draped over the passenger seat. But on a bicycle, I'm a bit apprehensive about getting panniers as I'm worried about the shocks. I don't want to slow down or take it easy and my relatively short distance allows me to have fun and my back and shoulders aren't bothered by my messenger bag. Still, if there was a reliable way to keep the computer fixed to the bike and safe from shocks and moisture, I'd prefer it. Any words of advice or experiences?

  2. #2
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    I have carried my laptop around in my panniers. I do not have to deal with weather, and I do not do it regularly. I would think for everyday that a backpack would be safer in terms of exposing the laptop to less abuse.

  3. #3
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    I usually place the laptop in its bag and use a pannier....no issues in several years.

  4. #4
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    I have a large ASUS gaming laptop that I carry in Panniers to keep the weight lower and it works well.

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    "Any words of advice?"

    Yeah: put it in your backpack when it rains.

    If I'm carrying something expensive or electronic, I like to put it in my pocket or backpack. The realistic chances of damaging a laptop in panniers are slim, but it just makes me feel better.

    I use panniers for bulky stuff: clothes, books, bags, tarps/blankets if camping, etc.

  6. #6
    Mmm hm! agent pombero's Avatar
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    Have carried my laptop for years in panniers, no issues, even when I crashed onto the side of the pannier carrying the laptop at 10 mph.

  7. #7
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    I would definitely use a back pack for the laptop, but I have hardtails and bumpy roads. Laptop hard drives are tough but I wouldn't jeopardize it.
    Aviation Mechanic, Bike racer, Fitness Equipment Restorer

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  8. #8
    Senior Member robble's Avatar
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    Just be sure not to start a defragger before you set off
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  9. #9
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    Wrapping your laptop in a jacket should take care of the shocks in the pannier. Otherwise I carry my laptop in my backpack if I think it's going to be knocked around.

  10. #10
    Senior Member seafood's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies! I think I'll keep using the messenger bag / back pack for the laptop for now, but I won't be as worried about stuffing one into a pannier, provided it's cushioned. BTW, one thing I've found to work well for water insulation is bringing a plastic bag with me and putting the computer in it if I know or suspect there'll be rain.

    One other thing I was thinking of trying specifically for electronics on bikes without suspension is to take a small bag -- something like a specially made laptop bag -- and attach sections of old inner tubes to it and then run the other ends of the inner tubes to the frame of the bike and let the bag be suspended in the middle. Will try this idea with some test payloads and report back here.

  11. #11
    dcr
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    I'm look seriously at the Ortlieb waterproof panniers. Put a laptop in a good case and place it those panniers---I'd bet the probability of serious damage to your computer would be very very low. And of course back up your computer!

  12. #12
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    I use a pannier to carry my laptop and other stuff (clothes, lunch, etc.) and I like that better than a backpack. I found the backpack made me too top-heavy and it made it too hard for me to look back left or right without losing my balance. Plus, I have some back trouble and its better for me to keep excess weight off my back (YMMV).

    Most panniers do have some give/bounce which helps absorb potentially damaging bumps. After 3 months of travel like this (several hundred miles) I've had no problems yet, and this includes one accidental fall where the laptop-side of the bike hit the ground with no damage to the laptop. Again, YMMV, and I will say that my route is probably smoother than yours--no cobblestones for me, thankfully.

    I put the laptop in a neoprene waterproof laptop sleeve which is a good protector from water and vibration and most bumps. The sleeve came with a thick foam insert (the size of a laptop) as packing material, and I use that as additional vibration absorbing material. I put the foam insert in the pannier bag on the bike-side. This is what I bought:

    http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/p...9&sku=330-1274

    One thing I've read is that laptops with SSD are more resistant to the rigors of bike commuting than traditional hard drives, which have more fragile moving parts. So, if you don't have a SSD, get one. Not only will it be more durable, but your computing experience will be much faster! The only downside to SSD is they're more expensive and have less storage. Unless you have to store large amounts of data on your laptop, then this is not a problem for most people.

    FYI, I use the Bontrager City double pannier and it fits a 15" laptop with protective sleeve just right.

    http://bontrager.com/model/07726

    If I pack everything carefully, and put my clothes in ziplock plastic bags, I've never had anything get wet.

  13. #13
    Senior Member jimbrown's Avatar
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    I have carried various laptops in my panniers for 15 years now and it has never been an issue as far as keeping it dry. I use Ortlieb panniers and nothing ever gets wet. They are the best as far as being water proof. I've crashed twice and neither time did the laptop get damaged. Which really amazed me since one time the bicycle was totally destroyed. The damage to the bike was front wheel destroyed, front fork destroyed, cranks bent and finally rear frame bent. No damage to myself either so I count myself lucky for both the laptop and myself on that one.

  14. #14
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    I struggled with this once, when I still had a job and enrolled in the local community college. I ended choosing the backpack, primarily due to limited funds and the multimodal commute (bike/bus). After about a week, I discovered flash drives and how to convert Google Docs into MS Office format

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    Quote Originally Posted by seafood View Post
    BTW, one thing I've found to work well for water insulation is bringing a plastic bag with me and putting the computer in it if I know or suspect there'll be rain.
    That's what I do too. I always have a couple of garbage bags in the backpack. One goes over the laptop if it rains, another might come in handy for anything else. I have a 17 inch Lenovo that weighs over 10 pounds without all the extras.

    I put up a page with more backpack details at a bike and a backpack.

    I really like backpacks and have never used panniers.
    mainlytext.com/bike.html Bicycling in winter, the entertainment version

  16. #16
    Senior Member seafood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbrown View Post
    I have carried various laptops in my panniers for 15 years now and it has never been an issue as far as keeping it dry. I use Ortlieb panniers and nothing ever gets wet. They are the best as far as being water proof. I've crashed twice and neither time did the laptop get damaged. Which really amazed me since one time the bicycle was totally destroyed. The damage to the bike was front wheel destroyed, front fork destroyed, cranks bent and finally rear frame bent. No damage to myself either so I count myself lucky for both the laptop and myself on that one.
    That crash info is very interesting. No doubt, it sounds like a high impact event and it's probably very good that your fork, wheel, and parts of the rear triangle acting like crumple zones and absorbing some impact.

  17. #17
    Senior Member seafood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoppydc View Post
    I use a pannier to carry my laptop and other stuff (clothes, lunch, etc.) and I like that better than a backpack. I found the backpack made me too top-heavy and it made it too hard for me to look back left or right without losing my balance. Plus, I have some back trouble and its better for me to keep excess weight off my back (YMMV).
    Thank you for all the info! One thing I will say about messenger bags is that it used to hurt my upper body musculature (shoulders, thoracic vertebra, etc.) until I realized what I was doing wrong. Initially, I would tighten up on the shoulder strap to secure the bag and then buckle the waist strap, but not too tight. This would of course cause the weight to be carried by back and would hurt no matter if I used the bag on a bicycle or motorcycle. One day I had an epiphany -- the shoulder strap is not for supporting the bulk of the weight; rather the waist strap is! Once I tightened the waist strap so that the bag would ride primarily on my hips and then have the shoulder strap just barely tight enough for the bag not to flop around, the pain and discomfort stopped and never returned. This is why I'm in no big hurry to find a better alternative. My back is happy, if I can get the weight off my hips now, it'll just be icing on the cake.

    For those using backpacks or messenger bags with waist straps, take heed (if you don't already know). The next day after my moment of enlightenment, I enthusiastically told my wife and she said, "You only just realized this now?" Yeah, I'm not the brightest knife in the shed sometimes...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by SPECELIZEDRIDER View Post
    I have a large ASUS gaming laptop that I carry in Panniers to keep the weight lower and it works well.

    i am pretty sure your laptop weighs the same amount in my large waterproof ortlieb back pack.

    imo, those who ride aggressively should ditch the panniers. they are fine for a grocery bike or a tourer but when mixing it up with the cagers i want my center of gravity to be underneath my legs.

  19. #19
    Senior Member robble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    i am pretty sure your laptop weighs the same amount in my large waterproof ortlieb back pack.

    imo, those who ride aggressively should ditch the panniers. they are fine for a grocery bike or a tourer but when mixing it up with the cagers i want my center of gravity to be underneath my legs.
    What do you think will give a lower COG than panniers? your backpack?
    Trek 7.4FX

  20. #20
    Mmm hm! agent pombero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    imo, those who ride aggressively should ditch the panniers. they are fine for a grocery bike or a tourer but when mixing it up with the cagers i want my center of gravity to be underneath my legs.
    I've had zero problems over the years with riding w/ panniers & aggressive riding...

    IMO if you're riding aggressively the best option is to carry nothing, no panniers, and least of all a backpack with all that weight on the back, neck, and shoulders.

  21. #21
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    Arkel Bug. Then you can do whatever you want. But panniers are better.

    J.

  22. #22
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    I hate transporting my laptop on my bike, but if I must, I like a backpack as our roads are terribly bumpy and I feel like the machine takes less pounding through my body than hanging on a steel bike frame. I guess my body adds one more layer of shock absorption, at least in my mind.

    I am not sure that laptops even care about getting knocked around a bit. Certainly the ones with solid state hard drives are not bothered by a bit of rattling in a pannier.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  23. #23
    Captain Big Ring tractorlegs's Avatar
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    I would use a backpack, but I stop a lot and do errands on commutes. For example I leave work, then if I stop at a walgreen's or a grocery on the way home it's much easier just to lock the bike and dash inside rather than worry about stuff I have in my panniers. But if I'm not going to stop somewhere it makes no difference to me
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    I hate transporting my laptop on my bike, but if I must, I like a backpack as our roads are terribly bumpy and I feel like the machine takes less pounding through my body than hanging on a steel bike frame. I guess my body adds one more layer of shock absorption, at least in my mind.

    I am not sure that laptops even care about getting knocked around a bit. Certainly the ones with solid state hard drives are not bothered by a bit of rattling in a pannier.
    that's what's great about the Arkel Bug. It's a neoprene sleeve that hangs in the bag so the laptop is suspended in the neoprene which acts as a shock absorber.

    J.

  25. #25
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    Used a pannier for years until this summer when the corner of the laptop got into the spokes. Ripped the corner of the lid to shreds, including the display. I was in traffic on a bumpy road,and accelerated hard to keep up. Now I use a backpack.
    What is bicycle touring?
    "So I kept looking and eventually found that a spark plug had same threads. So I cycled next two days until I got to Jackson, MS with a spark plug instead of right pedal." - mev

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