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The goal is to carry a change of clothes and the MacBook Air (1.7 cm high, 29.95 cm wide, 19.2 cm deep and 1.06 kg) on a 14km commute. I've used Ortlieb panniers (on a Tubus rack) but I don't like the way my heels can hit them, they way they stick out on the sides or the way they add drag. Nicely made though! Also I don't want all the weight on one side and I don't want to carry two of them.

A backpack is way too sweaty.

The best rack top solution so far is a Rixen & Kaul Rackpack 1 mounted on a matching Rixen & Kaul Freerack (sorry, can't find a link for that one). A MacBook Air 11" (bare - no sleeve), a pair of jeans and a T-shirt are a tight fit. Other stuff goes in the side and it's workable. But I can see that it isn't a great solution because the laptop has to be placed in diagonally with the thin edge sticking up. Over time the sharp edge of the laptop is definitely going to wear through the bag, and any crash is going to cause a lot of damage to the laptop.

I have also tried a Deuter 10l rack top pack - it is also too small, not quite as good as the Rixen & Kaul and the velcro attachment is much slower and less secure.

I've got a lot of nice things to say about Rixen & Kaul. It is a very well made bag and when I had a problem with the clip they sorted it out right away. This bag is just a little bit too small to be perfect. The click fix system is great. I have thought of removing the click fix mount and assign it to some other bag but it's a last resort and chances are my home-made solution is not going to be as nice as the ideal bag I'm wanting.

Update: I looked at the Topeak Office MTX and it isn't for me. Inside it has a big divider/pocket thing that takes a lot of space and can't be removed. It doesn't appear to be particularly sturdy, especially the attachment mechanism. Their beam rack product has a quick release fastener rather than bolts so anyone could just unclip and walk away with it. The rack is just not finished as well as the Tubus/Rixen-Kaul racks I already have, it feels chunky and heavy.

The solution looks like it is the Ortlieb Office High Visibility QL3 - 30x40x17cm, 21l (unfortunately it's more expensive than the Topeak bag and rack system). While it is still side-mounted the QL3 system attaches to my existing rack so I can still use my current rack top bag with it's special mount when I don't need so much space. Position on the bike is widely adjustable so heel strike isn't an issue. It's rectangular so folded clothes will hopefully stay folded rather than falling down into the pointy bit of my older tapered Ortlieb panniers. It is waterproof without needing a rain cover. It's eerily reflective over its whole surface.

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While I choose to use a backpack, it's hard to argue when you say it's way too sweaty on a 43C day! Irrelevant to your question, but on days like today I ride one way and take the train the other way. –  andy256 Jan 14 at 6:17
    
Yeah, this weather I is crazy, and three more 40+ rides to go this week. I am surviving by standing in the shower (clothed) before riding and tipping bottles over my head at taps along the way. That would make for a very wet backpack :-) –  Adam Eberbach Jan 14 at 20:07
    
I use a Topeak rack and DXP bag and they work great for me. I haven't tried to haul my laptop in it yet, but I can put 8.5x11 paper in a folder and drop it in with plenty of room to spare. I would put the laptop in a padded sleeve before trying that though (which I may try when I get home from work today). Topeak also has a bag that is made for laptops and a small change of clothes that sits on top horizontally. –  BPugh Jan 15 at 17:32
    
Nice, I wasn't aware of that one. If It really does allow a laptop to lay flat with clothes on top you should probably post this as an answer. –  Adam Eberbach Jan 15 at 22:40
    
@AdamEberbach Done, but I would try to get some more feedback on this. While the Topeak gear makes good commuter stuff, I came across it early and didn't really look for other options. I was sold on the rack having a "fender" down the middle of it and quick release bags. –  BPugh Jan 16 at 3:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Topeak has a laptop bag called an MTX Office Bag that attaches to the MTX racks and lays flat.

It is said to accept a 17" laptop so yours should fit in great and given how thin they are, you should have room for a change of clothes. You might be able to use a padded sleeve.

I tried to put my older 15.6" Dell 131L in my Topeak DXP pannier and it fit, but not much room for other things. However, I recommend getting a padded sleeve, and with mine it would stick out an inch or two and really no room for anything else.

These bags are pretty good about keeping stuff dry on short commutes (30 min) unless it rains really heavy (and then it was the bottoms of the pannier due to tire spray), but a large locking freezer bag will do the trick nicely.

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I had seen this one but thought it attached on the side like a pannier. If it lies flat it is probably just about perfect, though I like the more utilitarian appearance of the DXP bag better. One of these is in my future. –  Adam Eberbach Jan 16 at 20:16
    
The yellow part in this photo is a latch. But it hooks onto the front-most horizontal portion of the rack. The DXP bag is really useful. Mine will swallow a full set of work clothes (minus a suit jacket) in one side, and a shower kit on the other side (towel, wash cloth, regular sized bottles). The middle I use to store lunch, hats, batteries, winter gloves, flannel shirt or a hoodie. Outside of work I was able to stash a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread with no issues in one pannier. –  BPugh Jan 17 at 1:14

I think a top bag for even a small laptop will be tricky - a shame really because the top section of the all-in-one touring pannier towers would be plenty big enough so it's not impossible.

I use an Altura laptop pannier set well back (there's some adjustment). I've got big feet (and a big bike) and my heel doesn't hit it (platform pedals). The cheap big pannier (something like £8 on ebay including postage) does get in the way of my other foot if I'm not very careful how I fit it.

Because this is meant for big laptops my 11" netbook fits sideways leaving lots of room for other stuff (a full change of clothes is easy, smart shoes rather more awkward to get in)

The rack is a topeak, and there's a little bit of tilt adjustment when you fit the rack to the bike, allowing you to gain another tiny bit of margin if you're worried

I went through a puddle that was almost up to my bb the other day,feet were wet, pannier contents dry.

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I'm using Timbuk2 messenger bag for couple years now in DC area sweaty climate and very happy with it. It built for last and have lot of special commuter features making it best commuter bug I can find for myself. You can order custom colors and features also.

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