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New commuter: backpack or pannier?

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New commuter: backpack or pannier?

Old 12-04-10, 11:56 AM
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cacibi
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New commuter: backpack or pannier?

I have decided that this year, I am going to become a bike commuter. Parking at my office and a desire to get more exercise are the main reasons.

At any rate - have a bike on order that should arrive next week. At one point I was a year-round motorcyclist (in Seattle, no small feat) and so I feel pretty confident in gearing up for the elements with regard to outerwear and base layers.

The biggest question I'm wrestling with is whether I should get side bags/panniers or a backpack to haul stuff back and forth to the office. Waterproof is really my only requirement (no other option in this weather). I have an Ortlieb shoulder/messenger bag that I used to use on my motorcycle, and I may start with that.

I have work computers at home and the office - so I don't really need to carry a laptop or much else in the way of documents back and forth, it's mainly for my work clothes and toiletries. I also have good grocery stores within riding distance and could see using the bike to make those runs.

It seems like the pannier option offers a lot more space for less money than some of the high-priced Ortlieb backpacks I've looked at. But - when using the bike for things other than the commute - it would be nice to have the backpack and not have to worry about people messing with or stealing the pannier bags.

Anyway - any guidance or feedback appreciated.
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Old 12-04-10, 12:26 PM
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give your back a rest, get panniers. Get panniers like Ortliebs that detach easily and take them when you go shopping/park your bike.
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Old 12-04-10, 12:41 PM
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I agree with 531phile. I use panniers every day of the week.

But there are lots of people around who carry everything in backpacks. I've done it a few times myself. I didn't have much stuff and it was OK. Probably warmer in the winter too.

Maybe you should try both and see what works for you.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:09 PM
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Another vote for panniers. I see a lot of people in my area riding with backpacks but I don't know how they do it. I admit I have never tried riding with a backpack but it just doesn't look comfortable.

I use the topeak explorer rack with one of their pannier bags. Works great.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:26 PM
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In the heat, panniers stay much cooler. In the winter, I prefer a backpack because the weight is on me, not my bike. It seems easier to catch me / the bike if the bike has less weight. I find backpacks more convenient all around though.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:30 PM
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I use a backpack for my 22 mile commute. However, I don't haul much in the backpack so it's very light, about 5 lbs. I've got a locker at work that I stock with clean work clothes and supplies so usually all I carry in my backpack are some basic tools, pump, spare tubes, spare tire, batteries, phone, wallet and keys. I try very hard to keep from collecting, and hauling, non-essential things/weight in my backpack.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:33 PM
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Panniers.

I just leave the panniers on my bike at all times. They're cheap and run down so I've never had a theft problem. I actually put my bag inside the panniers while I ride.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:45 PM
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Another vote for panniers. After a few weeks of commuting with a backpack, I switched to panniers and will never go back. Between the sweaty back and my pig of a laptop crippling my back, the backpack wasn't working. A messenger bag would result in less sweat and and would apply less weight in a bad way on the back and might be a good choice if you foresee making numerous stops in a single journey. Panniers will allow you to carry much more. I stop and just take the pannier(s) with me when running errands as they have shoulder straps.
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Old 12-04-10, 01:47 PM
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I also vote for panniers. When I started commuting I was using a cheap messenger bag and it was ok during the cold and cooler weather. Once summer rolls around, the last thing you want is all of your cargo hanging on your back.

Not only will your back thank you but unless you're using some really small panniers then you could carry more in 2 panniers than you could with a standard backpack or messenger bag.

Since the votes for panniers over backpacks are piling up, If you do get a set, spend the extra money on a decent set of panniers. You'll be glad you did. I personally like Axiom Panniers but Jandd, Ortileb and Lone Peak are good also.
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Old 12-04-10, 02:04 PM
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I like panniers too, and I second the recommendation for Ortliebs if you can afford them. If you order from The Touring Store.com, talk with Wayne if you need help choosing. He's never steered me wrong. Anyway, Ortliebs are genuinely waterproof. I like the mounting system too, although I like Arkel's better.

Hey, wait a minute!

Arkel makes a three different models of convertible backpack panniers. Best of both worlds.
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Old 12-04-10, 03:22 PM
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I have both. One bike has a rack the other does not. The bike with the rack I bungee my backpack to the rack. To make it waterproof I cover it with a garbage bag. However in Seattle it would seem wiser to have a waterproof back pack because it rains a lot more there than here.

I also have panniers. I don't use them that often because it seems easier to carry my backpack. If you do plan on carrying groceries then panniers would be easier. Nashbar has some waterproof ones on sale right now. A lot of their house products work really well. The also have a backpack that can attach to a rack.
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Old 12-04-10, 03:37 PM
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Another note to not cheap out on the panniers. I bought a really cheap set of M-wave panniers for like 20 bucks shipped. They will more or less get the job done, but they mount with straps vs. clips (most higher end panniers clip on to racks) and when I had mine on the bike, they would often go out of adjustment and eventually, the weight pulled them into the spokes and tore the back panel off of the bags. It sucked.

I went and got some LG bags on a really good clearance deal, but they are on sale for 75 bucks here:

https://www.performancebike.com/bikes/ProductDisplay?storeId=10052&langId=-1&catalogId=10551&productId=1091739&cm_mmc=$%28referrer%29$-_-E-Stores-_-LOUIS%20GARNEAU-_-40-4615&CSE=GooglePS&mr:trackingCode=74AEA58D-1DCA-DF11-98FF-0019B9C043EB&mr:referralID=NA

They are worlds better and come with rain covers.
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Old 12-04-10, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by 531phile View Post
give your back a rest, get panniers. Get panniers like Ortliebs that detach easily and take them when you go shopping/park your bike.
+1 Richard
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Old 12-04-10, 04:05 PM
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Thanks very much to everyone for your feedback. Much appreciated.
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Old 12-04-10, 04:08 PM
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I use a back pack in the winter and panniers in the summer
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Old 12-04-10, 05:00 PM
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I've gone from saddlebag panniers and grocery baskets, to a couple of backpacks, a sling bag, and now a mess bag. The panniers and baskets didn't lend themselves to my multi-modal commute, so they sat around largely unused (plus I was having heel strike issues). The sling bag just doesn't have the volume that I require. My old Dakine 'pack wasn't waterproof or that comfy on the bike, so it was replaced with a Banjo Brothers (L) 'pack.

I grew tired of basically unloading the BB to find stuff at the bottom (lacks organization), and ended up trading my panniers to another BF member who wanted to get the weight off of his back for a BB mess bag.
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Old 12-04-10, 05:08 PM
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I had to use a backpack on one ride, one time, never again.
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Old 12-04-10, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by xtrajack View Post
I had to use a backpack on one ride, one time, never again.
Yeah, I'd imagine it would be a "one and done" scenario if I had to haul those Wideloaders on my back.
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Old 12-04-10, 05:50 PM
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panniers...
I have a backpack...its nick name is 'monkey'

Doug in snowy iowa
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Old 12-04-10, 06:40 PM
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I know everyone likes a rack and panniers on the rear, but I've had some issues with more broken spokes on the rear wheel with the extra weight. The front wheel is actually stronger because there's no offset to make room for the cassette. I'm getting a smallish front rack and a front bag to put my stuff in. Just another option.
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Old 12-04-10, 06:52 PM
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I haul everything in a large messenger bag. My bike handles better, performs better in the wind, and my upper body core muscles get a mild workout.

I'll even stop in on my way home on Friday and throw 12 longnecks and a bottle of wine in there in addition to clothes and papers for work.

My commute ranges from 10 to 33 miles r/t. I have not ridden with a back pack, but I imagine that it would sway a lot in addition to the sweat factor.

The panniers stay on my old hybrid set up for shopping.
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Old 12-04-10, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Standalone View Post
I haul everything in a large messenger bag. My bike handles better, performs better in the wind, and my upper body core muscles get a mild workout.

I'll even stop in on my way home on Friday and throw 12 longnecks and a bottle of wine in there in addition to clothes and papers for work.

My commute ranges from 10 to 33 miles r/t. I have not ridden with a back pack, but I imagine that it would sway a lot in addition to the sweat factor.

The panniers stay on my old hybrid set up for shopping.
1. Use of a sternum strap greatly reduces, if not eliminates that swaying. However, not all strap systems are created equal. I had issues with them rubbing my nipples raw...so now I'm using the mess bag.
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Old 12-05-10, 01:02 AM
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I go back and forth, but i the end the panniers always win. Once in awhile I switch to the backpack but I just don't like it as much.
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Old 12-05-10, 04:44 PM
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Another vote for panniers. I really don't like riding with a backpack.
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Old 12-06-10, 01:12 PM
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I used to say, only bags. I had to convert to backpack and it works well, IF

1- need strap at bottom to fasten around hips
2- need sterum strap so it doesn't flop around
3- don't get too big, watch how high it extends above the shoulder
4- size it right. Consider width and length carefully as they can add to resistance.
5- get a good quality one.
6- only consider one that ventulates the back. You do NOT want a bag that hugs the back.

Good luck
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