Battle of the Cargo Carriers

I’ve developed (by no conscious effort or intention) a 3-way system for carrying everyday stuff while riding my bicycle. My system involves my daypack, my messenger pannier, and my man-bag (i.e. a messenger bag that looks a little too much like a big purse).

For the longest time my daypack was good enough. It’s old now — pushing 8 years — and developing various maladies. But I like it because it is light rip-stop nylon. You can stuff the thing silly. It’s accompanied me across North America and to Europe. I’ll use it until it reaches gross structural failure.

So why consider other systems? Well, the big reason is that during hot weather a daypack tends to create a sweaty spot in the center of my back, which defeats my heroic attempts not to sweat at all while riding (imperfectly accomplished to be sure).

The Arkel messenger pannier was an excellent choice to pick up the slack during the hotter times of the year. And that is exactly how I’ve used it — mostly for work or other gotta-dress-nice situations from about early June through September. I don’t use it all year because I don’t really like how it bounces around on my hip while carrying it off the bicycle. It doesn’t drive me nuts or anything. It’s just not as smoothly comfortable as my daypack.

Last winter I was trapped at an outlet mall while certain of my female relatives shopped. I wandered into a leather shop and discovered a nice messenger bag on sale. What the hell. I bought it. I threw it into the mix over the summer as something to carry while riding my Brompton — a little cycle chic flair for the ol’ professor dude. But I began using it more and more because it is comfortable to carry and carries a lot of stuff. It made a good casual choice. I largely abandoned it once cooler weather hit.

So the point of all this is to point out that weather more than convenience has been the deciding factor in choosing what thing to carry to carry stuff in.

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Comments 8

  1. Matthew wrote:

    I’ve got a Topeak trunk bag that I love. Carries tons of stuff and straps securely to my bike on the rack I bought for it. The downside is that it’s bulky, uncomfortable, and definitely not stylish or professional to carry. But to get my laptop, books, lunch, and potentially extra clothes to campus, it serves extremely well and allows me to avoid having a bag on and the associated heat that comes with a backpack.

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 12:20 pm
  2. Ken wrote:

    I also have a Topeak trunk bag that I use to commute to work. As a point-to-point bag it is fairly flawless. As a park the bike and tote it around bag, it is a failure. It works for short errands, like the library or Dillons on the way home, but not something I’d carry around otherwise.

    How about the Arkel Bug? Backpack and Pannier, I think that is the direction I’m leaning when next I get a bike bag.

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 12:41 pm
  3. Steve A wrote:

    More comment later, but for now, I’ll mention that Arkel currently has a “web special” on the exact pannier that Andy got.

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 12:50 pm
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… Good information. Thanks!

    And re: Arkel I like it very much. If it were my only carrier I’d be completely happy. The toting around part is not a nice as the backpack or man-bag, but not at all unpleasant. Just a little bulkier. When you need to look professional, I’d go with the Arkel.

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 2:48 pm
  5. robert wrote:

    Have you tried Ortliebs? IMO they have the fastest and most secure fastening system. In less than 1 second you have it off the bike and in maybe 2 seconds its back on again. That eliminates the need to ponder how often you have to put it on and off your bike as you run errands.

    Their stuff is also 100% waterproof and some of it is even submergible.

    Best yet, they have some great looking gear. Some of it could be carried into any board room and no one would even know you arrived by bike.

    Here is an example.

    People become loyal to brands, especially these high end bike bags, which are all really high quality.

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 2:56 pm
  6. Keri wrote:

    I’m liking that Arkel a lot. It’s a lot more dignified than the grocery pannier I’ve been using to carry stuff into a meeting 😉

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 5:06 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    I considered the Ortliebs, but got nervous about their attachment system; documented in the English website link which will come up if you click on my name. Also, I notice that Rantwick is now modifying his Ortliebs. OTOH, it appears that Ortlieb has been fiddling with the design and may have worked out the bugs for recent production.

    As for the Arkel Bug, I notice Arkel has priced the 2011 Bug much less expensive than the 2010 Bug. Interesting and worth investigating. I hear mixed reports on the Bug because its rigid back that makes it work well as a pannier makes it less than ideal as a backpack for extended use. You might also compare the Arkel Switchback. In the final analysis, it depends on how much carrying around you’ll do when it gets off the bike.

    So notes someone idly curious about this topic…

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 6:40 pm
  8. robert wrote:


    I read that information. The most interesting thing to me is that I’ve never even seen those “grippers.” Perhaps that was some of those loose parts that I never installed! They certainly arent neccesary for the bags to function. Obviously. LOL

    Posted 01 Dec 2010 at 10:32 pm

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