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With the ease and comfort of the messenger bag, it's no wonder they have sustained such a long history. They began as mail carrier bags for the Pony Express riders in the nineteenth century, resurfaced in the 1950's high-fashion shoulder bag scene, and have continued to make an impression ever since as a utilitarian bag used by active enthusiasts with places to be and stuff to carry.
Today, these bags are designed with the idea that they are being zipped all over town, delivering gear, carrying books, or just enduring the everyday hustle and bustle of a bike messenger.
Made to be ultra durable, they are typically constructed from high denier Cordura, the heavy-duty fabric which offers toughness while being highly water-resistant or waterproof. In most cases, the fabric is completely waterproof, but some design features like stitched seams or outer pockets, will dub the bag as water resistant.
For comfort and fit, messenger bags rival bike backpacks.
After many years of figuring what works best, there are some standard features that every messenger bag should have. The shoulder strap is the main point of interest, considering all comfort fit factors ride on this part of the bag, while the rest is convenience.
Shoulder straps should be fairly wide on bike messenger bags in order to distribute weight more evenly across your body. The straps are either reinforced and padded along impact points, or include an adjustable pad which can be moved along the strap for custom comfort.
A cross-chest stabilizing strap is used in conjunction with the shoulder strap to keep the bag in place while riding. Good messenger bags have tons of cinching straps and buckles attached to the shoulder strap and stabilizing strap so you can adjust the bag to fit, whether you're very tall or very small and everything in between.
The shoulder strap can also double as a Batman-like utility belt, it's a great place to accessorize with cell phone holders, lock holsters, small ditty bags -- all necessary items to have at your immediate disposal.
The structure of messenger bags are designed for ultimate convenience. Equipped with a large main flap that secures with cinching buckles, Velcro, or both, you can quickly open the bag, expel it's contents, and hurry on your merry way. Some bags go a step further with a waterproof roll top flap which opens up organization accessibility while increasing waterproofing with the tight roll closure.
Keeping with the multi-faceted bag theme, the large main compartment usually will have multiple organization features like pen slots, pockets, and removable key ring holders. For those who need to be plugged in at all times, some messenger bags will also include an integrated laptop sleeve, or offer a removable one as an accessory.
So, then the question still hangs, "Are bike messenger bags the right bag for me?". As one of the most versatile and well-known bags on the market, the answer is probably "Yes." Some main points to consider: Do you prefer to carry your gear on your bike or on your person? How much do you want to carry? How much use do you need from a bag when it's not on your bike?
Messenger bags keep your bike bag-free, for a lighter and more maneuverable commute. Which is why they are often the bag of choice for bike messengers or couriers who are constantly moving around by bike.
Messenger bags are also great for carrying a lot of gear, but they can be problematic if overloaded. Even the larger messenger bags have a structural limitation based no the way it rests on your back. Bulky or odd shaped items can often sit awkwardly against your back or poke through the side of a messenger bag, so it's good to evaluate the type of cargo you want to carry.
As far as usability off the bike, cyclists and non-cyclists alike have come accustomed to using messenger bags as an everyday bag.
Banjo Brothers : High quality, well-built and affordable panniers, backpacks, handlebar bags, seat bags, messenger bags, and more for bike commuters, recreational and urban cyclists.
Chrome : There's no mistaking Chrome's easily recognizable griffin insignia seal of approval. A high quality brand known for their bomb-proof gear, savvy style, and original flare of custom metal buckles, Chrome elegantly combines both function and fashion.
Ortlieb : The tried and true German brand Ortlieb has been making the leading waterproof bike panniers for decades. It was only natural for the large bag company to dabble in producing other waterproof bags. Ortlieb's patented T-ZIP waterproof zipper and classic waterproof materials allow these messenger bags to go where no bag has gone before.
Timbuk2 : Born in the San Francisco garage of a former bike messenger, Timbuk2 began custom bags in 1989 and has expanded to other product lines, such as messenger bags and laptop sleeves.