Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cycling with a Backpack

Cycling with Backpack
After not having owned a backpack for nearly a decade, I recently bought one - mainly for nature walks, which I hope to do more of. The backpack is on the small side, lightweight, with lightly padded adjustable straps. I do not know much about backpacks, but this one is very comfortable for walking and it is waterproof. 

Of course having gotten the bag, I was immediately tempted to wear it on bikes that have no provisions for carrying loads. It was fun at first, but now that the novelty has worn off here are some notes:

. I can feel the weight on my back. When I move around on the bike the weight inside the bag shifts and affects my balance. 

. The straps rest a little too heavily on my shoulders and their width constrains movement. (Interestingly, I have tried a few cycling-specific backpacks in the store and their straps are even wider - I can hardly move my arms.)

. On an upright bike, it feels as if the weight of the bag pulls me backward a bit. 

. On a roadbike, despite being small the bag obscures my vision as I check behind me for cars. 

. Each time I have worn the backpack on a bike, my back was drenched in sweat afterward.

. These things notwithstanding, having tried riding with messenger-style bags when I first began cycling, I definitely prefer the backpack. It feels more secure and stable. I've never been able to get a messenger bag to really stay put on my back, even when it's a bicycle-specific design. 

In a pinch having a backpack is great, because it makes it possible to carry a load on any bicycle without requiring the presence of racks, baskets or panniers. But if given a choice, I would rather attach things to the bike itself. 

On a separate note, I wonder whether there have been attempts to make a backpack for road cyclists to run errands on their way home from a ride. It would fold up tiny, fitting into a jersey pocket like a musette bag but expanding into a large rucksack. It could then be filled with groceries on the way home and would be fine to wear for just the last mile or so. I sometimes wish I could stop by the store on my way home from a ride, without having to switch to my transport bike first. Of course, there is also the issue if locking up the bike...

What has been your experience cycling with a backpack?

100 comments:

  1. If the pictured backpack is what you rode with - no wonder you had issues. Leave that one to hiking if you like it for that, but get a proper pack for cycling. There are many good brands out there. I have several sizes and i rarely can tell they are even on my back, unless its super hot out and my back gets hot and itchy

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  2. Outlier makes a crazy lightweight bag http://shop.outlier.cc/shop/retail/minimalbackpack.html

    Also I've had great luck with the Timbuk2 messenger bags - the extra chest strap lets me keep the bag positioned quite high up, nearer my shoulders and doesn't aggravate my shoulder injury.

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  3. Cycling with a backpack is definitely doable and sometimes preferred (Think about MTB cycling in heavy terrain) if you follow a few rules:
    1. use a backpack with a hip belt (the one in the picture is a lousy cycling backpack)
    2. load it lightly (it is not a backpacking trip - you will not ride comfortably with a very heavy backpack)
    3. use it if you don't mind a sweaty back
    4. buy a small one, perhaps even a narrow one (like most CamelBak backpacks)

    I did multiple biking trips in high mountains with my brother and we always used backpacks. Sweaty back didn't matter if you are all covered in mud.

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  4. I can't help but think that given the current trend towards extreme weight-consciousness amongst some road cyclists, even a very lightweight pack-away backpack would be quite a niche product. Perhaps something appropriate exists somewhere else already, but is marketed towards a different audience.

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  5. "What has been your experience cycling with a backpack?"
    OK for a few km, say to a store or a train station. For longer rides my back starts to ache. God praise racks!
    One of my relatives, who lives in Europe, does longish rides (around 200 km) with a backpack. He wouldn't even dream of attaching a rack to his bike; he wants to keep the Italian carbon fiber frame "clean". Yet he complains of sore back. Well, to each his/her own.

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  6. I use a Marmot Kompressor - packable and has a stabilizing chest strap. It is great for shorter rides or multi-modal trips. I keep contents light and just accept the inevitable sweaty back.

    A bike that carries my baggage is better for longer rides.

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  7. Oh my God, you are now talking about running errands on your road bike! Admit it, you'd rather be riding it all the time ;D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a matter of saving time. I have no desire to ride my roadbike to the grocery store and generally hate riding it in the city. But if I am already on it, it would be nice to stop by the store on the way home.

      Delete
  8. Cycling-specific Bags are designed to be durable, expandable and fashionable. The last part is what drives up price points. While I appreciate artistry and craftsmanship, a basic courier bag with a single or double strap is not entirely complex and the materials they use is relatively inexpensive.

    I've tried many different brands and styles in this space and two which I like best are the Bailey Works Super Pro and North Face Solaris. The latter isn't a true Cycling bag but it has nice back molding for proper air circulation and it's expandable.

    The Bailey Works is a horse. It has endured rain, snow, oppressive humidity in Asia, etc. and its still in excellent condition after all these years.

    I've never been a fan of Chrome and its iconic seat belt buckle. PAC Designs is too hard-core Courier for my taste. R.E. Load offers an array of customizable options but it's not as durable as the others. Freight Baggage in SF is a popular brand with Messengers but the average wait time is about a month. It's a bag not a custom road bike.

    Mission Workshop (founded by original Chrome guys) has innovative products but their price points may scare off potential customers.

    If you just need a small backpack to hold your tools, lunch, extra water bottles, laptop and layers, I recommend Bailey Works Citizen. It's extremely comfortable, bullet proof and understated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have 3 Bailey Works bags in different sizes and recommend them highly. Although I much prefer messenger bags, I've used my wife's cycling-specific backpack on occasion...I like that it sits low near the hips, and works ok if I don't carry much.

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    2. Mission Workshop products are worth the price. I use one daily and after 2 years it looks good as new--that's a minimum of 40 miles every weekday. I even use it on the weekends for groceries.

      Delete
    3. The Mission Workshop Vandal backpack is amazing. It's expandable, has the right number of pockets, and doesn't feel like a sweaty mess after a long ride in the heat. If you want a bag that can do it all (and this one is a bit big and heavy) this is your choice. It's highly waterproof, too. And it might help to know that I went from riding a single speed commuter with really nice panniers to using this backpack with a Specialized Tarmac because I found the pack so comfortable. Yeah, you can do some more things with panniers. But this backpack is phenomenal and I base my whole life around using it now. It's held up to everything!

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    4. The MW Vandal is a cool looking backpack but it has design flaws. I think you have to well over 6 feet for it to look proportionate to the rest of your body as its a huge bag.

      The top of the bag will hover high over your shoulders, making it very difficult to look behind you with on-coming traffic.

      The back is flat panel mesh with no air-circulation.

      For such a large bag, it doesn't offer much for utility or accessory areas.

      Delete
    5. The Vandal does have its flaws, but I've owned one for several years now. The after sales is amazing, I've actually carried a full suspension frame and two wheels back home in this bag (admittedly most of it was outside the bag). Basically whatever size/weight you think you can handle cycling with, this bag will take. Yes the bag is big, but when you're not carrying much , it's very slim. I do sometimes wish I'd gone for the slightly smaller Rambler though.

      Delete
  9. I use a backpack for commuting. If you get one with a waist strap then you can distribute the weight off your shoulders and towards your lower back. I prefer it over carrying the weight on the bike because to me, it makes the bike too "shifty". I will admit that the sweat factor is a negative but I'm willing to deal with that since in Austin, TX you get drenched with sweat anyways.

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  10. I cycled with a backpack for years on short commutes until I finally saw the light and got a decent pannier. I'd say it's the default for most UK commuters, especially those just starting out, given how few bikes are properly equipped with racks and panniers. It makes sense, I suppose, if you're trying out cycling to work and you don't want to invest in a lot of cycling specific stuff - most people have a backpack kicking around the house, and most 'shed bikes' seem to be the kind without racks. And it also makes more sense if you're cycling to the station and taking the train onwards - one less thing to detach from the bike (and forget, if you're me) and I've yet to come across a pannier bag that was particularly easy to carry around off the bike.

    I had no idea until I stopped using one how sweaty the backpack made you. You just assume that you're sweaty because of the cycling. I'm sure lots of people who insist on needing to shower when they get in would be fine if they weren't cycling with a backpack. That said, it's quite handy for some things - I once had to bring in a bottle of champagne to work and it got a lot less jiggled in my backpack than it might have done in a pannier.

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  11. I have used everything from vaude / deuter / nondescript backpacks and I agree with a few of your observations.
    1. None (even with the mesh / air design) keep my back completely dry.
    2. The nondescript make bag makes my arms go numb after a few hours (when loaded).
    3. messenger bags make me uncomfortable with their shifting weight, not something i would trust with my notebook.

    However on the other hand there is also the convenience factor. With a backpack I don't have to worry about anything other than just locking my bike (important as i carry an expensive notebook to and fro work). I can afford to carry that last minute grocery / beer home. Also loosening the shoulder straps on my backpack makes it more "over the shoulder" gaze friendly on my road bike.

    I must say i like this concept (just for its novelty)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpNlsHlHQoE

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  12. I haven't used this but was considering getting one to store in my (admittedly quite large) saddlebag for when last minute shopping trips come up like the one you describe. Like I said, I haven't used it, but it sounds like it'd meet your requirements (folds very small, lightweight, decent size for groceries).
    http://www.rei.com/product/799600/sea-to-summit-ultra-sil-packable-day-pack#video-inner

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  13. I have a lot of the same issues as you. After a lot of research and trial and error, I settled on the Deuter Compact EXP SL (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004HWKKLQ/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00). I can just about cope with it on a one-way commute (10 miles). On the other hand, there's something psychological about this - if I set off with a group of friends for a 50+ mile ride, even with virtually nothing in the backpack I begin to feel... not tired exactly, more like OPPRESSED (?!) within the first 2 miles and always end up asking my boyfriend if he minds taking it. Happily for me, he can handle anything and is always happy to help. :)

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    Replies
    1. "if I set off with a group of friends for a 50+ mile ride, even with virtually nothing in the backpack I begin to feel... not tired exactly, more like OPPRESSED (?!) "

      I think oppressed is the right word for me as well. I can fill my jersey pockets with bananas and milk cartons and it'll be fine, but having a backpack on feels like I am wearing a harness. I want to be free!

      Delete
  14. It is a rare occasion that I ride with a backpack, and only then for distances under 10km and if I'm on a bike without provision for panniers, which is rare since most of my bikes are equipped with at least a rear rack.

    My experiences are in line with yours: packs are unbalanced and uncomfortable.

    Bikes make good mechanical mules, so why not put the weight on the "animal" itself, where the lower centre of gravity can actually stabilize?

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  15. I could write a lot about urban freeriding and concussing myself with my ulock ensconced in various backpacks however...

    Backpacks are too complicated to pack into a very small package. I have a motorcycle cover backpack that folds down pretty small so that it stuffs into a jersey pocket, not really that annoying there. When out on a road ride I try to think of what I need and who will allow me to bring my bike in.

    Alternatively I have a synthetic all-purpose bag that folds to nothing but the straps aren't quite long enough to wear comfortably musette-style.

    Of course I have multiple musettes as well, which aren't ideal but suffice when distances are short.

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  16. Better (current) link to the Deuter Compact EXP 10: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deuter-Compact-EXP-black-white/dp/B006V1VZGU/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1342544237&sr=1-2-catcorr

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  17. My experience with back and courier packs has been unpleasant.

    I've tried various packs from the well known and local manufacturers. They restrict my movement more than I like. They chafe. In hot weather the lack of circulation causes my back to get all clammy.

    There are so many excellent racks, baskets, panniers, etc. I do not see the need for wearing something while riding.

    n.b. - I hike and use my back pack for travelling even if I do not plan to hike at my destination. I like back packs. Just not on the bike.

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  18. Those Bailey Works bags look very well designed and constructed. Shame they're so ugly! (As is the backpack in V's photo - sorry!)

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    Replies
    1. It's not as aesthetically appealing as bags from Defy or Acronym but then again, it's about a few hundred dollars cheaper.

      Examine it in person. It's not as ugly as depicted in the stock photos.

      Delete
    2. You think the Bailey Works bags and my Kelty pack are ugly, but are okay with the Deuter you linked to? Hmm, fair enough, but then our tastes are too different to discuss aesthetics.

      Bailey Works are a local to me company, and I would love to support them. I like the aesthetics just fine, especially as you can customise the bags with any colour you want if you buy from them directly. But having tried a few of the messenger bags, they have the same issues for me as others. Their backpack is enormous, costs $300, and has extremely wide straps.

      Delete
    3. Contact Bart Kyzar at Mission Workshop and ask to review the Sanction Backpack. They're usually very accommodating to Bloggers.

      I think a few LBS in Cambridge carries this bag if you want to examine the straps.

      It's compact, stylish and constructed from military-specifications. The drawback is that it may sit high over your shoulders and make for an unpleasant urban riding experience.

      For roughly half the price, try out the Patagonia Fuego on Newbury. It's clean, functional and pretty comfortable.

      Delete
    4. I think I've seen the bags, but don't recall exactly. I am not looking for a cycling backpack for myself, I have all I need. But it's interesting to read about what works for others.

      Delete
    5. Their bags were popularized by a series of YouTube videos depicting the Hipster lifestyle. Fun to watch if you have a few minutes to kill.

      Search: Mission Workshop Rummy

      Personally, I like to use a Messenger Bag if I'm riding with a few small items. If I'm carrying anything heavy, I'll switch to a Courier Backpack.

      Paniers and Racks are functional but I can definitely feel the weight and tension on the rear. With bags, the weight is evenly distributed snugly against my back. Solid back panels and air circulating cushions make the load seem lighter than it really is.

      I also don't like the hassle of removing Panier Bags once I reach my destination.

      Delete
    6. Anon 1:51 - Hate to beat a dead horse, but your problem with racks / panniers segues back to all the controversy about Jan Heine, Grant Peterson, et al.

      Many bikes properly designed to carry loads be it in the back or front do so with great aplomb.

      My somewhat low trail commuter has a Pass Stow rack up front. I have a lovely bag from Swift that attaches and detaches with one clip. Getting a back pack off on my back is more hassle than getting the bag off and on the rack.

      I've no issue with people preferring one way of lugging their stuff over another. It is not correct to suggest that wearing luggage has some universal advantage over toting it.

      Delete
    7. 1. I'm not familiar with the Jan Heine, Grant Peterson and the debate on paniers but I would be delighted to learn more.

      2. The comment at 1:51 was a subjective comparison and not as an indictment against paniers. It depends on the Cyclist, their needs and personal preferences. I prefer the quick access which Courier Bags provide to my U-Lock, books, phone and keys. For long rides, I would probably go with paniers.

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    8. 1. Sorry for being obscure. JH, GP and others argue that many qualms people have with their bikes - such as not liking the ride with load - have more to do with the mfgs. foisting modern race geometry on the public. A bike designed and constructed with carrying loads in mind should not display annoying ride characteristics under load.

      2. From your comments I gather you have a system for carrying your stuff that is well thought out for your needs and works well. I'm 100% with you.

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    9. "foisting modern race geometry on the public"

      bah. i have multiple road bike commuters. they work great.

      Delete
    10. oh velouria, stop supporting (even local, hard working, no doubt deeply deserving) businesses and stick to describing what you experience/reviewing what you find - it's more interesting

      Delete
  19. Tom Bihn makes a small Dyneema daypack that doubles as a packing cube. It folds fairly flat, and I've used it for picking up a few things on the way home. It's called the Packing Cube Backpack, and there are now two models, depending on which Bihn suitcase it's designed to work with.

    Arkel makes a backpack/pannier with backpack straps and hooks to mount on a rack. Ortlieb does something similar, but theirs requires detaching the backpack straps before mounting on a rack.

    I've cycled with a backpack, but only a very light one when cycling on rough terrain with a laptop. Even with that, my back gets sweaty when the temperature is over 45 F.

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  20. When I started commuting by bike, I wore a light Osprey Halo backpack, but it was definitely hot and unpleasant. I eventually replaced it with seat-saddle bags... but, I do find myself wearing satchels/musette-ish bags almost constantly on my bikes. I use a wool Filson field bag for the cool seasons, and a Frost River shell bag or a Civil war style Haversack in the warm seasons. These are usually swung around behind my back and rest on the aforementioned seat bags, taking the load off my shoulder.
    All of my bikes are upright though, I'd suspect I would have difficulty with these satchelly things if I was on a drop bar road bike.

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  21. Re bicycle-specific backpacks... Those can run upward of $200. I can see how it's worth it for those who use backpacks as their main method of carrying stuff on a bike, but that is not the case for me. Also, having tried a few of these bags in the store and belonging to friends, I note some of the same problems I've described here. The straps tend to be very wide, which bothers me. And when I lean over to imitate a road position, the bag blocks my line of vision when I look over my shoulder. I could never feel comfortable with this, no matter how ergonomic the bag.

    Re musette bags - I have accumulated a few at this point, from events where they are given out as novelty items. The strap is usually waay to long for my torso, so I have to tie it in a knot to shorten it. This works, but I still have the same problem as I do with messenger bags - can't get the musette back to stay in place.

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    Replies
    1. The Deuter I linked to is (a) womens specific fit ("SL" in the model name) e.g. for narrow shoulders, (b) cycling specific e.g. the top tapers - I have no problem seeing over it when riding either of my roadbikes, and (c) is about £70 here in the UK. A quick look at Amazon.com suggests the exact same model may not be currently available in the US... they all seem to include hydration bladders and be either 8L or 12L capacity.

      Not that my Deuter is perfect, but I'd caution against making generalisations. Just sayin'.

      Delete
    2. The key to getting messenger bags to "work" (as you probably know) is the waist strap. Ergo, a musette really should not be compared to a messenger bag and, of course, they were not designed for anything other than very short and disposable use. I'm a little surprised that you haven't had luck with messenger bags - if they are properly contoured (not all are) and the straps are nice and snug, you should be able to travel miles and miles with only the occasional minor adjustment.

      Delete
    3. My other comment got ate.

      I have the solution, but you won't implement it. Therefore I shall not type it out. Again.

      Delete
    4. Didn't mean to imply I was looking for a solution; I am fine with what I have for limited use.

      Delete
    5. i'm in a similar boat - i was looking for a way to pannier a heavy laptop (5kg) that would double as a backpack when i arrive, and ortlieb makes a pannier/backpack converter (but reviews say it doesnt work)while a bunch of other cheap chinese pannier/backpack combos are available, but so ugly that i cant get myself to spend money on it..

      Delete
  22. I've ridden with backpacks at various points. I tend to get a backache with courier bags. I liked the novara backpack for commuting, but it's only good for commuting due to how the pockets are organized.

    I was looking at convertible bags like the arkel bug for a while. But I run hot and can't wear a backpack on a bike without overheating so I got a backpack I like and bungee it to my front rack or put it in the big dummy pocket.

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  23. Abandoning carrying weight on my back while cycling and purchasing baskets & panniers was one of the happiest cycling decisions I have ever made.

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  24. My kid has some sort of simple mesh bag with a drawstring top and that's all he uses when running a quick errand at the store. Carries it in his pocket there and uses it like a backpack on the return. For a few items it's remarkably simple. When I ask if he'd like a proper bag he just says 'eh, i'm fine' -- the store is only a couple miles away. Personally, I hate bags on my back but don't ride a race bike so it's a non-issue.

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  25. I used a backpack on my bike in college and hated it for many of the reasons you have described. I think that a lot of cooling on the bike occurs from air flowing over your back (which is probably the largest surface exposed to the air); having a backpack on interferes with this significantly. I tended to carry a lot of weight in my backpack, and cinched it down tightly to prevent sway; this exacerbated the overheating problem and added additional issues as well. My preferred solution on my main commuter bike is a rack with a basket; I usually carry a backpack in the basket which makes things efficent off the bike.

    For short distances and for overflow I will sometimes still use a small backpack. My first choice is the "traffic cone bag" - http://trafficconebag.blogspot.com/p/about-gal-traffic-cone-bag-made-in-new.html
    It's a minimalist reversible backpack that can be black on the outside or fluorescent orange on the outside; it can also convert to a musette.

    Another pack I occasionally use is the Rick Steves' Civita Day Pack - it's a lightweight backpack designed to be packed in other luggage and used around town; it does have lightly padded shoulder straps. Link: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=40

    Either the traffic cone bag or the civita daypack would fit in a jersey pocket.

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  26. As others have said, I'm also a convert to bags on the bike from having a rucksack / backpack. The bike carries the weight leaving you to use your energy for pedalling and it lowers your centre of gravity. On my mtb I use. Carradice SQR system bag that fixes to the seat post (and also acts as a mudguard / fender). Sorry V, no shopping solution here! Or maybe just take a normal bag and hang it from your bars student style?

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  27. For the last 25 years I have used many different types of backpacks when cycling, none of them have been perfect, 7 months ago I luckily came across this article: http://theeverydaycyclist.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/swedish-army-rucksack/ which described a backpack that looked really interesting.
    I bought one and can just add that I have never before had a backpack that fits so well for the cycling purpose, my search fot the perfect backpack is over.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jesus, not that pack. 3 years ago i picked one of those up for a (S24O) overnight bike camping trip. By the end of it i never wanted to see it again. for one the pack alone is super heavy due to its cast iron? frame, i found the leather straps just digging and destroying my skin. when you sweat the leather stains your cloths... that bag made me get racks and panniers, because i never wanted to deal with such discomfort again. One could argue it would be more comfortable if it were less laden, but why have an giant empty bag? now i happily ride a bike that can handle 4 panniers a handlebar bag, and a saddle bag, and with all of that fully loaded, in excess of what i could stuff in that swiss rucksack, i have had no complaints.

      Delete
  28. Chico (http://www.chicobag.com/) makes several backpacks/slings/etc that are okay -- including a messenger style.

    The Sea to Summit (http://www.seatosummit.com/products/cat/7) mentioned earlier is useful-- the straps are meh, but it is tiny (fits in a jersey pocket with room left over) and fairly strong. They also make a sling/messenger style, too.

    A bunch of knockoffs are out there too (at big box store camping sections). they are generally a little bulkier and a less nice material, but cost 1/3 - 1/2 the price of the named brands.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, I have a Chico backpack that I carry as the spare grocery bag. The style I have has two side pockets (great to hold apples or oranges or bottles) and uses the straps to pull close.
      I also like EMS's packable backpack. I had the Patagonia travel pack and REI's version and found EMS's to be the most practical.
      As far as biking with a backpack - I only do it when I'm carrying stuff home from shopping - not for long trips.

      Delete
  29. I personally dislike backpacks on the bike... for the same reasons you mention. But from your description of issues I thought you might consider the Patagonia Light Weight Travel Pack. I have one. Super light weight, folds up into nothing. What I like most about the pack are the straps. They are very thin and flexible. Plus it has a waist strap. There is basically not much built-in structure, its more like a nylon-ish shopping bag in the form of a usable backpack, so it is very light weight. And I love that Patagonia repairs their gear forever, pretty much. Always a good investment in my book.

    Anyway, it might be worth a look for the occasional take-with-you backpack. And of course it is a great day-pack for other times too. I throw mine in my suitcase wherever I go... just in case I need a day pack.

    http://www.zappos.com/patagonia-light-weight-travel-pack.

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  30. Cycling with backpacks will do in a pinch or for short rides, but not a good idea. I see it as the mark of youth and inexperience(unless it's just for a short ride, in a pinch etc). When I was younger I thought nothing of carrying everything in a backpack while cycling, no matter how heavy. Sweaty back, heavy sharp things poking back, back hurting, unstable etc.. I'd go bike camping with everything in a giant treking backpack and wonder why I fell off my bike so many times. I thought panniers were dorky....Then a major car accident wrecked my back, so not a good idea to carry weight on my bike, but still did it. My husband bought me 40litre ortliebs and a rack. Heaven! Panniers or bike bags are a much better way to go. I see people struggling with back packs and want to hug them and say it's okay, just get a rack and some panniers!
    As for roadbikes, my husband has a fancy road bike and a beater road bike. He's reluctant to get into saddle or handlebar bags, but has a tiny saddle bag on his special bike. Inevitably unless he is on a strictly biking only ride, he ends up having to ride with a backpack because he needs extra clothing, has to stop at store etc.. The sweaty back, the inbalance, the swinging load... Maybe he will be convinced to get some nice smallish bags but big enough to carry x amount.
    For me, my only working bike at the moment is a vintage raleigh with no rack, no basket, so have to carry everything in my satchel unless biking with my husband on his commuting bike. I will carry things in bags on the handlebars which is doable, but can be dangerous. One of the few regular daily commuters I see of carries all her bags on her handlebars. I have tried waving her over to suggest a rack and panniers, but she is unapproachable, doesn't want to stop, or talk. I admire her for doing it, but that many shopping bags on handlebars is pretty sketchy. I can see finances being an issue, but you can get pretty cheap stuff, and in the long run does wonders.

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  31. I prefer the panniers to the backpack for longer trips - good Ortlieb ones are waterproof and you can easily unclip them and use them as shoulder bags when walking around.

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  32. Totally agree on backpacks, especially with regard to sweating. Yuck.

    I keep a musette bag in the seat pack of my road bike for post-ride stops, but like you I have to knot the strap and it moves around.
    http://ladyfleur.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/locked-loaded-and-lit-on-my-road-bike/

    An alternative are drawstring backpacks. They pack almost as small as the musette, but stay in place better. http://www.4allpromos.com/category/drawstring-backpacks

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  33. I can vouch for the Banjo Brothers commuter backpack. I have the larger version and could fit nearly a week's worth of groceries in it. It's designed to sit lower on the back so I didn't have any visibility issues, and it's 100% waterproof. The U-lock pocket is nice, although I wish there was one on both sides. I also think it looks nice, as nice as a black nylon bag can, anyway.

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  34. While I haven't used a backpack in years (preferring panniers) I do use a fanny pack on occasion and it's great! I've got a couple that have been in my house for two decades and I keep forgetting how practical they are. You'd be surprised how much can be stuffed in those things!

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  35. I have a rack on my "big" commuter bike, but use a backpack on my "light" roadbike. I cruise the thrift stores for interesting looking backpacks and bags, and at $1-5 dollars a pop, I can experiment. I have found that a big bag, filled sparsely works great by concentrating the weight on the small of my back. my position is far forward so the weightrests on my lower back and doesn't pull at the shoulder straps. I do suffer from "sweatty back" but have an idea, I may try using some sort of lightweight frame, or those dollar-store water noodles to lift the backpack off my back.

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  36. I commute to and from work with my Timbuk2 Med. messenger bag. It's enough for some papers, mail to drop off or pick up and my lunch. I don't commute with a laptop. In a pinch - just for a few items - I'll put groceries in it too. I always use the stabilizer strap, and I always snug the main strap up so it wraps around my torso as high as possible.
    The main reason I like a messenger bag is that it allows me to unhitch it and get into it quickly, or put stuff into it quickly, then off again. It perfect for short runs and errands involving light loads.
    I love backpacks. But not on a bike. The hip belts never go low enough when I'm in my stretched out position, and if they did, they would be uncomfortable walking around. Just not compatible ergonomically.

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  37. I've only recently fitted my bike with a rack and panniers, and it's great to lose the weight and the sweaty back! Backpacks are great if you just need to take a few things on a short trip, but for anything over about 10 miles, panniers are the way forward. In terms of a tiny, packable backpack, Baggubag.com do one that might work; it doesn't the most robust, but it'd probably stand up to a few groceries and it packs down small!

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  38. I believe that items shifting would "affect" your balance, not "effect" it.

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  39. I have a backpack exactly like the ideal road cycling one you described! My mother-in-law bought it for me as a gift when she was in Queensland, Australia.

    If you're interested, the company's website is www.onyabags.com.au

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  40. Pretty much agree on the sweat, plus with decent loads my back aches after a while. Some backpacks are also made of rough fabric than can wear at your clothes. That was one of the things that drove me to try a cargo bike (that, and the difficulty of carrying 4 8-foot pieces of lumber in a backpack, or 3 gallons of milk and 3 bags of groceries, or an extra bicycle).

    However, I have a medium BaileyWorks bag, and as a just plain bag, I love it, plus I CAN wear it on the bike for up to 11 miles fairly well loaded without too much discomfort (this was tested on a business trip). One person's "shifts around" is another person's "variety of positions", I think. It normally rides in the side loader on the cargo bike, but if I need more room for stuff, then I wear it.

    I also have three Timbuktu bags that I got on Steep-and-cheap, 2 smalls, and a huge. The small bags I don't mind, but they're small. The huge is used when the cargo bike is out of commission and I might need to carry a real load, but not far.

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  41. I used to commute with a Deuter and an Ortlieb backpack. The Deuter had the mesh backing to keep the back cooler. I always rode with the weight on my hips, this gets the center of balance lower and you can see over your shoulder. I was not packing much weight. I have seen some pretty squirrely riders carrying too much weight high on their shoulders.

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  42. I've also abandoned carrying weight on my back unless it's just a very short trip, in which case I use a mini PAC messenger bag. With light loads I don't feel it much; with larger and heavier loads I hate it. Last month, 40km on a fixed with a six-pack and beach stuff was HELL. Based on that experience I actually made some saddlebag loop things and just this week bought a Carradice Super C and a VO Baguette to give me more options than just having an 11 litre Zimbale and one saddle with loops afforded me (bye bye PAC mini bag?)

    I'm a total saddle bag convert and can't believe it took me so long. Still waiting on a handlebar bag I've had commissioned and will probably snag a Berthoud or similar someday when I next feel spendy. I'm also a front rack convert. Tried panniers yeeears back but also hated them, though it was on a mountain bike and a recent spin on a pannier-laden Surly LHT did feel nice... all about the application I suppose.

    I used a messenger bag from 1994 til just a year ago but only PAC bags. I hated any other messenger bag I tried becasue they swayed and always felt off centre or pulled to one side more than the other. I think when it comes to messenger bags you get what you pay for. PAC bags are expensive but worth it for the durability and great fit/adjustment. Quebec folk swear by Coccotte messenger bags and I'll admit they always seemed comfy and well built. I'm sure it'd be the same with a backpack... depends on the quality and the person doing the carrying.

    I always hated cycling with a back pack for the reasons noted in the blog article. That being said mountain bikers, skateboarders and cross country skiers all can't be wrong and I'm sure there's a huge selection out there of varying quality and comfort. Arkel comes to mind and was mentioned above by somebody.

    Now one messenger bag is travel luggage (as in car and plane) and the other is a toolbag so they are still very useful to me.

    -- Rolly

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    1. Totally with you. I made the move to a big carradice saddle bag for commuting and I'll never go back, except for very short trips.
      A musette in a jersey pocket does the trick for road rides.

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  43. I'm going back to Uni this Sept and have been wondering how to carry my books and laptop. Anybody use a saddlebag or handlebar bag for similar stuff? The worry is carrying it around while off the bike and locking the bike up. I suppose I could pack the PAC mini in an on-the-bike bag and use it while walking. But are saddle and handlebar bags actually comfortable to carry with a shoulder strap?

    -- Rolly

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    1. I simply use a standard,15"4 screen, Targus computer bag on a mouse-trap rear rack. I just "trap" the bag and secure it laterally with a bungee cord. I rarely carry books however, only the laptop and something to write on. It is quite secure, I have even found their fabric to be waterproof!

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  44. I remember a large waist pack i once had that was the size of a small backpack... attached to the waist and went up the small of the back... lots of adjustment sraps to snug the countour of the waist and back. It was better than a backpack for fit and comfort but still sweaty. It even had a camelback bladder compartment. Can't remeber the brand name but it was from a shop in Montreal called Le Yeti that sold cross country ski, bike touring and hiking gear. I was very happy with it. Could've been a local product.

    Man, I really have a thing for bags that aren't backpacks.

    -- Rolly

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  45. Not sure if it qualifies as a backpack but I happen to use a camelbak just like the one displayed in your 600K brevet photoset. I have never experienced either backache or sweating problems, even on a century with a cotton T shirt on a 3-speed... so I guess some backpacks are more bicycle friendly than others.
    It may be because in that particular case the weight is predictable (a water bladder of a given capacity, tools) and well secured, plus the surface in contact with the riders back is breathable .

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  46. " I wonder whether there have been attempts to make a backpack for road cyclists to run errands on their way home from a ride. It would fold up tiny, fitting into a jersey pocket like a musette bag but expanding into a large rucksack. It could then be filled with groceries on the way home and would be fine to wear for just the last mile or so. "

    How's this. Three Bucks.
    http://www.thedealrack.com/p-735-liberty-bags-large-drawstring-bag-backpack-8882.aspx?cagpspn=pla&gclid=CLy9kfjuobECFYao4AodPy0Ehg

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  47. i can't stand panniers and heart my extra-large yellow ortlieb backpack. i routinely carry 30+ lb loads in my back pack without any discomfort. imo, panniers take much of the joy out of cycling and there is also the danger of something getting caught in your drive train.

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  48. I have a very nice backpack for carrying groceries in at the end of a road ride - an older Arcteryx Cierzo 18. Very compressible and decent enough suspension including a waist belt. For a while I used a Deuter Speed Lite 20/500 for carrying locks, diapers, food, and clothes when taking my son in the bike seat. It was just fine for carrying stuff but I added a front rack for carrying stuff in panniers instead. The conversion was for space for my son, not because of any discomfort. This Deuter is not compressible.

    I have a Baileyworks Super Pro that is great for carrying weight when I don't want panniers. You need to use the waist belt for this bag to work.

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  49. Will do just about anything to avoid wearing a backpack. When I do have to wear one I'm sad. Like a beast of burden.

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  50. "drenched in sweat"

    Unlike a "fanny pack" or a pannier. My own experiences also support backpacks having this disadvantage. Which is why I either use a trunk bag or a pannier.

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  51. I don't like riding with backpacks or messenger/courier bags. However, if I had to choose one or the other for cycling, I'd choose a backpack. That said, I'd use it only for very short distances and small, light loads on a bike that has no provisions for carrying anything besides the rider.

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  52. Fixie with no rack, short ride and a light load, I'll happily use my backpack. Rest of the time rack and panniers. Why carry the load yourself when the bike can do it for you?

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  53. I love my Mission Workshop Sanction rucksack so much I tried it on a solo bike trip where I rode about 50 km on 2 days with about 15 lbs on my back. The waist belt helped immensely: I didn't have any shoulder or back strain.
    From that experience, I decided I wanted a bigger bag so I could pack just a little more for a short trip like that. I chose the Mission Workshop Rummy messenger bag. I have yet to try carrying a similar weight for the same distance, but I love it for riding around the city. No problems with balance, and I don't mind the sweaty back, which has not been as sweaty as others have recounted.
    For a tiny, water-resistant bag that can fold out to be worn as a backpack and carry groceries, perhaps the Aerostich LP (Lightweight Portable) Bag #9197 fits the bill. Its dimensions: 4.5"×3.75"×2" (compressed), 19"×20"×18" (expanded).

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  54. Just thought to throw a quick comment into the mix. We have been traveling more and more lately, now that our child is older. Having a child, it is often imperative to have a backpack. I am also super sensitive to back weight as I have a problem shoulder. I need to carry items with me through airports, travel, etc, yet still have hands free. I have never biked (yet) with a backpack, but understand the frustrations with back sweat and load. Right now, I use an LL Bean back pack for travel, carting nearly everything in it from a laptop to kiddo supplies to water bottles, etc. I do have to say, as heavy as it gets, the construction of this particular pack is spot on. It rests very comfortable for me as a smaller woman and I don't feel the strains on my back as much. I really like how LL Bean has shaped their packs and am planning on purchasing another from the here soon for hiking! I don't think any pack will be sweat proof but construction does make a huge difference in wearability. The LL Bean one rests more in my back groove and doesn't wiggle from side to side as much as other packs I've tried.

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  55. There is the Rixen Kaul(KlicFix) Freepack Meta backpack which clips to a seatpost mount while you ride. This bins all the minus points of a rucksack in one simple solution. Forgive the retail link, I'd link to the company page if it allowed you to go anywhere but the homepage.
    http://www.dotbike.com/p/2122

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  56. for foldup backpacks you could try the onya bags. Strong and fold small but with little padding. http://www.onyabags.co.uk/shop.php?crn=207

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  57. I wrote about my leather backpack here:
    http://bicyclesinnewcastle.com/2012/01/22/what-backpack-or-bag-to-use-on-a-bike/
    And since I wrote this post I have ridden with it in driving rain and it was fine, though it would probably not withstand this all the time, and because of its shape and the fact it is worn low down, it does not pose any problems with looking over my shoulder.

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  58. I've ridden with any number of things slung over my shoulders for distances under 10 mile, from musical instruments to 700c rims, and am not a fan of biking with a backpack if I don't have to. The only exception has been a Camelbak that I've used on long summer rides when I wanted to supplement my water bottles.
    I do use a messenger bag pretty frequently (a large Timbuk2 bag) and find it's very comfortable,keeps delicate items safe, and lets me keep all my easily-stealable items with me when I'm off the bike.
    The only downside is the unavoidable fact that it leaves me with a sweaty back.
    I don't mind the extra warmth in the fall and winter, but when it's 90F it's a bit rough.

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  59. Best 'bike & go' luggage solution ever made (imho) is the Santos Literack combined with waterproof Ortlieb Backroller bag(s). I use this combo every day, in all weather and you hardly even notice the bag is there at all (mounted very low, so low centre of gravity too)! And you can simply take it off and carry it along (either as as suitcase or as a messenger bag). Brilliant!

    Scroll for pics (pardon my Dutch):
    http://www.santosbikes.com/index.php/nl/trekking-lite

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  60. off the topic of backpacks but very interesting--Copenhagen's bike highways

    why can't we have these from the Boston suburbs to commute to work?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/world/europe/in-denmark-pedaling-to-work-on-a-superhighway.html?hp

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  61. Extra weight on the seat is another consideration.
    Sometimes its the only way to do when caring delicate electronic equipment so as to naturally absorb the shock in your legs by standing up over rough spots. Early video equipment needed a back pack. My Beaulieu movie camera and 3 lenses, I would never put on the bike. This is where a good Brooks saddle was worth more then money. I use a Alp Sport "Eiger" from the 70's with ski slots for the tripod.
    Sweat is worse in the Summer as one would expect, but for me at times, if the B.O.B. wont work, its the only way to go.
    When I first started collecting bicycles, I would move 2 at a time from the Metro West area to Cambridge Port using a rack for the wheels and fenders and a packboard for the two frames. At least twice a week. All year long.

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  62. Check out the YNOT Tuck and Roll for a foldable, stow-away backpack for road rides. Looks like it could squeeze into a jersey pocket when it's folded down. I've been eyeing them but haven't purchased one yet.

    http://www.ynotcycle.com/products/the-tuck-roll/

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  63. I find the Scout Pack by Duluth Pack holds plenty, does not obscure vision, sits low and because it is made of canvas duck, does not cause you to sweat as much as an artificial fiber pack.
    http://duluthpack.com/scout-pack-backpack.html

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  64. I wore a backpack on a recent tour of Savannah Georgia (which was a wonderful place to cycle), and was drenched in sweat! I'm hoping to find a rack that I can strap the backpack to, perhaps pannier style so I can grab it when I lock the tandem up and go shopping or for coffee....

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  65. I think I'm in the minority of preferring to ride with a backpack. I only ride an upright bike (70s Raleigh) for transportation so I'm not going for lightweight in the first place. It's just easier than any kind of pannier system, and I actually find that there's something steadying about the weight of the pack on my back.

    Two caveats. I agree about the sweat factor, there's no way this would be possible if I didn't live in an extremely moderate climate (bay area). And I do have a fold-out basket on my rack for heavy loads.

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  66. I often have the same feeling about bags. I have a bike specific backpack from chrome, linus pannier bags, and various messenger bags. However time and time again I ride without my rack, and hate to carry a bag just because I may use it later. I saw some of the backpacks that collapse like reusable grocery bags at a local sporting goods store and was very tempted. They are a little harder to find online. Here is an example. http://www.seatosummit.com/products/display/86

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  67. I prefer my Baily Swift bag, small and light, back gets sweaty - no big deal. I also have a Chrome messenger with the belt buckle, which I thought was cool looking but moves around - mostly in side winds. Also the heavy buckle has hit me several time taking it off, really hurts.

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  68. I had a backpack and later a messenger bag. At the time, I was riding a new road bike and I wanted to keep it free of racks and brackets and clutter. The weight made starting from a stop awkward. The straps always caused discomfort after anything but short rides. On hot days the bags built up heat and caused me to sweat through my shirt. I hate wearing bags. Its such a relief to have a saddle bag and a rack. I only ride my road bike when I'm working out these days. In those instances all I need is a basic tool kit and a water bottle. When I need to pack a load i ride an insanely overbuilt industrial bike with heavy duty dutch racks. Its slow, but it keeps me balanced and comfortable.

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  69. I know I may seem a bit odd for the pack I ride with but to me aside from having a sweaty back it's pretty damned comfy. It fits the bill for me part cause I like to leave my bike and lock it places then wander around by foot backwoods wandering. I have been using various packs for dang close to 25 years now worth of riding. Anyways gives me the option to backpack as well. To those that don't know the style it's an old ALICE pack and yes I like camo gear to lol

    http://www.armygear.net/armygear/images/items/alicemedWDL-lg.jpg

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  70. I've used the same backpack for 25 years of daily commuting. It's what I would call a Scandinavian-style rucksack: It has vertical stays and a tensioned hip band, which combine to keep it off my back and avoid sweatiness. It has a drawstring closure with a large flap over the opening. I have the shoulder straps adjusted long so that it rides on my pelvis rather than my back. It holds lunch, newspaper, windbreaker, and sunglasses. With that load, it's like part of my body, but it starts to feel heavy with anything more.

    It's leather, made in Norway by Beckmann. I give it a coat of leather dressing once a year, and the rain beads up and rolls off of it. I've had to replace the shoulder straps and make a few other repairs over the years; it's nice that the construction is simple enough that it can be fixed.

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  71. On the whole, I prefer to attach as many bags to my rack as I can, but I do have a preschooler that I pick up who always seems to come home with more stuff than I send her to school with. For those times or even just for a small load of groceries, I use a simple nylon cinch sack as a backpack. Despite the cording used for the shoulder straps, I find it comfortable enough for short trips. It's compact and light enough to carry all of the time, and possibly cheap to free because they're often given away as promos.

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  72. This summer, I've been commuting with an Osprey Daylite backpack. I wasn't interested in a camelback; I just wanted a lightweight way to carry my work clothes. The double torso straps keep things from shifting around. The narrow profile doesn't obstruct my view. And best of all, the mesh and foam back lets some air circulate to cut down on the hot and stickies.

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  73. After about an year of fervent 20 mile commuting with a loaded backpack, I feel that its high time to loose it for all the reasons you have mentioned.

    I have finally set my mind on an 'Avenir handlebar bag', ignoring the possibility of worsening the ride quality. Still I doubt if there is an alternative to backpacks when it comes to holding capacity (volume), except for panniers which itself requires racking up the bike and making it bulky. What do you say?

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