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Results of experimenting with panniers instead of backpack

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Results of experimenting with panniers instead of backpack

Old 09-04-15, 11:57 AM
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Cyclosaurus
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Results of experimenting with panniers instead of backpack

For a while I used by Timbuk2 Shift pannier with my vintage mtb commuter. Then I started using my folding bike and CX bike more, so I started using my Osprey Momentum backpack instead. And my wife commandeered the Shift for her cargo bike. Been really happy with the backpack, but I happened to find a Timbuk2 Cog pannier at Nordstrom Rack for $50 and they were able to order me one from another store for the same price. It's a nice commuting pannier, roomy, has a padded laptop sleeve, and a shoulder strap to detach and take with you. I loaded it up yesterday and rode my usual commute. With the 90F+ heat in Chicago right now, it seemed like as good of a time as any to see how I liked not having a backpack. I also bought some stuff downtown and went home with full panniers. The question is, would I become one of the converted? Would I start answering every thread that asks "What backpack should I get?" with "None. Get panniers instead." as others on Team Pannier do?

In short, I can say a pretty definitive no. Not for my commute. I'm often threading through downtown congestion, hopping curbs (sometimes at oblique angles), swerving around glass on the MUP at speed, etc. The effect of all the weight being on the rear wheel rather than on my body made these maneuvers much less sure. A lot of things I would have done on the bike I avoided because it just didn't feel right. I tried to hop the rear wheel over a 2" lip at a 30 degree angle and instead it just slid along almost causing a crash. The bike felt much less like a single rigid machine than a front end and a back end that sometimes were doing two different things. And it was warm enough that I had to change my shirt when I got to the office anyway.

I get the reason for choosing panniers over a backpack, and if I'm on a ride where speed and agility are less important than comfort and endurance, I'd probably go that route. But the compromises it forces me to make on my typical commute mean I'm sticking with the backback, sweaty back and all. Happy to have the panniers and looking forward to using them for shopping trips and other expeditions. But I much prefer the way the bike handles with the load on me.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:25 PM
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^ good summary of the pros and cons of each way. I have panniers and handlebar bag on my commuter and tourer, and use a backpack when I take my fixed gear to work. Each method is right for the type of bike.

I like the roominess of dual panniers, when I need to haul extra stuff to/from work. Also, the feeling of freedom from extra *stuff* on me.

I like the zippiness of my fixed gear without the odd weight ballast of panniers and a handlebar bag. It makes me want to ride with a bit more agility. Although, the backpack is sweatier, and it's not easy to get into quickly, unlike the convenience of a handlebar bag.

But in the end, I'm not faster or slower with either one. It's a matter of preference. I'm glad that I can choose on any particular day.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:31 PM
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I like a Carradice saddlebag. None of the far-rear weight like with panniers, but without the sweaty back that a backpack brings.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:37 PM
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I use a trunk bag packed tight so nothing shifts around. Don't notice a huge difference in handling with or without it. Backpacks are like wearing a straight jacket (or at least how I imagine it would be to wear one). Not only are you moving the weight, you are carrying it on your back, which takes extra energy. Plus, you greatly reduce cooling in an area that doesn't get as much airflow.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:37 PM
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my foul weather commuter has a rack and panniers. i also use it when i need to make grocery runs and other errands on the way home from work. it works very well for that purpose.

but if the weather allows and i don't have any heavy hauling duties for the day, i'm much happier on my zippy, nimble little road bike with a back pack. it's simply a more fun way to ride.

horses for courses.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by lostarchitect View Post
I like a Carradice saddlebag. None of the far-rear weight like with panniers, but without the sweaty back that a backpack brings.
I would try one of those if it would hold a 14" laptop.

I have pretty well gone over to team backpack. The big drawback is no more room for a giant salad for lunch. I have 2 bikes w/ racks for panniers (although my 14 yr old has taken over one of them) and their handling is not hurt, or is even helped, by panniers, but the other 2 that I ride, while I have tried racks, ride measurably worse. The ride decay bugs me more than a sweaty back.
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Old 09-04-15, 01:20 PM
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I'm on Team Pannier for now, but when I get my first road bike, I'll consider a Carradice saddlebag for carrying my work clothes, and use my current bike for the grocery runs and commuting on days that I think I might want to stop by the grocery.

I was also thinking about getting a Fly6 rear-facing camera/tail-light, but it mounts on the seatpost, which is where the Carradice would go too - I'd have to decide which I'd value more....
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Old 09-04-15, 01:25 PM
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I've been using a smallish backpack for my office commute, just big enough for my clothes and a couple things to eat upon arrival. Doesn't really bother me at all and the bike handles the same with or without it.
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Old 09-04-15, 03:01 PM
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Tried a backpack once. Just once. Not for me. I just pack lunch in a small trunk bag roll with that
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Old 09-04-15, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclosaurus View Post
, , , ,, , Not for my commute. I'm often threading through downtown congestion, hopping curbs (sometimes at oblique angles), swerving around glass on the MUP at speed, etc. The effect of all the weight being on the rear wheel rather than on my body made these maneuvers much less sure. A lot of things I would have done on the bike I avoided because it just didn't feel right. I tried to hop the rear wheel over a 2" lip at a 30 degree angle and instead it just slid along almost causing a crash. The bike felt much less like a single rigid machine than a front end and a back end that sometimes were doing two different things. And it was warm enough that I had to change my shirt when I got to the office anyway.

I get the reason for choosing panniers over a backpack, and if I'm on a ride where speed and agility are less important than comfort and endurance, I'd probably go that route. But the compromises it forces me to make on my typical commute mean I'm sticking with the backback, sweaty back and all. Happy to have the panniers and looking forward to using them for shopping trips and other expeditions. But I much prefer the way the bike handles with the load on me.
+1 Not for my commute either, and I'm rarely swerving through traffic. There are a number of curbs I have to bunny hop every day though, and that doesn't work so well with panniers.

I've never minded the backpack making me too warm. In MN in the winter, that's a good thing, and in the summer . . . well, winter's coming soon, better to enjoy as much heat at you can!
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Old 09-04-15, 11:18 PM
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As you note, it depends heavily on your situation.

Working at suburban jobs or cities with light traffic, I prefer the Carradice saddle bag (usually with panniers) to keep weight off my back and the ability to carry plenty of groceries or anything else I might get when shopping. I find the bike handles fine (not that 40-50 year old utility bikes are know for aggressive handling) and I don't need to (or want to) weave through traffic aggressively.

When I lived in Philadelphia years ago, I used a backpack, primarily because my city rides were much shorter (2-3 miles each way vs. 5-10 miles) and I didn't have to worry about theft (taking the back pack was more convenient than Carradice bags or some panniers).

I suspect in Philadelphia now I'd use panniers that are easier to attach and remove.
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Old 09-05-15, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by loky1179 View Post
I've never minded the backpack making me too warm. In MN in the winter, that's a good thing, and in the summer . . . well, winter's coming soon, better to enjoy as much heat at you can!
Good point. Also thinking about greater ease of filtering through stopped cars during rush hour. My colleagues on road bikes with backpacks can do that more easily than me with my wider handlebar bike and panniers. REI has a bunch of Chrome backpacks for cycling on sale this weekend.

I'm not likely to buy a road bike this soon - I'd be more likely to go backpack on that - but it's something I'm thinking about now, thanks to this thread.
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Old 09-05-15, 01:19 PM
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Brompton O bag, it comes off front bag mount clip, when I am not riding ..
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