You’ll see lots of new cyclists or commuters just cycling around with a regular backpack on, but is it actually worth it to purchase a cycling-specific backpack? The answer to this question will differ from rider to rider, but if you are someone that just does extremely casual riding around your local park then you’ll probably be fine with just a regular backpack. 

Cycling Backpack

If you are someone who uses a regular backpack then it is important to watch out for any unexpected showers because the things in your bag may get wet, so to prevent this you can line your bag with a bin liner. 

If you are instead someone who often cycles on mucky roads, you’ll definitely want to get a cycling-specific backpack as you’ll definitely appreciate all of the extra features that come with them. Some of these features normally include waterproofing, vented rear padding, increased visibility as well as mounts for locks and even lights. 

Backpack vs Panniers

Backpack vs Panniers

If you have decided that it is time to purchase a cycling backpack, then you will be faced with two choices, a backpack or a pannier bag. 

If you are a rider who will be cycling short distances and won’t be carrying a lot of things then you would probably be much better off purchasing a backpack instead of a pannier bag. The main reason is because of the backpack’s simplicity and take-anywhere nature, which is hard to beat. If you have one of these backpacks, you’ll also be able to use them as backpacks for hiking or city use as well, which is another plus. 

Panniers on the other hand are really great for those cyclists that are touring or want to carry heavier loads, like shopping. One of the biggest drawbacks to this option, over the backpack, is that you will have to install a rack onto your bike to use it, assuming that it has the requisite mounts, which are usually a lot more challenging to carry when you eventually take them off of your bike. 

If you are someone that is going to have to transport some really big loads, like children or work equipment, then it may be better for you to upgrade from a regular traditional bike to a cargo or electric bike. 

Zips vs roll-top

Zips vs roll-top

If you look at the professional cycle couriers out there you’ll usually see that they will be using  roll-top bags, which is great for their needs because the zips are compact and flexible for shaping. One of the downsides to using this setup though is the poor waterproofing that they have, and they’re also a lot more likely to wear out over time and could even break from being heavily used. 

Then on the other hand you have the roll-top bags, which are able to be opened and closed over and over again without any major wear or tear. This is the main reason that a lot of the bags we see today use a combination of both zipped pockets as well as roll-top compartments to get the best of both worlds. This mixture will allow for maximum durability as well as the convenience that you get from having separate pockets for specific items. 

How Much Capacity Do You Need

How Much Capacity Do You Need

Most commuters will be carrying around items like their laptop, spare clothes and valuables, which should all together take up around 20 to 30 litres of space in your bag. Then you can also get backpacks that have 40 litres of space in them, which is definitely a lot and probably overkill for most people, but could be useful for aspiring pro bike messengers. 

Then you also have bikers, who commute in the winter, who will need a little more space in their backpacks so that they are able to carry bulkier jackets and the like that they may be using during the colder environment. Then also if you are someone that is going to be commuting in a jersey with clipless pedals and cycling shoes, you’d probably want to change into something else at the end of your commute, so you’ll definitely want to factor in extra space for a change of shoes and clothes when you are looking at purchasing a backpack. 

Final Words

All in all, it is definitely important to identify what type of riding you are going to be doing and in what conditions you’ll be doing it in so that you are able to choose some of the features of a backpack that will best suit your needs. At the end of the day it is also a good idea to go with a backpack that has a little more room that you’d think you’d need, because it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have some extra room just in case. 

Leo Beamers is an aspiring car collector born and raised just outside of the city in Cape Town and his interests include gaming, fast cars and enjoys cycling on the weekends.

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