Getting to work by bike, under my own steam, has an enduring appeal for me. Getting to work with steam coming out of my ears, lathered with perspiration however is lower on my favourites list.
And it’s for this reason that I’m a big fan of carrying my day-to-day goods on the bike, rather than on my back. I’m a firm believer these days that the bike should carry the load, like the faithful iron horse it is.
Now, long-term followers of this blog will know I’ve wavered on this issue, flirted with messenger bags and rucksacks and whatnot. But I’ve come right back around to letting the beast take the burden.
And I’ve found that the best type of bag I’ve used for commute-size loads is the classic saddlebag.
I’ve owned a number over the years, all made by Carradice of Nelson. First a Pendle in olive green, followed by a giant 20-something litre Camper Longflap in black and now, a ‘just about right’ 13-litre Cadet.
Why just about right? The mid-sized Cadet is perfect for my needs, big enough to carry everything I need for the day. This is generally:
- Spare tube
- Work satchel containing work shirt and sweater, iPad, phone, chargers.
The Cadet is a simple, unfussy single compartment with no side pockets and is small enough to leave on the bike when lightly loaded.
I keep the saddlebag permanently attached to the bike and take the satchel in and out when I get to my destination, essentially using the saddlebag as a fabric basket. I’ve used an SQR quick release system before to great success but the aesthete in me prefers the look of the bag simply attached to the saddle loops on my Spa Cycles Nidd saddle. I use an old Pletscher Model C rack as a bag support, lifting the bag away from the saddle and holding it at a more pleasing angle.
The bag-within-bag (Russian bags?) setup works well for me, allowing me to switch between cycling, driving and public transport commutes without having to decant my daily goods from one bag to t’other.
I’ve toyed with the idea of a basket but rattles bug me and the Carradice saddlebag gives weather protection to its precious cargo, being made from deluge-proof cotton duck and being tucked behind the rider and out of harm’s way.
It scores over a single pannier in being a central weight over the wheel, away from road spray, drivetrain dirt and snagging in control gates and undergrowth on the cycle path.
And of course all forms of bike-borne portage score heavily over rucksacks in the sweat stakes, allowing air to circulate over the rider and through breathable jackets, minimising the dreaded sweaty back in the office syndrome, so beloved of work colleagues.
What’s your preferred mode of bike portage? Rucksack, pannier, messenger bag, saddlebag or something else?
*I have no affiliation to Carradice, beyond loving their work.