How to Carry Things On Your Bike When You Bike to Work

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 personally prefer bike bags, but that is not the only option. Keep reading to learn all the different ways you can carry things, and choose the method best suited to your needs.

Why do you need to know how to carry things on your bike for when you bike to work? If you bring more to work than what you can fit in your pockets, then you're going to have to figure out some way to carry everything with you. I divided the options into two categories: on your person and on your bike.

On your person: 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 how to carry things when you bike to work because chances are you already own a bag that you can use. Backpacks, messenger bags and crossbody bags are your best bet for bags to wear while biking because they stay in place on your back while riding.

Fortunately, backpacks and messenger bags have come a long way since your college days, and there are quite a few "professional" options on the market. Here are some of my favorites:

Biking to Work - Backpacks & Messenger Bags

Clockwise from top right: Piel Urban Backpack ($318), Skagen Thrane Fold-Over Messenger ($245), Kelly Moore Chapel Convertible Bag ($229), Tumi Cannon Backpack ($275)

Other types of bags, like shoulder bags or totes, don't work so well because they tend to get in your way while riding. 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 it throw your balance off, but it will bounce against your wheel, both damaging your bike and your bag. (Hint hint: If you can't part with your favorite handbag, skip down to the bike basket section below).

Biking to Work - Shoulder Bag Difficulties

Regardless, I have two big issues with backpacks and messenger bags when it comes to carrying things when you bike to work.

  1. Sweat. Wearing a bag on your back while biking to work, especially in warmer months, which, let's be honest, is 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 isn't really an option for you.
  2. Strain. Packing your backpack or messenger bag full of stuff (laptop, lunch, change of clothes, etc) makes it heavy and can cause strain on your neck and shoulders. I hate starting my day feeling like 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.

    On your bike: Bike Bags, Baskets and Crates

    Let your bike be your beast of burden and do all the heavy lifting! Generally speaking, bike 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 that a rear rack or basket requires, but the extra pound or two of weight is negligible, especially for city riding, when you are starting and stopping all the time. Plus, I find the ability to comfortably carry more things to more than make up for it.

    Biking to Work - Bike Bags Overview

    First let's talk bike bags. There are four basic bike bag styles: Handlebar Bag, Saddle Bag (the bag beneath your seat/saddle), Trunk Bag or Rack Bag (sits atop your rear rack) and Pannier (hangs down from rack over wheel). For biking to work, you'll probably want one of the latter two styles because they tend to be larger. Yes, you will need a rear bike rack to accommodate a trunk bag or pannier, but don't fret if you don't have one. A basic bike rack is about $40 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 most styles on the market are pretty utilitarian and sporty and are in general not meant to be removed from the bike and carried around much. I started Po Campo because I longed for a bag that I could attach to my bike for when I would bike to work, and then carry with me throughout my day as my normal shoulder or laptop bag. I'm proud to say that  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.

    Po Campo Stylish Bike Bags

    Po Campo (l-r), Bergen Pannier ($115), Uptown Trunk Bag ($80) 

    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 and woven fibers. One issue you may encounter with bike baskets 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 your front basket also attaches to your front wheel axle for extra stability. Or, alternatively, opt for a rear basket or crate that offers greater capacity without affecting how your bike rides. T

    Biking to Work - Baskets and Crates

    Clockwise from top right: House of Talents Asungtaba Oblong Bike Basket ($61), Wald 151 Drop Top Front Basket ($25), Nantucket Cisco Pannier Basket ($79), Buca Boot ($195)

    When choosing how you carry things when you bike to work, remember that you don't have to pick just one option. Some days, a bike pannier might be the best option, while other days, a backpack might work 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? Please leave your comments below.


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