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backpack or pannier

starbuckstarbuck Posts: 256
edited September 2012 in Commuting general
I currently use a 30l vaude backpack to commute to work and back. In the main compartment it holds change of clothes (shirt, trousers, jumper etc), towel/shower kit and this time of year, waterproofs (jacket, trousers/shorts & gloves) and pump. I also carry my spare oakley lenses (in their M frame case) and my lunch. In other compartments (including the side mesh ones) hold my wallet, phone, keys, lights and basic tools. I sometimes get a sweaty back (although the pack is held away from my back by a mesh frame), more often when I have a jacket on underneath it.

I was thinking about getting a pannier and bag (the topeak MTX beam pannier with clip on rack support and the big topeak dtx trunk bag( which has fold down panniers) to stop me getting a sweaty back and putting a load on my shoulders,back, hips (as I'm not sure how good putting 5-7kg on your back 5 days a week 40-50 weeks a year is for you).

What differences would I see with the pannier, in terms of handling, speed, likelihood of puncture with more weight over the back wheel etc.

I swap between my mountain bike and hybrid when commuting (and soon may also commute on a road bike), so a backpack is the same irrespective of which bike I ride, but the above pannier I'm looking at is attached to the seatpost and quick release so should be easy to swap between bikes.

Are there any pros/cons of backpack over pannier (and vice versa)?


  • cookdncookdn Posts: 410
    Answer: Pannier

    I cannot speak for the Topeak MTX system, but I am currently carrying a lot less on my back than you in one of these and still wish it was off my person and in a rear mounted pannier. Now I am back commuting by bike, a pannier rack will be the next thing after fitting mudguards. Mrs cookdn currently uses my pannier on her daily commute so I'll be buying her an early Xmas present.

    Yes handling will be slightly different, but you are trading a bit of extra weight directly over the rear wheel for your ease of movement on the bike. In my experience it is surprising how much carrying a load on your back contributes to fatigue over a reasonable distance as well as getting you a sweaty back. In terms of punctures and speed weight is weight (largely) so it shouldn't make a difference. If you are not running with mudguards you will also get the benefit of less muck being thrown up your back when the roads are wet.

    Mrs cookdn was convinced that urban traffic gave her extra road space when she started using a pannier, I guess with a pannier mounted on the offside you are presenting a wider object to motorists when they approach you from behind. A pannier is also something to attach extra reflectives/lights to that will be removed from the bike. If you are considering a lighting system with external batteries it is also somewhere dry to store the battery pack and wire the lights back to.

    Best regards
    Boardman CX Team
  • Saddlebag ;)

    I've tried backpacks and panniers for commuting and have settled on a Carradice saddlebag with their bagman support (which I find pretty quick and easy to switch between my two bikes).

    Looks slicker than panniers (imo) and I've found the closer the weight is to your body the less it effects the handling of the bike. I like the fact it's central too (although I guess you can use 2 x panniers and make sure they're more or less equal weight).

    Downsides: the Carradice Super C bag I use is only 23L (and I don't think they do one that's significantly bigger) so unless you have excess space with your current 30L bag it might be a bit of a squeeze. It's also expensive; will probably set you back around £100 for the bag and support BUT Carradice stuff lasts decades (in some cases a lifetime) so still good value if not cheap. Of course there are probably other good sized saddlebags out there too.

  • +1 vote for a saddle bag. I much prefer the way a bike with a saddle bag handles over panniers.
  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    Another vote for the saddlebag.
  • cookdncookdn Posts: 410
    Hmm, never considered a saddle bag before. The Carradice SQR system looks like a good option. Not cheap but once you have bought a reasonable rack and pannier then it looks quite good value. British made too.

    Does anybody have experience of the SQR Tour and Trax? Apart from the mesh pockets on the Trax vs the flapped pockets on the Tour they look very similar? I've no need to carry anything bulky like a laptop so I am warming to these instead of a rack and pannier.

    Best regards
    Boardman CX Team
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