The Chainlink

So I've always been a back pack guy but It's time for a new one.  While I've always thought the straps on both shoulders would be the best bet, messenger bangs seem to be very popular with commuters like myself.  Messenger bags definitely look sweet, and they're more professional looking for sure, but that's the limit to my knowledge.

So, with that said, I want to tap into the biking community as to what the pro's and cons of messenger bags to back packs?  Also, to be fun, feel free to weigh in on your preference to get this thing straightened up once and for all.

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I would check out all 3 and add a rack to your bike.It will give you tons of options for carrying stuff.If you put a milk crate on it,use hose clamps to secure it.I see so many people just using zip ties which can break after awhile.

I'm totally with James and Dave and others who can't abide the heat of wearing a bag. Even in winter, especially this so called winter, by the end of my little 6 mile commute I'm generally opening the pit zips and other zippers to let some heat out. And panniers are easier to use and more reliable than they used to be - my Ortliebs anyway just pop right on and off my rack with nearly zero fuss.

But on the other hand, I do appreciate the look of a bike stripped to its bare essentials with no racks or fenders or cables or any of that, so I can see the appeal of wearing a bag - it just isn't for me. 

And thanks for the tip about hose clamps Ace! my wife is a crate person and the zip ties  definitely break after a while. 

+1 on hose clamps.  They are light and STRONG, are re-usable to a certain extent, and don't cost very much.

There are two kinds of zip-ties.  There are special ones that are listed to be out in the sun and can withstand the effects of the sun's UV-rays which really deteriorate plastics that are not designed to withstand it.  

At one time before the advent of fancy colors there were two colors of zip-ties.  White was not UV-listed and the black ones were.  But that went out the door with all the fancy colors lately.  If the bag doesn't have a UL-listing label for outdoor use then it isn't rated to withstand UV deterioration.

Electricians have to be careful about this as we often do use zip-ties outside and they NEED to withstand the weather and the sun -especially on line-voltage stuff like cable trays with genset conductors exiting into a tray or rack in free air outside.

Another trick to make a zip-tie stronger is to wrap it twice (or more) before zipping the ends together.  the teeth are the weak-link in a zip-tie and if you double it over it reduces the load on the zipper by half .  This is true for wire tie or rope as well.  Don't put all the load on the tie or knot -wrap it around twice or more and let friction be your friend.

I have a set of Ortlieb Back Roller Classics that my wife and I share to commute with.  I ride all year round and take a laptop, clothes, lunch, and on occasion a whole lot of extras in just one pannier.  And even in 25 degree weather I sweat after my first 10 minutes on the bike and a backpack or messenger just gets annoying.  Freeing up your upper body while commuting is a beautiful and comfortable thing.

Pretty sweet thanks!

Mark G said:

I like my Timbuk2  Shift; a messenger bag with hooks for use as a pannier.

I'd definitely vote for the panniers. Save yourself!

Mike Weez said:

Bike Commuting.  Mostly odds and ends stuff like gym clothes, occasionally groceries, stuff like that.

Gene Tenner said:

Need more info. Are you commuting by bike, bus, train or car? What are you carrying? Do you put a lot of stuff in or just a few things? Heavy load with a laptop? I prefered my bag on my bike rather than my back, as things tend to shift on my back, causing too many unnecessary balance adjustments.

I just use a backpack.  I don't need to carry much (pants, shirt, etc) and shower at work.  For bigger carrying capacity (grocery shopping, trips to Lowe's, etc) I have an Xtracycle.  Unless I was into touring I think a rack and panniers would be overkill.  Oh, and I'll agree the messenger bag is probably a bad idea if your shoulders are questionable...


Prefer to use a backpack over rack & panniers as it makes the bike more nimble. In my opinion the added weight on the bike makes it difficult to maneuver in city traffic. I like panniers for longer straight touring rides but not in the city.

Messenger bags look cool but hold the weight disproportionately on your back. I see people with messengers bags constantly having to re-position.


I've used a couple backpacks now and the Osprey Momentum is hands down the best. Designed with the commuter in mind. It sits close to the back so you can barely feel it's on. I carry work clothes, laptop, cords and anything else I need. The bag feels sturdy and has several convenience features such as the strap key ring, helmet lock, expandable size and integrated rain cover. I recently used the bag for a 4 day weekend trip in California and it worked really well. It does get a little sweaty but not worse than any other backpack and I always shower after my rides so doesn't really bother me. Rugged construction

It's not cheap but I expect to use this bag for a long time. Highly recommended for commuter cyclists.

Messenger bags look cool but hold the weight disproportionately on your back. I see people with

> messengers bags constantly having to re-position.

I believe Chrome messenger bags have an extra little strap to keep the bag from "falling" off to one side.  Look at the last image in the series on this page: where it reads "stabilize".  I don't know how well this works, not being a messenger bag type myself, but it would seem to be better than nothing.



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