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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. My backpack is one of those designed to carry a laptop together with accessories in particular, and has sufficient padding.
- 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 lot of my riding is to commute and/or run errands. A rear rack is convenient for both.
- A rear rack does not inconvenience me when I go for a ride just to get some exercise. Rather the opposite, I have an extra snack, an extra water bottle, and extra tools in a tote bag strapped to the rear rack. 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 a windbreaker jacket. Another reason to use the rear rack instead.
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
Yes large 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.
Since writing this, I've had to start lugging a laptop back and forth on my 27km commute. A small backpack works reasonably well and doesn't cause strain like big ones.
For upright bikes I use a hard coroplast box just bigger than the laptop, once it is lined with thin padding. This goes inside a large plastic bag.
My backpack is a remake of a classic "TAZ" backpack which is scaled up just enough to hold the laptop box.
DOWNSIDES: back sweat leeches through my shirt and into the lower backpack.
UPSIDES: Its more aero because the bag fills in some of the void behind me. I also mount a red rear light here, and carry phone etc.
I have not fallen on this bag.
On the recumbents, backpacks are not possible.
One has a rear rack and a topeak MTX bag, with cloth panniers that unfold as required. This worked well because its already in my wind shadow.
The other bent has a dangling bag to the left side, which is made from an old camping chair canvas. It hides mostly in the wind shadow of the seat. Downside, it hangs a bit low and a deep puddle is asking for problems.
Must remember to close straps/buckles too else the flapping webbing ends are almost guaranteed to catch something.