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Laptops and cycling

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Old 11-07-14, 10:13 AM
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ganchan
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Laptops and cycling

I know the standard wisdom is to carry delicate electronics on your back when riding, but I'm just getting really tired of sweating under a backpack most months of the year. Lately i've been looking into getting some rear cargo carriers (like the Wald 520) that would allow me to just put the laptop in my backpack and then shove the backpack into one of the baskets. Maybe I'll stuff something soft into the bottom of the backpack for extra cushioning.

My current laptop is just a cheap Chromebook, and very much a second computer, but down the road I might need to transport something a little pricier....

What's your backpack-less solution, if you employ one?
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Old 11-07-14, 10:51 AM
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If your Chromebook has an SSD, you're probably less in danger of damaging it on the ride than you could be. The big danger for modern laptops is vibrational damage to the spinning disk drive (conventional hard drive). SSDs are relatively immune from this vibrational damage.

I'd look for a vertical cloth pannier; the cloth shell would add a certain amount of additional protection.

Many of these would work: http://www.rei.com/c/panniers
Larger pannier bags would allow you to stuff a moderately-sized backpack inside without issue; or, put the backpack on one side of a paired set and the laptop on the other.
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Old 11-07-14, 12:03 PM
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Don't most laptops (or rather most well designed laptops) "park" the hard drive heads when they're closed, so they don't get damaged by vibration? I know that was huge a few years ago with "drop protection" where the computer would quickly park the heads if it felt it was falling.
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Old 11-07-14, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
Don't most laptops (or rather most well designed laptops) "park" the hard drive heads when they're closed, so they don't get damaged by vibration? I know that was huge a few years ago with "drop protection" where the computer would quickly park the heads if it felt it was falling.
I'm not aware of computer parking the heads because they're falling. Modern laptops have circuitry for parking the heads when they are being moved around. But presumally you don't have your laptop ON while riding on your bike! The heads are already parked.
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Old 11-07-14, 12:50 PM
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Daily commute with a laptops for 15 years (various Mac's) Never had an issue. And I have had my share of crashes. I've used messenger bags, backpacks, Panniers (arkel commuter), and lately a Carradice Nelson Long flap saddle bag. My current laptop is a Macbook Air, the thing is SSD and very light.

Don't worry too much about it, seriously. Pad it up a bit in whatever bag you choose and back up your data, that is that is more important than anything.
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Old 11-07-14, 02:20 PM
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Hard drives do suffer damage, even though the heads do park. I agree that an SSD is a good hedge against this type of damage. Still, you should be doing backups if you save stuff on the computer.
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Old 11-07-14, 02:23 PM
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My solution was to buy a tablet. It's very light.
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Old 11-07-14, 02:41 PM
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Hire a Sherpa to carry your laptop.
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Old 11-07-14, 02:55 PM
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Add some bubble wrap.
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Old 11-07-14, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ganchan View Post
I know the standard wisdom is to carry delicate electronics on your back when riding, but I'm just getting really tired of sweating under a backpack most months of the year. Lately i've been looking into getting some rear cargo carriers (like the Wald 520) that would allow me to just put the laptop in my backpack and then shove the backpack into one of the baskets. Maybe I'll stuff something soft into the bottom of the backpack for extra cushioning.

My current laptop is just a cheap Chromebook, and very much a second computer, but down the road I might need to transport something a little pricier....

What's your backpack-less solution, if you employ one?
I don't think it's standard wisdom - it sure isn't with me.

There are many possible ways to carry a laptop that has a suspension style system that insulates the laptop from vibration even though that is not a big problem. I have the Arkel Bug that I use and the laptop sleeve that is a neoprene sleeve that suspends the laptop so it's sort of slung in the neoprene. Works great.

I travel a lot internationally. Each of my laptops has been around the world countless times and they are not treated well at all. Turns out, they are pretty reliable. If my laptop can take that, you should have no problems whatsoever.

Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
Don't most laptops (or rather most well designed laptops) "park" the hard drive heads when they're closed, so they don't get damaged by vibration? I know that was huge a few years ago with "drop protection" where the computer would quickly park the heads if it felt it was falling.
Hard drives do park the heads and many (most) of the 2.5" drives in laptops have accelerometers in them so that if there is a fall, it will park the heads to protect the disk very fast. When you sleep the laptop, the heads park. Yes, you can hurt the drive but it's going to take a lot more than dropping it at that point and it would probably be about the point where you'd do things like break solder connections, connectors etc... Incidentally, to these sort of failure modes, SSDs are not immune. Hard drives are pretty durable things albeit becoming antiques in laptops anyhow.

As always, even if you are not hard on your stuff, you ought to have some sort of backup scheme (Time Machine on Mac is a great tool) so you don't have to worry about it.

Putting an SSD into your laptop is just a good idea from a performance perspective anyhow. And it would be marginally more rugged than a hard drive in normal use.

I sure wouldn't carry a laptop in a backpack. It would be uncomfortable, would screw with the center of gravity while riding and not have an impact on laptop reliability one way or the other over carrying it properly on the bike in a pannier.

J.
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Old 11-07-14, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
As always, even if you are not hard on your stuff, you ought to have some sort of backup scheme (Time Machine on Mac is a great tool) so you don't have to worry about it.

J.
Completely off topic, but it's nice to hear someone speak highly of macs. I absolutely love time machine and think it's the best standard backup program offered by a any of the major computer companies. (I know that time machine (or something like it) was used by some linux distro before apple got it's hands on it, but apple has implemented it very well.) I also know you can essentially replicate it using an rsync script (which I've done before) but still, it's pretty.

*Resume on topic things*
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Old 11-07-14, 05:06 PM
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I broke the plastic trim around one of the vents on an old IBM Thinkpad years ago when my poorly attached pannier bounced off of the rack and onto the pavement. The damage was only cosmetic. As Walter said, the important thing is to make sure your laptop is off before you transport it.

These days I use a padded laptop sleeve when I'm carrying a laptop on my bike, though I suspect that's overkill. A well-attached pannier should be safe enough. I use a Topeak trunk bag with zip out side pockets, which are just roomy enough hold my 15.4" laptop in its padded sleeve.

My comments above do assume that your commute is over something resembling pavement or hard-packed dirt trails. If you regularly ride over bone-shaking off-road terrain, even with a backpack, you are probably shortening the life of any components with moving parts. If it rattles your teeth, it will rattle a non-SSD hard drive. If it doesn't, it probably won't.
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Old 11-07-14, 05:12 PM
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I’ve been just throwing mine in a pannier for the past four years with only two replacements needed. It’s a work computer. So, all of my data is backed up and not a problem when the laptop fails.
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Old 11-07-14, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ganchan View Post
I know the standard wisdom is to carry delicate electronics on your back when riding, but I'm just getting really tired of sweating under a backpack most months of the year. Lately i've been looking into getting some rear cargo carriers (like the Wald 520) that would allow me to just put the laptop in my backpack and then shove the backpack into one of the baskets. Maybe I'll stuff something soft into the bottom of the backpack for extra cushioning.

My current laptop is just a cheap Chromebook, and very much a second computer, but down the road I might need to transport something a little pricier....

What's your backpack-less solution, if you employ one?

I still use a backpack. I went from panniers to backpack for just this reason - I ride on some unpaved trails so I think I hit ruts and get lots of ruts and shocks. Don't know if it is any better than our rods nowadays. In any case the sweat doesn't bother me even in 90+ 30mi RT commute.

How a shock can really damage a laptop isn't only the disk drive - but disk heads are pretty securely parked - it is damaging to the cooling that might get you. If the heat conductive path shifts this could cause trouble. In any case,, if you could get a cushy tight fitting case for the laptop, it can help absorb shocks and would probably be enough.
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Old 11-07-14, 06:14 PM
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My office is heavily cloud based, so I can access pretty much everything from home laptop.

Plus, I'm the CTO, so I get to make the rules.

Hehe.
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Old 11-08-14, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by ganchan View Post
I know the standard wisdom is to carry delicate electronics on your back when riding, but I'm just getting really tired of sweating under a backpack most months of the year. Lately i've been looking into getting some rear cargo carriers (like the Wald 520) that would allow me to just put the laptop in my backpack and then shove the backpack into one of the baskets. Maybe I'll stuff something soft into the bottom of the backpack for extra cushioning.

My current laptop is just a cheap Chromebook, and very much a second computer, but down the road I might need to transport something a little pricier....

What's your backpack-less solution, if you employ one?
As long as you don't carry it with the screen horizontal to the ground, you should be ok with a simple padded sleeve. Keeping it closed and in sleep mode will prevent hard drive from spinning up.

- Andy
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Old 11-08-14, 12:18 PM
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I use a waterproof Ortlieb Office Bag pannier with the laptop in a padded sleeve in the bag. It works great. Hard drives do park the head so it is less susceptible to damage (but not impervious). My personal laptop has an SSD drive, but my work one doesn't (I didn't get to pick it). I recommend backing up the data you care about regularly as hard drives fail for a lot of reasons even if you are careful with them.
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Old 11-08-14, 12:55 PM
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Racktime Work-it Classic. I have been using this bag for work for over 2 years and I can't recommend it enough. It has two main compartments, either can be used to store your laptop.
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Old 11-08-14, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by RunForTheHills View Post
I use a waterproof Ortlieb Office Bag pannier with the laptop in a padded sleeve in the bag. It works great. Hard drives do park the head so it is less susceptible to damage (but not impervious). My personal laptop has an SSD drive, but my work one doesn't (I didn't get to pick it). I recommend backing up the data you care about regularly as hard drives fail for a lot of reasons even if you are careful with them.
Agree. SSDs fail too. And you might suffer data corruption because of mistakes or software bugs or viruses or... Backup stuff you care about regardless. And backup twice and have that backup offsite or in the cloud if it's real important to you.
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Old 11-08-14, 01:50 PM
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I use a padded laptop sleeve inside a padded backpack inside a pannier. Put the pannier inside the backpack once arrived at destination. Laptop has an SSD in it. Not a single hiccup in 4 years (nor a single virus), entering its 5 year of use.
I also use a metal case instead of a pannier sometimes that's even easier.

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