MESSENGER BAGS VS. PANNIERS
May 4, 2005
Back to questions
Why do bikers overwhelmingly
prefer messenger bags? I want to begin riding my bike to
work and, in addition to putting a rack on my bike, I'd
like to get a good waterproof bag. Thanks!
Some might say, "Because they
dont know better."
After reading the following you
might not agree. First, tho, lemme take issue with your
"overwhelmingly." In some places, if you look
closely enough youll see many bikers using baskets
and panniers. More on this in a minute.
I think bikers who do use messenger-style
bags do so for these reasons: (1) They started out with
backpacks, then found that messenger bags go on and come
off more easily. (2) They used to work as messengers or
they still get on and off their bikes a lot each day, and
dont want to spend the extra time uncoupling a pannier.
(3) They like having a shoulder strap on their bag, and
they dont think they can have that with a pannier.
By now you see where this has headed.
For carrying stuff Mr Bike likes (overwhelmingly) panniers:
bags that hang off the sides of a rear carrying rack, or
off of a front-mounted rack. You can get em in all
different sizes, and they usually come in pairstho
for just knocking around I usually carry only one. When
I do a big grocery trip Ill take two, and my set can
hold the equivalent of three paper shopping bags. (See a
picture of this in my book, Urban
Bikers Tricks & Tips.)
For carrying my pannier off the
bike Ive added a shoulder strap that I got at a travelers
supply store. This came in real handy last week when I went
to NYC and ended up carrying my bike up and down lots of
subway stairs: Before picking up the bike Id sling
my fully-loaded pannier onto my shoulder.
To keep out water youve three
options: (1) Put stuff inside the pannier into a plastic
grocery bag (the panniers outside will still get wet).
(2) Buy a waterproof pannier cover, available in several
different sizes. (3) Buy a waterproof pannier. Brands
(what Mr Bike uses), Carradice,
Designs, and Ortlieb.
Why do people like panniers? First,
many think the bike, not the biker, should have to do the
work. Myself, I don't wanna bike too far with a
heavy messenger bag on my shoulder. That fully-loaded bag
can also make it harder (and more dangerous) to look back
over your shoulder, a key move to keep from crashing in
traffic. Second, panniers lower your center of gravity
thereby making you more stable on your bike.
All those benefits, however, cost
something: A good set of panniers starts at around $100 U.S.
Before you make that kind of investment, you might wanna
test a cheaper, on-the-bike alternative: wire baskets that
hang off of the sides of your rear rack, and that fold up
flat when not in use.
Finally, before you invest in a
particular set of panniers itd help to understand
the pros and cons of all the different attachment, closure,
and compartment features available. Call some local bike
shops and ask if they carry panniers. Then go get your hands
on em: Open them up, stick stuff inside them, try
mounting them on bikes, and figure how youd attach
a shoulder strap.
As you can tell, this stuff gets
me carried away.