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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    45

    Panniers vs. Backpack for commute

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    I ride about 3 - 3.5 miles to work, which isn't much, but I live in San Francisco, so there are hills, and I deal with fairly heavy traffic many days, so that short ride can feel longer. I also have to carry up to 20 pounds (occasionally more) to work and back, which is over 15% of my body weight.

    Currently, I have a nice big messenger backpack, which I really love, but it does make me feel like I have less maneuverability, and my ability to stand up for hills or starts is diminished. It can also be really tiring.

    I'm wondering if panniers might be a better fit for me. Typically, I have to carry my laptop, several files, and often some books (I work as a legal researcher, so think gigantic law books). I have looked at some panniers that look all right, but I don't want to spend the money if they won't be much of an improvement, so I am curious what you all think. Will 20 pounds in panniers be easier to deal with than 20 pounds on my back?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Looking at all the love there that's sleeping
    Posts
    4,172
    Quote Originally Posted by jordanpattern View Post
    I ride about 3 - 3.5 miles to work, which isn't much, but I live in San Francisco, so there are hills, and I deal with fairly heavy traffic many days, so that short ride can feel longer.

    <snip>

    Will 20 pounds in panniers be easier to deal with than 20 pounds on my back?

    Thank you!
    If you intend to use your back (and your neck) in the future....I'd say, yeah - 20 pounds on the pannier would be a whole lot better than on the back. That's a lot of weight. The Arkel commuter bag has a laptop sleeve, and can carry a boatload of other stuff along with it. Clicks on and off a rack wicked easy, and you can cover the hooks and - viola - an incognito pannier disguised cleverly as a carry all tote.
    2007 Seven ID8 - Bontrager InForm
    2003 Klein Palomino - Terry Firefly (?)
    2010 Seven Cafe Racer - Bontrager InForm
    2008 Cervelo P2C - Adamo Prologue Saddle

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,226
    I use the Arkel laptop pannier, and I think it's great. I don't like having anything on my back. I'd rather have the bike carry the weight. Plus, when the weight is in panniers, the center of gravity is lower, which is much better in terms of maneuverability.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    When I first started biking I used a backpack and I got some actual upper body strength from it. But that went away when I got a rack & pannier!
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Olney, MD
    Posts
    3,066
    Quote Originally Posted by tulip View Post
    I use the Arkel laptop pannier, and I think it's great. I don't like having anything on my back. I'd rather have the bike carry the weight. Plus, when the weight is in panniers, the center of gravity is lower, which is much better in terms of maneuverability.
    +1

    I felt way too top heavy when I tried riding with a packpack
    I'd rather be swimming...biking...running...and eating cheesecake...
    --===--

    2008 Cervelo P2C Tri bike
    2011 Trek Madone 5.5/Cobb V-Flow Max
    2007 Jamis Coda/Terry Liberator
    2011 Trek Mamba 29er

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    I'm the only one allowed to whine
    Posts
    10,576
    Consider Wald folding pannier baskets. They are pretty inexpensive (about $35-40 for a pair at the LBS), no-one wants to steal them, they are firmly attached, they hold a ton, they are always on your bike so you are always ready to carry stuff.

    And made in the USA.

    Trek420 does her SF commuting and shopping using Wald baskets.

    You can throw your beloved backpack into one of the baskets (left side, to make you wider to cars) on a light day, toss books into a shopping bag and into the other basket on a heavy day. And yes, there is no problem at all using only one basket on one side, you will not be off balance. There are bungee nets (about $6) to hold awkward loads in the baskets.

    http://waldsports.com/index.cfm/wald...ingbasket.html

    You can hang lights and reflectors off the wire mesh. They are unobtrusive when folded flat. They don't rattle (and if you find a rattle, fix it with a layer of electrical tape).

    If it rains you put your stuff in a plastic bag before loading it into the basket, or if you want to be extra guaranteed dry, use a rafter's dry-bag. A dry-bag is much cheaper than something like an Ortleib waterproof pannier.
    Last edited by KnottedYet; 03-28-2011 at 05:59 PM.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    6,476
    As someone with degenerative disc disease, I say go for the panniers
    So long as the wheels are still turning, life is good.

    Battswebb

    Pinarello Quattro~CAADX~ Zurich Lemond
    Specialized Romin Saddles

    Surly Krampus!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    College Station, TX
    Posts
    5
    I went for panniers, My only thing is that with the panniers it shifted the balance point on my bike rearward so I've slid out the front tire a couple of times and fallen. So either way there are downfalls from my experience. I still use the panniers though as it's far more comfortable, and got some grippier treaded tires to help compensate.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    2,738
    Panniers, definitely!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Little Egypt
    Posts
    1,886
    I've switched to panniers. My area of the country is very humid in the summer and the backpack is miserably hot. Panniers alleviated that issue and are much easier on my neck and back.
    __________________
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." George Bernard Shaw

    Luna Eclipse/Selle Italia Lady
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    Quintana Roo Cd01/Koobi Stratus
    1981 Schwinn Le Tour Tourist
    Jamis Coda Femme

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    +1 on panniers. You want your center of gravity as low as possible. 20# on your back is more than enough to affect your handling.

    I've ridden a short, flat couple of miles a few times with a 3 gallon water jug (~25#) in a backpack, and it was tough to get started from a stop (175 mm crankarms on my commuter didn't help that a bit). I definitely wouldn't want to do it in traffic.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    under the Tucson sun
    Posts
    489
    My boyfriend and I really dig our folding Wald baskets (the same ones KnottedYet referenced above). I've had them on my commuter bike for a couple years now (he for about 6 months) for our ~3 mile commute to campus and just generally getting around town. I love that I can toss any bag(s) I want in them depending on my needs for that day: backpack, messenger bag, tote bag, lunch bag. They're also great for grocery shopping, since the "standard" reusable cloth grocery tote fits in there perfectly.

    Of course, they add some weight to your bike that is not as easy to remove as clip-on panniers, but for me personally, it's a small price to pay for the versatility.
    '09 Jamis Satellite Femme | stock Jamis Road Sport -- road
    '08 Trek 7.2FX | Terry Cite -- commuter
    '77 Raleigh Grand Prix mixte | stock Brooks (vinyl) -- just for fun!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Beautiful NW or Left Coast
    Posts
    5,645
    I used a backpack for my first 2 years commuting. It affects your balance, you sweat under it, and you are limited as to what you can carry.
    I now have Ortlieb panniers, and i can set things in them ( liquids, for example) and when i get to my destination, they're right where I put them. I can balance my two panniers on my bike so that it doesn't affect my balance at all. And i don't get that sweaty back or sudden shifts in movement like i used to get from my backpack.
    I like Bikes - Mimi
    Watercolor Blog

    Davidson Custom Bike - Cavaletta
    Dahon 2009 Sport - Luna
    Old Raleigh Mixte - Mitzi

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    45
    Thank you for the replies!

    I guess it should seem obvious, but until I read some of the responses to my questions, I really wasn't sure switching to panniers would be very helpful. Now that I've read what you've had to say, it seems pretty obvious that I should get some panniers for my commute.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    I'm the only one allowed to whine
    Posts
    10,576
    Get the Wald baskets... seriously, they are incredibly versatile!

    and cheap!

    and made in the USA!
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

 

 

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