Commuter Girl’s Guide to Messenger Bags & Backpacks
There’s times where you need to take it with you on your bike. For heavy loads, a well-balanced set of panniers on the rear rack is the best option. Yet many commuters choose to keep their bikes light and carry what they need on their backs. The choices are usually the standard backpack or the messenger bag. Not all backpacks and messenger bags are made the same however. Messenger bags and backpacks made with the cyclist in mind will have many advantages over bags that are made for pedestrians. Ideally, a cyclist’s bag or backback should hold the load evenly distributed for good balance and it should be high enough on the body to not get in the way.
Getting the Best Fit
When buying a messenger bag, do yourself a big favor and make sure it fits you! Case in point: I bought my first bike messenger bag at a bike shop and chose it because I liked its looks and the fact that it was 50% off. When I wasn’t on the bike I didn’t notice that it was actually sized for a man (about 5’10″ or taller). The bag’s strap could not be adjusted high enough, so the bag hung low and would cover the back of the bike seat. As I stopped at stoplights, it might slide between me and my bike seat and could have resulted in a nasty fall, had I not been careful when remounting the bike. Note in the photo above that the messenger bag hangs just above the bike seat. That is your ideal.
As you are trying on messenger bags, pay attention to the shoulder strap. It should be wide to distribute weight evenly across your body. Pay attention to where the strap rubs on your shoulder and make sure the strap has some reinforcement or padding. A bonus is an adjustable padding that can be moved into just the right spot for comfort. The cross-strap can be used to keep the bag where you want it while riding. Lastly, if you like to accessorize, you can add a cell-phone holder to the strap to keep your phone conveniently handy.
Carrying What you Need
If you are carrying a laptop, buy the bag or backpack that will fit it. Be sure to get a sleeve for it to keep it protected. Do you need a lot of separate compartments? Backpacks often have more compartmental storage. Need more? I throw in a small zippered pouch to hold small items–especially what I call my touch-up kit which includes mascara, lipstick, comb, and a small container of sunscreen.
The Best Uses of Each
My personal favorite of Rickshaw’s collection is the Skinny Commuter Backpack. It’s perfectly sized for carrying today’s slim technological tools, and it doesn’t let one overpack and carry too much. As we tried them out, we found the sizing is about right for an average-sized woman. That’s a big bonus in our book. It comes in a variety of colors and has well thought out compartments. It has a waterproof liner and will carry a 15-inch laptop. The shoulder strap allows it to be carried like a shoulder bag if desired. It also has a “magnetic silencer” which means it does not make a loud velcro sound as you open or close your bag.
Rickshaw’s Zero Messenger bag was named for the lack of waste produced in the making of this stylish and sustainable bag. The Zero was especially designed “to optimize cutting and eliminate material waste.” The fabrics used are durable, eco-friendly and machine washable. They come in four sizes: large, medium, small and the purse-sized “mini.” A cross-strap and strap pad for the Zero Messenger bag are sold separately.
Rickshaw’s handlebar bag is called the Pipsqueak and it is just right for handily carrying small items. It’s being offered by Rickshaw as a giveaway to Cycle and Style readers.
If you’d like to win this cute handlebar bag, make a comment here, giving us your tips/questions for carrying it with you on the bike. The contest runs from now until May 4th.