Packing gear on your back is a comfortable, ergonomic option for hauling around the necessities. Backpacks meet this highly functional need for students, teachers, backpackers, bike commuters, tourists, and nearly everyone in between. The versatile nature of a backpack makes it the ideal choice for someone with a multi-faceted lifestyle and many things to carry. You can easily transition between activities like riding, walking to work, or hiking all while carrying everything you need for each situation. No other style bag can quite meet the same level of convenience as a backpack with the many different styles, sizes and uses available. This guide will help to answer some of your questions about benefits and versatility of bike backpacks that are designed with the cyclist in mind.
Bike backpacks are not just used for cycling, but encompass the gamut of all physical activities. The idea is to be able to move around as much as you want, and still maintain good fit and high functionality, while carrying a bunch of stuff. Bicycling is a sport that involves a wide range of motion, not to mention that most cyclists have a set destination in mind to enjoy hiking, kayaking, or other outdoor sports. Bike backpacks have all of the benefits of a regular backpack, but are amped up with detailed comfort features and helpful organizational capacity. These details are what separate the good bags from the great bags.
All of the bike backpacks we sell are designed to fit well and utilize weight distribution in the most efficient manner for your body. To maintain the model of a good fit, there are multiple adjustment straps to fit the person carrying the bag: from the very tall to the very small. The most important part of the bag are the bones or internal structure of the bag. With the use of a lightweight wire frame, or reinforced foam backing plate, your gear sits evenly across your back and shoulders so you can carry more without strain or discomfort. Vented padding at impact points also adds to your daily comfort of a no-rub ride, while laterally adjustable waist straps and vertically adjustable sternum straps secure the bag snugly for a custom fit. Okay, the bag fits great, but what about those convenience features you were talking about? Of course, I wouldn't want to leave out important items like integrated hydration reservoirs which make it easy to sip on your water while riding, helmet holders that pack your helmet out of the way while hiking, or ditty pockets and carabiner loops which offer quick access to important items, just to mention a few. Add fit to functionality, and you've got yourself a bike backpack.
Just like all bags, certain inherent factors of the bag should be taken into consideration. The most common is the notorious sweaty-back phenomenon. Biking backpacks, like those from Vaude, resolve this problem by including a rigid frame which pushes the actual backpack off your back for full, flow through air venting. Other backpacks include mesh cooling vents on the back and shoulders to maximize air flow at contact points. Increasing the weight on your back can also increase your center of gravity which can potentially lead to instability. Compression straps help to secure the items in your pack, for minimal movement on your back. To carry weight at a lower center of gravity, check out bike panniers, which are mounted to bike racks. For the best of both worlds, there are the Ortlieb Vario and Vaude Cycle 30 conversion panniers, which easily transform from pannier to backpack. Depending on the size and fit of a backpack, your helmet might come into contact with your pack when you turn your head while riding, which can lower your visibility. Adjustable shoulder straps and sternum straps can help to create a great fit both on and off the bike, even considering the additional space necessary for a helmet.
Bike backpacks are most common among commuters, since it's an easy transition from riding to other activities. Bike backpacks can also be useful for touring, but they are most effective on day rides or mountain bike tours, where a limited amount of gear is preferred to maintain maneuverability. Side compression straps secure your gear so you can bounce around over multiple baby heads, but your load stays in one place. For the urban cyclist, it is often difficult to choose between bike backpacks, bike messenger bags, or bike panniers for riding around town. The choice often comes down to personal preference and style choices. Opt for the bike backpack if you are looking for one bag that enjoys as many hobbies as you do.
What's your style?
- The Commuter User: Mission Workshop and Chrome have both honed in on what it means to create bomber commuter backpacks with the capacity to carry high volume loads and withstand the rigors of daily wear and tear. With a wide range of sizes, multiple organization features, and waterproof compartments, these bags are made to keep up with the rat race of city life. Vaude has some lighter duty, water resistant commuter backpacks made to look sleek, and carry the necessities. These bags include a rain cover, so you can protect your gear, even in an unexpected rain storm. For the daily run around, reach for one of these helpful commuter bike backpacks.
- Won't Fail on the Trail: For cruising off-road, or taking long day trips, Vaude has mastered the comfort and quality of riding over rough terrain for long hours at a time. With included hydration reservoirs, compression straps, and bike light loops, you'll be all set to hit the trail. If you're more of a water sports fan, Ortlieb is the way to go. The Flights, Tracks, and Duffles are completely waterproof and airtight to handle full submersion. Head for the great outdoors with a fully equipped backpack buddy.
- Converto Transformo: The Vaude Cycle 30 and Ortlieb Vario both convert from backpack to pannier and vice versa. Great for the convenience of a backpack, but with the added benefit to take the weight off your back while in pannier mode, you can get the best of both worlds. Another pack that allows you to do more than the average bag are the Vaude and Ortlieb Messenger Bags. These bags are a great way to advertise while carrying your gear. With a clear window that runs the entire length of the bag, you can get your point across with an installed sign. Have your backpack do more with any of these multi-use bags.
- Expandability: Whether you're adding 5 liters or 25 liters to your pack, having an expansion pocket can come in very handy. The Vaude sport backpacks will expand 5 to 10 liters, so packing that extra rain gear is no problem. Backpacks like the Mission Bags expand so much, they double in capacity! Quite the accordion of bags, that can retract and expand depending on how much you need to carry. Side compression straps also help to keep your gear secure when you're running at less than maximum capacity. Expand your mind to an expandable pack.
- Laptop Compartments: Typically a feature found in commuter backpacks, a laptop compartment is great for keeping your electronics safe. The Ortlieb Vario pack and the Vaude Cycle Packs include tall sleeves with padding and Velcro securing straps to place your laptop in. Chrome went one step ahead with their Soyuz, Yalta and Brigadier backpacks. These bags are equipped with a completely separate waterproof compartment, specially made for your laptop to sleep in. Carry sensitive equipment with confidence with a specialized laptop backpack.
- Hydration reservoir: Keeping yourself hydrated is an important aspect to consider when exerting a lot of energy. Vaude's high performance backpacks usually include a bladder and hydration reservoir so you can hydrate in the most convenient manner possible. Don't miss a beat while out riding, keep your water within arms reach.
- Helmet holder: Helmet holders are usually included with backpacks geared towards outdoor use. Most of the Vaude backpacks include a hooked piece of fabric to fasten your helmet to your back while hiking about. You don't have to lose your backpack capacity by trying to shove your helmet in there, or Jerry-rig your helmet to your pack with an extra shoelace or bungee. It's all there for you. Making biking and hiking a seamless transition.
- Reflective features and light attachments: Most biking backpacks have reflective elements and bike light loops to maximize visibility when you're biking in low light. Best for in town or road riding, headlights can light up those reflective elements so you are seen by the car behind you. Light attachment loops come in very handy so you don't have to mount a light to your seat post. The light loop allows you to mount a light on your pack that is higher up in the traffic field of vision, and has dynamic movement with your body, a little fabric goes a long way in keeping you safe.
Customary backpack accessories
- Shoulders: Most all backpacks have places to hook small odds and ends to. Commuter bags like to increase the usability of this prime real estate by adding long Velcro straps and buckles for multiple mounting point options. Chrome helps you accessorize your shoulders with a Cell Phone Holder and Accessory Pouch that can mount right on the front of the straps. Keep the cash and cell close with the small holders on your shoulders.
- Waist: Mission offers an extra cushy waist belt for added stability when carrying lots of gear. Both the Rambler and the Vandal have their own deluxe belt, which is proportionate to the size of the bag.
- Laptop Sleeves: Don't fret if your backpack doesn't have a laptop compartment. Ortlieb and Chrome both have laptop sleeves that work just as well at keeping your laptop snug as a bug in a rug. There are different sizes available for the size and style of your computer, so you can get a nice fitting sleeve for your laptop friend. The Ortlieb sleeve has dual access compartments, along with lots of organization, while the Chrome sleeve is sleek and simple. Keep in mind these snug sleeves when riding with your electronics.
For further information on bike bags, please review our Bike Bag FAQ's and our Bike Bag & Rack Comparison Chart.
Chrome: The unbreakable, stainless steel hardware isn't the only thing Chrome is known for. The great designs, sleek look, and bombproof fabric make Chrome an obvious choice for the urban biker on the go. Pushing capacity to the limits, Chrome offers a wide range of sizes of bags so you can pack as much as you would ever want to carry on your back.
Ortlieb: As the only backpacks that can be labeled 100 percent waterproof, most people who enjoy water sports reach for Ortlieb. Their patented T-ZIP waterproof zipper makes an airtight seal, so your gear will be ready for any environmental onslaught, even if you're not.
Vaude: With the largest range of styles of biking backpacks, you will definitely find something you like in the Vaude line. Spanning from easy commuter packs with lots of organization and laptop sleeves to outdoorsy, trail packs made for intense rides, Vaude offers a bag for most any occasion.
Mission Workshop: The heavy duty design and attention to detail makes Mission Workshop a great everyday bag for the bike messenger and commuter. With reinforcement fabric, well, everywhere, and a lifetime guarantee, these are bags that can handle the daily abuse of school books, bike parts, and all of the above.