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A good bag for cycling is important to enable you carry your stuff around in comfort. Some people look for the best cycling backpack, rucksack or messenger bag, while others prefer to let their bicycle do the work in the form of panniers, saddle bags, handlebar bags, bike racks or even bicycle baskets.
Find the best bike commuting bags for everyday life by reading our reviews and style guides below.
GUIDE: Best Urban Cycling Bags + Backpacks for Commuting
If you cycle to work while carrying valuables with you, investing in one of the best bike bags for commuting is an absolute essential.
The ideal commuter bag for you really all depends on your primary needs. Do you carry a laptop to work, for instance? If so, then a stronger, spacious waterproof bike bag will be right up your alley to prevent any damage should you get caught in a downpour.
If it’s more about the look for you, then there a wide range of stylish cycling bags and backpacks to choose from. Or, suppose you often find yourself cycling home through dark nights, or early mornings before sunrise, a bike commuter bag with extra visibility will tick your boxes and keep you both safe and seen on the road.
That’s not to say these three qualities are mutually exclusive when it comes to cycling bags for commuting, though; there are also plenty of the best cycling bags that will offer you a little bit of everything.
In this guide, we’ll cover a number of key points about cycling bags, such as the differences between backpacks and rucksacks, as well as recommending some of the best bike bags, including:
- Cycling backpacks
- Cycling rucksacks
- Cycling dry bags
- Pannier bags
- Saddle bags
- Frame bags
- Handlebar bags
- Messenger bags
- Bikepacking bags
- Bike bags for air travel and transport
Best Cycling Backpacks for Commuters
As we mentioned earlier, the best commuter backpack will vary from person to person depending on their needs.
Some people want a rugged waterproof cycling backpack that can help them brave the elements, while others want a stylish cycling commuter backpack that are perhaps more aesthetically pleasing.
Below, we’ll talk a list at some different designs to hopefully help you find the best cycling commuter backpack for you, including waterproof bicycle backpacks, lightweight bike backpacks and cheap cycling backpacks.
With the perfect backpack, bike rides to and from work will feel so much less stressful.
Is There a Difference Between Backpacks and Rucksacks?
Not really. Only that rucksack is used more by the British and backpack is more of an Americanism, and that rucksacks are generally considered to be larger than backpacks.
A backpack is a bag with two large straps – one for each shoulder – with the weight mainly carried by hip belts, letting you carry the load on your back.
Rucksacks are, essentially, the same as backpacks, only usually bigger. This can make them ideal for a number of purposes; not just cycling but also activities like camping and hiking, too. But other than size, there’s no real discernible difference between the two.
Best Waterproof Cycling Backpacks
Arguably the best waterproof cycling backpack you could invest in is the Craft Cadence IXP5. A supremely sturdy roll top cycling backpack, this will certainly keep your belongings safe from the elements on your commute. There’s also plenty of space for storage – it has a 30-litre capacity, and its main compartment could hold a 15” laptop in it comfortably.
Elsewhere, the Chrome Industries Urban Ex Gas Can Waterproof Backpack is a more lightweight waterproof bike backpack; again, it’s particularly durable and is fairly sizeable, available in sizes of either 18 or 22 litres.
What’s more, it’s a more stylish waterproof bicycle backpack than most, thanks in part to its padded straps which also come with reflective detailing.
DISCOVER: Top 6 Waterproof Cycling Backpacks
Lightweight Cycling Backpacks
If you’re in the market for a more lightweight cycling backpack that won’t weigh you down too much on your commute, then look no further than the Evoc MacAskill Street Backpack, weighing just 630 grams and measuring about 25 litres in volume.
This may be a relatively small cycling backpack, but appearances can be deceiving – it still has two well-sized compartments for stage, one of which can hold a laptop of up to 17” with room to spare, and the other should comfortably fit an A4-size book or pad inside it.
There are also small Velcro pockets, designed for SD cards but, of course, can be used to store anything else of similar size if you wish. On the front of the bag, there is also a great hidden pocket which is tailor-made for storing your helmet, as well as two smaller side pockets, too.
Or, as mentioned in the previous section, for a backpack that’s both light and waterproof, the Chrome Industries Urban Ex Gas Can Waterproof Backpack is also worth considering.
Best Cycling Rucksacks
For a slick, good-looking cycling rucksack, why not get your hands on this design from Bellroy Slim for only £129.00? It’s made from leather and contains flexible shoulder straps, so is designed to maximise your comfort.
And while it’s not a waterproof cycling rucksack, it is water-resistant, meaning that although the risk of your possessions being waterlogged is not eliminated, it is at least minimised.
Alternatively, if it’s a small cycling rucksack you’re after, the Nomatic Backpack is a great shout. As you probably know from its YouTube advert you’ve almost certainly inadvertently come across, it looks slim, but can actually expand to up to 24 litres. With a number of handy compartments of different shapes and sizes, it could hardly provide you with more space, and is also waterproof, too.
You can learn more about our recommended bike rucksacks, and which is the best cycling rucksack to buy for you, in our comprehensive guide here.
Other Types of Cycling Bags
Of course, backpacks and rucksacks aren’t your only option; far from it, in fact. Pannier bags, saddle bags, frame bags, handlebar bags, messenger bags, eco friendly bags and ‘bikepacking’ bags can all be just as useful, and we’ll look at each of these in greater depth in the sections below:
Bike Pannier Bags
If you’re still in desperate need of somewhere to keep your belongings but maybe don’t need so much room as offered by most backpacks, bicycle panniers will offer you a happy medium as a small but practical alternative.
Great for mountain biking as well as commuting, a bike pannier bag will fix on underneath your saddle to a bicycle pannier rack and provide enough room for you to store things like an inner tube, a first aid kit or a tyre lever, for instance. In fact, in most cases, they can actually carry more stuff than backpacks.
The best cycle panniers are also a better fit for longer cycles, so if your office is some distance away from home, one of these bike side bags might be just what you’re looking for. Even if you’re carrying more than you otherwise could or would, your body will feel less strain and I could attach the bag on to the cycle pannier rack and almost forget about them.
Especially if you’re tired of rucksacks leaving your back dripping with sweat after cycling (which are never a great way to start the working day, let’s be honest), bicycle pannier bags are certainly worth a go; as long as you have some sort of bike pannier rack and rear or front panniers to fit this read bike bag, of course.
The drawbacks of these are that, while the weight of them is kept down, it is a longer, more arduous process to load and unload them, especially with large pannier bags. Even with small pannier bags, though, your bike will also feel heavier than usual, given that the rack itself is adding extra weight.
For an affordable model which is also easily among the best bike panniers, it is worth mentioning the Vaude Silkroad Pannier Bag (full review here). It’s easy to set up, as its four Velcro straps fasten it quickly, easily and securely to your bike rack. It comes with a cover, too, so is also great if you’re looking for waterproof pannier bags.
Not only that is one of the best waterproof bike panniers, then, but it also provides an excellent amount of space for storage; its main compartment is eight litres deep (with an expandable zip), and its two extra outer pockets only add to this even further. And if that wasn’t enough, it comes fitted with a bottle holder for good measure, as well.
Try it out, and you’ll surely agree it’s one of the best pannier bags you can find, at least for a price as reasonable as this. Just attach the rear or front panniers to either end of your bike and feel the burden of carrying your belongings lifted.
Bike Saddle Bags
If you’re looking for a spacious bike seat bag with plenty of room for storage, then a cycle saddle bag might just be the one for you.
Even a small bicycle saddle bag can still provide adequate room for you to keep your valuables safe, while a bigger road bike saddle bag can even store spare clothes, assuming the weather is particularly changeable one day, for instance.
They can tend to be among the easier-stolen range of bike bags, and aren’t easy as others to take with you or to switch between bicycles, but they’re also neat and tidy, they protect your belongings from the weather particularly well, and always ready for you whenever you want to ride.
We’d recommend the Trowbridge Saddle Bag (full review here), which offers both a stylish vintage look and, typically for such a bag, a great amount of room to store your belongings.
Bike Frame Bags
Did you know there also bags that will fit between your knees and on to the main triangle of your bike frame? This is type of cycle frame bag that is available in a number of different sizes, and still gives a decent amount of space for storage.
You are generally told to choose the smaller if it looks like two will both fit. After all, you’d rather your bag fits tightly than potentially lose it. Since a bicycle frame bag is a pretty simple shape, some cyclists even make their own so it fills all of the space available to them.
If sewing one together isn’t for you, though, then you can buy an off-the-peg bike frame bag from sizes of generally between three litres to about ten litres.
Bike Handlebar Bags
You can also buy yourself a bike handlebar bag which, again, is brilliant should you need a bit of room for storing your possessions, but as much as a backpack would probably provide.
The Natril Gear cycling handlebar bag, for example, is one to definitely be recommended, both for its artful blue-and-green design and its great functionality. Big enough to just about fit your wallet and sunglasses, this model has one particularly impressive aspect – it also has a clear pocket on the inside of the top flap, which is fantastic for tucking a map, for instance, inside it.
In addition, this bicycle handlebar bag has a reflective trim on its outer flap as well as the inside, so if you have the flap flipped back over the handlebars, you’ll still have a reflective strip on the front of your bike. Its two-way zipper means you can close it around an item that may not be a perfect fit, while its sides have mesh gussets to keep your valuables safe and a smaller zip pocket on the inside, too.
DISCOVER: Top 5 Bike Handlebar Bags
Cycling Messenger Bags
A cycling messenger bag is great for commuting given it typically comes fitted with pockets that can be quickly and easily accessed, is fastened by comfortable straps, and is made by strong, durable materials.
If you’re going to need to keeping reaching for things throughout the day, nothing really beats a bike messenger bag in this regard. You don’t even need to get off your bicycle in many cases; just loosen the strap, twist the bag round to the front of your body and you’re all done.
Some riders also say this cycling shoulder bag rides further down their back than a typical backpack, meaning a lower centre of gravity, so they aren’t thrown off their bike as easily. Also, this means they cover less of your back, so a cycle courier bag won’t cause you to sweat as much, either.
The Chrome Industries Vale Sling Bag would make a great choice for bike messenger bags; waterproof it is not, but it is at least water-resistant, so your belongings are at least reasonably well-protected should heavy rain suddenly arrive during your commute. It’s also a good-looking and practical bike satchel, measuring 13” wide by 9.25” high, with up to 5” of depth and a total volume of 14 litres.
DISCOVER: Top 7 Bike Messenger Bags
Great for rougher surfaces or urban areas, bikepacking bags could perhaps be described as a sort of bicycle travel bag, and are perfect for long distances. They don’t need racks, add barely any extra weight to your bike and are noticeably lighter than panniers.
You also have the freedom to choose where exactly you’d like to put your bikepacking bag; they can fit just as comfortably under the saddle, on the handlebar, in your bike frame’s main triangle, or along the top tube.
Bike Bags for Air Travel and Transport
Essentially a bike bag carrier, bike bags for air travel are basically a necessity if you want to go cycling on holiday, for example. Without putting your bike in a bag when flying, they could well take on more damage, so it’s a risk no longer worth taking.
Though many would naturally consider putting using a bike case or box the more logical solution, a soft bike bag will usually protect your bike from the worst of any damage, and a bike travel bag also tends to be a fair bit cheaper, too.
Though this may differ depending on the model of both your bike and your bicycle bag, perhaps their only negative is that it is hardly a fairly straightforward process to pack your bike into a bike transport bag. You must remove the wheels from your bike, turn the handlebars to one side, then either remove the seat post or drop it into the frame, and then finally, remove the rear derailleur. Mechanical skills will likely be needed.
A bicycle carry bag also has a particularly low weight (a standard bicycle travel bag will weigh between about 3–8 kg), which is ideal considering you want a bike bag holder that will not exceed airline bicycle luggage limitations in this regard.
Also, some models of bike trunk bag are fitted with an internal metal structure to mount your bike frame and guard against cracked forks. They’re highly functional and are reasonably priced, normally costing somewhere in the region of £350 to £500.
Urban Commuter Cycling Bag Reviews
We’re also reviewing the latest urban commuter cycling bags on Discerning Cyclist, seeing if each are quite as good and reliable as they claim to be.
Below is a list of some of the best urban cycling bags for commuters that we’ve reviewed and would highly recommend:
- Chrome Industries Mazer Vigil Pack – Review
- Craft Cadence IPX5 – Review
- Chrome Industries Vale Sling Bag – Review
But if none of those three take your fancy, then these are also worth checking out:
- Chrome Industries Urban Ex Gas Can Waterproof Backpack – Review
- Evoc MacAskill Street Backpack – Review
- PORT Designs GO LED Backpack – Review
- Bike Belle MIRA Cycling Bags – Review
- Crumpler Muli Backpack XL – Review
- Vaude Silkroad Pannier Bag – Review
- Trakke Wee Lug Harris Tweed Messenger Bag – Review
- Il Soigneur Musette – Review