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What exactly is a messenger bag?

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What exactly is a messenger bag?

Old 11-16-05, 07:30 PM
  #1  
jur
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Is it just a bag with a long strap that hangs diagonally over the shoulder, with the bag sort of on the lower back? If so, wouldn't it slide forward while riding?

I have a new work laptop and have to lug it home company policy, and I'm wondering if the purpose laptop bag can do the job a la messenger bag.
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Old 11-16-05, 07:35 PM
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You've got the general idea right, but not complete.
The mess bag is lacking in firm parts so it can conform to your back when the strap is cinched tight. Next there is a third leg strap that goes from the main strap (about chest level) around to the bottom of the bag. It's very stable when adjusted properly. A mess bag can be had in laptop specific designs but a laptop bag likely wouldn't double as a mess bag.

This bag may be a solution that fits your needs. I've ridden to work everyday, in all weather, since March with one of their bags.
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Old 11-16-05, 07:46 PM
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It's a device designed to create a large rectangular-shaped wet spot on your back on warm or hot days.
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Old 11-16-05, 08:15 PM
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Perhaps I'm just a tightfist, but messenger bags seem horrendously expensive. Is Timbuktu gouging cyclists (like everyone else is)? Or is there something *special* about their bags, like it's lined with unobtainium??

Oh yeah, the wet spot is a major deterrent for a VLC.
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Old 11-16-05, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jur
Perhaps I'm just a tightfist, but messenger bags seem horrendously expensive. Is Timbuktu gouging cyclists (like everyone else is)? Or is there something *special* about their bags, like it's lined with unobtainium??

Oh yeah, the wet spot is a major deterrent for a VLC.
I'd recommend Crumpler bags--they seem to provide a nice product for a more reasonable price. Ebay usually has a good sized Fux Deluxe or Seedy 3 for about $60+ship.
Good bags are made from Cordura and are 100% waterproof/tearproof. They also take no time to pack and close, versus my panniers. I've never had anything get wet in a mess bag, no matter how sloppily thrown in--again, contrast my panniers, which always have a little corner which lets in a trickle somewhere.
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Old 11-16-05, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by michaelnel
It's a device designed to create a large rectangular-shaped wet spot on your back on warm or hot days.
More or less.

Here's what sets apart a decent messenger bag from a run-of-the-mill shoulder bag. A real messenger bag is extremely durable, it's designed to serve 8 or 10 hours a day every day for years. A real messenger bag is more or less water proof. I've ridden through the badass mean remnants of hurricanes and my Bailey hasn't let in a drop of water. A real messenger bag is designed so that it stays put when you're on the bike, not sliding around in front of you, not sliding up over your head when you bend over to tie your shoes or pick up someting, and resting flat against your back rather than at a painful digging-into-your-shoulderblades angle. A real messenger bag is tremendously huge because you like to haul things. Like a case of beer. A real messenger bag will feature a nice wide strap that won't choke you or cut off your circulation (unless you're hauling a case of beer) and may be padded, may feature an additional stabilizer strap, and may split in the middle or easy-on-easy-off action. A real messenger bag's strap is readily lengthened or shortened to account for different sized loads.

I've commuted using laptop bags and knock-off shoulder bags and they all miss the important details that separate the real deal from the imitators. A proper "messenger" bag is just so much more comfortable and useful.

Also, all of the ones I can think of are made by people who take pride in the work and work for living wages, not sweatshops.

Finally, I wouldn't get a crumpler. I have a friend who had one and it tended to leak if exposed to the wet for long enough.

Last edited by bostontrevor; 11-16-05 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 11-16-05, 10:45 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by bostontrevor
More or less.

Here's what sets apart a decent messenger bag from a run-of-the-mill shoulder bag. A real messenger bag is extremely durable, it's designed to serve 8 or 10 hours a day every day for years. A real messenger bag is more or less water proof. I've ridden through the badass mean remnants of hurricanes and my Bailey hasn't let in a drop of water. A real messenger bag is designed so that it stays put when you're on the bike, not sliding around in front of you, not sliding up over your head when you bend over to tie your shoes or pick up someting, and resting flat against your back rather than at a painful digging-into-your-shoulderblades angle. A real messenger bag is tremendously huge because you like to haul things. Like a case of beer. A real messenger bag will feature a nice wide strap that won't choke you or cut off your circulation (unless you're hauling a case of beer) and may be padded, may feature an additional stabilizer strap, and may split in the middle or easy-on-easy-off action. A real messenger bag's strap is readily lengthened or shortened to account for different sized loads.

I've commuted using laptop bags and knock-off shoulder bags and they all miss the important details that separate the real deal from the imitators. A proper "messenger" bag is just so much more comfortable and useful.

Also, all of the ones I can think of are made by people who take pride in the work and work for living wages, not sweatshops.

Finally, I wouldn't get a crumpler. I have a friend who had one and it tended to leak if exposed to the wet for long enough.
So, which one is the real messenger bag with all these attributes?
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Old 11-16-05, 10:53 PM
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Bailey Works, RELoad, Under The Weather, PAC, Chrome, even Timbuk2 (unfashionable though they may be). In no particular order.

Eric Zo has old school cred and Manhattan Portage has been doing it a long time, though I think they've missed out on the innovations of the last 10 years.
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Old 11-16-05, 11:02 PM
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Wow, I remember I had a coupla Zo bags about 10 years ago. No frills, but very tough.

It looks like Chrome bags are getting pretty popular with the hardcore SF messengers. Of course, they're made here.
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Old 11-16-05, 11:38 PM
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I've got two old-school messenger bags made from black sailcloth and yellow interior vinyl, handmade from a downtown NY place all the messengers went to at the time. These things take a beating and keep on ticking. But yes, there have been many innovations since. The ones I have will flop down if you bend over to tie a shoelace, for example.
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Old 11-17-05, 12:32 AM
  #11  
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Mine is a freebie from a trade show. Sat in my closet for 4 years

The thing is mega waterproof, extremelly comfortable, and incredibly adaptable.

I even used it for luggage instead of a regular carry on, and it did the job beautifully
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Old 11-17-05, 05:26 AM
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I have an EMS mess bag that's held up for 6 years. Fully waterproof, easy to adjust, reflective strips, etc.

Manhattan Portage make the 'real' messenger bags, and yes they are way overpriced in my opinion.

If I were carrying a laptop, I'd go for something with 2 straps and some padding. You don't want that thing digging into your back.
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Old 11-17-05, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by MERTON
a device designed for hipsters that value the coolness of carrying heavy load on one shoulder over the health of their spines.

get a rain proof back pack from dank. just google "dank bags"

and water proof **** is spensive.
I grab the messenger bag, toss in my locks and a few things needed for quick runs here and there once at work and not having to haul a heavy load. Otherwise, stuff remains on the bike during commute. With my nice little low-weight laptop, come all sorts of accessories that collectively make this thing weigh a lot more. Add some files, personal stuff, lunch and whatnot, and it's just plain heavy. Even though I dig my messenger bags, I tend to be practical and choosing a rack and briefcase pannier when it comes to hauling considerable weight. I like keeping the weight down low for handlings sake and to also save my back. It's nice to have nothing wrapped around the torso when going some distance.
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Old 11-17-05, 08:09 AM
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The only real difference is that messenger bags have a cross strap and a stash pocket for weed.
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Old 11-17-05, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by MERTON
a device designed for hipsters that value the coolness of carrying heavy load on one shoulder over the health of their spines.

get a rain proof back pack from dank. just google "dank bags"

and water proof **** is spensive.
I questioned weather a messenger bag would really work but based on many good reviews and looking at the designs I decided on a Chrome Metro. And it really does work as advertised. The weight is very comfortable unless it is stuffed beyond belief and you can stuff an enormous amount in it if necessary. So far it has been waterproof in all conditions and it seems to be very durable.
Messenger bags are more expensive because they are very well made and usually produced locally in small volumes instead of in low wage countries in large volumes. Many companies allow customization for a small increase. I'm sure you could find a less expensive backpack but I would not bet my laptop on its water resistance.
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Old 11-17-05, 09:26 AM
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I've been seeing more messengers riding w/ big, cushioned, waterproof, backpack style bags that basically look like large pizza bags w/ straps. Dunno where to get them, but they're fugly as hell and look like they'll carry a case of bottled beer and a couple frozen pizzas.
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Old 11-17-05, 10:00 AM
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Those are probably Ortlieb backpacks.

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Old 11-17-05, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by jyossarian
big, cushioned, waterproof, backpack style bags that basically look like large pizza bags w/ straps.
Could that be the Ortlieb messenger bag?

www.ortlieb.com

I have seen one in person, and it looks very nice. I tried it on at the store (REI) with my standard summer load and it felt comfortable. Its greatest feature seems to be that it is totally waterproof, as in fall in the lake and emerge with dry contents. I am looking for a new bag myself, and was planning to get one for a while, but now I am leaning toward the over-the-shoulder style because with the Ortlieb, whenever I would want to get into it (such as, a mid-commute stop at the grocery store) I would have to take it off, set it down, and unroll the waterproof seal. With the messenger bag style, I could get into it without taking it off.
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Old 11-17-05, 10:47 AM
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I use a Tb2 laptop bag. It has served me well for 1.5yrs daily commute. It has the built in laptop pad/slot. If I do it again, I'd get a separate removable pad so I can also use the bag to haul more when no laptop is in it. When the laptop is in it doesn't conform to ones back very well, but I don't notice when riding.
The primary reason I chose a 'messenger bag' style is that it looks and acts like a briefcase for around the office and traveling. I also like how I can access it while riding to put away sunglasses, etc.
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Old 11-17-05, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MERTON
how many cubic inches are in a liter?
61
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Old 11-17-05, 11:18 AM
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I'm honestly quite happy commuting with my Chrome bag.
Its never let anything get wet, the wide strap (when coupled wtih a properly adjusted stabilizer strap) has never caused any back pain, and it holds a LOT.

Sometimes I'll even use it as a basket at the local market after work, then unload/reload at the till.

..also, the stash pocket is a great idea.
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Old 11-17-05, 12:08 PM
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Ortlieb backpacks RULE!

I've had mine for three years now, and I love it.

I used a messenger bag for a long time, starting when I was a messenger and then for commuting. McEnroe Bros - anybody remember those? Denim outside, thick yellow tarp inside. I also wore it off the bike to carry stuff around in. Then around 1999, my left shoulder started to ache, and didn't stop. Got so bad that I couldn't wear the bag. I can tell when it's going to rain now, because my left shoulder will start aching 12 hours prior.

So, I switched to the Ortlieb and couldn't believe how comfortable it is. If you're worried about your laptop getting wet, then consider the Ortlieb. It is not only waterproof, it's submersible. (yes I tested this out) And it's completely overbuilt to last forever. Oh, and if you ride a train or a subway, it's pickpocket-proof, unlike a messenger bag.

The only problems with it are: You have to take it off to get stuff in and out of it, it sticks up over your shoulders a bit in a headwind-catching way, and there is no place on the back/bottom of the bag to clip a blinky light. And it makes you look like a spaceman, but that's not always so bad.
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Old 12-02-08, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by same time View Post
Ortlieb backpacks RULE!

I've had mine for three years now, and I love it.

I used a messenger bag for a long time, starting when I was a messenger and then for commuting. McEnroe Bros - anybody remember those? Denim outside, thick yellow tarp inside. I also wore it off the bike to carry stuff around in. Then around 1999, my left shoulder started to ache, and didn't stop. Got so bad that I couldn't wear the bag. I can tell when it's going to rain now, because my left shoulder will start aching 12 hours prior.

So, I switched to the Ortlieb and couldn't believe how comfortable it is. If you're worried about your laptop getting wet, then consider the Ortlieb. It is not only waterproof, it's submersible. (yes I tested this out) And it's completely overbuilt to last forever. Oh, and if you ride a train or a subway, it's pickpocket-proof, unlike a messenger bag.

The only problems with it are: You have to take it off to get stuff in and out of it, it sticks up over your shoulders a bit in a headwind-catching way, and there is no place on the back/bottom of the bag to clip a blinky light. And it makes you look like a spaceman, but that's not always so bad.
I've had my McEnroe Bros Messenger Bag for about 12 years and its held up very well! A little bit of fraying along the bottom, but it still functions great! I'm guessing those guys are out of biz since I did a google search and this was one of the only results in context that I got. If so, that's too bad.
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Old 12-02-08, 02:45 PM
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A point that I don't think has been made yet.

There is more than the presence of a stabilizer, sternum, cross, whatever you want to call it, strap which differentiates a messenger bag from a shoulder bag.

Timbuk2s are basically shoulder bags with a sternum strap thrown in. I used two, destroyed one (although the other one is looks brand new, once you ignore the grease stains), and found them decent on my old hybrid (upright), but absolutely horrible on my road bike (much lower position, I tend to ride in the drops).

A lot of "messenger" bags are like this: basically a shoulder bag that they stick the word "messenger" on because it's trendy right now.

Instead, look for bags that have ergonomic shoulder straps that hold the bag in the right place (high on your back). Examples of companies that have good straps are Chrome, Cocotte Equipment, Chicago Wig, PAC Designs, and a new San Francisco company, Rickshaw Bagworks, looks to have very nice stuff. Expect to pay $200 or more for a good messenger bag, and all the good companies that I know are tiny: one person or a handful of people. A good list can be found here: http://urbanvelo.org/sewing/

A proper messenger bag distributes the weight on your upper back, shoulders, and chest. It will not move around, it will hold a huge amount (more than most cycling backpacks, excepting Chicago Wig's absurdity), and it will be comfortable up to about 20 - 30 lbs, more if you get one with a second shoulder strap (PAC Designs, Zugster and Rickshaw all offer these).

That said, most commuter I see use panniers, and a lot of people I know use and love messenger backpacks. The Chrome Ivan and Sultans seem to be about the best deal out there.
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Old 12-02-08, 05:24 PM
  #25  
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Reading through this old thread made me laugh. Were Timbuk2 mess bags expensive back in '05? Because these days they're dirt cheap it seems ($ wise, not quality).
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