What's some luggage I can bike with?
April 16, 2019 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I need a new suitcase. I also realized my preferred method of getting to the airport is biking to BART, leaving my bike in a locker, and then taking the train to the airport. I did this successfully on a short trip with only a duffle bag thrown into my front basket. I need a new suitcase. Help me find one that I can easily bike with on some upcoming longer trips.

All the caveats and requirements:
1. Suitcase needs to be waterproof. (I don't want to worry about the rain or snow.)
2. I need to be able to pack for work travel of 5-7 nights. This includes suits, oxford shoes, shirts and the like.
3. It can be slightly larger than a carry on since I usually check my bag (to not worry about competing for overhead space).
4. It should be relatively easy to strap to the front basket of my bike or worn. I cannot attach a trailer or something like that to my bike because it needs to fit in the locker.

I usually travel with a messenger bag or backpack with my plane gear/laptop/work stuff. These bags will fit in my basket.
posted by kendrak to Shopping (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not one of the carry-on backpacks like an Osprey Porter or a Bihn Tri-Star (though that one might be a little too small for you)?
posted by praemunire at 10:47 AM on April 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

What about a suitcase that becomes a trailer? Bike Friday sells a kit that converts this suitcase into a trailer, and I believe there's a generic hub mount for non-BF bikes. You might be able to store the wheels and frame in the locker with your bike, or you can disassemble it and put the parts in the suitcase to take it with you.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:48 AM on April 16, 2019

1. I need something large enough to pack a professional wardrobe for a conference (suits/blazers/trousers/shirts) for 5-7 days. Carry on backpacks are likely too small and will wrinkle my suits.

2. The bike lockers don't have much room and I'd prefer avoiding a struggle with a trailer at 5am when I'm trying to catch my train to catch my flight.
posted by kendrak at 10:54 AM on April 16, 2019

Do you have a back rack thing on your bike? Traveling around West Africa has taught me that a load of any size can be strapped down on the back there. Then I would just get a generic hard case roller-board suitcase
posted by raccoon409 at 11:10 AM on April 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

A rear rack or porteur-style front rack might offer more space to work with than a basket with sides; then you can strap whatever luggage you'd like to the top of the rack and go from there. If it's definitely going in or on top of the basket, though, basket dimensions might be helpful.

My suggestion for waterproofing would be to get a separate waterproof cover for your suitcase. They're commonly included with hiking backpacks or bicycle panniers that aren't already waterproof, but you can get them to fit any suitcase. That way you don't have to give up on having luggage that's otherwise what you want, just to get the waterproof feature. (Waterproofing will be the most uncommon feature of the ones you're looking for.) You can likely strap the bag on before attaching the waterproof cover if you're looping your straps/bungee cords through the suitcase handles, or the reverse if you can get a secure enough attachment going over the waterproof cover.
posted by asperity at 11:12 AM on April 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Something like this? I haven't used it myself, but a garment bag would keep your suits in order while not being as clumsy as a suitcase on a bike.
posted by tavegyl at 11:35 AM on April 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Carry on backpacks are likely too small and will wrinkle my suits.

I think you are maybe not picturing what these actually are? They're essentially clamshell (or otherwise divided) suitcases with backpack straps (e.g.). They're not going to do anything to your suits that any other suitcase wouldn't do. Some of them (e.g.) come with rain covers. What you need to pack is of course personal/idiosyncratic, but I know people who've done a week out of these bags.
posted by praemunire at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

A few years ago I took some standard carry-on luggage and riveted a couple of hooks to clip on to a bike rack. We didn't end up traveling that much with 'em (generally our BnB hosts insisted on shuttling us to and from the airports, which was nice because assembling or packing a tandem at an airport is sub-optimal), but if you've got more than you can bungee to a rack, a few strips of bent aluminum can make a huge difference.
posted by straw at 11:46 AM on April 16, 2019

They make panniers made for suits, I own the older version of this one. No real reason you couldn't check it, so long as all straps were secured; the description mentions air travel. It comes with a rain cover.
posted by mcgsa at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rear panniers and two suit bags, or one suit bag and one general purpose. Won’t add any size to the bike with respect to the locker, and there are several semi-standard systems for easy clip on/off the bike so you can do it quickly and cleanly.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:33 PM on April 16, 2019

One thing NOT to do is convert a normal roller bag into a "trailer" by bungee-ing the extended handle to your rear rack and letting it roll on its own roller wheels. I did that once for a 10-block ride to BART, and thought I was very clever...until the plastic wheels melted from the friction of going 15mph!
posted by introcosm at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

This guy seems to have a good setup: use a regular rolling suitcase or whatnot and strap/bungee it to a milk crate on a rack.

A Twitter and wave-when-I-see-him-biking friend of mine straps his carry-on size to a front rack when he bikes to the airport, though I believe in his case his front rack is frame mounted and gives him more stability.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:23 PM on April 16, 2019

Maybe orthogonal to the question, but I have successfully packed a suit into a messenger bag using the bundle packing method, which could maybe work with your current duffel bag/messenger bag setup.
posted by clockwork at 6:53 PM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Plenty of one bag style carry on backpacks with ample room for 1-2 weeks' packing and able to hold suits and shirts without creasing. Look at the Minaal carry on or Aer and Nomatic bags.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:05 PM on April 16, 2019

My favorite piece of luggage is a Freitag Voyager. It's a backpack, but opens unlike any other backpack so you can pack things wrinkle-free. It is also suitable for carry-on and is waterproof. Watch the video at the bottom of the page to see how it opens.
posted by dobbs at 7:08 AM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

dobbs, do you just use the Freitag Voyager by itself or do you put a piece of luggage in it (as the video seems to recommend)? Those bags look awesome!
posted by kendrak at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2019

The video is not recommending you put a piece of luggage in it, it's just doing that to show you its size and what it's an alternative to.

I generally just travel with it. However, sometimes, if I plan to buy things while away, I will put a smaller Freitag bag inside -- a Skipper or a Hazzard or a Bob or a Dragnet or a discontinued Nightclub -- also packed with goods. I will then leave home with "one" bag, and if I buy some stuff, I'll return with two.

My daily carry, regardless of home or travel, is also by Freitag: Ottendorfer or Masikura.

Obviously, I love their bags (I have 21 in total -- 17 different models and 4 Nightclubs (I'm a record dealer and it was made specifically for carrying vinyl)).

My previous carry-on bag was a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45, which is considered one of the best carry-on bags ever made. I prefer the Voyager and haven't used my Aeronaut since. The Voyager feels better on my back, feels lighter, is easier to pack and search, and is a better looking piece of luggage, imo.

But if your question is really "Can you use the Voyager by itself -- is it structurally sound and will it maintain its rectangular shape?" Yes. Absolutely you can, and that is how it's meant to be used. It keeps its shape even if empty.
posted by dobbs at 6:11 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Note that Freitag also makes a too-big-for-carry-on travel bag called the ZIPPELIN. I always fly carry-on so have never bought the bag and can't vouch for it but since you asked...
posted by dobbs at 10:23 AM on April 23, 2019

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