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  1. #1
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    Backpack Vs. Pannier??

    Hi everyone -- The question about backpacks makes me wonder about a question I'm sure has been rehashed here many times before.

    I wanted to ask about which you prefer and why -- a backpack or pannier -- setting everything else equal (distance of commute, weight of cargo, etc)

    The second question would be -- which would you use for which kind of commute and which cargo weight?

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    For light weights and short distance, a backpack. Longer and/or heavier, a pannier. My backpack range is about 3 miles, then its the pannier.

  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    Hi everyone -- The question about backpacks makes me wonder about a question I'm sure has been rehashed here many times before.

    I wanted to ask about which you prefer and why -- a backpack or pannier -- setting everything else equal (distance of commute, weight of cargo, etc)

    The second question would be -- which would you use for which kind of commute and which cargo weight?
    I use panniers in the winter when I need to carry lots of stuff home (temperature fluctuations can be as much as 50F from morning to night). In the summer, I use a rack bag.

    Stuart Black

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    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    My back sweats when I look at a backpack. I use a pannier always. I use ortlieb panniers because their mounting system is very secure and they are waterproof. I can put them on my bike in less time than it takes to put a backpack on my back.
    Last edited by rainedon; 02-16-05 at 10:06 AM.

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    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rainedon
    My back sweats when I look at a backpack. I use a pannier always. I use ortlib panniers because their mounting system is very secure and they are waterproof. I can put them on my bike in less time than it takes to put a backpack on my back.
    I have a set of Ortliebs also but I don't like using them for day to day use (expensive and overkill for my area). I just picked up a set of these and I am amazed at how good they are for how little they cost. Their mounting system is almost as good as Ortlieb's. (I did modify the lower mount with an extra Ortlieb QL-1 mount I had.) I particularly like the rubber handles on the bags. Keeps them from hitting against the front wheel on the lowriders.

    Stuart Black

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?
    Far less than having the weight high on your back - it's a center of gravity thing. I wouldn't carry more than 5 to 10 pounds of stuff to work anyway.

    Stuart Black

  8. #8
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?
    I use the ortlieb front roller plus, which is smaller than the rear ortlieb. I typically only use one and I put it on the drive side in the rear (I chose drive side only because on the other side, it blocks the view of my mirror). If I have it loaded with heavy items, I can kind of feel it if I'm out of the saddle and rocking the bike, but if I have my butt in the saddle, I can't even tell that it is back there.

  9. #9
    Senior Member billh's Avatar
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    I started out with a pannier and used it happily for several years. But every once in awhile I would hit a pothole or have to hop a curb and it would fall off. One of those times, the s-hook got caught in my spokes in traffic and I almost went down. I switched to a backpack and have been using it for about a year with success. I only carry clothes and a book, not too heavy. Check out Vaude, they are awesome.

  10. #10
    SoCal Commuter DanO220's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?
    Try an emergency maneuver when your shoulders are restricted 'cause you needed to tighten your straps 'cause you happened to stop by the store and added a little weight to your pack and now it feels like you've got a bowling ball swinging around between your shoulder blades.

    Some riders - and you know who you are - go on about how panniers or trunks are dorky, and how you'll only carry so much in your bag. I think it's more about style than substance. But when push comes to shove you need a system that can adapt to a variety of situations - be it a commute or extended day trip. I have both a trunk and a set of panniers. The trunk works great for commuting to work. But just the other day I needed to pack a lunch, extra layer of clothes and a camera (a good size one). That meant double panniers.

    If you can't afford both a trunk and panniers get the latter. If your load is light there's no law says you can't mount just one side. If you're bound and determined to try carrying your load on your back (yea, it's kind of cool to just roll up, hop off yer horse and stroll inside without having to fiddle with your geeky bike luggage) try a proper messenger bag. They're not cheap, but they're designed to be a lot more comfortable than a pack. Back packs are only good for sore armpits and sweaty backs.

    DanO

  11. #11
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hi,
    panniers. Can you imagine going on a multiday trip with a backpack? I can't. The backpack thing got old fast. I switched.
    If it rains, I have a shell, and a helmet cover. If it gets dark, I got a vest. And a cellphone. And a small, but not crazy small, pump.

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    >> But every once in awhile I would hit a pothole or have to hop a curb and it would fall off. One of those times, the s-hook got caught in my spokes in traffic and I almost went down.

    Sounds like you are using an old fashioned mounting system. Modern clip-on systems like Ortleib and Carradice (the Rixen and Kaul Klickfix system) are much quicket to get on and off and cannot be dislodged.
    I used to use a hook and elastic and suffered similar problems, but since switching to a modern system I have riddden with bigger loads on bumpier tracks at higher speeds and never have a problem.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by billh
    I started out with a pannier and used it happily for several years. But every once in awhile I would hit a pothole or have to hop a curb and it would fall off. One of those times, the s-hook got caught in my spokes in traffic and I almost went down. I switched to a backpack and have been using it for about a year with success. I only carry clothes and a book, not too heavy. Check out Vaude, they are awesome.
    Your panniers sounds like it needed to be retrofitted with the Serratus clip system ($7 for a pair at MEC). There's absolutely NO way those can fall off, easy to remove as well. My original voyager panniers did that as well.

    There's no reason why panniers should ever fall off a rack, a properly designed one that is.

  14. #14
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?
    Think about it this way, the weight is on your bike whether it's on your frame or on your back. On your back the center of gravity is even higher and your mobility is decreased. You have to counteract the weight of the bike everytime you shift around or when the stuff in your bag shifts around.

    My bike actually seems more stable with panniers -> of course it is heaviers.

  15. #15
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    panniers are far superior to backpacks. If you are undecided, you could go the Arkel Bug route, but I bet you will find yourself using it as a pannier while on your bike, and a backpack once you get off your bike.

    www.arkel-od.com

  16. #16
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    Went from backpack to rack-trunk and now back to backpack. I use the lightest expandable 1lb "day" pack from REI...It carries a 4lb computer some days otherwise, lightweight shirt, pants, grooming and maybe a rain jacket.

  17. #17
    No pain, no gain. PainTrain's Avatar
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    I haven't looked back since switching to panniers.

    Also, pimpage to the Lone Peak brand, their rack lock-on system rules.

  18. #18
    OlyCommuter babaluey's Avatar
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    Why I use a backpack:
    1) If I stop to do some errands to/from work the backpack is much more convenient to take into a store.
    2) Hydration bladder
    3) I hike a lot so the backpack does double duty.
    4) I treat my commute ride as a workout - I ride as hard as I can. So, I'm sweating anyway.
    5) It holds everything I need - clothes (jeans, shirt, underclothes), raingear, emergency tools, lunch.
    5) I'm very comfortable with it.

    Which backpack for me: REI Alpine day pack (about 2300 cubic inches, I think).

    Obviously, you have to make your choice based on your own needs and comfort. You'll get many opinions from folks, many swearing that their system is the best. Which it is - for them. YMMV

  19. #19
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    Over the years I've used both panniers and backpacks. There are a billion variables so it's difficult to say which is best for you. I keep both available and for ME, the equation is:

    big gear = panniers
    little gear = backpack

    I prefer to use just the backpack because it gives me more mobility on some of the rougher parts of the commute - but that may not apply to you. I find it's great for my day-to-day stuff like clothes. For heavier stuff like my laptop I prefer to let the bike frame do the work, so it goes in a pannier if I need to commute with it.

    So my recommendation is to get both. You'll be glad you have the flexibility of choosing depending on what you have to carry on a particular day. Whatever you buy, spend the extra $$ if possible and get good quality stuff. Panniers especially will suffer the abuse of the road. And if you get a backpack, get one that is designed for bike commuting.

  20. #20
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    I use a backpack.

    -Running errands I just hop off the bike and take it with me. Easy that way.
    -3 Liter hydration bladder that works great for my longer commute on mondays, plus any cruises out in the country side.
    -Pretty good wicking system on the pack along with a wicking shirt mean that there is little sweat kept on my back and what is dries quickly when I take off the bag.
    -It doubles as a spare backpack for anyone who needs it when going backpacking.
    -Holds everything I want- including groceries when needed.

    Plus with the compression system on my bag, combined with the suspension system problems such as sore armpits and similar awakard things are not an issue.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonya9999
    What about control -- doesn't the extra weight on the frame reduce your control of the bike in turns, especially emergency maneuvers?
    I can trackstand on both fixed and freewheel bicycles with heavy off-centre panniers. Their effect on balance is minimal.

  22. #22
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    I've got a Topeak trunk and quick-release rack for commuting ~15-20 miles. I started off with a backpack - a hydration pack at that - when I switched, I was a much happier man.

  23. #23
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    The key for a backpack is mostly fit. The straps need to seat over the shoulders and not wander toward the shoulder joint. The better packs have a strap across the chest or hips to prevent that.

    Many packs are just too heavy because they have too many compartments. If you get a pack, besure to buy or make a waterproof rain cover. A surprise shower can really soak the contents.

  24. #24
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    I started with a Vaude Sienna backpack. It has a clever frame design with a web that holds most of the area away from the riders back...a breathing space that prevents trapping body heat and sweat. It also has waist and sternum straps that keep the pack from shifting no matter how you maneuver.

    As good as that was (I think it's the best cycling pack I've seen), I found hauling heavy loads tiring when riding with dropbars (strictly roadie) or I had a hulking pack with just a few items in it.

    I went to the Topeak trunk bag with one of their tubular racks that has a Quick Track mount for the bag. You can read about it on their website, but the short version is the bag can be mounted or removed in two seconds and is rock solid on the frame. The bag can normally carry the equivalent of 8 beverage cans, but also has a zippered gusset that nearly doubles the capacity. On my commute I can easily pack food containers for breakfast and lunch, some clothes and other necessities. The zippers are very well made, too, an important point for something that gets heavy use (and frequent overstuffing) for years.

    The Sienna still gets used if I have to carry something unusually bulky (a laptop, sports gear). I'll get around to panniers when the price is right (Arkel T-42's), but for now I have a great combination.

  25. #25
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    I use a Specialized Messenger bag. No complaints here I've used it in the summer to boot.

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