Messenger bags versus backbacks?
May 14, 2008 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Why do you prefer a messenger bag to a backpack / bookbag (or vice versa) for bicycle commuting? Should I get one?

My old backback is beginning to show some serious fray, and I'm looking at getting a new one. I see a lot of other bikers wearing messenger bags. They are so common that it seems like there's got to be something going on there, but the bags have always looked impractical to me, so I'm hoping to find out why people like them with an eye to possibly buying one.

In particular, does it tire one's shoulder out to have all the weight on one side? And doesn't the bag tend to slip around when you're biking around? Why do you prefer the bag over a regular two-strap backpack? ("I think it looks cooler" is a perfectly acceptable answer.)

My commute is mostly flat through heavy urban traffic, and I have road-bike style drop handlebars.
posted by whir to Travel & Transportation (49 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I always figured it was so that you could reach into the bag and get something out easily with one hand still on the bike. It seems like that would be a lot tougher with a backpack.
posted by sjl7678 at 4:52 PM on May 14, 2008

i think messenger bags are impractical for carrying anything long distance. the easy access is good...but once i got any amount of weight into a messenger bag, my shoulders and back started to hurt from the uneven distribution of weight. i imagine this uneven weight distribution would annoy me even more if i was trying to ride a bike...but i think some of the higher quality messenger bags have straps and construction that mitigate this somewhat.
posted by gnutron at 5:00 PM on May 14, 2008

The 'one strap' thing isn't an issue on a road bike, unless you're carrying really heavy loads. Because of the riding position of a road bike, the load just sits on your back rather than on the shoulders.

When I did delivery on a bike, the advantages of a messenger bag were:
1) easy access to the bag without taking it off.
2) being able to see over my shoulders. (my backpack sat unusually high on my back and blocked the view).
3) could fit big boxes in the bag, literally falling out the top, that a regular bag could never hold.

I still ride everywhere and the messenger bag is the one I grab, but mostly because I'm used to it. If I'm not on the bike, I use a backpack.

DO NOT buy one with plastic buckles or one that doesn't have a load strap (CRUCIAL!). You want this thing to last forever, right? RELoad and Chrome seem way more sturdy than a Timbuk2, but I've only owned a Chrome.
posted by jstef at 5:01 PM on May 14, 2008

I know this sounds weird, but backpacks always remind me of highschool, which is not a good thing. Also, I do think messenger bags look better. If you get a good quality messenger bag like Chrome or Timbuk2, they have extra straps to prevent the bag from sliding around. You can also get into your bag without having to take it off by sliding it around to the front of you. The way messenger bags are shaped (longer in length, but flatter) seems to be more practical shape than a backpack.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:01 PM on May 14, 2008

I have been dealing with this lately - I have the good fortune to have both a new backpack & a messenger bag and I'm trying to figure out which is more comfortable for commuting.

I would say that the advantage of messenger bags is that they're easier to deal with when you're off the bike. But yeah, if it's heavy then having all the weight on one shoulder can be uncomfortable. Note that actual bike messengers tend to carry light stuff and not a laptop, power adapter, etc so weight is less of an issue for them.

The advantage I find to a messenger bag is that you can adjust them to ride really low so that when you're bent over riding you bike they ride right on the top edge of your hips just above the seat/your butt. This can be a lot more comfortable vs having the backpack sitting right on the top of shoulder blades. The messenger bag tends to pull along your body in that position and doesn't weight you down the same way.

If I was going to be going through an airport or on a business trip or on public transit I would go with a backpack as I tend to carry a lot of junk and the one-shoulder setup gets uncomfortable & heavy. But on a bike a messenger bag ends of being more comfortable than a backpack.
posted by GuyZero at 5:10 PM on May 14, 2008

RELoad and Chrome seem way more sturdy than a Timbuk2, but I've only owned a Chrome.

I have a Reload bag and would probably not recommend them for anything more than the beautiful bags that they are. Design-wise, they quickly become very uncomfortable, and the plastic strap buckles, while tough, end up twisting the strip ends, so that the bag doesn't balance properly.

I don't know. From using them the last couple years, I'm not sure messenger bags are a good idea for anyone but messengers. They're not really suitable for heavy, general use. But the people who make them are clearly creative people who make beautiful, if impractical objects of "functional" art.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 PM on May 14, 2008

In my experience, backpacks sit too high on the back, and so sway back and forth. I can fit more in my messenger bag; even if I can't get it to close I can hold stuff down with the extra straps.

I've got a Timbuk2 that I've used pretty much constantly for nine years, and it's still in good shape.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:23 PM on May 14, 2008

I prefer a messenger bag if I'm riding, and a backpack or shoulder back for walking. I sweat a lot when I ride and my clothes end up soaked under a backpack unless it's cold. I find messenger bags exceptionally UNcomfortable to use if I'm on foot because of the weight on one shoulder.

The messenger bag I have is huge - I got one big enough to fit two bags of groceries in. Most of the weight of the bag should rest on your back, not pulling on your shoulders. Use the waist strap and pull the shoulder strap fairly tight across your chest. I'm female and I find it much more comfortable to have the strap cross my chest above my breasts rather than between.

I've had my Timbuk2 bag for over ten years and it's held up great. YMMV.
posted by smartyboots at 5:30 PM on May 14, 2008

I prefer panniers to either. It's so nice not to arrive with a huge wet pool right in the middle of my back.
posted by flabdablet at 5:38 PM on May 14, 2008

Bike rack + pannier + whatever bag you like in the pannier. Your bod's got enough work to do -- let the bike take the direct weight of your stuff.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:45 PM on May 14, 2008

So, though I do not know what the OP wants to carry, I find it difficult to carry a laptop in panniers. One, My panniers are kinda wedge-shaped so the laptop doesn't go all the way down. Two, my panniers bounce around a lot and I don't think I would want to put my laptop through that. Three, once you get where you're going it's not always convenient to carry your panniers around. My usual setup is clothes & toiletries in panniers (I shower at work) and laptop in a backpack or shoulder bag.

Also, seconding smartyboots on the sweat. It has been cool lately but come the heat of summer a backpack is going to be murder when biking.
posted by GuyZero at 5:53 PM on May 14, 2008

WRT: Blazecock's comment - I went to ReLoad's Philly location, and one of the first things I noticed was how beautiful, but impractical, their products seem - Bottom edges are wide-radius rounded, like you're going to be carrying bowling balls in them instead of books and boxes, and the hardware is something I wouldn't want on a bag half the price.

Compare/contrast with the this from Kensington, which has zero hipster cred, but is a whole hellava lot more useful.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2008

It seems to me that a messenger bag has the potential to fall off your back while you're riding your bike and swing around to your side, causing you to lose your balance and fall into oncoming traffic.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2008

Also going to 2nd the ongoing "Panniers, yes" theme. A lower Center of Gravity can save your life on a bike.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:04 PM on May 14, 2008

Long time bike rider here, I've been happy for a couple years with this bag I found on ebay, and in my opinion it's the best of both worlds. It's a bit narrower than your average messenger bag, and a bit taller (it's a DJ record bag, actually). Also, nicely padded and holds a laptop perfectly. The way I carry it depends on how long my ride is, and what I'm carrying inside. Long ride and/or laptop inside => backpack. Short ride, or lots of stops, or walking/bus/train => messenger bag.
posted by _dario at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2008

I'll second smartyboots. Both bags were designed and refined for totally different uses. Hipster curb-appeal aside, a messenger bag is really damned uncomfortable off a bike. A backpack does tend to wobble too much while riding.

Basically, two bags, two uses. If you're riding and then wandering, I'd recommend packing a backpack in the messenger bag, then switching. The over-one-shoulder thing seems to work alright while riding, but when walking around it really taxes one's back.

And yes, riding with nothing on the back is the best of all possible worlds....
posted by nevercalm at 6:32 PM on May 14, 2008

Backpack/bag bungied to a good rack. It depends on how much weight you're carrying really, if you don't feel that "off-balance" with it on your back/shoulder carry it there.
posted by thylacine at 6:33 PM on May 14, 2008

I tend to wear a messenger bag on the bike just because my backpack gets too sweaty. Besides that, I just don't like the messenger bag on the bike. I don't mind them in day to day walking around. Maybe they'd be better with the second strap.

I think I'll buy a bag for my rack this weekend.
posted by advicepig at 6:39 PM on May 14, 2008

I'm a backpack bike commuter. It fits, doesn't distract me as I ride and I have no need to get something out quickly on my travels.

I've tried messenger bags a couple times and find myself either out of balance or forever readjusting at lights.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:42 PM on May 14, 2008

whir, I can probably put you in touch with one or more of the folks that make those awesome custom recycled-banner bags that the messengers around here use. Since they're all custom, they can make 'em to your size, and they come in all sizes, including "OMFG you have three 24 packs in that thing!"
posted by loquacious at 6:45 PM on May 14, 2008

When I rode a bike daily to get around a camp I worked at, I vastly preferred a backpack. It didn't need adjusting, it didn't need rebalancing, it didn't make my back hurt (after I got used to it)—it was just sort of a no-brainer way to carry my gear on a regular basis. All the counselors used one.
posted by limeonaire at 6:58 PM on May 14, 2008

a backpack is a more ergonomic solution for most items. messenger bags are more about being cool. of course a basket on your bike is probably even more ergonomic, but how uncool is that? balance cool and functionality to suit your needs.
posted by caddis at 7:01 PM on May 14, 2008

Thanks for the discussion, all, it's exactly what I was hoping for, please carry on.

About what I'm carrying, it is indeed a big, clunky laptop, plus a few toiletry items (shirt, washcloth). The street I ride down (Market) is notoriously dilapidated, so I think I would feel kind of paranoid about putting the laptop in panniers, what with the constant bouncing around. The idea of getting all that weight lower on the bike and removing it from my sweaty back is appealing though. I don't currently have a rack on my bike, but I am planning to install one soon. And loquacious, I may hit you up on that.
posted by whir at 7:01 PM on May 14, 2008

I prefer a backpack. It keeps the weight centered, and I like having lots of pockets. The one I have right now is a CamelBack too. It's got the hydration setup, as well as a waist and sternum strap. Once I connect those it's not going anywhere. I don't ride as much as I used to, but I wear my backpack every day. Usually I've got my lunch in a soft-side cooler, 2-3 books, the laptop and its accessories. I find the advantage of backpack vs. panniers is that when I stop somewhere, I can lock the bike and walk away without having the extra step of dismounting the bag. The sweat issue isn't a big one, because I can't ride more than about a mile without sweating through everything anyway, it really doesn't matter.
posted by Morydd at 7:20 PM on May 14, 2008

I use only Chrome bags. I've given away several Timbuk2 and Crumpler bags I won at alleycats and raffles because the straps suck and they aren't fully waterproof (double floating liner deal).

Here's why I use a messenger bag and not a backpack or panniers:

1) Adaptability. I can carry everything from one slip of paper to fifty pounds of groceries or a week's worth of travelling gear, and the bag will expand/contract to accommodate it. Once I get the bag loaded and settled, it's rock solid in the riding position. Also: I can move the messenger bag onto any one of my 5 different bikes, including my high end roadie, in case I want to do a team ride / race at the end of the day. Try doing that with panniers.

2) Adjustability. Regardless of how big the load is, nothing moves, because a messenger bag is built to adjust for the size of the load that's in it. A backpack is always the same size, and tends to sweat my back way worse. Plus backpacks are nearly impossible to stabilise, they always sway regardless of how well you load them.

3) Waterproof. I frequently arrive looking like I've swum to work (or home), but my laptop, documents and work clothes are always bone dry. Never have found a backpack that does this, and I'm skeptical of panniers due to how close they are to wheelspray. The "floating liner" idea in the Chrome bags really does work.

4) Durability. My main bag has been crashed on at least a dozen times, twice with the laptop inside (in a Chrome laptop case). Once I had my entire fancy dSLR kit in there. Nothing's ever *touch wood* been damaged, partly because I know how to load a bag (more on that later), but also because Chrome bags are really worth the hype. I've had my biggest Chrome for six years. I use it daily. I don't own a car, and I ride in rain, snow, mud, sun, you name it. Some of my pro courier friends have had theirs for nearly a decade.

5) Comfort. There are some caveats here. The comfort of a messenger bag entirely depends on your body position. Messenger bags are designed for one thing, and one thing only: To carry a load properly balanced while you are on a bicycle, in a low, horizontal "roadie" or "trackie" style position. They suck ass for walking around upright, especially heavily loaded, and they also aren't so great if you ride a "sit-up-and-beg" style cruiser or urban commuter. Backpacks are designed for hiking, with different weight distribution (onto the hips), and tend to work better for more upright riders. Messenger bags offer much better over-the-shoulder visibility IF you ride in a low position. I also have an old busted collarbone that backpack straps annoy, and since it's my right CB, a standard hang messenger bag works fine (doesn't sit on the lump). Backpacks also cause my neck and back to hurt after about ten minutes, again because they're not designed for a low, horizontal riding position.


1) Loading: Loading is simple: big/heavy stuff low down, small/lighter stuff up high or in the bottleslips. Fold/pack your clothes at the rear of the bag (against your back) to pad your back from any edgy bits, shoes in the front so they don't jab you in the kidneys.

2) Adjustment: Most people I see riding with a messenger bag have no clue how to adjust it properly, and the few I see who do tend to be pro couriers. You hipster dorks out there on your trendy fixies: You are fooling nobody. An improperly adjusted bag is one of the 2 main indicators that you are a "posengeur" (the other is your loose, sloppy, noisy-assed chainline). Messenger bags are not electric guitars, so don't sling 'em low off your ass. You don't look cool, and you can't ride that way anyhow - you'll "saddle dab" the bag and wreck yourself, and we will point and laugh. Strap that bag up high and tight. No, tighter than that, even. Hitch the "third leg" strap up under your armpit and cinch that baby down. Once you have it properly adjusted, it cannot and will not move. The idea is that the bag should tend to "wrap" a bit around your torso; this is what helps keep it stable.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:24 PM on May 14, 2008 [8 favorites]

With a big messenger bag, adjusted properly, the weight is spread over your back and around your sides. A backpack is all in the middle, and can wobble.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:25 PM on May 14, 2008

The beauty of the messenger bag is that it transitions from life on your bike to life off your bike - from comfortable transport bag to briefcase/portfolio. I don't feel at all dorky bringing my Bailey bag to meetings and presentations, whereas I certainly would if I had everything in a backpack. As someone said upthread, there's something high-schoolish about backpacks. Meanwhile, a messenger bag holds even legal size folders graciously, without any jamming or crumpling, and looks nice enough to wear with decent business attire.

If my commute were longer and I had a full clothing change to deal with, I might honestly feel differently, since I'd need to carry more.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on May 14, 2008

Put me in the laptop backpack + panniers group. I walk once I'm off my bike, and I can put the backpack in the pannier when I'm riding.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:40 PM on May 14, 2008

I also have a chrome and would recommend one for bikes - it's designed for bike couriers, after all.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:51 PM on May 14, 2008

Re: panniers and getting things wet: I use the high-tech solution of a grocery bag wrapping everything inside the panniers. That worked through some nasty weather just fine.
posted by GuyZero at 8:21 PM on May 14, 2008

Here's a vote for panniers. I carry a half-gallon of beer in a giant glass bottle in my pannier from time to time, and with a little bit of padding (an old t-shirt, or whatever clothes I happen to have stuffed in there), it's been fine over some pretty rough roads. I love being unencumbered on the bike, and avoiding a sweaty back.
posted by chinston at 8:35 PM on May 14, 2008

Another vote for the pannier. But I too am nervous about putting electronics like laptops or a DSLR in the pannier where it will get banged around. I've had good luck with a rope bag (basically a shoulder bag for climbers) for this type of precious cargo. But for 12 bottles of beer or groceries or whatever, it goes in the pannier. It's awesome how much heavy crap you can stuff in a pannier and the bike still feels normal to ride.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:20 PM on May 14, 2008

I was going to ask a similar question (what's my next backpack) and was glad to find this thread and so as not to be a dirty, rotten, no-checking, doubler.

Anyway, coming from a roadie upbringing, I was totally "all weight on the bike, none on the rider" (Panniers) for a long time. 14 years of mountain biking has taught me that weight on the bike is unsprung weight, but weight on the rider is sprung weight. If I was doing a long tour I would have everything in panniers(front and rear). As for my daily commute of 6 miles through Boston and on to Cambridge, I find that a backpack is the only way to go. Changeable conditions require popping up to the sidewalk so as not to insert myself into fast traffic in the only moving lane around a double-parked UPS truck, followed by a flying leap off the curb back into the roadway once the obstacle has been circumvented. For this constant and unpredictable up and down, my bag of preference is a belted backpack. My 6 year-old backpack is about to break both thread-bare shoulder straps and I'm looking for my next great backpack. Any ideas would be very welcome.
posted by Rafaelloello at 10:26 PM on May 14, 2008

It seems to me that a messenger bag has the potential to fall off your back while you're riding your bike and swing around to your side, causing you to lose your balance and fall into oncoming traffic.

Decent ones have a second mini-strap that hooks from the bottom corner of the bag, under your arm on to the middle of the big strap at your chest. Hard to explain but it works fine.

I ran a messenger bag when I was bike commuting, I only ever found one backpack that was vaguely comfortable on the bike, and it was too small to be useful.
posted by markr at 10:50 PM on May 14, 2008

When I worked as a messenger I had a DiMartini. This was in the 80's and that was the option. You went down into a basement on Mulberry, just above Broome, to get it. The point of the bag, it's design, is that if I had to get printer's proofs from the west 30's to Soho while I had a vase from the upper west side that had to go to the West Village and four miscellaneous envelopes going to Wall Street, I could fit it all. And it sat comfortably on my back, while on my bike.

When I worked in the building trades I carried around tools in my next bag and found the shoulder strap more comfortable than a bag with handles.

Now I'm old, and concerned about my lawn and kids trampling on it, and I have one of those Ortlieb bags. They're really watertight and can hold lots of groceries. I have a silver one, which is kind of disco and hence, by virtue of being spectacularly not great looking, cool.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:43 AM on May 15, 2008

Seconding everything lonefrontranger said. If you are going to be riding a road bike then a good messenger bag (i.e. not a Timbuk2) is the only way to go. A good bag can hold enormous amounts of schwag while not bouncing around or digging uncomfortably into your spine like a backpack would do. As lonefrontranger pointed out, if you wear your bag like a marine's haircut it should feel like a hug from a bike-loving midget, no matter how many cases of high life you've crammed in there.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:15 AM on May 15, 2008

Man, I've got to say, I was using a timbuk2 messenger bag for years, and then I went to get a massage (fancy I know), and the massage therapist was all, "What are you doing to your neck? It's getting all lopsided?" and then I told her about the messenger bag and she begged me to stop using it. Now, I'm a woman with a small frame, so maybe if you're a big dude it's not as big a deal, but I switched to the chrome book bag recently, which holds a ton of stuff and if you have really big stuff you can stick it out the top, it's adjustable on your back so you can make sure to see the traffic behind you. I cannot recommend this bag highly enough. It has two waist straps to take the load off your back too. It has done wonders for my back pains.

Save your back the trouble and get a really good bookbag. Plus the smallest size holds two six packs of beer and a few library books.
posted by bash at 6:49 AM on May 15, 2008

p.s. I commute 15 miles a day and carry lots of stuff. I really wish I could convert all my friends to bookbags, but messenger bags are just COOL right now.
posted by bash at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2008

I have Ortliebs, like From Bklyn, and I'm baffled by all this talk of panniers "flopping around." That's not any inherent feature of panniers -- any number of panniers offer the means of securing themselves to the rack at more points than the top, and any number of them have enough heft (and carry the weight low enough) to not flop.

I think everyone saying that backpacks are a win over messenger bags so you don't compress one shoulder has a good point. I think not compressing your shoulders at all is even better.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:13 AM on May 15, 2008

I prefer panniers to either.

Yes, although I make do with bungee cords and a rack.

Fact is I feel pity for any cyclist I see who was talked into buying a bike without a rack over the back wheel -- it's quite the neccesary add-on. Riding a bike with something on your back is like riding in a car with your arm out the window, holding onto your briefcase -- you can and should be saving wear and tear on your body by using your machine to carry your payload. Plus, it's safer.
posted by Rash at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2008

I have a baley size M. Watch out for the sizes of bags that are made for messengers, they tend to run large. The Baley Large is very large, the XL is, well, larger and the XXL, if you filled it with anything other than bags of potato chips it might kill you. I'm guessing that chrome and other makers targeting working riders might be that way too.

One thing I like about messenger bags is that you can slide them around to the front easily for access and for getting them out of the way when you sit down. I throw my bicycle on the bus rack and I can just slide the bag to my front instead of trying to get a backpack off on a crowded bus.

Vaude also makes some bicycle specific backpacks that address some of the backpack on bike related issues. They ride lower on back have a mesh back for ventilation, etc. They seem a bit small. I have never had one but they look interesting. There are some other European companies that make backpacks like that.

Some one mentioned panniers leaking in the rain. Ortliebs and Vaude, the kayak dry bag style, just don't get wet until they are damaged. On tours, I've ridden seven hours in the rain and not had a drop in one of those things.
posted by bdc34 at 2:24 PM on May 15, 2008

Um... I'm not really contributing much, but I'd like to point out that the whole reason that backpacks remind people of high school and seem inappropriate for proper adults is because most people also believe that bikes are inappropriate for proper adults, who ought to drive to work, dammit. Briefcases make plenty of sense when you only have to walk from a parking lot to an office. They are totally insane for any other kind of transportation. So if you're throwing out the whole "kids bike, adults drive" norm, you probably ought to give the backpack prejudice the boot. People are already going to think you look ridiculous, so run with it.

That said, lonefrontranger's comments ring true to me. I commute on a more sit-up style bike, and I greatly prefer my backpack.
posted by McBearclaw at 4:16 PM on May 15, 2008

Um... I'm not really contributing much, but I'd like to point out that the whole reason that backpacks remind people of high school and seem inappropriate for proper adults is because most people also believe that bikes are inappropriate for proper adults, who ought to drive to work, dammit. Briefcases make plenty of sense when you only have to walk from a parking lot to an office. They are totally insane for any other kind of transportation. So if you're throwing out the whole "kids bike, adults drive" norm, you probably ought to give the backpack prejudice the boot. People are already going to think you look ridiculous, so run with it.

I'm going to assume you're referring to me since I'm the one who said backpacks remind me of high school. I never once said that they were "inappropriate for proper adults." What I meant when I said they remind me of high school is that they remind me of my highschool experience. Every morning, arranging my backpack was a reminder of the morning and afternoon of hell I would have to endure. Anything that reminds me of high school and my childhood, I would like to keep out of my life, but that's just me. I never said backpacks were juvenile and not meant for adults so I'm not being "prejudice."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:35 PM on May 15, 2008

For whomever said "messenger bags are for big people" I strongly disagree. I'm a 5'4", 125-lb woman, so you must be loading / carrying or adjusting it wrong. I use a Chrome Metropolis (their large bag) for most things. I have a Citizen for bar trips and when I'm just taking the macbook to the coffeeshop.

From Bklyn: I had an old, secondhand, beatup Dimartini when I was couriering in DC in '88 and '89, and it was huge, and I was even skinnier when I was twenty - the guys I worked with showed me how to load it so I could haul (prehistoric, heavy) computer parts and huge piles of plan rolls without killing myself. It has long since gone to Messenger Bag Heaven, and compared to the Chrome it had issues (like, not really being all that waterproof). I had to pad the strap with a rolled up towel that I velcroed on. The Ortliebs are also really, really good bags; several of my friends who work for Denver Boulder Couriers have them.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:57 AM on May 16, 2008

oh and: in case I didn't mention it, I am 40 years old, don't drive a car, and carry a messenger bag (frequently heavily loaded for commuting) on a daily basis. Grocery trips, hauling the 15" macbook pro back and forth to work, clothes, shoes, etcetera. I have never once had back or shoulder problems.

My massage therapist is a cyclist and works as a pro soigneur for roadie teams. He's never said boo about my shoulders/neck, and he carries a messenger bag to commute to work also. Perhaps your LMT/CMT has some kind of (heh) baggage?
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:04 AM on May 16, 2008

I'm really amused by the condemnation of other people and their choices in this thread. The thing is, no one here is an idiot for making the choice they've made. No one deserves to be laughed at for finding a solution that works for them. If you're sneering at another cyclist, you might be going overboard with the obsessive cyclist-gearhead thing - but there is no perfect system that is going to work equally well grafted onto different people/commutes/jobs/locations.

It's safe to assume that someone who's an adult who has experiment with a few cargo-carrying techniques and settled on one finds that it works for their commute, physique, and life. The OP asked what you like about your method and what they might consider trying next, not what you think is poseur-ish, ineffective, stupid, ugly, impractical, and so on. There is no one right choice, folks, and to reduce the choice of what someone carries to an assumption that they're trying to look cool says more about the viewer than the target. Who cares what other people think?

backpacks remind people of high school and seem inappropriate for proper adults is because most people also believe that bikes are inappropriate for proper adults

That's a stretch. People I work and meet with either do bike or walk to work or laud those who do. There's not much association between bikes and backpacks in people's minds - there's much more association between the backpack and the other backpack they just packed for their kid's lunch and after-school soccer game. It's not an anti-bike prejudice.

I find backpacks ugly and ungainly, hot and uncomfortable, and hard to organize in addition to looking sloppy, pulling your clothes off kilter, giving you a too-high center of gravity. For me, they're good for hiking. Whatever problems others have experienced with messenger bags, I have never experienced any of those and am very happy with mine.
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on May 16, 2008

After reading this thread earlier, I decided to just bungee my bag onto my rear rack for yesterday's commute. I was five minutes faster each way! On a ride that only takes 30 minutes! Today's results were similar if I give myself a few minutes credit for the stop at the bakery.
posted by advicepig at 2:31 PM on May 16, 2008

He's never said boo about my shoulders/neck

Not everyone will get a messed up shoulder from a messenger bag. FWIW, I was a paperboy for years and 20 years later massage therapists still comment about how tight my traps are. If you buy a messenger bag without a third leg then at least you can switch shoulders to even out the damage.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on May 16, 2008

So just as a follow-up to this, I have figured out a secure place to stash my laptop at work, and I went and bought a cheap ($40) pannier at a bike shop and attached it to my bike. Biking around with no backpack on has been nice and my back gets much less sweaty. I'm still not sure I would want to carry the laptop in the pannier, but it seems to be working great for just carrying a change of clothes and odds and ends.

Anyways, thanks for the discussion - I'm still not convinced I would want to buy a messenger bag for myself, but I see why people like them.
posted by whir at 12:48 PM on May 19, 2008

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