Happy National Bike to Work Week! For this blog post, I'm diving into a topic very near and dear to me: how to carry things on your bike when you bike to work. Unsurprisingly, I prefer bike bags for my commute, but that’s not the only option. Keep reading to learn all the different ways you can carry things, and choose the best bike commute bag suited to your needs.
Why do you need to know how to carry things on your bike when you bike to work? If you bring more to work than what you can fit in your pockets, you're going to have to choose some sort of bike commute bag to carry everything with you! I divided the options into two categories: bike commute bags to wear on your person and on your bike.
On Your Person
Bike Commute Bag Options: Backpacks, Messenger Bags, Crossbody Bags
The first category, carrying things on your person, refers to the bags you wear on your body, such as laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags, shoulder bags, etc. This is probably the simplest method for how to carry things on your bike when you bike to work because chances are you already own something you can use as your bike commute bag. Backpacks, messenger bags, and crossbody bags are your best bet for bags to wear while biking because they stay in place on your body while you’re on the move.
Fortunately, backpacks and messenger bags have come a long way since your college days! There are quite a few "professional" options for bike commute bags on the market. Here are some of my favorites:
Clockwise from far left: Po Campo Vega Crossbody Sling Bag ($120), Monos Metro Backback ($215), Po Campo Ara Reflective Backpack ($190), Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack ($200), Tumi Hilden Backpack ($345)
Other types of bags, like shoulder bags or totes, don't work so well for carrying things when you bike to work because they tend to get in your way. Shoulder bags slip down your arm and get caught in your wheel, and dangling a tote bag from the handlebars gets old fast. Not only will a tote throw your balance off, but it will bounce against your wheel, damaging both your bike and your bag. (Hint: If you can't part with your favorite handbag, skip down to the bike basket section below).
There are two other things you need to think about when it comes to carrying things on your bike when you bike to work.
- Sweat. Wearing a bag on your back while biking to work, especially in warmer months (and, let's be honest, that’s when we are most likely to bike to work) makes your back incredibly sweaty. If you aren't up for showering or, at a minimum, changing your clothes when you get to work, this bike commute bag isn't really an option for you.
- Strain. Packing your backpack or messenger bag full of stuff (laptop, lunch, change of clothes, etc) makes your bike commute bag heavy and can cause strain on your neck and shoulders. I hate starting my day feeling like I need a neck massage.Because of these two reasons, I'm a huge advocate of letting your bike to all the work of carrying your things when you bike to work.
Because of these two reasons, I'm a huge advocate of letting your bike do all the work to carry things when you bike to work.
On Your Bike
Bike Commute Bag Options: Bike Bags, Baskets, and Crates
Let your bike be your beast of burden and do all the heavy lifting to carry things when you bike to work! Generally speaking, bike commute bags, baskets, and crates don't make your bike any more difficult to ride. Sometimes you'll hear people grumble about not wanting to add the extra weight to their bike with a rear rack or basket. However, the extra pound or two of weight is usually negligible, especially for city riding (or e-bike riding!) when you’re starting and stopping all the time. Plus, I find that the ability to comfortably carry more things more than makes up for any weight added.
First let's talk about standard bike bags. There are four basic bag styles that can carry things on your bike when you bike to work:
- Handlebar Bag
- Saddle Bag (the bag beneath your seat/saddle)
- Trunk Bag or Rack Bag (sits atop your rear rack)
- Pannier (hangs down from rack over wheel)
For a bike commute bag, you'll probably want a trunk or pannier because they tend to be larger. Yes, you will need a rear bike rack to accommodate one of these larger bike commute bags, but don't fret if you don't have one. A basic bike rack costs about $50 and is sufficient for the light loads you'll carry when you bike to work. Your local bike shop will be happy to install one for you!
Bike bags originated with bicycle touring, so many styles on the market are pretty utilitarian and sporty. This means they’re not meant to be removed from the bike or carried around much. I started Po Campo because I longed for a bag that I could attach to my bike for riding to work, and then carry with me throughout my day as my normal shoulder or laptop bag. I'm proud to say that these are still the most versatile and functional bags for biking to work on the market! Well, of course I'm biased, but I hope you'll agree.
The last option I want to share for how to carry things on your bike when you bike to work is bike baskets and bike crates. Bike baskets typically attach to your handlebars and come in a bunch of different sizes and materials, including metal, plastic, fabric, and other woven fibers. One issue you may encounter when using a basket as your bike commute bag is that things tend to pop out of them when you go over a bump. For that reason, I recommend a bungee cord net for your basket to keep things in place.
Large front baskets can get a little unwieldy when packed full of things, making it harder to steer and ride your bike. If you decide a large bike basket is right for you, make sure the basket also attaches to your front wheel axle for extra stability. Alternatively, opt for a rear basket or crate that offers greater capacity without affecting how your bike rides
Clockwise from far left: Nantucket Tuckerneck Pannier ($90), Po Campo Whoosh Basket ($30), Biria Plaza Basket ($49.99), Topeak Trolleytote Folding Basket ($104.95), Retrospec Apollo Basket ($24.99)
When choosing how to carry things on your bike when you bike to work, remember that you don't have to pick just one option.
For those mornings when you just need to get out the door, it may be helpful to add a stem bag for one-handed coffee access. Some days, a bike pannier might be your preferred bike commute bag. Other days, a backpack works just fine. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that you are biking to work comfortably and conveniently.
How do you prefer to carry things on your bike when you bike to work? Let us know in the comments!
Editors Note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been revamped for comprehensiveness.