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I plan to buy a road bike for my daily commute but I need to carry my PC with me as a well-equipped engineer. My daily commute is around 5 km plus intermittent city tours. I afraid after some kilometres, it might make my back ache. Do you think it will be painful after a while? Do you prefer something like a trekking bike for this example?

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    Do you mean PC as in laptop (most people would probably think of a desktop PC). Big laptop or small (mine is 1kg because I carry it onthe bike regularly)? By "well-suited" do you actually mean jacket and tie? Many engineers I've worked with consider themselves to be dressed well if their jeans are clean. A backpack over a suit jacket will crumple it, and keeping suit trousers out of a chain is essential. But I saw people riding 160km with backpacks the other day, so it's certainly possible. In general though, a pannier is much better and there are some nice ones for laptops – Chris H Sep 26 '17 at 10:59
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    By Road Bike do you mean a racing drop bar aero position bike? Or a more relaxed and upright Hybrid with flat bars? – Criggie Sep 27 '17 at 0:27
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    Possible duplicate of Load your bag or Load your bike? – sleske Sep 27 '17 at 7:20
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    A backpack probably subjects the laptop to less vibration than a saddle bag, since your body is a shock-absorber. Vibration can wiggle connectors loose, and isn't great for moving parts like magnetic hard drives or fans. Laptops are generally designed to be carried around, but if you go for saddle bags at least try to pad it so road vibration isn't transferred directly. – Peter Cordes Sep 27 '17 at 13:16
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    I totally second what @PeterCordes says. The roads in New England are not generally all that good, so for me, the overriding concern was that I absolutely did not want to subject my laptop to the vibration and shock that it would experience in a pannier, so it and a few other items went into the backpack. Clothing, tools, lunch, etc. went into the (easily detached) panniers. – Dave Tweed Sep 27 '17 at 15:05

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Backpacks have a number of drawbacks when riding.

  • They can make your back sweaty.
  • The can interfere with your helmet/head posture depending on bike geometry and backpack size/design.
  • They increase the weight on your hands.

In general most people I know that complain about riding with a backpack "feel" the extra weight as pressure on their hands, not in their back. Obviously your bike geometry and anatomy may vary.

Backpacks also have some advantages.

  • Their weight can be moved dynamically by your torso. The extra weight is on you and moves with you.
  • You have less to do at your destination. The backpack is attached to you and doesn't need to be removed when you arrive.
  • You aren't required to alter your bike.
  • The backpack can be used for other things besides cycling.

My personal opinion was that for short commuting (30 minutes or less of cycling) I prefer a backpack. It's less to deal with and a short enough time that the extra weight on my hands didn't matter to me. For longer rides I would not wear a backpack because the extra weight becomes noticeable.

Road bikes tend to have "longer" geometry and stretch you out. This means you are holding your head up at a higher angle. I would test your setup out before I committed to a road bicycle/helmet/backpack combo. Many of the backpacks I have tried come up high enough that if you lean far enough forward, you can't actually raise your head all the way up with a helmet on, which isn't safe.

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    Let me add another drawback. In case of an accident the contents of your backpack might hurt your back. – hermannk Sep 26 '17 at 23:00
  • Is there a reason you only mentioned helmet/head posture? The weight, especially if it doesn't sit perfectly centered, can put strain on your back too. – Cascabel Sep 26 '17 at 23:51
  • You mean like those off centered messenger bags that were (and might still be) so popular? Like I said, for a short commute, anything with reasonably good build and load distribution should be fine. – Deleted User Sep 27 '17 at 0:03
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    @hermannk I had a backpack on both times I have been hit and for many other crashes as well. With a laptop and some clothes, it actually provides some padding and protects your back. – Deleted User Sep 27 '17 at 0:04
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    Your back could get sweaty ? I would have said it will make your back sweaty. A rear rack with a pannier that can be used as backpack is IMHO the best way to go. – Loufylouf Sep 27 '17 at 12:00
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Echoing Chris's comment, if "well-suited" means you're literally wearing a suit jacket, the backpack may make the back of the jacket sweaty and/ or crumpled. However, 5km is a VERY short bike commute, so if you take care to smooth the jacket back under the backpack after putting it on, and ride slowly on the way to work, you'll probably be OK.

As a point of reference, I ride 25-27km each way to work with a backpack, averaging about 25km/h. However, I wear bike shorts and jersey and I'm sweaty mess by the end. So I definitely wouldn't want to do it in a suit. If I had to do it in a suit and couldn't shower at work, I'd drop my speed to about 15-18km/h on the way to work to not be totally sweaty when I got there.

If you want minimize the likelihood of jacket crumpling and back sweat, you could think about getting a large shallow front or back basket that you could carefully fold the jacket and lay it in. It won't have time for the wrinkles to settle in in just 5km.

Also, Chris makes a good point about trouser hem: make sure you get some pants straps or clips to keep your trousers away from the chain. Even a single light brush against the chain will leave a nasty grease smear on anything other than black trousers.

One more thought: most people who dress formally for work have a small number of jackets that they pair with a larger variety of shirts. Could you leave your jacket(s) at work, ride there in just your button up shirt and trousers, reducing sweating greatly, and then just put the jacket on when you get there?

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    That's more or less what I did in your situation, my suit/shoes lived at work Mon-Fri and came home on the weekend for cycling/washing etc. Shirts etc came in my bag each day. Cycling gear was rinsed out in the shower and draped over the bike to dry before evening. Of course it got washed properly at home. – bp. Sep 27 '17 at 6:35
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I doubt it would hurt your back over that distance unless you're carrying a very heavy load. I'd be more worried about the back of my shirt/jacket getting sweaty and wrinkled and looking unprofessional.

I've done some light touring over long distances and a variety of road surfaces on my road bike while using a backpack. My pack probably weighed 3 kg. I definitely noticed the extra weight, but it didn't hurt.

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Personally, I hate riding with a backpack. It leads to sweat, is added weight on your back and if the straps are loose and you brake in an aggressive posture, it can hit you in the back of your head or worse, slip over your head and obscure your vision and impede your hands.

The best solution I've found, which I used for years to commute long distances, is a trunk bag on a rack. This would also hold my work clothes which I'd change into at the destination. A regular trunk bag has fold-out panniers which can hold a laptop but they're soft and the laptop is not protected against knocks and collisions, it's likely to take some hits. Topeak have a laptop specific case which fits on a matching rack using their sliding attachment system, it's quite secure and I've found that even a heavy trunk bag won't come off it when crashing.

If this is more than you need, a simple messenger bag would probably do. You know those bags that bike couriers carry their mail in? They come in laptop versions too.Bicycle messenger bag

This might be ideal for zipping around the CBD from site to site.

Check Amazon or your favourite bike website (Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle etc) for either a "laptop messenger bag", or a "laptop trunk bag" or just "topeak laptop". You'll find plenty of options to transport a laptop without resorting to a full backpack.

Regarding your choice of bike, I'd consider either a hybrid (also called a flat-bar road bike, a bit like a mountain bike with thinner tires and no suspension) or a cyclocross bike (also called CX bikes). A cyclocross frame is usually designed to fit fenders and racks which makes them excellent for utility bikes and they are a little more robust than road bikes which lets them handle some abuse and hopping on and off curbs. They're much faster than a comparable hybrid bike also.

I think what you mean by trek bike is a touring bike (assuming you don't mean the brand in which case they have all styles anyway). A touring bike is overkill for what you want and they're designed for ultra-long distance cycling and are less agile than what you want, otherwise, they share a lot of characteristics with a cyclocross, a frame designed for utility mounts but with most of the features of a road bike.

And whatever you do, get a good quality D lock for your new bike and always lock it to immovable objects or you won't keep it long.

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I commute by bike, typically 5–15km, and I'm using a dedicated bike commuter bag with a quick-locking system that hooks into the rear carrier.

The weight is completely on the bike during the commute, and afterwards I have an almost normal bag with a long shoulder strap, except that it has a hook on the backside.

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A backpack probably subjects the laptop to less vibration than a saddle bag, since your body is a shock-absorber. Vibration can wiggle connectors loose, and isn't great for moving parts like magnetic hard drives or fans.

I'd also worry about the hinges getting looser.

Laptops are generally designed to be carried around, but if you go for saddle bags at least try to pad it so road vibration isn't transferred directly.

Note that high-frequency vibration can be pretty strong without moving very far. I'm not talking about just going over pot-holes, I'm talking about riding on roads that aren't perfectly smooth.

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Yes backpacks are not really suitable for bikes.

I occasionally have to move my tools by bike, and that requires either a trailer or a tramping (hiking) pack. Sweaty, harder to see behind, and if I land on it, I'll break my back or neck. Not ideal.

In your situation you want something soft and fairly well padded to protect your computer. I recommend a waterproof pannier hanging on a carrier rack, or (something) on a carrier rack, or possibly a frame bag that sits inside your main triangle.

You might also get away with a larger saddle bag or an old-school handlebar bag, or even a front basket.

  • Sure, cycling with a big ol' hiking backpack is a pain but I don't think that's really a relevant comparison. A small backpack doesn't affect visibility at all and isn't going to cause significant additional injuries if you fall. – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 10:15
  • @DavidRicherby You're carrying a backpack because you have something to move that is too big for a jersey or trouser pocket. A thin flat laptop might not damage you on impact, but a PSU brick or a water bottle or even a multitool could cause injury by landing badly. – Criggie Sep 28 '17 at 0:20
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I commute frequently by bike (12.5 km one way), and I strap my backpack (including a laptop, brown bag lunch, change clothes, notebooks, what not) to a rear rack as a matter of course.

  • This is possibly a cultural thing. In my youth and in these parts (Finland), if you went to a bike shop you would expect a vast majority of bikes to have a rear rack pre-installed. Sport/race bikes being the exception. When I studied in the US I carried my stuff in a backpack, but my commute was shorter and I didn't have a laptop (that was the late 80's).
  • A vast majority of my riding is to commute and/or run errands. A rear rack is convenient for both.
  • A rear rack does not inconvenience me much when I go for a ride just to get some exercise - your mileage may very here.
  • For a very short commute a backpack would be ok. Been there, done it. You do get a bit sweaty. Nowadays commuting by bike will make me very sweaty (age and the wealth accumulated around my midriff), and I need a shower anyway. Might as well make the ride that much safer.
  • Seasonally I will commute in cooler weather, and need to bundle up a bit. Not sure I would want to wear a backpack (with the extra weight of a sturdy laptop) on top of windbreaker jacket. At least I would need a backpack with longer shoulder straps because my bulk means that the straps are extended close to their limit anyway.
  • Last time I used a backpack on a bike was when I went to an orienteering event, and wanted to ride the bike for the last few miles from a pop-up parking lot to the tent area. I needed a hiking size backpack to lug all my gear. I wouldn't want to do that daily.
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5km is a short distance to bike. Carrying a backpack even with a laptop should not be a problem for most people. However, if you have a bad back or shoulders, you may feel pain (I speak of experience). But then, switching to a different bike isn't going to help -- the bike isn't the problem, your back or shoulders are.

Why don't you try it out before committing to buying a bike? 5km is a 10-15 minute bike ride; perhaps 20 min in heavy traffic. Carry your backpack, and walk for 20 minutes. If you can do this without problems, doing it on a bike should be fine. If it's a problem, it's going to be a problem on a bike, regardless of the type of a bike. You can also borrow or rent a bike and try it out.

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    I'm not convinced by this test. Sure, if walking with the backpack hurts, there's a good chance that cycling will, too. But cycling is a very different position: it's perfectly possible that walking will be fine but cycling uncomfortable. – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 10:13
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    Or the other way around. It may be fine walking (with 0 weight on your arms) and then very uncomfortable riding with extra weight on your hands. – Deleted User Sep 27 '17 at 12:26
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I personally bike to work on most days. my bike path is 11km one way. Every day i bring a small backpack with me which contains my work clothes, as I am in full cycling gear. I do not find it to be an inconvience, but I am on on a mountain bike instead of a road bike, so that might change it. Carrying your laptop to and from work each day sounds miserable, due to the weight and size of the laptop. Perhaps what is needed is a change in attitude. You may wish to look into asking for VPN or remoting in, thus not needing to bring yorur laptop everywhere

  • Laptops aren't necessarily big and heavy: if you're happy with a 13-14" screen and don't need stunning performance, a laptop doesn't have to weigh more than a couple of kilos. – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 10:12
  • you are not wrong, but a cycling backpack is usually quite small. Combined with the need for all your work clothes and a lock or so, im not sure that there will be much room. – Martin Sep 27 '17 at 14:07
  • @DavidRicherby that's still a big laptop -- I replaced my netbook with a chromebook because I have good desktops at home and work. 10" screen, under a kilo, and all-day battery life. – Chris H Sep 27 '17 at 14:36
  • Well, we can all play the "my gadget is smaller than yours" game. But a 14" laptop these days isn't much bigger than a sheet of A4/letter paper, though I accept that it's a little thicker. ;-) – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 15:44

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