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I've seen this question about Panniers, but as far as I can tell, the Arkel Panniers aren't available in the UK.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a good laptop holding pannier that converts into a backpack or a messenger bag style (I only don't want to wear it as a messenger bag while cycling), and is also readily available in the UK?

I don't want to wear a messenger bag while I'm cycling, as my issue is that my current bag is making my back sweat like crazy.

  • What size is your laptop? Also when you say something that "converts into a bag" do you mean something you can hold in your hand, sling around your neck or carry on your back like a rucksack? – Ambo100 Jun 2 '11 at 16:21
  • 15 inch laptop. By converts into a bag I mean either a backpack of a messenger bag style (I only don't want to wear it as a messenger bag while cycling) – Omar Kooheji Jun 2 '11 at 16:27
  • I would be really worried about killing the hard drive by riding around with a laptop in my bag. Hit one pot-hole and your hard drive could be toast. – Kibbee Jun 2 '11 at 17:53
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    Looks like you can order Arkel from arkelpanniers.co.uk/uk ("Locate Dealer" doesn't have anyone listed in UK though). – armb May 9 '13 at 17:00
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    Modern laptop drives are surprisingly resilient to bumps and drops - the hard drive in my laptop has survived a daily bike commute in a pannier for almost 3 years without a problem. I monitor the SMART statistics and it's not showing any signs of failure. That laptop has survived a few drops from the coffee table while powered on (I wish it had a mag-safe power cord), the laptop has a sensor that's supposed to auto-retract the heads for protection during a fall. – Johnny Nov 1 '16 at 20:53
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You could always get a laptop sleeve and slide that into a big enough pannier.

Timbuk2 has a couple pannier options that both have an included laptop sleeve and are designed to be easily carried off the bike. One converts to a messenger bag, the other more of a "shoulder bag". Looks like Timbuk2 has some of their stuff sold retail in the UK, and they also do direct orders with international shipping. I don't have either bag, but I do have a laptop messenger and a couple regular messenger bags from them that I've been happy with.

Their site is a bit of a pain to provide links to, but looks like Basil has a similar kind of laptop messenger pannier. Their site shows plenty of distribution in the UK.

Ortlieb's rear/larger panniers have an "Office" and "Downtown" line that both seem to be designed to accomodate a 15 inch laptop (via a sleeve/insert you purchase separately). Two different mounting options.

What I actually do when carrying the laptop on my bike is either bungee a laptop messenger to the top of the rack or stick a (well-padded) sleeve into a pannier

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    The Ortlieb looks like a good option thanks. – Omar Kooheji Jun 3 '11 at 8:54
  • I think as this is the most comprehensive answer you get the rep for it being the correct answer. – Omar Kooheji Jun 3 '11 at 8:57
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Panniers have not worked out too well for me when it comes to lugging the laptop around. There are also those panniers that look like posh briefcase bags and they have not worked out too well either. It just doesn't work on the weight distribution.

The bag that did work best was the Carradice Camper Long Flap that I bought for my retro roadster. I wanted the 1950's look with cotton material, leather straps and buckles:

http://www.carradice.co.uk/index.php?page_id=product&under=type&product_id=35

I bought an extra bracket to put it on my commuter bike and it works much more brilliantly than I imagined it would. Side pockets have luxury ready eats in them - I can access them when riding along - and tools/spare tube. The mini-pump goes in the main compartment, otherwise I am not having to open that en-route, which is good if it rains.

The 'cotton duck' material expands in the wet to become magically waterproof. it actually works well and doesn't get abraded like other bags do.

As for the notebook, it is optimally placed for weight, suspended in the saddlebag and therefore shock absorbed without being excessively packaged (it has a neoprene sleeve). Naturally there is room for my change of clothes, and, due to the 'long-flap' I can get a couple of bags of shopping in there too - Tardis like or what.

There is also a feeling of security with the notebook where it is. Off bike I don't bother with a shoulder strap, the handle does fine.

I honestly believe people in the fifties were onto something with the saddlebag. There is no need for a pannier rack and the weight distribution is so much better. Naysayers will say you need the weight low, actually you need it next to your own centre of gravity - tucked behind your bum.

Lights strap onto the bag very nicely - one less bit of stuff to not have to take off.

Perhaps the best bit of the Carradice bag is that you get admiring looks from 'CTC' vintage cyclists as well as the ladies that are into their handbags.

As for camping - I can fit tent, sleeping bag, thermarest and picnic map and some clothes.

There is an optional tool-roll that fits on the top, I have one but don't use it.

  • Cotton duck canvas is pretty neat stuff. My tool roll is made out of the stuff, and the tools stay dry even in a torrential downpour. – Neil Fein Jun 3 '11 at 3:16
  • Looks like a nice bag but not my style. Thanks though. – Omar Kooheji Jun 3 '11 at 8:58
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I have an Ortleib Office panniers. It's quite heavy, but totally bombproof, and large enough for me to drop my whole laptop bag plus shoes and a change of clothes into. It unclips easily and comes with a shoulder strap.

2

Sounds like there's been some good progress since this question was asked. I've found the following options. My use case is a 5 mile commute Mon-Fri with some approx 50% commutes requiring transportation of a tiny mobile office followed by walking that office around a city. Here are the options I've found (UK).

Ortlieb Pannier Carry System

SJS: £25. I already have two Ortlieb classics so this would be great, but I can't see how this would work day-to-day. Sure it looks solid and comfortable but I'd need to carry that around too?

Carradice CarraDry Rucksack Pannier - Grey - 27 Litre

SJS: £53. This looks promising. The mounting equipment is on the opposite side to the straps so not digging into your back. Also in favour of this arrangement is the observation that the side away from my rear wheel doesn't tend to get as dirty so my back should stay as clean as it can. I can't see any sign of a rigid frame so packing it carefully is probably required to make the backpack comfortable. The silver coating looks to be retroreflective which is very desirable. It seems quite large; could be a good thing but on panniers this tends to result in heels knocking on the bag, hitting the bag going through narrow gaps, and losing your keys down the bottom.

Arkel Bug

Arkel: £154 Reviews aren't great which is a bad start. When wearing it as a backpack the dirty side would be on your back. It doesn't look waterproof. It's very expensive compared to other offerings (at least in the UK at the moment). I can't tell why it's this expensive because (despite the current weakness of the pound) the Arkel website states it ships from the UK.

Vaude Cycle 22/28

Always Cycling: £62. This looks pretty good. The pannier mounting brackets looks sturdy. Worth noting it looks like the lower fixing requires a horizontal tube at the bottom of the rack to clip onto. These days not many racks (including mine) have one. The part which would touch your back is hidden underneath the zippable cover whilst riding so although conversion between backpack and pannier might be a bit messy, once done you should be fine. Doesn't look very visible in the dark, and doesn't look very waterproof, but it does come with a waterproof cover in a zipped pouch. Looks like it has a rigid frame as well. I own another normal Vaude backpack which my Dad gave me and he wishes he never did it's such a well designed and well built bag.

Conclusion so far

I'm on the fence between the Vaude and the Carradice. Both seem reasonably priced and very practical. Carradice seems a little large but extremely well designed and therefore more suitable for being on a pannier. The Vaude looks more suitable for being a backpack. I'll update this answer if/when I purchase one/both.

  • Re Arkel: shipping from the UK only means a small warehouse. Just over priced. This looks like a good last for when I give up on my cheap one. – Chris H Nov 1 '16 at 10:41
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I recently picked up a Vaude Egger and have been extremely happy with it. It mounts securely, detaches easily, has a dedicated laptop slot and enough room left over for a change of clothes, extra shoes and various odds and ends. The result is a little heavy, especially when you add in my ridiculous Fahgettaboudit ulock, but for somebody who was carrying the same load in a backpack it's night and day.

  • This is still with me and in fantastic shape, despite a 24km round-trip over some very bumpy terrain 3 or 4 days a week on average. I carry my (work-issued) Macbook Pro which is a very heavy laptop and both it an the bag are holding up perfectly. – meagar Nov 25 '11 at 18:11
  • Also worth mentioning that I attach/remove the bag from my bike at least twice a day. The mounting brackets/hooks are holding up fantastically. – meagar Nov 25 '11 at 18:23

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