There are endless options when it comes to bike bags. Check out what QBP commuters use and pick up some tips along the way.
When it comes to commuter bags, finding the right setup can be a lot like Goldilocks and the three bears’ porridge. The first was too hot, the second was too cold, but the third was just right. In the world of commuter bags, however, Goldilocks gets to choose between waffles, an omelet bar, a variety of yogurt parfaits, and some muffins in addition to her lukewarm porridge.
Breakfast analogies aside, when it comes to picking out bags for bike commuting, the one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t cut it. Factors such as commute distance, type of bike being used, physiology of the rider, type of gear being transported, affordability, ease of use, weather-resistance, and visibility concerns all come into play when selecting the kinds of commuting bags to use and recommend to customers.
Whether you’re assisting customers who want to bike to work, ride to school, or use their bike to run errands, there are a variety of bag options you can recommend. Here, some QBP commuters show what they use, and draw on their years of commuting experience to provide you with some useful tips.
Lori Richman, Director of Organizational Development, Q-Central
My commute is 18 miles round-trip. I ride either my Salsa Fargo or Surly Straggler and use two panniers. On one side, I put my clothes for the day and on the other, my food/other items. In the handlebar bag, I carry my phone, keys, bike tool, wireless speaker, etc.
I prefer bags for the bike rather than a backpack as I get too hot wearing a backpack or messenger bag.
Since I commute in MN and the weather changes minute by minute, I almost always have miscellaneous layers/gloves/ear bands/rainwear, depending on the season, so having the extra space in the panniers works well.
Paul Zeigle, Bike Brand Manager, Q-Central
My commute is a 22 mile round trip. I frequently take a longer route home or do errands along the way, therefore I like a large capacity bag. The Surly Porteur House bag is my first choice for commuting. I’d rather carry my gear on the bike rather than on my back. It’s more comfortable especially when it’s hot out.
I also prefer the way my bike handles with a front load rather than a rear load. The Porteur House has plenty of capacity and includes three water repellent liner bags for rainy or snowy days. It’s larger than needed for just commuting gear (clothing, lunch, iPad), but I like the extra capacity to carry more stuff (beer). I mount the bag on the Surly 24-Pack.
Brandon Sakelarides, Distribution Center Lead, Q-West
I ride a Surly 26” Disc Trucker. It’s my all-arounder, bikepacking, commuting, getting-around-town rig. I’m currently running a Banjo Brothers Medium Handlebar Bag in the front and Banjo Brothers Extra Large Saddle Trunk in the rear. The handlebar bag has enough room for my lunch, wallet, keys, badge, sunglasses, and other small odds and ends. My saddlebag usually contains my work clothes, U-lock, some extra tubes, and an emergency rain jacket. Putting the weight on the bicycle rather than your back/shoulders was the greatest change I’ve ever made in my commuting.
Pros: inexpensive, no racks required, relatively light, doesn’t rattle around
Cons: I’d like a little more room out of the handlebar bag, but there are limited options with dropbars without going to a rack. Occasionally, if you don’t properly distribute the weight in your saddlebag, it will sway while riding.
Gregory Lessard, Special Order Processing, Q-West
I use a hand-made DIY waxed canvas bag that fits inside my Wald front basket, and a top tube bag on my every day commuter. The waxed canvas bag is removable, which is the biggest benefit in a big city with thieves. It also doubles as a reusable grocery bag.
The top tube bag is round and fits 1 tallboy or 2 12oz cans and has an additional outer mesh pocket for my wireless speaker and/or food. I’ve found that keeping the weight low and in front of the bike is the best set up for control and safety.
There aren’t any cons to this set up that I can think of. I’ve been a commuter for 15+ years and this is the best set up I’ve used!
Chris Hoppe, Distribution Center Supervisor, Q-West
My typical commute is 26 miles round-trip or 10 when I use the commuter train. I use a Wald 1372 basket; it’s durable, inexpensive, and looks great on my bike. I use the Garneau Uptown Trunk bag in my basket, and store clothes, lunch, and a spare tube in there. It fits perfectly and gives me room to fit my U-Lock between the side of the bag and basket.
Next, I use a handlebar/stem bag. It’s one of my favorite bags on the bike. I keep my keys, phone, wallet, saddle cover, snacks, and the occasional adult beverage for the ride home. I use a Jandd frame bag to carry my tool kit, pump, extra Co2 cartridges, and miscellaneous items. Lastly, I use a Lizard Skins Cache for my seat bag. In there I carry another extra tube and tire lever.
Pros: All the items/bags mentioned above are very durable and can take the beatings of my daily commutes. Everything is very functional, easy to get in and out of, and is aesthetically pleasing. All my gear is carried on the bike and allows me to commute without a backpack!
Cons: If I lay down the bike the basket can get bent and dinged up a little bit, but… can be easily bent back into place. I haven’t found a taillight that will stay on my seat bag and I find myself buying a new one every other month. Other than that, not too much else I can negatively say about the bike and set-up.
Kaitlin Johnson, Customer Service Agent, Q-Central
For my commute of about 15 miles, I always use frame bags, or a bag that I can place in my basket. For shorter rides, I will sometimes use backpacks, but for longer distances, my back is not comfortable with that weight. Many days I simply toss my items into a tote bag, and use my basket’s bungee cords to keep it all in. On rainy days, I have an old waterproof messenger bag that fits in my basket almost perfectly.
I keep a small handlebar bag or frame bag on my bike that hold my tools and spare tube, which I just leave on the bike. I use a Wald basket that is zip-tied to a front rack (either a Velo Orange Pass Hunter or the Surly front rack), and it has been the best thing I ever added to my ride. In fact, a few of my other bikes now have the same basket. As I ride a touring bike for my everyday steed, having the weight in the front of the bike feels perfectly natural and is only noticeable when you have to carry it up or down stairs. I always carry a flat kit, lights, wallet, my calendar, small dry bag for my phone and electronics if need be, a hanky, my lunch a change of clothes, and some Surly Junk Straps.
The biggest benefit of having my cargo attached to my bike instead of to me, is my comfort. I really dislike the heat of wearing a backpack. In the winter, I don’t enjoy the mixed temperatures from back to front, and in the summer, it just gets too dang hot and sweaty. So, for me, the added weight of having a rack and basket are well worth the tradeoffs. I also ride big steel frame bikes with silly accessories, so weight has never been one of my priorities.
Renee Hoffmann, Copywriter, Q-Central
My commute is just over 20 miles in each direction, so I try to pack as lightly as possible. I have two backpacks: one small 11L pack and one Osprey Escapist 25L pack. On cooler days when I need to bring more clothes to work or when I want to bring a lunch, I’ll go for my bigger backpack, but on warmer days when I don’t need to bring a lunch, I’ll grab the smaller one. In addition to the backpack, I always have a small saddlebag on my bike with a tube, tire lever, Co2 cartridge, and Co2 pump in it.
I use a backpack in lieu of other options because I switch bikes frequently, don’t want the extra weight of a bike rack or basket on my bikes, and don’t mind the weight being on my body. I’ve found that, as long as I use a high-quality hiking/biking-specific backpack and pack it properly, it doesn’t bother my back or shoulders.
I also need to take a moment to rave about the Osprey Escapist 25L backpack. The hip belt pockets are perfect for quick access to my keys, bus card, or a snack, and there’s also a spot to attach a helmet, a hydration bladder, plus a designated cell phone pocket on the shoulder strap. It’s an incredibly comfortable pack that I’m sure will last for endless miles.
Zach Coughlin, Inventory Control, Q-West
I use a Salsa EXP Series 15 Liter Dry Bag. Because of its fully welded construction, this bag keeps any items like clothes or electronics dry, as long as both ends are rolled up, which is the main reason I chose it.
I have a flat bar All-City Cantilever Nature-Boy which has a Wald 1372 basket mounted to a Velo Orange Pass Hunter Canti Rack. The Salsa dry bag in conjunction with a Topeak cargo net keeps all of my belongings secured to the front of my bike. Since my commute is about 17 miles round trip, I don't feel the justification for panniers. Plus, the bag and net can easily be removed from the bike if I don't need to carry anything. After trying iterations ranging from different handlebar bags to a small backpack, I came to realize I needed a sturdy front-end storage area, which is why I’ve settled on my current setup.