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  1. #1
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    Engineering laptop in a bag?

    Hey folks,

    Long time mountain biker looking to get a few more miles in (60+ hour weeks make it hard to get a post-work ride in!), so I'm looking at picking up a commuter bike this winter and starting once the sun is out a little later (I don't trust Boston drivers further than they can throw me with their car). I'm still deciding exactly which bike to get on my <$1000 budget (likely a 'cross bike, but steel or aluminum? canti or disc? Either way, will likely be a BD/Nashbar special if I can't find used), and also how to carry my stuff to/from work.

    I plan on commuting about 3 days a week, 14 miles each way. Driving twice a week will let me bring clothes and new towels and the like in, but it's not uncommon for me to have to lug my 15" engineering computer home with me. Is my best bet to keep it in my backpack, or are there rack top bags/panniers that will safely carry my big hunk of electronics? Even if there are, is it still better to deal with the sweat of carrying it in a backpack?

  2. #2
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    Safest on the shoulders, but I carried mine in a pannier in a laptop sleeve. 9 months if commuting, no issues so far. Remember. to shutdown, not suspend, your laptop.
    http://treadrightly.blogspot.com/

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    I have an SSD, so it shouldn't be a problem either way. Although i certainly won't be bringing it home on wet days - I've heard $2000 laptops don't like water. Go figure.

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    Senior Member G1nko's Avatar
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    I carried my engineering laptop for 5 years in an Arkel pannier with an add-in laptop sleeve. I bought a Carradice Bike Bureau in November and now I switch between that and a home-made front-rack bag. I've never had an issue with my laptop. I even crashed once with the Arkels; laptop fared better than I did.
    '11 WorkCycles Secret Service | '98 Waterford 1250 | '87 Trek 330 | '75 Peugeot UO-8 | '48 Raleigh Dawn Tourist

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    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    I'm a fan of having one machine at work and one at home and syncing them.
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  6. #6
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by G1nko View Post
    I carried my engineering laptop for 5 years in an Arkel pannier with an add-in laptop sleeve. I bought a Carradice Bike Bureau in November and now I switch between that and a home-made front-rack bag. I've never had an issue with my laptop. I even crashed once with the Arkels; laptop fared better than I did.
    I second the Arkel bags. I use the Briefcase bag. Only caution with this bag is be weary of short chainstays, as it is pretty big. I often put it on my front rack. I don't have issues with heel stike on any of my bikes (Surly LHT, Surly Troll and Breezer uptown 8). Arkel has a dimensions spec that tells you how to measure your laptop and see if it fits.

  7. #7
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    I occasionally carry my engineering laptop (15in Also) in a backpack. It doesn't fit my panniers otherwise it would go in there. Mine gets abused much harder on the job than a ride in a pannier so if it fits, I would stuff it in there.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

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    First time i hear about an engineering laptop. I thought laptops were ... laptops from what i know.
    I put my laptop inside a laptop "soft" case from targus which is inside an aluminum "hard" case which i attached on the bike via an homemade system.
    Last edited by erig007; 02-04-13 at 06:18 AM.

  9. #9
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    First time i hear about an engineering laptop. I thought laptops were ... laptops from what i know.
    I put my laptop inside a laptop "soft" case from targus which is inside an aluminum "hard" case
    They have different processors and use multiple virtual machines because of the multitude of conflicting design softwares we have to use. If used in the field where vibration and water or chemicals will be around the laptop it has to have distinct ruggedized features built in. Standard business class laptops do not hold up in some engineering realms. So generally they are more rugged and certainly can withstand a ride in a pannier. That's what makes them different.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by droy45 View Post
    They have different processors and use multiple virtual machines because of the multitude of conflicting design softwares we have to use. If used in the field where vibration and water or chemicals will be around the laptop it has to have distinct ruggedized features built in. Standard business class laptops do not hold up in some engineering realms. So generally they are more rugged and certainly can withstand a ride in a pannier. That's what makes them different.
    Well anyone is free to call them the way he wants but from what i know the tougher laptops on the market are toughbook which are still called laptops or something-rugged laptops but not engineering laptops
    http://www.panasonic.com/business/to...-computers.asp

    Anyway that's not very important here.
    Last edited by erig007; 02-04-13 at 06:38 AM.

  11. #11
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    Well anyone is free to call them the way he wants but from what i know the tougher laptops on the market are toughbook which are still called laptops or something-rugged laptops but not engineering laptops
    http://www.panasonic.com/business/to...-computers.asp

    Anyway that's not very important here.
    Well no, you missed my point. What I meant was these are not something you buy in a store or from the manufacturer. You have to build these up for your intended purpose. That's what we do. The toughbooks are are just that, "tough". no special features there. Sorry for the confusion. Not sure if the OP is concerned with that. We get concerned with this because it costs quite a bit to build one of these up.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  12. #12
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    ...but from what i know the tougher laptops on the market are toughbook which are still called laptops or something-rugged laptops but not engineering laptops
    http://www.panasonic.com/business/to...-computers.asp
    Hmmm... odd... I've studied engineering for 11 years and have been a faculty member for 12 years. I've never heard of an "engineering laptop" as described either by my colleagues or any of the IT support staff. Maybe it's a field-specific term.

    I'm a proponent of syncing between separate machines. But if you have no choice but to bring the laptop back and forth occasionally, I would invest a very good but lightweight case. Tom Bihn - a specialty bag maker out of Seattle (www.tombihn.com) - has a light but durable laptop case that would help if the laptop has to go in a backpack or a pannier.
    Rivendell Sam Hillborne and Hunqapillar; Brompton M6R Sage Green; Salsa Mukluk 3 FAT Bike; Nerdy Academic; Nikonian; Wing Chun; and a Patridge in a Pear Tree.

  13. #13
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    Hmmm... odd... I've studied engineering for 11 years and have been a faculty member for 12 years. I've never heard of an "engineering laptop" as described either by my colleagues or any of the IT support staff. Maybe it's a field-specific term.

    I'm a proponent of syncing between separate machines. But if you have no choice but to bring the laptop back and forth occasionally, I would invest a very good but lightweight case. Tom Bihn - a specialty bag maker out of Seattle (www.tombihn.com) - has a light but durable laptop case that would help if the laptop has to go in a backpack or a pannier.
    You just learned something new
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  14. #14
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    Hmmm... odd... I've studied engineering for 11 years and have been a faculty member for 12 years. I've never heard of an "engineering laptop" as described either by my colleagues or any of the IT support staff. Maybe it's a field-specific term.

    I'm a proponent of syncing between separate machines. But if you have no choice but to bring the laptop back and forth occasionally, I would invest a very good but lightweight case. Tom Bihn - a specialty bag maker out of Seattle (www.tombihn.com) - has a light but durable laptop case that would help if the laptop has to go in a backpack or a pannier.
    I must agree about the syncing of data, especially because it is in multiple locations at one time which promotes redundancy, which is great for preventing data loss.

    I also think that any company worth it's salt would provide an employee with a machine for home, one for the office and one for the worksite (all three subject to data monitoring), rather than having data traveling by unsecured laptop on a bicycle.

    The whole situation described by the OP (and the subsequent nomenclature discussion) seems obtuse.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member AusTexMurf's Avatar
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    Use a laptop sleeve and put it in a quality pannier, makes for a much more enjoyable ride on a decent length commute.
    Ortlieb Office or Downtown are both very nice for commuting with a laptop.
    Racktime Workit Pro is the one I use.

    Actually, I was hit by a car about 4 years ago on a cold day. I was carrying my laptop in a laptop backpack, wearing my helmet and stretchy soft shell jacket. I went over the car and then hit and rolled in a ditch. Broke my glasses, my watch, and the latch on my laptop. Amazingly enough, the laptop functioned fine, just needed to replace the latching mechanism. Guess they are tougher than one might think.........

    Back wheel and left knee didn't fare so well. Ended up with knee surgery and a new wheel. Immediately getting back into cycling is what allowed my knee to recover so quickly after major surgery. Operation in October, back on the bike in about 12-14 days, and back to running and even on the lacrosse field by that January.
    Last edited by AusTexMurf; 02-04-13 at 08:20 AM.

  16. #16
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Who pays for the computer? How often do you replace computers? I'd expect that carrying a laptop on a bike will shorten its life because of vibration, even if your storage is SSD. The circuit boards have a whole lot of stuff per square meter, and they can crack. I understand they have a few different layers, too. I would carry it on my back if I paid for it and wanted to get maximum life out of it.

    I notice laptops don't last as long as desktops. I think moving a computer is hard on it. Laptops that stay on one desk all their lives seem to last a long time.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  17. #17
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    I must agree about the syncing of data, especially because it is in multiple locations at one time which promotes redundancy, which is great for preventing data loss.

    I also think that any company worth it's salt would provide an employee with a machine for home, one for the office and one for the worksite (all three subject to data monitoring), rather than having data traveling by unsecured laptop on a bicycle.

    The whole situation described by the OP (and the subsequent nomenclature discussion) seems obtuse.
    The data and files don't travel back and forth. Everything is copied onto servers locally and the laptop is simply used as a terminal and you VNC into your system with. It's the 25 or more software packages that has to live in the laptop that is needed. The OP just wanted to know if he can tote his laptop back and forth while commuting. Answer, is Yes.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmblur View Post
    Hey folks,
    I plan on commuting about 3 days a week, 14 miles each way. Driving twice a week will let me bring clothes and new towels and the like in, but it's not uncommon for me to have to lug my 15" engineering computer home with me. Is my best bet to keep it in my backpack, or are there rack top bags/panniers that will safely carry my big hunk of electronics? Even if there are, is it still better to deal with the sweat of carrying it in a backpack?
    I am an engineer, and carry my laptop with me a couple of times per week. My rig consists of:

    Steel frame, with relaxed geometry (similar to Surly LHT).
    Rear Rack
    I carry my clothes in an Arkel 'Bug' pannier
    I carry my laptop in an Arkel briefcase - the briefcase has a suspended neoprene pouch that holds my full size laptop in it and protects the laptop.

  19. #19
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Hmmm. I've been in IT for 25 years and at an engineering firm for 15 of those and have never heard of an "Engineering Laptop" either. There's all kinds of engineers though and even the pencil pushers amongst them tend to need higher end equipment. We do have a lab and people who do field work so we've utilized ruggedized laptops in the past. Stock laptops can run virtual machines pretty well if they're outfitted correctly so I'm not sure I understand the need for custom hardware or processors.

    Anyway I've been commuting regularly with various laptops for about 10 years and occasionally for a few years before that. I've had a couple of Dells and a couple of Macbooks. The last 3 I rarely if ever shutdown. Drives are parked when a computer is in sleep mode. Some have accelerometers to park the drives if a free fall is detected. I only had problems with one of the Dells and I doubt that anything to do with commuting.

    90% of the time I use a backpack. I have a small padded bag I use for the laptop itself. It's not much more than a sleeve with a few pockets and a strap. The whole thing fits in my backpack. I roll up my clothes and slide them between the outside of the pack and the laptop case. The laptop in its padded case is up against my back.

    When using a pannier I pack it in a similar manner.

    I've taken the occasional spill during the winter but nothing serious. The laptops I've had at home have been subjected to far more abuse. Our current one has been knocked off the bed a couple times while open and suffered no damage. It's also been dropped at least once by my 8 year old daughter but I suspect it's happened more often. We have hardwood floors all over the house.

    Our Powerbook G4 from about 2004 or so led a terrible life. It had an aluminum case that seemed much more susceptible to damage than the current models. It had little pings and dents all over it. When it came time to replace the battery I ended up buying a used outer case because the new battery made the rest of the laptop look so crappy. Two weeks later I saw the whole thing flopping down the stairs. Both the battery and the new case had a fresh set of dents but still functioned fine. Eventually the hard drive started to act up after my wife lost her grip on the laptop while taking it out of the trunk of the car. It ended up on the concrete. Why she didn't have it in a case I don't know. I suspect it was really the fall down the stairs that started the problem with the hard drive anyway.

    My point is that unless you're in a very serious accident your laptop will most likely be fine.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 02-04-13 at 10:10 AM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  20. #20
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    I carry my laptop same distance as yours a couple times per week. Been doing it for years and never a problem. Arkel panniers, no special bag or padding although I do wrap it in a trash bag on rainy days. The only consideration I take for it sometimes in the winter is to give it 15 minutes to normalize temps before powering up, but usually the shower/cleanup time takes care of that. Not sure my laptop would like to spin up at 0F.
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  21. #21
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=tjspiel;15235271]Hmmm. I've been in IT for 25 years and at an engineering firm for 15 of those and have never heard of an "Engineering Laptop" either. There's all kinds of engineers though and even the pencil pushers amongst them tend to need higher end equipment. We do have a lab and people who do field work so we've utilized ruggedized laptops in the past. Stock laptops can run virtual machines pretty well if they're outfitted correctly so I'm not sure I understand the need for custom hardware or processors.

    Alot of "Hmmm's" here. I just gave it my best shot at explaining what I was told they were comprised of . I'm no expert, I just do the electrical engineering work and use what is issued to me and seem to understand this theory just fine. Not sure why some cannot get their arms around that. Oh Well, back to cycling now.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  22. #22
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    I've done pannier and backpack. Used to wrap it in my change of clothes, then put the entire thing in a layer of grocery bags or two, based on wetness. When on my back I've crashed in the winter, didn't sustain any real damage. When having it in the pannier, I put it on the side opposite of the side I laydown on, when I have time to process that in OH S*** kind of moments. That way it won't scrape along side the road in a minor emergency, in a real emergency, who cares, work will buy me a new one, or I'm dead anyways.
    In the words of Einstein
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  23. #23
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by droy45 View Post
    Alot of "Hmmm's" here. I just gave it my best shot at explaining what I was told they were comprised of . I'm no expert, I just do the electrical engineering work and use what is issued to me and seem to understand this theory just fine. Not sure why some cannot get their arms around that. Oh Well, back to cycling now.
    I think I understand the needs but I'm guessing if you asked a bunch of PEs what an "Engineering Laptop" was they'd either scratch their heads or describe something a bit different than what you did. In other words, while I'm sure every engineer in your company knows what is meant by that, I'm not so sure that it's an industry recognized term. Could be wrong though.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  24. #24
    Senior Member G1nko's Avatar
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    Wow. Talk about going off topic.

    My company has a bunch of different builds. Which build you get depends on your job. Engineers get "Engineering laptops." Agents get "Field laptops." People who aren't on call or don't have to travel get some flavor of desktop. I didn't even think twice about "engineering laptop" because it has nothing to do with the hardware of the laptop, but with the software and level of privilege; there's no mystery to it and we use the term all the time.

    That said, OP - lotsa folks run back and forth to work with laptops on bikes in panniers and haven't had a problem.
    '11 WorkCycles Secret Service | '98 Waterford 1250 | '87 Trek 330 | '75 Peugeot UO-8 | '48 Raleigh Dawn Tourist

  25. #25
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Cant you transfer data with a SD card or thumb drive.. they are large capacity these days.
    and not have to bring the whole thing?

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