Recommendations for Commuter Backpacks/Messenger Bags???- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Recommendations for Commuter Backpacks/Messenger Bags???

    Anyone have good backpacks/messenger bags for commuting? Currently I use an old backpack and my back gets pretty sweaty, so I wanted to see if there is something more efficient. Need to be able to carry wallet, keys, phone, deodorant, towel, pants, polo, and dress shoes. Timbuk2 seems to make a quality bag, but it isnt cheap. I'm also not sure if I would go small or medium. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.
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  2. #2
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    Do you prefer a backpack or a messenger bag? I much prefer a backpack as it feels more secure and my commute sometimes involves some single track. I have a deuter something something 42 which works well for my needs. It has mesh that keeps a lot of the load off of my back although I still sweat on longer rides on warm days - not sure that anything is going to solve that. I rarely fill it to capacity but I like having the options. I also like that with numerous pockets I have dedicated places to keep a spare tube, pump and multi-tool, cliff bars, cell phone & wallet, etc.

    I know that there are also big fans of messenger bags but I don't enough experience with them to weigh in. You may also want to search this topic as it does come up from time to time on this forum and there have been a lot of thoughtful postings.

  3. #3
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    Based on only using backpacks, I'm sort of leaning towards that since messenger bags seem more unstable. But there are people that swear by messenger bags which makes me think there must be something to them.
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  4. #4
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    I'm pleasantly surprised with my Timbuk2. My last one gave me close to ten years and this one was a warranty replacement. A lot of my friends have been big fans of Chrome bags. One of my friends has a Chrome backpack she's been using as her work bag for stagecraft for a couple years, and it doesn't look like she's had it more than a week. If you're looking for something to impress people who ride fashion bikes, neither brand is "cool" anymore. I still have bar ends on my MTB.

    I think bags vs. backpacks really depends on your riding position. If you're low, like on a road bike, the bag should sit fairly low on your back and most of the weight should just go down, so it doesn't pull on the shoulder strap too much. The adjustable straps make it easy to move it around so you're comfortable. If you sit more erect, like on a mountain bike or a road bike converted with flat bars, any weight in the bag will pull on the shoulder strap and you'd probably be more comfortable in a backpack.

    I do most of my commuting on an old road bike and use my messenger bag, but now and then I'll run some errands or go to meet some friends on my mountain bike, and then I usually take a backpack.
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  5. #5
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    I've been using the Timbuk2 for a year now and been happy with it. I commute on a road bike, so it hangs low and stable and keeps my back cooler than a back pack. It has a strap in addition to the main one to keep it in place so it doesn't bounce around at all. Sounds like you would need a medium size for carrying shoes and a shirt.

    I haven't tried Chrome, but I have heard they are better designed. Chrome are certainly more stylish and expensive. I don't think you will go wrong with either, just stay away from other brands that aren't made for cycling. Messenger bags have gotten trendy and I can take mine to meetings during the day and fit right in, although I'm probably the only one carrying tubes and a pump.

  6. #6
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    Banjo Brothers Back Pack

    I am happy with my Banjo Brothers medium sized backpack. Lots of room, places for my wallet, cell phone holder on the strap, water proof, and sternum and waist strap. Reasonable price too.
    I ride at ludicrous speed

  7. #7
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    Ortlieb Messenger Bag. This is the best messenger bag I have ever come across, and I've used a lot of them. It is 100% waterproof, holds a ton, and sits very light on my back.

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  8. #8
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    http://www.dakine.com/sport-packs/bike/commuter/
    I've been eyeballing this bag, as of right now I use a Dakine Apex which is 1600cu in and plenty of room for everything I need.

    I think a backpack is nicer for longer just pedaling commuting. If you need to get into your bag alot a messenger is nicer due to easier access. My problem with them is how they hang on my shoulder, the weight is generally uneven and beings to wear me down especially on longer rides.

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  9. #9
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    I'm with Mr. Pink - I switched from a 10 year-old made in SF Timbuk2 (they wear like iron - couldn't be happier with the build quality) to a backpack because of shoulder/back pain on long rides. All 'coolness' aside, because nobody really looks cool when commuting, I picked up a really uncool looking, but fantastically functional Novara bag from REI. It had all the features I wanted (U-lock pocket, rain fly, bottle pockets, waist strap key/camera pocket), was half or a third the price of 'cool' bags like Chrome, Mission Workshop, etc, and weighs half as much as those bags as well. It's a bit small if you're planning to pick up a week's groceries on the way home, but if you've got a relatively light load it's perfect:

    http://www.rei.com/product/748089

    I love it, but it gets me no street cred.

  10. #10
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    I've commuted year-round for four years with a Jansport Firewire. Absolutely no street cred. My primary focus was a padded slot for my notebook. Lots of room but hot in the summer. I carry a change of clothes, lunch, computer. I treat it with water repellent and it stays pretty dry but we only get 14" of rain a year.

    I'm thinking about getting a rack and using panniers because of the heat in the summer. I just can't find any notebook friendly panniers that don't cost a fortune.

    I think that REI model has been replaced by this one:

    http://www.rei.com/product/780465
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeOnBike
    I've commuted year-round for four years with a Jansport Firewire. Absolutely no street cred. My primary focus was a padded slot for my notebook. Lots of room but hot in the summer. I carry a change of clothes, lunch, computer. I treat it with water repellent and it stays pretty dry but we only get 14" of rain a year.

    I'm thinking about getting a rack and using panniers because of the heat in the summer. I just can't find any notebook friendly panniers that don't cost a fortune.

    I think that REI model has been replaced by this one:

    http://www.rei.com/product/780465
    That's a lot of stuff. Wouldn't try that with a messenger bag.

  12. #12
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    I'm using a Crumpler Mahoubar. It's damn near bottomless - I have fit 3 bottles of wine on top of 12 bottles of beer, with room for cheese and baguettes, and that's without removing my tools, pump, lock from their zippered compartments. The nice part is that when it's empty, it lies really flat on my back. For day to day hauling, it's awesome. Downside - the back padding is a little thin, so it pays to arrange your cargo with the pointy side away from you.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmkimmel
    I'm with Mr. Pink - I switched from a 10 year-old made in SF Timbuk2 (they wear like iron - couldn't be happier with the build quality) to a backpack because of shoulder/back pain on long rides. All 'coolness' aside, because nobody really looks cool when commuting, I picked up a really uncool looking, but fantastically functional Novara bag from REI. It had all the features I wanted (U-lock pocket, rain fly, bottle pockets, waist strap key/camera pocket), was half or a third the price of 'cool' bags like Chrome, Mission Workshop, etc, and weighs half as much as those bags as well. It's a bit small if you're planning to pick up a week's groceries on the way home, but if you've got a relatively light load it's perfect:

    http://www.rei.com/product/748089

    I love it, but it gets me no street cred.

    I'm not to concerned about street cred. I was actually looking at this model but I'm concerned about my back getting really hot/sweaty. Has that been an issue?
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  14. #14
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    When I do a longer ride in a backpack, I get swamp back. I still get sweaty with a messenger bag, but it's not as bad.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #15
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    I've used both messenger bags and backpacks over the years, I much prefer backpacks though.

    They manage loads better and you have much less shoulder back pain than messenger bags.

    Messenger bags are great for small loads though, short commutes, or when you need access to the bag frequently.

    With what you described needing to take though, I'd say go with a backpack. Anything in the 25 - 40 liter size will work good. Probably closer to the 25L as 40L might be kinda large unless it has straps to compress the bag.Just go try a bunch on and pick one that feels good while you bent over in the riding position.

  16. #16
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    I've used both, but for serious commuting look into some panniers or a trunk bag. Once I started using them I was kicking myself for not switching over sooner. Whn you head into work, you simply un attach from the rear rack and walk on into work.
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  17. #17
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    I rather messenger bags that I can secure well. My motto is use the largest one you can get, and put less junk it over a smaller one jammed heavy with lots of junk. Makes a big difference on riding drag (weight on your back) and also how much sweatage it may cause.

    I have a Chrome Metropolis, although a little pricey - I will never have to buy another bag again. I've used Timbuk2 bags also, but I find they don't stay as secure as Chrome bags nor are they fabricated as well. I thought about switching to backpack, but the Metropolis is like a backpack the way it fits.

    If price is an issue, shop on FleaBay - sometimes you can find good deals for quality bags.

  18. #18
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    I've used both as well. My preference is for a messenger with stabilizer belt, especially if you are fast or aggressive rider.

    A loaded backpack has more leverage and raises your CoG more than a messenger. I was reluctant to use one until a courier friend sold me on a Chrome. His logic, "if extra gears made our lives easier we wouldn't use track bikes. Ditto for shoulder straps. k.i.s.s. principle"

    MUST HAVE STABILIZER STRAP OF SOME KIND!!!! Otherwise it's not a messenger bag, it's a purse made out of ballistic nylon.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrekJeff
    I've used both, but for serious commuting look into some panniers or a trunk bag. Once I started using them I was kicking myself for not switching over sooner. Whn you head into work, you simply un attach from the rear rack and walk on into work.
    +1
    Just put panniers and a rack on my bike the other day. So much better.
    I have a Chrome Kremlin, a PAC Designs bag and an Oakley Kitchen Sink backpack. I love all 3, and all 3 have their uses.

    But the panniers blow all of them out of the water. So much better. I'm using the Ortlieb Back Roller classic panniers, they are HUGE. Actually a bit too big. I used only one today and was able to fit - complete change of clothes, shoes, deodorant, U-lock, spare tube, pump. And it wasn't full yet.

    I also grocery shop with my bike, so that's why I got the biggest ones.

    That being said, if you're set on a messenger bag, I'd say Chrome. My Kremlin is awesome, can haul more than I can physically carry and everyone loves the seat belt buckle.
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