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Panniers vs Backpack?

Old 07-13-17, 11:47 AM
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dynawolf
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Panniers vs Backpack?

I have an old rigid folk mountain bike and I want to try commuting. Is the expense of panniers for the bike worth it? Or, will a backpack work?
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Old 07-13-17, 12:17 PM
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Backpack makes more sense if you are just testing the waters with commuting. But it can cause some discomfort on really hot days. I somehow see panniers as a bigger commitment to commuting.
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Old 07-13-17, 12:55 PM
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Backpack ... done about 7000 km with one. Panniers are not really useful for off the bike and/or multimodal commuting or traveling. Also, they're very expensive for their supposed utility.
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Old 07-13-17, 01:00 PM
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Depends on the length of the trip and how much you need to carry.

I commuted for years riding 6 miles each way and carrying a messenger bag. I rarely had more than a few pounds, ie. laptop and some junk. I might sometimes carry much more, ie. a watermelon, but for a much shorter distance, typically starting halfway home.

If I had a longer commute, or carried more weight, I'd have scrapped the messenger bag and gone for something carried on the bike. I might also have done so for the commute as it was, except that the messenger bag gave me the flexibility to change bikes more easily.
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Old 07-13-17, 01:02 PM
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I have been using this commuter pannier since 1992, and it cost a lot less back then. Ends up being pretty cheap if you actually use it. I ride my bike to the train station then have about a 10 minute walk after the train ride. The commuter pannier is way better than a backpack.
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Old 07-13-17, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I have been using this commuter pannier since 1992, and it cost a lot less back then. Ends up being pretty cheap if you actually use it. I ride my bike to the train station then have about a 10 minute walk after the train ride. The commuter pannier is way better than a backpack.
Anything not leaving me with the full range of two arms/hands is really a no go on a busy subway commute (London). Something hanging from one's side will easy cause a "situation” on a narrow platform.

I can see why people might sweat more with a backpack, but I still find the panniers an expensive one trick pony. For example, would I really want to stand on a train for an hour holding what you presented (I'll take the backpack every time and continue to read a book on the mobile phone with two free hands.)
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Old 07-13-17, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by dynawolf View Post
I have an old rigid folk mountain bike and I want to try commuting. Is the expense of panniers for the bike worth it? Or, will a backpack work?

I rack my pack.
I have one road bike without a rack, I wear the backpack for that bike, but loose, real loose with it it resting on the small of my back. Much cooler that way...but still hot.
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Old 07-13-17, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
anything not leaving me with the full range of two arms/hands is really a no go on a busy subway commute (london). Something hanging from one's side will easy cause a "situation” on a narrow platform.

I can see why people might sweat more with a backpack, but i still find the panniers an expensive one trick pony. For example, would i really want to stand on a train for an hour holding what you presented (i'll take the backpack every time and continue to read a book on the mobile phone with two free hands.)
+1
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Old 07-13-17, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
Anything not leaving me with the full range of two arms/hands is really a no go on a busy subway commute (London). Something hanging from one's side will easy cause a "situation” on a narrow platform.

I can see why people might sweat more with a backpack, but I still find the panniers an expensive one trick pony. For example, would I really want to stand on a train for an hour holding what you presented (I'll take the backpack every time and continue to read a book on the mobile phone with two free hands.)
People in London don't ride the subway with laptop bags and shoulder straps? That really surprises me.

If I have to stand on the train I just put the bag on the floor between my legs. It's not really that big of a deal. I have backpacks and messenger bags too and can certainly think of commuting circumstances when one of those options would be better. For my personal situation, the commuter pannier is nearly always better and has been very much worth the investment. It just comes down to personal preference and the nature of the commute.
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Old 07-13-17, 02:45 PM
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Backpack all the way. As already noted, hands are free when off the bike, always have it with me when shopping don't have to worry about accidentally leaving the bag on the bike when locking up, can ride any of my bikes to work or where ever, not just the one that has the rack, prefer the weight on my body instead of the heavy feeling of a weighted down bike when cornering or pedaling out of the saddle.

Have become so accustomed to the bag weight on the body that it's strange to ride without a backpack, feels wrong.
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Old 07-13-17, 02:50 PM
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This has been asked over and over for years.

My answer: neither.
Panniers are great, but you can't go fast, I hate them in a head wind, and I can't bunny hop or throw the bike around.
Backpacks put the load too high on my back (I'm often in the drops) and are way, way too sweaty.

Messenger bag has no down sides. Sits lower - on my pelvis more than on my back. No wind or sweat issues. All the worthwhile ones come with a chest strap (which is mandatory).

Timbuk2 makes some good ones.
(my panniers and backpacks have been collecting dust)
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Old 07-13-17, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
People in London don't ride the subway with laptop bags and shoulder straps? That really surprises me.
around 3:1 backpacks to others (except female purses ... panniers, even the excellent Ortlieb, are definitely not so nice, IMHO).




Last edited by acidfast7; 07-13-17 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 07-13-17, 02:55 PM
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Backpack inside the pannier.

Actually you could just start with the backpack, and if you didn't like riding while wearing it get a pannier or basket. I think baskets are great for commuting because you can put a backpack in it, or a messenger style bag, or grocery bags...and baskets are much cheaper than panniers usually.
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Old 07-13-17, 06:03 PM
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Backpack will work fine. If it's hot or you have a long commute you may have a very sweaty back. Panniers are a bit more complicated as you will need a rack and then the panniers, and yes, more expensive as well. I use a backpack, but I don't mind the sweat as I have a shower at work. I also have panniers for those days when I need to haul a lot of supplies to and from work. A backpack is much more convenient if you have to do any walking or carrying the bike up/down stairs, or on a bus or subway.
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Old 07-13-17, 06:15 PM
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On my road bike, backpack. I only commute on it a few months of the year in dry, warm conditions. I carry very little on those commutes.

The rest of the year, rack and panniers on my touring bike. Way more comfortable than a backpack and the capacity to carry a lot more gear (clothing, layers, raingear.)

It depends on the type of bike, the level of comfort you want, the amount of gear, and how much you are willing to spend.

Oh, and this probably the first thread to discuss this subject, right?
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Old 07-13-17, 06:53 PM
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I commute several times a week with a backpack, 32 mi RT usually, in 80 and 90+ F temps. It will work fine. And if it really bothers you can consider panniers then. Give it a try.
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Old 07-13-17, 07:13 PM
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Assuming one has a rack, which if the discussion involves panniers as an option, I would assume that, one could always put their backpack in a rear basket.


One advantage that has, if you are going to do some shopping after work, you can put stuff in both the backpack which you wear and then in the basket, which is now empty of the backpack.


The only downside that I can see is that you have the weight of the rear basket.
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Old 07-13-17, 07:21 PM
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These have been some good entry level panniers.

Ventura Amsterdam Double Bicycle Pannier Bag-122315 - The Home Depot
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Old 07-13-17, 08:25 PM
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i tried with a backpack for a while. it wasn't bad. other than my back getting sweaty i have no complaints. even in the rain, as long as i had a rain cover for my backpack (it was included with the backpack) it was more or less fine. out of an abundance of caution, i used a waterproof stuff sack inside my backpack to ensure that my clothes would remain dry. the only reason i went with a rack and panniers is out of curiosity. i went with an axiom streamliner disc dlx and ortlieb sportpacker plus panniers. in my opinion, the rack and pannier set up works great and they serve my purposes well. admittedly they're not as agile as wearing the backpack in while riding but i kinda enjoy riding the bike unencumbered by the straps of the backpack. also, because i use both panniers, i'm able to keep one loaded with things like rain gear, my u-lock and throw my lunch inside of it and then use the other pannier to hold my clothes and things that i can just easily take off the bike and carry in with me to work. whereas carrying all of those things on the backpack was possible, it isn't as easy as carrying all of those things via the panniers.

my vote is rack and panniers for convenience only.
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Old 07-13-17, 09:01 PM
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I have a longish commute so prefer a backback as it's faster (more aero). I use the backpack to take lunches and usually try and ride with no pack 2-3 days/wk.
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Old 07-13-17, 09:04 PM
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Panniers. Besides, I've never owned a backpack.
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Old 07-13-17, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
Assuming one has a rack, which if the discussion involves panniers as an option, I would assume that, one could always put their backpack in a rear basket.


One advantage that has, if you are going to do some shopping after work, you can put stuff in both the backpack which you wear and then in the basket, which is now empty of the backpack.


The only downside that I can see is that you have the weight of the rear basket.
+1

Having started with a backpack and experiencing it's downsides (sweaty back and weight on my back) I decided it wasn't for me. Went to panniers and experienced all the negatives even though I still favor them for groceries, longer trips and times when I'm carrying more than normal. I now use a basket (on the front, but back basket works too) and am loving it. Can throw whatever I'm carrying (backpack or other small bag) in there and be on my way. I wish I would've started out with this setup. Would've saved me some dough.
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Old 07-13-17, 09:29 PM
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How much are you planning on carrying? Either works fine. The advantage to backpacks is you can get a small one for cheap. You can get away with just a rack if you are just wanting to carry a lock and some small stuff.

Play with your setup. Take what you think you'll need. If you never use it get rid of it. Figure out what you should have brought. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But it helps you plan for the next one.

Here's my commuter with a rack and bag. The bag contains a pump, spare tube, bungee, gloves, zip ties and scissors. The bag in the pic was less than $2 at Goodwill. Not shown is the backpack I also carry.

[IMG]83rd Ave Bridge by res1due, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 07-13-17, 10:11 PM
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I find a backpack is handy. Just toss it on the back and go. I do have a rack on the old road bike, but I only use it for touring and the occasional bulky load that can be easily tied down (pizza boxes?)
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Old 07-14-17, 07:34 AM
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Neither for me unless I'm picking up a lot of groceries or something that requires pannier space.

I have a small leather messenger/laptop bag that serves my needs most days. I'll typically throw it in either a front or rear basket depending on where I am (I have my own bikes in a couple of cities and borrow from friends in two others) or strap it on to a rear rack. If necessary I'll throw it over my opposite shoulder (e.g., head through the strap) if I'm on a bike with no basket.

One of my bikes has a crate attached to the rear rack. Another has a front Stecco frame attached rack/basket thats removable.

Some about these racks here: https://localmile.org/city-bikes/

I really dislike riding with a backpack. This due to sweat and general discomfort.
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