Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff

Po Campo Loop Pannier bike bag with Lenovo ThinkPad inside

My small laptop fits fine inside my Po Campo Loop Pannier, with room to spare for files and what-not (although I try not to carry too much what-not).

I’m not a backpack gal. I don’t like the sweat or the weight messing with my center of gravity. I do, however, haul a fair amount some days.

You can find a variety of types of bags with different ways of attaching to the rack or to you. Unfortunately most bike shops carry an assortment that resembles what Henry Ford told early car buyers: You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.

Black is a really stupid color for an item into which you place things. Unless you carry a flashlight you’ll always be rooting around in the bottom of a dark cave.

Another feature of my former Black Uglies that I loathed and detested was the way the mounting hooks dug into my side when I took the bag off the rack and carried it. Some bags are designed with clever flaps to cover the hooks or a different mounting system that doesn’t stick out so far.

When you’re looking at any bag, think not only about how it attaches to the bike, but how it will work for you as a bag you carry around off the bike.

Odds are that you’re not going to leave a bag with your laptop, wallet, and that pretty necklace you just bought for your daughter sitting on the bike while you go check out the sale rack at some of our wonderful local boutiques in Carnegie Square or SoDo.

Hence my love for my pretty Po Campo bags and my oh-so-practical Donkey Boxx that I was able to dress up with custom stickers from Hydra Creations. The Po Campos detach quickly and their flat webbing straps don’t dig in. I drop a fabric grocery box into the Donkey Boxx to hold my dealie-bobs and what-nots and just pull that out.

My 17-year-old daughter, on the other hand, slings a regular bag over her shoulders and pedals away with it swinging back and forth.

It makes me a trifle crazy to watch her because it looks like she’ll spill all that stuff any minute and it also looks as if the changing weight distribution would be scary, but it works for her so I keep my judging little mouth shut. (This is a relatively rare exception to my normal mothering style, which I confess in order to forestall the inevitable comments by my daughters.)

The Donkey Boxx is a practical pannier for your bike that can hold a full bag of groceries.

The Donkey Boxx truly is like having a trunk for your bike. If I fill it to overflowing, the Po Campo Six-Cornered Wristlet sitting on top can just move to my handlebars, where it buckles on.

If you’re fine with backpacks, by all means use one. It doesn’t have to be bike-specific.

Before you start automatically shifting absolutely everything from your purse into the bike carrier, however, stop and take another look. Can you pare down what you carry? I’m betting the answer is yes.

————–

Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

  • Experienced commuters, what kind of bag/pannier/box do you have? What do you like/dislike about it?
  • What features do you want in the ideal, perfect, too-good-to-be-true bike bag?

33 Responses to “Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff”

  1. Great advice as usual! I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the kind of bag/cargo gear I want for my bike. I just received the Po Campo Logan Tote and love it! It’s great for carrying a change of clothes, bike lock, wallet, windbreaker, etc. My next purchase will be something smaller for personal items –either a small messenger style purse or a handlebar bag (maybe a matching one from Po Campo). But one step at a time…

  2. For commuting, I used a school sized book backpack for 20 years. It was light with only personal and bike bare essentials, but had enough room to carry a day’s clothes, food, or whatever was necessary. Plastic bags or zip locks kept everything dry inside. Plus it traveled easily with me, in and out of the house, work, or a stopping place. I still use it on “utility” rides.

    I use a split bungee to strap larger items to the bike rack (trying to find a link for it). Something like this works, too. http://www.rei.com/product/797996/topeak-cargo-net

    The Donkey Boxxes look like they would be a great addition for grocery shopping, shopping in general, and carrying things I wouldn’t want to carry in a backpack. 🙂

    Bike on! 🙂

    • Before the Donkey Boxx I created some crazy loads to get home from the farmers’ market with bungee cords and bags strapped on top of the rack with bags hanging from each side. But that’s pretty hard on apricots and tomatoes!

  3. The Donkey Boxxes do look awesome for carrying groceries, produce or other shopping goodies. 🙂

    For larger or heavier things that one would want to bungee, here is the link for the bike rack specific strap mentioned previously. It works really well to keep items secure on a bike rack.

    Transit Bike Strap
    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1023806_-1_1559004_20000_400106

    Regardless of the carrying option, remember to really, really ensure that all pieces, parts, and straps can’t fall, slide or blow into the spokes or wheel path. A loose strap or item in the spokes can equal really bad juju!! Another nice feature of the Donkey Boxx is that keeps items contained, greatly reducing the possiblity of an item-caught-in-spokes mishap.

    Safe travels! 🙂

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