According to the latest statistics from YouGov, just nine per cent of Brits cycle to work. Part of the reason why commuters opt for car, train or tram instead of the more eco-friendly and healthier two wheels, is because they feel they don’t have the right gear for the journey. We’ve gone part of the way to solve that problem with this edit of bags designed with the cycling commuter in mind.
The majority of these bags are specialist gear for cyclists, so are therefore well-thought out to be comfortable when riding with a load, provide easy-access to valuables and have padded pockets to protect precious tech. Some are fully waterproof – and will double-up as a pack for a weekend outdoorsy adventures – while others come with removable rain covers. We found the best of British design as well as offerings from European makers and the best of the bags from the US.
Our in-house commuters put these to the test on everything from short hops to the office travelling light, to ten mile schleps across town with a pack full of groceries.
1. dhb Waterproof Rucksack 25: £49.99, Wiggle
This capacious beast from bike specialist Wiggle’s good-value own line is a pleasing piece of kit. It is lightweight and fully waterproof, making it suitable for commuting in all seasons. The straps are comfortable and easy to adjust, while firm foam ribbing on the back allows some air to circulate. The roll-top closure gives the rucksack a smart courier-bag appearance and when fully unfurled, the bag becomes a cavernous pit in which a large quantity of groceries can be accommodated (official capacity is 25 litres). There is also a zipped exterior pocket for those valuables – keys and phone – that you might need quick access to. Reflectors on the sides keep wearers visible, while a strap on the outside pocket provides a convenient point on which to clip a rear bike light.
2. Deuter Superbike 18 Exp Rucksack: £69.99, Wiggle
Made from durable, water-resistant fabric, this 18-litre bag from the reliable German brand is particularly nifty for whizzing to work for those that commute light (without a laptop, ideally) and it will double-up for off-duty biking adventures. The compartments are well thought-out; there are pockets for valuables and wet clothes, as well as an expandable main section. It’s the extra details that make this an extremely functional bag for cyclists, like the stow-away helmet holder, easy-access mesh pockets for keys or a wallet on the sides, and the neon yellow windshield that zips on like a vest. The wind-stopper may not look glamorous but it’s an innovative bit of kit to help you stay protected from the elements as well as more visible to traffic on early morning or evening rides. The padded back and aluminium frame means it lets air flow and moulds to your back more than some. We certainly found it comfy when riding. Choose from this hard-to-miss green or a more subtle black and grey combo, and there’s a removable fluro rain cover with a bike light loop included.
3. Chrome Bravo 2.0 Backpack: £135, Always Riding
San Francisco-based Chrome is best known for its super-durable messenger bags for cyclists that have cult status among fans of the brand. Its backpacks are also forces to be reckoned with. This waterproof one will hold loads (the capacity is 32 litres) and keep your stuff organised. Though the bag is heavier than most before it is filled, the structured set-up makes it great for carrying all your office necessities. There is a padded laptop sleeve at the front – fitting computers up to 15 inches – as well as space for the likes of pens, an e-reader and notebook, and a zipped pocket for another option for your valuables. The main compartment is really roomy and the military-grade waterproofing will stop your stuff getting even the tiniest bit damp. When riding, the load is spread well across the back thanks to the padded straps and the foam-moulded back panel. The cross straps on the front mean it can hold more if needs be and those double as compression straps for when you’re carrying lighter loads back from work. Though this one is at the higher end of the price spectrum, it will last you years of home-to-office riding and comes with a lifetime warranty. Choose from four colours.
4. ProViz Reflect360 Rucksack: £69.99, Proviz Sports
At first sight, this backpack from the visibility specialists isn’t as aesthetically appealing as many of its competitors. However once darkness falls, it’s hard not to be impressed by the shiny exterior’s reflective capabilities. Far outstripping any small light or bib, anyone else on the road will struggle not to notice you. It easily fits a laptop and a number of other commuter essentials. There’s a useful loop for an LED light, mesh side pockets, the padded back is comfortable when riding too. Our only gripe is that the bag can lose its shape when is heavily packed, but that’s a small price to pay for safety as the days get shorter.
5. Alpkit Gourdon 25: £31, Alpkit
Based in the Midlands but inspired by adventures in the Alps, Alpkit prides itself on producing quality outdoor gear sold at fair prices that works just as well on the mountains in Chamonix as it does on the office commute in Coventry. With that in mind, we tested the 25-litre Gourdon dry bag that does away with the need for a waterproof cover. It only has one main compartment, so you might want to stash your valuables in a brightly-coloured wallet or pouch, but the upside of simplicity is a super-lightweight bag that comes in at under 600 grams – we easily fitted in a change of clothes, shoes and a laptop (in a padded case). We found the straps comfortable, but as there is no structured back, we’d say it’s one that is better for commuters that travel relatively light and are looking for a versatile bag (our tester used this for a week of cycling to work, then took it away canoeing). For those that want more storage options, there is a 20-litre version which comes with mesh pockets on the sides and elasticated cords for attaching extras to the outside. Alpkit’s gear comes with a three-year warranty and this one comes in five colours.
6. Timbuk2 Set Laptop Backpack: £165, Timbuk2
Another San Francisco-based brand, Timbuk2 makes hardwearing, stylish bits of kit. This ziptop one is designed for those who need to transport their tech on the commute with a bag that wouldn’t look out of place if they needed to go straight into a meeting. Its tough outer fabric gives it a sturdy feel while an internal slip pocket provides excellent protection for all your electrical devices (the foam-padded section fits a 13-inch laptop). It also offers a number of different sized inner neoprene compartments that will fit the likes of a phone, wallet and keys. On the bike, it sits quite high up on the rider’s back, but can be adjusted via the easy-to-use shoulder straps. A major plus is the quick-release swing-around function that allows riders to access the inside of the bag without taking it off. Unlike some more functional-looking bags on the list, this gets points for style: it has leather trim and comes in office-friendly black and grey, but for us, it’s the quality of materials and durability – like the Chrome it comes with a lifetime warranty – that make it worth the money.
7. Osprey Radial 26: £110, Wiggle
Unlike a lot of purported “airflow” designs, the Radial’s trampoline-style mesh back system effectively works to keep the bag away from your back and reduce sweat build-up on long rides. At 1.51kg it isn’t the lightest carrier, but it’s packed with useful features including an inbuilt stand to keep it upright when on the floor, helmet clip, high-visibility rain cover and padded tablet pocket. Reflective detailing and firmly padded straps make for a safe and comfortable commute. Comes in black or red. If you need more space, for your food shopping, say, there’s a 34-litre version.
8. Brooks England Pickwick Backpack Black 150 26LT: £175, Brooks England
Here’s one for commuters who don’t want to compromise at all on style. To celebrate its 150th anniversary, saddle and cycling accessory specialists Brooks England has issued a special version of its popular Pickwick Backpack. The original Pickwick is a sleek roll-top bag made from tough water-resistant cotton. Inside, there is a large section that we found provided more than enough room for clothes, food and shoes, as well as a padded compartment that fits a laptop. There’s a handy zip pocket on the side so you can access the likes of keys and money, even while on the bike if you need to. Despite the non-padded straps we found it didn’t chafe on rides. As for looks, its smart matte-black finish and leather trim helps set it apart. The bag usually comes in five colours, this all-black version for the same price has copper-plated hardware on the straps, buckles and zip. If you like the copper thing, there are saddles featuring the metals in the anniversary range too. There is also a 13-litre version available (£155).
9. The SealLine Urban Backpack: from £89.95, Always Riding
SealLine’s waterproof bags are mostly designed for wetter pursuits than the average rainy cycle – the likes of kayaking, canoeing and surfing – but the Seattle-based brand also makes a range aimed at commuter cyclists. The roll-top Urban has one large roomy compartment and a small zipped front pocket for valuables. The shoulder straps are very comfortable, as is the padded back panel, and there is an optional waist belt included if you’re carrying heavier loads. The small version makes great use of its 17-litre capacity and feels almost cavernous, but if you need (a lot) more space, there is a 37-litre model. If you want more compartments, there are a range of extra accessories available to provide organised storage for your phone, water bottle or notepad (no laptop pocket though). We’d say one of these is a good buy for someone who spends their weekdays in the city and their weekends on the water.
10. The North Face Surge: £110, John Lewis
If you have a lot of stuff to organise, the Surge is a smart choice. A hugely functional bag, this has so many compartments that the biggest problem it presents is remembering which one you’ve stashed your keys in. With two large sections and a fleece-lined pocket for a laptop, what first appears a relatively streamlined rucksack can undergo a Tardis-like expansion to fit everything you might wish to carry on your commute. The mesh pockets, zip-up compartments and pen holders mean there is space for the little valuables that can get lost at the bottom of a bag. The padded mesh back panel and ‘injection-moulded’ straps make it really comfortable to ride with, although it cannot solve the inevitable sweaty-back problem on anything more than the shortest journey. While this is not specifically designed for bikers, there are features like a reflective bike-light loop that will come in useful as the days get shorter. It’s not the flashiest option on the market, but is certainly among the most practical and versatile. Comes in three colours, including office-friendly black.
11. Henty Wingman Backpack: £135, Evans Cycles
Need to arrive suited and booted and, crucially, crease-free to the office? Then this clever bag, designed by two cycling commuters based in Sydney, is an ideal solution. It’s a garment bag and gym tote that rolls into one transportable pack. The jacket we carried came out meeting-ready when we put the bag to the test and the gym bag comfortably carried shoes, a book and more. It would work just as well with the likes of dresses for any black tie evening events. The suit-bag has an external pocket with a removable pouch to protect your phone and a wallet. Although inaccessible while riding, these compartments are easy to reach when stationary. It comes with a high-visibility rain cover, too.
Cycling Bags for Commuters: The Verdict
For a good-value bag that will protect your gear from the worst the British weather can throw at it and will fit in all you need for a day at the office and beyond, the dhb Waterproof Rucksack is a good buy. If you have to carry a laptop and want something that won’t look out of place in a meeting, Timbuk2’s bag is a sound investment. If style is of the essence, opt for Brooks’s Pickwick.
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