How should I tote my stuff, including a laptop, on my bike?
June 23, 2008 9:51 AM   Subscribe

How should I tote my stuff, including a laptop, on my bike? (Backpacks and messenger bags need not apply.)

I just bought a Cannondale XR 7, and am using it primarily as a commuter bike. As such, I'd like to add some storage, a little bigger than my handlebar bento box. I was thinking a rear rack, a laptop pannier and a regular pannier.

Problem is, neither of my local bike shops actually stocks a rack that's meant to work on a disc brake bike, nor do either of them have any laptop panniers.

Anybody have any specific recommendations on rear racks for disc brake bikes, or laptop panniers? Or warnings against them?
posted by Project F to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've got a disk brake bike with a rear pannier rack. It's one of these:
edinburgh bikes link
It works OK - it's not quite as rigid as the ones for non-disk braked bikes, but it handles the daily commute (~5 miles each way on dodgy roads and the occasional shortcut through the woods) fine. The weekly shop strains it a bit, and if I'm carrying loads of books I get a bit nervous, but hey. Day to day it's holding up well.

Any clip on panniers will do, and if I were you I'd go for ortlieb panniers and a padded bag for your laptop to fit inside the standard pannier.
posted by handee at 10:14 AM on June 23, 2008

Can't tell from the picture if your rear or fork dropouts have eyelets for mounting racks, but something from velo orange or rivendell might fit the bill. Or you could go all the way and get a flatbed from Paul.
posted by gyusan at 10:49 AM on June 23, 2008

Don't underestimate the carrying capacity of the humble, rack-mounted milk crate.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:31 AM on June 23, 2008

I currently still carry my laptop in my messenger bag, although I did look into laptop panniers last summer just after I bought my Macbook. The one I most seriously considered was this Jandd Laptop Pannier which seemed to be the most sturdy and laptop-specific. Really, there aren't a ton of options (surprisingly).

Another thing I looked into was the Tom Bihn Brain Cell to go in a traditional pannier, and I did end up buying the horizontal version of this for my messenger bag. You might look into other hard-side cases, and if you really get excited go with Pelican Laptop Case for crush-proof and water-proof protection. You could just put this in a traditional pannier.

My concerns with carrying your laptop on the rear rack are: 1) That's the exact spot where I got hit by a car, 2) I worry about the additional bouncing that the laptop takes when it is attached directly to your bike rather than to your back with your body as a shock absorber in between and 3) You'll want something waterproof since you're likely to get a whole lot more splashy back there than on your back.

I have a Trek Interchange Rack (mine is mounted to my frame, not seatpost mounted like that one, but I can't find mine) and it has some nifty bags that clip into the frame. I have an Interchange Trunk Bag that is pretty handy for smaller stuff -- I cram my jacket, a cable lock, my lunch, bike lights, random crap, etc in there and it has a shoulder strap should you need to take it into the store.
posted by sararah at 11:35 AM on June 23, 2008

They do have panniers over at Ortlieb. But honestly, their messenger bag is the most amazing piece of motorcycle/bicycle equipment i own. I use this bag every single day, and i commute to work by bike, and i've never had a problem with comfort at all with this pack. Panniers are great, but the comfort of having your laptop strapped right to your back is hands down more important for me...and this is the only pack that i've ever used that i feel really comfortable trusting it's waterproof-ness. I just keep my laptop in a hard-case, and it straps right into the back-side of the backpack...soooo great.

I regularly carry an armored jacket, laptop, motorcycle helmet, spare pants as well as other sundry odds and ends, and it's not even full most of the time. you can fit two full bags of groceries in this thing. or a case of wine. or 4 6packs of beer. or a small dog (long story).

AMAZING backpack.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:07 PM on June 23, 2008

I'm pretty certain your laptop will get a much smoother ride if it is on your back. I think attaching it to the frame, rather than you, is probably going to be a mistake.

I've broken two seat posts using a seat post clamp rack, and I never loaded the rack very much. While I'm probably harder on the stuff than most would be, I really don't think beam racks are a good idea.

Finally, I've just been reading about problems using disc breaks with quick release forks.
posted by Chuckles at 12:16 PM on June 23, 2008

Why are you ruling out messenger bags?

When I was commuting by bike daily, I had a pannier and put the laptop in a bag in the pannier. It worked out well, and I liked riding with no weight on my back, but one time the pannier came loose and the laptop bag dumped onto the road.

For two years, I put my laptop in a sleeve and put that inside a Chrome messenger bag. Worked fine for me and for the laptop.
posted by zippy at 1:53 PM on June 23, 2008

I put my laptop in a padded sleeve and then into a Jandd briefcase pannier. They don't seem to make that exact pannier anymore, but the new ones are probably just as fine. Mine has a bright yellow rain cover that's always attached but that folds out of sight when you use the bag as a messenger bag/briefcase. It's a slight pain to unzip the hideaway flap to expose the clips and raincover and zip it up again to turn it back into a regular bag. If I did it again I'd probably go with a completely removable rain cover and always-exposed clips.

The clips seem to have a strong grip on the rack. The bag has never fallen off.

I went with a pannier because, based on past experience, I'm more likely to fall off the bike from hitting a pothole or whatever than I am to get hit by a car. I don't want a laptop attached to my body when I tuck and roll.
posted by PatoPata at 2:28 PM on June 23, 2008

Response by poster: For what it's worth, I'm banning messenger bags and backpacks simply out of personal preference. I don't like riding with them on, at all, and I've tried a fairly wide variety.

I know a lot of people swear by them, but I just swear at them.

There is a lot of great info in this thread, and i think it's going to take a while to sort it out, so the best answers have to remain pending for the moment. Awesome leads, though!
posted by Project F at 6:59 PM on June 23, 2008

I just bought an Xtracycle for my commute (36 miles round trip) and as my main bike. While I got the whole deal, you can get just the extension part, the Free Radical. It does work w/ disc brakes.
posted by jdfan at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2008

I don't know if it's an option for you, but since I mostly used my laptop at work anyways, I was able to get my company to give me a key for one of the drawers in my desk and I just stash the laptop there, along with a change of clothes. When I do need the laptop over the weekend or something I'll bring it back in my backpack, but most of the time I'm a lot less nervous riding without it.
posted by whir at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2008

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