Right now I use a backpack to hold all of my supplies including spare tubes, pump, patch kits, tools, my change of clothes for work, etc.

This is the backpack I use:

Adidas Pace Backpack

It's about as comfortable as a backpack can get without getting into the hiking backpacks with frames. Altogether I would say it weighs no more than 10 lbs max. The muscles in my back get slightly irritated during my commute.

Would it be more comfortable to use a rear cargo rack on my bike instead? Will adding more weight to the bike change how the bike rides and feels?

EDIT: After doing some research I came across this article that explains the different methods of carrying your gear on commutes and how it affects your body. It's worth a look.

EDIT #2: Having tried both for a couple of weeks now, I can say that (for me personally) the backpack is the better way to go given the relatively light weight I have to carry.

If you do use a backpack, make sure that the straps are tightened enough so that it's positioned higher up on your back and to the point to where there is little to no movement on your back. This makes a world of difference when it comes to comfort.

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    With that small of a load (10 lbs), you might want to consider a frame bag, instead of a rack an panniers.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 17:52
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    hiking backpacks with frames there's also a whole range of backpacks which do not have frames, but do have hip straps, which depending on your posture on the bike might work pretty well in taking load of your shoulders
    – stijn
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 19:26
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    How long is the commute? If it were 2 miles each way on flat ground, I would probably do the backpack. 20 miles, panniers, for example.
    – Batman
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 0:58
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    7 miles twice a day is long enough that I'd thrown the bag on a rack or use panniers.
    – Batman
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 2:00
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    I commute 17 miles to work each way. I use a 15L messenger bag. In it I carry a shirt, socks, underwear. Also my lunch and spares (pump, puncture kit). I find a messenger bag less sweaty than a backpack. Anything which can be left at work is left there to save weight, I leave shoes, trousers & shower gear at work.
    – OraNob
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 9:28

11 Answers 11


I avoid backpacks where possible

1) Sweat - I get damp enough wearing just a cycling top. Putting anything else on top makes it much worse.

2) Crashing - Occasionally I have carried a toolbox in a tramping pack. One of the worries is "what happens if I end up rolling on this?"

3) Visibility - can be off-set with reflective tape or an overbag/wrapper/cover

You should at least try a rack or basket or frame bag. See if you can borrow one for a month or so.

  • 1
    Those are good points. The three places I sweat the most are on my back and where the straps contact my shoulders. I thought about the visibility so I threw flashing lights on it.
    – npsantini
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 2:03
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    @npsantini You can get a rack basket (hanging from the side), and put your backpack in it. This is very flexible, your backpack is on your back in a second if needed. You can also carry double the load by filling the basket and the backpack. It's also cheaper than the rack bag.
    – WalyKu
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 10:06
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    I would also add additional strain on your spine to the list. It depends on the distance, how much your backpack weighs and how bumpy the ride is, but in the long run I feel it makes a difference for your back. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 19:22
  • I assume people that sweat while riding are dressed inappropriately, or live someplace terrible. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 5:38
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    I assume people that don't sweat whilst riding are either riding very slowly or live someplace terribly cold.
    – OraNob
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 9:21

Weight on the bike is easier to manage than weight on your body. The bike will handle a bit differently, but you'll quickly get used to it.

If all you use the bike for is commuting, you should get the rack. Like you, I commute with a backpack, but I wouldn't consider a rack because I also regularly use my bike for recreational purposes.

  • That is one of my problems. I'm torn between the two because I too use my bike for both commuting and recreation.
    – npsantini
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 14:51
  • My backpack weighs about 5lbs, and it's so comfy I forget I'm wearing it. Is there anything you could be leaving at work?
    – BSO rider
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 15:05
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    The rack doesn't add that much weight, maybe a couple of pounds. I use my bike recreationally, and I am able to keep up with the group pretty well. When I can't, it's usually the fault of my lack of fitness rather than the rack on my bike.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 16:25
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    I use my bike for commuting and for recreation and I have a rack on it. If you use it for competitive racing, fine, remove the rack. Otherwise don't be a weight weenie. I have ridden centuries with the rack on and lived to tell the tale.
    – stannius
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 14:55

Weight on your body takes additional energy to carry, but it's also easier to move dynamically (it moves with your body and doesn't change the feel of the bike). I have always used and preferred backpacks for commuting. In addition to being more dynamic, it's easier to deal with once you get to your destination. You simply get off your bike and walk away. Backpacks are also easy to secure (to yourself) and have a low probability of falling off without you noticing.

Backpacks are terrible for log distance riding (touring or endurance racing). The extra weight will tire your upper body/arms/hands more quickly. Additionally, their ease of use is offset by the fact that when touring or endurance racing, you generally don't spend long periods of time away from the bike, so their generally isn't a reason to take all your stuff with you away from your bike.

I will say that the backpack you are using looks quite basic. If you were planning on spending the money on a rack, installation and panniers, you may be better off getting a nicer backpack. Something lower profile with more compression straps and chest/waist straps may help carry your loads with more stability and pack the weight better. Be sure to try out such a bag with your helmet and bike handy. Many hiking style packs will raise too high to allow one to keep their head up (with helmet on) while in a cycling position.


I'm Dutch, thus when I went to high school I had to commute for about 20 km/1 hour for a single trip. Since it was high school and some days I really had a large and heavy pack. Carrying it alone in the halls of school was heavy, let alone biking with it.

Most of us used a specific brand (Kipling) bag, and we mounted the bag on our bicycle with a support frame and extra elastic bands. The decision was purely based on heavy pack + long commute.

enter image description here
enter image description here

Yes, it did affect bike handling (depending on the amount of weight). It is a tad bit slower and moves a lot less agile but it far outweigh ruining our backs for those two-hours a day we spend on a bike.

So, important question to ask yourself:

  • How long is your commute?
  • How heavy is the pack? (I read 10 lbs, thus a bit on the lighter side in my opinion)
  • Do you mind biking with your pack on your bike/Do you mind biking with a backpack?
  • 1
    My commute is 7 miles each way. That frame looks like a really good idea. I think some cargo racks have something similar to that frame built in. Although I could be mistaken.
    – npsantini
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 14:00
  • A rack like this is a veery good thing, you just need to pay extra attention to all loose straps and strings which usually hang from even a small backpack.
    – Pavel
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 7:19
  • +1 For what @PavelPetrman said. Make sure it is well positioned on the bike. npsantini A lot of parents, include my own, made their own. It is quite simple if you know how to weld. A large U (upside down) welded onto two plates (for attachment to the bike) is all that is necessary.
    – Dymphy
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 9:54

tl;dr: Yes, cargo on the rack will affect the ride and the feeling. Your body comfort won't be affected at all. Riding with backpack will reduce your comfort but it won't affect the feeling of the bike.

I would recommend carrying all supplies in the in-frame or saddle bag. If you have locker, have clothes in there and change them once a week. You will have one "heavy ride" per week. If you can't keep your clothes in work, then use as small backpack as reasonable. Prefferably with both breast strap and belt so it won't wobble.

There are several options where you can carry your stuff. all have their pros and cons, obiously.



  • Doesn't affect the bike handling.
  • Does not add non-dampled mass to the bike.
  • Better for carying fragile stuff.
  • No loading/unloading time.


  • Limitted air flow around your back.
  • Higher load of your spine and limbs.
  • Higher risks in posible accident.
  • Higher momentum of your torso, if loose it can wobble on your back.
  • Unstable and discomfort when too heavy.

Backpak on the rack


  • Cheap and easy to mount/unmount.
  • No cons of wearing of the backpack.


  • Adding non-damped mass above the wheel.
  • Higher centre of mass.
  • When loose, it may wobble.

In frame bag, saddle bag


  • No change in ergonomy.
  • Small change in centre of mass.
  • Easiest access when riding.


  • Limitted space.
  • Long load-unload times.
  • Long attach-detach times.

Basket/bag on the handlebars


  • Easy to access


  • non-damped mass on front wheel.
  • Higher centre of mass.



  • Lower center of mass (very close to axis).
  • High capacity.


  • Non-damped mass.
  • High momentum of the bike.
  • Long loading-unloading times.
  • Should be ballanced. One pannier will move the cenre of mass sideways.

Considering all pros and cons I use (ordered by prefference):

  1. In-frame bag. Always. For all supplies I can fit inside - spare parts, pump, tools,... If necessary, expanded by saddle bag. It is part of the bike.
  2. Backpack. Only for light stuff and short rides. Always for fragile stuff.
  3. Dedicated bags. Only for long (several days) rides. In that case I pack everything in them.
  4. Basket/backpack on the rack. only if 2. and 3. doesn't fit.
  5. Bag on the handlebars. Only for light stuff (maps).
  6. Front panniers. I have never caried that much to need it.
  7. Basket on the handlebars. Never.
  • Panniers have one more major drawback you will easily notice in daily commute with them: limited access to v-brakes, which makes regulating them a pain.
    – PTwr
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:35
  • I have panniers and it is not that bad. I have the panniers and the in-frame bag only. I cannot see any trouble with accessing my brakes. If necessary, I can remove them in several seconds. alfa-sport.cz/pages/system-snc.jpg
    – Crowley
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 9:29

I put any significant load on the bike, mainly in order to protect may back. Riding a bike puts more stress on the back than is obvious at first. The main reason is that impacts from the ground are going directly into the spine from the sitting bone; the legs, which normally provide some buffering, are bypassed.

The effects may never be noticed, depending on body weight, the amount of biking, the bike (suspension?) and saddle, the sitting position, and last not least the rider's age and physical condition.

But the more one bikes, the heavier one is — including backpacks ;-) — and the older one gets, the more important it is to protect one's back. Be nice to your back early; put loads on the bike rack.

I actually prefer three dampening mechanisms below me: a suspended saddle rod, a saddle with springs, and dampening gel in the saddle. Each of the mechanisms seems to protect against a different impact frequency and amplitude (short, sharp bumps, large impacts like curbs, etc.)

  • 1
    I just started commuting on my bike which is why I think I'm feeling the effects of wearing a backpack throughout the day. I'm sure I'm using muscles in my back that were rarely used before. But you're right, I've seen the effects of people who didn't adequately support their backs while working and such when they were younger and it can be devastating.
    – npsantini
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 14:06
  • Exactly. Also that you are commuting indicates that you are riding quite a lot. I never noticed anything until I used my sister's Holland bike for a few weeks which had a non-suspended saddle and an upright sitting position. Suddenly I developed an ache in the small of my back. That is clearly a warning sign. So just make sure you have a suspended saddle (rather soft springs, gel if possible), lean forward as much as your arms and head position permit, etc. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 14:29
  • Well, if you use your legs and hands as damping, you do not allow the impact to transfer to your spine. I can feel the difference when sitting on the saddle or "floating" few milimeters above. Or use saddle with suspension.
    – Crowley
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 7:46
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    @Crowley Some people may perform their commute with their behind floating above their saddle; they could actually remove it and have a lighter bike. I'm not one of them ;-). Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:17

I personally don't like to have racks. The extra weight is really noticeable because it affect bike's centre of gravity. I did both and I find it more comfortable to have a back pack. There are specialised backpacks with breathable straps and back, and additional straps in order to keep the pack in place. Probably it is also related to how long your commute is: mine is only 4 km so I can go low weight just my lunch and locks.

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    Sure, it changes the centre of gravity, but it lowers it, making the bike more stable and making you less likely to go over the handlebars if you need to stop suddenly. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:32
  • @DavidRicherby not really it feels just the opposite. Also it doesn't have sense because adding weight higher mean that centre will be higher
    – kifli
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 6:25
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    Carrying a load on a rack means that that weight is lower than it would be if you were carrying it on your back. Therefore, it lowers the centre of gravity. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:08

Not actually answering your question but I use a small self-supporting Altura bag that attaches to the seat post (no panniers needed). That works for me. enter image description here

From http://www.wiggle.co.uk/altura-arran-expanding-post-pack/

  • Good point I've edited the answer to bring the picture in-line in case that product vanishes. Second plus is that to some extent it will act as a mudguard/fender too. Downsides are that its a lever arm, adding weight "out the back" on a pole. What's the maximum loading you'd put in it for street use, and for bumpier off-road use ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 20:04
  • @Criggie The capacity is five litres so there's not going to be room for much more than five kilos in there, unless you carry bags of coins around. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:10
  • As an aside, that's a saddle I wouldn't recommend for people who ride a lot.Not because it's perhaps uncomfortable but rather because it has no suspension and thus transfers impacts 1:1 to the spine. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:19
  • @DavidRicherby Still - five Kg on the end of a 300mm lever arm, held on by what looks like a single clamp, with no bracing up or down? I'd think 400-500 grams would be a lot for anything bumpy, certainly no more than 750 grams even on a nice flat road. And only if the seatpost was steel or aluminum.... if its carbon then just don't.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 8:35
  • @Criggie The Q&A on the shop site linked suggests the bag already weighs 570g. But, to be clear, I was suggesting 5kg as an approximate maximum amount that would fit in the bag, not as a safe or sensible amount to carry. Having said that, I now see that one of the answers on the shop claims the maximum capacity is 5kg so I guess that's a thing that people do. (And, yeah, there are several people asking about carbon and every one has a reply from shop staff saying "We do not recommend using this with a carbon seat post.") Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 9:12

Would it be more comfortable to use a rear cargo rack on my bike instead? Will adding more weight to the bike change how the bike rides and feels?

No matter if the weight is attached to the bike by means of a rack or by means of your back, the bike is carrying it either way. So the issue of "adding more weight to the bike" reduces to "where to add the weight".

Putting the weight on the rack has two advantages and one disadvantage.

  • Advantage: Lower center of gravity.
  • Advantage: Less weight on your body.
  • Disadvantage: Additional weight of the rack itself.

Looks like I'm going to be the contrarian here. I commute on a mountain bike as I go along a canal towpath that meanders through a park and some country, features plenty of gravel and rough terrain and is also prone to getting muddy, so a normal commuter bike is completely out of the question.

With that being the case I've found that carrying a rucksack on my back is much more practical as I like to keep the frame free of any extra clutter which makes maintaining it a lot easier (especially on the off chance that I get a flat) and should I have an accident I don't have to worry about said rack damaging or impacting the wheel or the frame in any way. I also don't have to worry about whether I've secured the thing properly, given that I go over bridges, climb up ramps and go down others.

Other fellow commuters all seem to have no racks and carry rucksacks on their backs so it seems to make sense for them too.


Been there, done that. Mount the stuff to the bike, don't carry it on your back. Some bikes don't support that, like my current one. Then you are stuck. My current use case says this is acceptable for me, but you feel it a lot less on the frame than on your back.

  • 1
    I don't see what this adds to the answers posted before it. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:29

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