I live close enough to work that I'm able to bike there and back every day. I also pack a laptop in a backpack. I am seeking ways to reduce the weight on my back. I've only seen people use saddlebags on a bicycle 1-2 times my entire life so I'm looking for advice. Has anyone tried to pack a laptop in a saddlebag before and how did that turn out? What are common issues/features I should look for in a saddlebag? I can only think of two things to look for at the moment: 1) impact resistance (not crushing my laptop) and 2) water proof if possible.
I have carried a laptop on my commute bike for closing in on 15 years now. Mainly in panniers (saddle bags). For a little while in a courier bag when when I was young and dumb. For what it is worth (aka the dangers of anecdotal evidence) I didn't have any laptop failures directly related to a bike trip. I even toured with a 17inch laptop across 800 km of mixed terrain (road and dirt) in Norway with out incident (riding to a workshop and conference). That laptop is still going strong 5 years later.
- Waterproof pannier. Water is the enemy of most electronics. So is dust. It pays to be able to keep things very well sealed.
- Well padded case. I used to use a well padded sleeve to house the computer and moved to a pannier with a built in padding.
- Strong mounting. Not all bags are created equal. Get ones that have rigid re-inforced back plate and strong mounting system. You don't want the bag flopping around. Cheap panniers can sometimes twist into the spokes which will likely result in damage to your laptop during the ensuing carnage.
- Strong pannier rack. As a corollary to (3) if you have a cheap flexible rack this could also cause problems, but I haven't personally had any problems across a variety of rack types. Some racks also support panniers against twisting better than other racks.
- Back it up just in case... This is really good advice regardless of transportation method. I always keep at least two backups going, one in the office and one at home (offsite). I once came into my office to observe my desk under water. If I had left my laptop there I would have lost it and the backup sitting on the desk.
Other Deep thoughts...
I have always wondered about the impact of vibration, but so far I haven't seen any clear indication (warning anecdotal evidence). I had one hard drive die spontaneously while working on a report. Perhaps vibration shortened its life? It it was also very hot that day and I was without air conditioning and I was running some simulations so the temperature could have fried it too.
I have also had a lust for well built laptops, which may have stood up better. I am a hipster poser so you can guess which brand of computer I have continually purchased.
I haven't carried a laptop in a saddle bag but I have used them a fair amount.
You can definitely find a waterproof saddle bag that will carry a laptop. If your commute is smooth (i.e. pavement) your laptop should be fine.
Two things to consider when choosing a saddle bag:
1) Ease of removal/attachment. Unless you are going to leave it on all the time, this could become a factor in quality of commuting life.
2) Heel clearance. Depending on your position, shoe size and rear rack you want to make sure your heel isn't going to hit the saddle bag.
There are good bike bags for lap tops.
Need water proof, padding, and solid mounting.
Mount and unmount rapidly.
Also consider how it carries off the bike.
Does it look like a brief case so you can use it like a brief case during the day.
To deal with length on the front wheel can help - that is how I carry.
I don't like putting out a names but like the Otlierb Office.
As far as damaging it takes a bit of shock to break a lap top.
The vibration on a bike is not likely to harm a lap top hard drive.
I have dropped lap top hard drives on the floor and not broken them.
One thing is power it all the way down (not snooze) so the drive is parked.
A pack tends to be soft so it will conform to your back.
I have lost a couple screens due to the flex.
I think a semi rigid bike bag is better than a pack.
The quality of the laptop is a big factor
Look for a laptop with a metal case
Soft plastic will bend and hard plastic will crack
Cheap hinges will wear out
I used to do lap top repair