Riding to work with your clothes and laptop?
Don’t want to use a bike pannier?
Then your next best option is a cycling backpack.
In my opinion, a cycling backpack is more versatile than a bike pannier as you use it for other activities such as hiking or even traveling. While there are many backpacks out there that you can buy, there aren’t many that are specifically designed with cyclists and commuters in mind.
On this page, I’ll discuss what goes into a good backpack for cyclists and share some of the popular models around.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Cycling Backpacks
Cycling Backpacks Buying Guide
If you’re using your bike to commute, then it’s likely you want to arrive at your destination still looking as fresh as you did when you mounted the bike. But, that can be quite a challenge when you’re carrying a backpack.
Geek Tip : Look for cycling backpacks that will keep your back cool and dry by providing airflow between you and the pack.
There’s a reason you can’t throw on a traditional backpack and expect to be comfortable on a bike. A standard pack will slide all over your back while you ride, making your journey uncomfortable at best and potentially dangerous at worst.
The best-designed cycling backpacks feature chest and hip straps designed to keep the pack securely strapped to your back while also incorporating ample padding to prevent the straps from chafing your hips and shoulders.
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Whether you want to carry just a few small things or a computer, lunch, a whole change of clothes, and a bike lock, the range of capacity on commuting cycling backpacks is pretty broad.
Most cycling bags offer a capacity of around 20L but can range from as small as 10L to as big as 30L.
Geek Tip : Make sure you’re realistic about how much you can carry.
Choose a bag that offers a useful yet manageable amount of capacity.
4. Number of Pockets
Pockets are important in your backpack for several reasons.
First and foremost, they offer the ability to organize your stuff.
No one wants to be digging blindly for their house keys, wallet, or mobile phone. Backpacks such as Timbuk2’s Especial Medio offer inner pockets designed to organize laptops, tablets, clothing, and even a bike helmet, while outer pockets offer a convenient place to stow your wallet, house keys, and mobile phone.
Pockets also help with weight distribution, helping to keep heavier objects closer to your body, distributing weight in a way that won’t throw you off balance as you’re executing turns in traffic.
5. Waterproofing Properties
Sooner or later you’re going to get caught in the rain during your commute on a bike.
And when you do, the last thing you want is to be wearing a backpack that’s going to let the rain soak your stuff, especially if that stuff includes an expensive laptop or smartphone.
Most backpacks are made of water-resistant materials.
They’re more than enough to withstand light to medium showers. Unless you expect to get caught in a big downpour, a waterproof bag might be overkill.
And when it really pours, you’ll most likely find a shelter rather than continue riding. But if you do, look out for bags with a detachable rain fly, such as the Thule’s Commuter Backpack.
Also, look at how the zippers and seams are constructed.
Being water-resistant is not just about the material. The zipper design is equally important.
There are teeth openings in a standard zipper and these will allow small rain droplets to enter. Most bags overcome this by having the fabric covers the exposed teeth. Alternatively, some use waterproof zippers, but these don’t come cheap.
6. Reflective Details
If you’re commuting on a bike, then it means you’re probably cycling on heavily trafficked roads early in the morning or later in the evening when visibility is reduced.
It’s essential to be seen when you’re on your bike, and your backpack is the optimal place to create that visibility.
Popular Cycling Backpacks
Henty Wingman Commuter Suit Bag
The Henty Wingman uses a patented support system to keep clothes neat and wrinkle-free in the bag while you ride to work.
Lay your clothes in the suit bag, then roll the bag up for transport. Unroll it at your destination for wrinkle-free clothes.
An external pocket is large enough to fit a 15” laptop. Mesh padding keeps you dry while extra shoulder strap padding keeps the ride comfortable. The bag is water-resistant and features a roll-top for added protection from water.
The Henty Wingman is one of the more expensive bags on the market, but worth it for commuters that need to suit up once they reach point B.
Osprey Radial Commuter Backpack
Osprey is well known among serious backpackers for high-quality packs with a limitless lifetime warranty.
The Radial is no exception with its excellent design.
A mesh lining and padded shoulder straps ensure this pack fits snugly and comfortably to your body. Storage compartments abound with the Radial, which features a laptop sleeve, separated shoe and clothing pocket, and a carrier for commuter bike helmets, as well as a scratch-free pocket for sunglasses and smartphones.
Additional storage areas include a zippered side panel, a front pocket for small items, and a stretch mesh pocket for jackets and other layers.
And as for the foul weather, the Osprey Radial also includes a rain fly, just in case.
Skog A Kust BackSak
When your gear absolutely has to stay dry, go with the Skog A Kust BackSak.
This commuter backpack is designed by California-based outdoor gear company Skog A Kust, a Swedish word that translates into the forest, creek coast.
Rugged is the word to best describe this commuter pack. The BackSak is made of 500-denier PVC with welded seams and a roll-down top, making it the most waterproof pack you can buy.
A sternum clip cushioned straps and padded back support adds comfort. Inside, the BackSak features a large separate pocket for electronics while a smaller outer pocket is ideal for keys and other small items.
The Skog A Kust BackSak comes in two sizes, 25L and 35L, and a variety of colors ranging from bright yellow to digi camo to black.
Thule Pack-n-Pedal Backpack
The Pack-n-Pedal commuter backpack offers a variety of attractive features.
A waterproof main compartment features a roll-top to keep your gear dry as well as a separate pocket for your laptop. An integrated rainfly is included for added protection from the elements.
This Thule backpack also offers plenty of additional storage pockets on the front with stretch mesh pockets on the sides. External straps offer storage options for a U-lock and helmet while padded straps and airflow channels on the back panel add comfort and ventilation.
PRVKE Travel Backpack
Traveling by bike and need to carry your expensive camera and a laptop computer?
There really is only one choice; the PRVKE Travel Backpack.
This backpack offers a variety of storage features tailored for camera storage including a lay-flat clamshell opening and customizable storage in the main pocket for your camera and its various lenses.
A side pocket allows for quick camera access while an internal sleeve is large enough to store a 15” laptop. The bag also offers an expandable 5L for when you need the extra space as well as a rainfly for foul weather.
PRVKE’s backpack comes in two sizes; 21L and 31L.
Ortlieb Commuter Daypack
If you’re looking for something a little more stylish to accompany you on that morning bike commute to work, then check out the Commuter Daypack Urban from bike bag designer Ortlieb.
Materials such as Cordura fabric provide a more refined and modern look to this pack.
This waterproof bag is made with reflective yarn for enhanced safety. Comfort features include air-permeable shoulder straps and ample back padding with grooved channels for ventilation.
A roll-top provides access to the main pocket, which includes a separate padded sub-compartment for a laptop, while a small front pocket holds smaller valuables.
Proviz Sports Reflect360 Backpack
Safety is a top concern when commuting by bike, and Proviz Sports knows this.
That’s why they’ve designed a backpack that offers maximum nighttime visibility.
The aptly-named Reflect360 is made of 100% CE EN 20471 reflective material. This fabric comprises millions of tiny reflective beads that make it impossible for cars not to see you.
Besides offering high visibility, this material is also water-resistant, protecting your gear from the weather. Proviz’s patented Beetle ventilation system allows for air movement between your back and the bag, while the adjustable waist and chest straps hold it securely to your body.
The 30L capacity Proviz Reflect360 is outfitted with multiple gear loops and a laptop compartment. It’s also compatible with a 2L hydration pack.
Deuter Bike Bag
Looking for a bag that will offer you some nice storage space but without all the bulk?
Deuter, a company that is well known for its line of backpacking packs, has the bag for you. This backpack offers 14L of storage space in a compact size. At just 18” x 9”, this is a low profile bag, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t give you plenty of storage.
An internal stretch compartment offers a place to store wet clothes and a smaller pocket to store valuables. A large front pocket offers plenty of small internal pockets for a phone, keys, sunglasses, and other small items while a detachable mesh sling secures your bike helmet when you’re off the bike.
Breathable foam and a large air channel allow for maximum ventilation while a waist strap and padded chest straps hold this Deuter backpack snugly to your body.
Chrome Industries Echo Bravo
Chrome Industries, a company that has specialized in developing urban gear since 1995, offers a bag that provides plenty of space to hold bulkier objects.
With its 20L of capacity and wide dimensions, this bag is one of the more tech-friendly options you can find.
It will hold up to a 17” laptop. A waterproof tarp liner and nylon shell protect your gear from the elements while a padded sleeve cushions technology from bumps and shocks. The Echo Bravo also includes daisy chain mounting loops for additional storage or a bike light.
Safety is enhanced through reflective straps for night visibility.
Timbuk2 Especial Medio
Looking for a well-built bag that will give you top-notch construction and plenty of organization options?
Check out the Especial Medio from Timbuk2, a San Francisco-based bag manufacturer. With its weather-proof Cordura nylon fabric, internal drop liner, and seam tape construction, this bag offers excellent quality.
Storage options include an internal pocket for your laptop, side stretch pockets for water bottles or U-Lock, and an internal organizer for pens, phones, keys, and other small belongings. A large front pocket and multiple smaller zipper pockets are accessible on the front of the pack.
The large air channel and breathable foam provide ventilation while extra padding on the shoulder straps makes for a comfortable fit.