When it comes to commuting to work on a bike, you generally have two options for carrying your gear with you - backpacks or panniers. We shared some of our favourite backpacks and also messenger bags for you.
Pros and Cons of Using a Backpack
Using a backpack might not be for everyone so we’ve put together a list of what we believe are the pros and cons with commuting with a backpack.
- Quick and easy if you are on the move and need to just quickly get going
- Limited space means you have to be economical in what you decide to carry
- Bag isn’t limited to just cycling and can be used for other purposes
- Weight distribution is better than using panniers
- Fluorescent cover for bags help keep you visible on the road
- With the wrong backpack, you can develop a sweaty back on warmer days
- Limits your field of view when looking over your shoulder if using a big bag
- Body can get sore from carrying the bag if carrying a lot of weight
Cycling Backpacks Compared
What to Look for When Buying a Cycling Commuting Bag
Generally most bags on the market will work well for commuting to work. So then you ask, why bother spending more and getting a cycling specific backpack? Great question!
Below are some of the things which we recommend you consider when buying a backpack which generally come standard in a good cycling backpack.
- Hydration bladder - While most people prefer to use a drink bottle attached to their drink bottle cage, why not consider a bag which comes with a hydration bladder which can be easier to drink from than grabbing your drink bottle.
- Rain cover - Optional rain covers are great for keeping your bag dry but also double up well as a fluorescent cover to keep you seen on the road.
- Key holder - Sounds silly but having a holder for your keys is handy for when you arrive at work and quickly need to get access to your keys and not having to worry about them scratching your phone screen.
- Headphone cable gap - Let’s be honest, most people use Bluetooth headphones these days but most cycling bags come with a hole to thread your headphones through from your bag.
- Chest and waist straps - When commuting to work, you want a bag that sits comfortably on your body. Chest and waist straps help make this happen.
- Helmet holder - Most cycling bags come with a strap to securely hold your helmet when you’re on the move. This is particularly useful if parking your bike somewhere without a secure area to leave your helmet.
Best Light Weight Bag
The Ortlieb Velocity is a fantastic waterproof bag for anyone looking for a solid small-medium bag.
Coming in at 20 litres of carrying capacity, the Ortlieb comes with padded shoulder straps, carrying handle and additional chest and waist straps, making it super comfortable to ride in.
Included with the Ortlieb is a removable pocket and attachment on the back of the bag for a light which helps creating more visibility. The bag has limited pockets on the outside of the bag as an effort to deter thieves which some may see as a benefit.
One downside of the Ortlieb Velocity is the design when the bag is fully closed. This creates ‘ears’ which stick out and may slightly obscure your view when you look over your shoulders.
Best Messenger Bag
The Osprey Flapjack is different to other brands we reviewed earlier in this article with it being a messenger bag.
Coming in as a 20 litre bag and the ability to hold a laptop up to 17”, the Osprey Flapjack is best suited for shorter commutes to work.
The bag also comes with a small opening allowing you to thread your headphones through.
One thing we find difficult about messenger bags is they have the tendency to move around. Luckily, the Osprey Flapjack is designed with a waist strap which helps keep the bag steady when you’re up and about.
Best Bigger Bag
Sticking with our theme of Osprey bags, the Osprey Escapist is a great bag for anyone looking to go the extra distance on their commutes.
The Osprey Escapist is a 18-20 litre bag with adventure in mind. Including the ventilated back padding which helps reduce sweat by avoiding excess rubbing on your back. While the pockets inside and outside the bag are bound to help you tidily store away all your belongings.
Being a bag designed for cyclists, the Osprey Escapist also includes an external helmet holder, loops to connect your lights on and a rain cover to keep your bag dry in wet conditions.
Best All Weather Bag
Deuter Trans Alpine
Coming in at 25 litres, the Deuter Trans Alpine is one of the more larger bags we reviewed and is geared towards commuters that are willing to compromise on weight to carry more equipment.
As the name suggests, the Trans Alpine by Deuter is designed for bike-trekking across the alpine areas. We’d argue it makes a great bag for commuting as that’s basically like cross an alpine area some days right?
Some key features of the Deuter Trans Alpine include a back ventilation system which helps stop your back from excess rubbing against the bag which can otherwise build up stress. While the bag also include comfort features such as padded shoulder straps and waist straps to ensure the bag is comfortably fitted to your body.
Similar to other bags we reviewed, the Deuter Trans Alpine includes a rain cover, loops to connect additional lights to your bag and a helmet holder to keep your helmet secure when you are not cycling.
Best Stylish Cycling Bag
Timbuk2 Tuck Pack
While possibly not the most functional cycling bag we have reviewed, the Timbuk2 Tuck Pack makes up for it with its stylish looks.
The Timbuk2 Tuck Pack is a 20 litre pack that comes with some great features that will resonate with any cyclists. Including dual exterior pockets work great for storing a drink bottle, u-lock or other accessories that you freely need available. Speaking of pockets, the interior design includes organisation pockets which make keeping things organised a breeze.
One thing we really liked about the Timbuk2 was the reflective zipper pulls and vista loop which is used for attaching a light on the bag. If that's not enough, the bag also comes with an interior pocket that is capable of holding a 15" laptop.
Best Overall Bag
Topeak Air 2Core Backpack
Topeak is a brand that most cyclists know for their great cycling tools and accessories. Surprise surprise, they also dabble in cycling bags! We reviewed the Topeak Air 2Core 10 litre bag which provides plenty of punch.
One thing that really separates the Topeak Air 2Core vs other bags we reviewed is the well thought out interior pocket design or 'Air Pack' as Topeak refer to it as. This provides 6 total compartments including:
- 2 main pockets
- 2 side pockets
- 1 front pocket
- 1 bottom pocket
On the outside of the Topeak Air 2Core bag includes reflective printing and a light strap to help keep you visible in the dark. Also included with the Topeak bag is a helmet holder and rain cover.