Looking for a backpack that will help you transport your goods without getting in the way of your ride? We round up some of the best
The majority of cyclists that use their bikes to commute opt for a backpack to carry their luggage. Whilst there are other choices available – such as panniers and handlebar bags – a specific cycling backpack is often the easiest option.
The benefits of a backpack, versus a pannier rack, include:
- Backpack sits on the rider and therefore swapping bike doesn’t cause a problem
- No fixings need to be attached to the bike
- Weight distribution on the bike isn’t affected
The primary benefit of opting for a pannier rack is that more kit can be carried without putting pressure on the rider’s back, as a heavy backpack might. Also, in summer, having a backpack against your body can cause heat build up and a tell-tale t-shaped sweat mark.
This said, quality backpacks aim to defeat this by using lightweight materials and including venting solutions to try to dissipate heat.
Here are some of the top options on the market…
Osprey Radial 26 cycling backpack
A cycling specific backpack from the market leaders, the Radial 26 has a capacity of 26 litres and comes with a plethora of pockets – including a padded laptop sleeve. There’s a waterproof cover for when the British weather strikes, and Osprey have incorporated ‘AirSpeed’ which lifts the pack away from your back to promote cooling.
Read our full review here (test score: 9/10)
Timbuk2 Especial Messenger cycling bag
Not strictly a backpack, this messenger bag is an alternative if you want an option you can swing over your shoulder, but trust to stay put.
Designed specifically for cycling and a long term offering, the Especial Messenger is a robust choice. The outside fabric is an abrasion resistant nylon and the inside is waterproof. Magnetic buckles enable easy access on the bike and the bag can be worn on the left or right shoulder thanks to an anambidextrous shoulder strap.
Temperature regulation is catered for by cooling panels with in-built ventilation and there’s a purpose designed laptop pocket.
Read our full review here (test score: 9/10)
Rapha cycling backpack
A stylish staple that’s been floating around the bike industry for some time, the Rapha backpack has changed very little.
A water resistant fabric has been used so it’s reliable in all weathers, and padded panels are positioned to suit the riding position. For days when conditions are poor, there’s a high-viz pink rain cover as well as some reflective detailing on the side panels and straps.
There are some nice premium touches – including a padded laptop compartment, lined sunglasses pocket and outer key compartment. The key compartment expands to five litres.
Read out full review here (test score: 8/10)
Deuter Race X Rucksack cycling backpack
Popular outdoor backpack manufacturers Deuter make excellent backpacks engineered for the needs of cyclists. The ‘Race X’ is a fairly small capacity option that should transport most daily essentials. The name refers to the lightweight focus of the design which will suit those after simplicity.
There’s a focus on ventilation with ‘Airstripes’ at the back and mesh straps, whilst chest and waist straps hold it all in place.
There’s a zipped pocket at the front as well as compartments at the side ideal for holding a water bottle, and a rain cover is provided.
Ortlieb Velocity waterproof cycling backpack
Experts in reliable and robust backpack design, Ortlieb’s Velocity is entirely waterproof and comes with a removable pocket as well as padded shoulder straps and reflective yarn to aid visibility. A4 folders can be carried without creasing as the top of the pack rolls over – which also protects the contents from rain.
Available in a selection of colours, you can also pay a little extra for a full high-viz version.
Mafia Tour Pack cycling backpack
And now for something a little different…
The Mafia Tour backpack isn’t specifically designed for cycling, but we found it worked well on the bike when on test.
The bags are made from old sales, and each one is completely unique – which adds a little kudos for your regular commuter. The straps and back are padded which made for a comfortable ride, but not being made with cycling at front of mind we did find that this pack produced a sweaty back – so perhaps one for more casual spins.
Read the full review here (test score: 8/10)
dhb slice 15l cycling backpack
If you’re looking for value for money, then Wiggle’s in-house brand dhb is a good place to start.
The Slice carries 15 litres and has a cooling channel system along the back along with a cycling specific anatomical harness to keep it all in place. The hip belt can be removed, if you don’t feel it’s necessary. There is an internal sleeve for a 2 litre hydration bladder, as well as fleece lined and zipped pockets for valuables. Side pockets are constructed from stretchy mesh and there are some reflective detail.
Henty Wingman Suit bag MK2 cycling backpack
The Henty Wingman design is unique in that it’s designed to store a suit, dress, shirt or uniform without creasing it – as well as a laptop or other valuable tech items. The key pocket features semi-rigid vertical ribs (made with recycled plastic from Tasmania no less) which means the shape is maintained even as it’s rolled to make a comfortable over-the-shoulder bag.
The shoulder strap is padded and adjustable and the bag comes with a waterproof cover for added protection. A premium option, the Henty is far from the cheapest on the market.
What to look for in a cycling backpack
There’s nothing stopping you from using a standard backpack for your cycle commute. However, those created with cycling in mind will tick a few boxes that might be neglected elsewhere. Here are the features to look out for:
Air channels for breathability
Chances are your body temperature will rise as you ride. Therefore, a good cycling specific backpack will cater for this with channels at the rear or the use of mesh or more breathable fabrics.
You don’t want the straps to put pressure on your back when you load up your pack, so look for padded straps that will promote comfort on the bike.
Extra straps at the chest and/or hips will keep the pack in place – without these you might find the pack swings from side to side or hangs over your shoulder when you get on the drops. These should ideally be adjustable, and some brands – such as Osprey – offer a greater amount of adjustability on female specific packs so that the chest strap can fasten under or over the bust depending upon preference (as opposed to directly across).
Everyone likes to organise their kit into appropriate compartments, right?!
A quality cycling backpack will have a selection of pockets so you can keep your lunch away from the rest of your luggage. Sections designed for tyre levers, tubes and a pump will be helpful too, as well as zipped compartments for valuables and side pockets for easy to reach access.
If you’re cycling to work, you might also want to look for a laptop pocket with padding to keep your tech safe.
If you commute on a regular basis, it’s likely you’ll find yourself forced to ride in the rain at some point. Many packs come with waterproof removable covers, whilst some are simply constructed from a waterproof fabric. If you’re looking for a fully waterproof option, check for taped seams which will help to keep the droplets out.
Whilst the number one requirement when riding in the dark is a good set of bike lights, reflective details are a good idea and many packs will come with these.
More mountain bike orientated packs will often come with a bladder, whilst those aimed more at road cyclists may just have a compartment that will fit a bladder and a loop at the shoulder where a drinking tube can be stored if used.