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I'm thinking of getting a new bike, one with a Pannier or Cycle rack; my job requires me to travel with a Macbook Pro and there are several issues.

1). I am worried about crashing/wiping out and breaking the MBP.

Is there a recommended crash-proof bag, or a bag that securely fastens it so that it does not bang against either the side of the pannier; or when you put the bag on the floor it doesn't hit the laptop?

I've been looking at the Hardcase shell and the bags you can get for MBP at a local Apple store; however they look flimsy as hell and only appear to be there to reduce scratches.

a) Are hardcase shells (as sold in the Apple stores) designed to withstand this kind of damage?

2). The additional weight will make the bike sway around corners, when braking, or when climbing up hills.

This is a particular problem that I am unsure how to solve. I could carry the laptop on my back, but ideally I want to move the weight from my shoulders to the pannier.

Another possible solution would be to put a counterweight in the opposite bag, but this means carrying much more weight than I need to; additionally I do not have anything to act as a counterweight.

Another possible solution is to put it on the central (top) pannier rack behind the seat and use straps, etc to securely fasten the laptop bag.

The problem with this is rain, especially if its sitting flat, it'll just collect moisture, and soak through.

I am based in the UK.

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Very good question. I use an extremely well-padded backpack (this one) with a shock-proof laptop sleeve for my MBP. I figure my body acts as an additional shock absorber. Would love to know how to get that level of protection while keeping the MBP off my back. –  Neil Fein Jul 6 '11 at 4:48
    
@Nail - When it's shipped, it's shipped encased in foam rubber, isn't it? I think that computers are more fragile (sensitive to shock) when they're switched on and the disks are spinning. Also a case that crumples (cardboard) might be better protection (against shock) than a truly hard one. –  ChrisW Jul 6 '11 at 4:57
    
The outdoor power bag looks good, but it doesn't have a waist belt; I sometimes get shoulder problems and currently use a Berghaus backpack with a weight belt to distribute the weight from my shoulders to my hips. Also I can't find that bag on the UK version of Amazon. I'll make a note of it just in case its in a shop. Some people I've seen recommend North Face Surge bag which I am currently investigating. –  zardon Jul 6 '11 at 5:35
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How often do you crash??? I've only had 3 crashes in the past ten years, and none of them were sufficiently hard that they would have dented a laptop reasonably well placed in one of my panniers. Of more concern would be ordinary riding shock -- the constant vibration is apt to shake things loose over time. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 6 '11 at 12:15
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@Daniel: Besides, if it costs you $50 to protect it well, and you have one crash in your entire life where that protection matters, it was worth it. –  Jefromi Jul 7 '11 at 6:06

6 Answers 6

I have never seen anything that would do this. I've done a lot of looking over the years because I carry camera gear as well as laptops, and neither like the hammering they get when attached to the bike. My solution is insurance.

Broadly, the problem comes down to suspension. On your back the load gets the benefit of your soft, flexible body and your tendency to lift off the seat before you hit big bumps. That last is key - whatever suspension your pannier offers has to be able to cope with a nice hard thud as you bounce off a kerb or through a pothole.

What I've seen used is the Ortleib backpack, which is nicely waterproof and can use the padded laptop sack that goes inside it. You could use that sack as intended in a pannier on your rack, but even with a solid state drive I expect your laptop to fail within 5Mm if it's in the pannier. On your back it shouldn't be affected. Likewise, a decent courier bag (Ortleib again, Crumpler or other)

What I actually use is a standard pannier with a home-made foam inner to pad the laptop. That gives more padding than anything I've seen commercially available, and it's cheap. Find a shop that sells slabs of foam, buy one the size of your pannier, cut a slot in it to take your laptop. If you buy two panniers inevitably the second one will fill up with stuff, balancing the load. Trust me on this :) Mine has my wallet, puncture kits and multitool, lunch, rain jacket, phone charger, I dunno, suffice to say that it weighs at least as much as a laptop does. And I only carry the one pannier and the offset weight isn't an issue.

A hardcase sheel that will withsand a crash is going to weigh a lot. There's some discussion in this answer: Secure Storage for Running Errands and in this question: Ever seen a locking bag that could be locked to the bike?

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By suspension do you mean the suspension of the laptop in the bag, the suspension of the bicycle, the suspension of your back/body? –  zardon Jul 6 '11 at 5:14
    
I'll follow up your leads/links. –  zardon Jul 6 '11 at 5:15
    
@zardon: it doesn't matter where the suspension comes from, it just has to be there. I just haven't managed to get suspension that works except by carrying the load on my back. In theory a decent suspended mountain bike would work, but even with slick tyres and a seatpost mounted rack they don't work too well for commuting. –  Мסž Jul 6 '11 at 5:34
    
Oh okay. Thanks for your help. –  zardon Jul 6 '11 at 5:36

I have a fairly hefty notebook and a smaller netbook that I carry with me by bike. For short journeys I prefer the rucksack as I can then nip in and out of shops easily. I carry the netbook in one of those neoprene cases and the notebook in a scruffy jiffy bag. Both have survived quite well like this.

For longer journeys (25 mile per day of riding with train to catch in the middle of the commute) I don't like carrying stuff on my back. Panniers never really worked for me as screws rattled out of the notebook, it was too low (and likely to be knocked), I had the weight to one side problem and, worst of all, I kept catching the pannier with my heel.

There are panniers for laptops that angle weirdly and give the heel clearance but the weight balance problem is worse.

My solution was an accidental one - I bought a Carradice 'long-flap' bag for my retro bike and found it to be much better on my commuting bike for carrying the laptop (again in no more than a Jiffy bag). Water-proofing was not a problem (cotton duck, not nylon) and the weight seemed more natural placed behind my seat. The aerodynamics are also better (never under-estimate aero) and the side pockets prove to be invaluable for luxury ready eats in one and bike tools + tube in the other.

I win lots of nice comments about my retro-Carradice bag from cyclists and the handbag-coveting ladies of the world. I can also carry lots of spare clothes, shopping and A4 sized objects in the bag. It does not scream 'laptop - steal me please' and is now my favourite bike accessory.

Buy British, pay around £65 and get the SQR bracket (I forget how much they are).

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I personally use a laptop sleeve inside a regular bag. This has the advantage of not only working in a backpack but also in panniers.

The sleeves from pakuma seem to be particularly bulky with plenty of protection, something a lot of sleeves aren't so good at. I haven't actually had a crash though so I can't really say what happens then. In regular use I've been cycling daily with my laptop in the pacuma sleeve with no ill effects though.

Pakuma Laptop sleeve

http://www.pakuma.com/products/eco2bag.htm

Assuming you take this approach remember to ensure your method of carrying is water proof. You can get after market waterproof backpack covers if necessary. In fact for cyclists you can get nice high vis ones.

With regards to the weight issue etc. I've recently started carrying it in a pannier and I simply use the one and I've not found the weight to be an issue. You need to be a little careful but that's normally more when you're walking with the bike than when actually riding. Your mileage may vary of course, but I suspect you're over thinking the whole thing.

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Yeah, about 90% of my riding is with one pannier, loaded with maybe 20# of junk I ought to get rid of. The "imbalance" is not an issue. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '11 at 12:00

Take a look at this messenger bag / painier : http://www.timbuk2.com/tb2/products/shift-pannier

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Welcome to Bicycles Stack Exchange! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. –  Gary.Ray May 3 '13 at 12:32

Truthfully, the padded laptop sleeves found in many quality messenger bags and backpacks—Patagonia, Timbuk2, etc. should protect your deck from all but the worst accidents.

If you're really worried about wiping out (and the bigger concern in my mind, the adverse effects of road vibration) the best protection will come from a hard case like the Pelican 1090. You could strap it directly to your rack, or put the case into a pannier or messenger bag. I use Pelican cases for transport—air, bike, boat & Land-Rover—of camera gear and have never been concerned about gear damage through rough handling or moisture.

If the hard case is overkill, perhaps a hybrid solution like the STM Armour Rugged Shoulder bag would better suit you.

Finally, I have many, many foot/bike/Rover miles using my Tom Bihn Brain Bag and the (now called) Brain Cell—the padded laptop sleeve that fits several of Bihn’s bags and can also be used separately or in a bag you already have. Now that my laptop is most often an iPad or MacBook Air, I'm using a GORUCK Echo as my every day carry pack and am fully confident that it will protect my decks from life's little surprises. GORUCK makes larger packs that will accommodate a 15" laptop.

Non-manufacturer links provided for reference only. No affiliation or endorsement of vendors intended.

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It's not a bag, but if you're only looking to protect your laptop, I highly recommend Pelican laptop cases. Foam padded, hard outer exterior, waterproof, and doesn't add much weight. It is a little bulky, but I don't have any problem just dropping this in my pannier (I use these Ortliebs). One thing to note, however, the included shoulder strap is pretty much useless, I've never bothered to use it.

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