Cycling to work is how I rediscovered my love for cycling all those years ago. For me, cycling to work is often easier and smarter than taking the car or public transport. It can be faster too, but the annoying part is that it does mean you need to carry everything you need with you.
The best way to do this is with a backpack. But not just ANY backpack. I’ve worn out countless backpacks during my commutes, so I’ve learned a thing or two about which ones last the longest.
Need some quick recommendations? Try these for size:
This guide will explore the options, review our top picks, and talk a little about what makes the best backpack for a work commute.
The Best Bike Backpacks For Commuters
Along with the Editorial Team here at Bikebrave, we’ve handpicked five top cycle backpacks for you, each one chosen for its mix of features and advantages.
Whatever budget you’re working with and whatever you’re looking for in terms of features, storage, and more, we think you’ll be impressed with our small but powerful collection. Here’s a list of the five best backpacks to buy for your commute that will definitely stand the test of time.
1. Earth Pak Waterproof Bicycle Backpack
One of the best backpacks I’ve ever used – and I’ll be buying another once (if!) my current one eventually wears out.
This 35-litre backpack provides a stunning and colorful way to carry your gear to work with you. A fully waterproof and heavy-duty design, the Earth Pak features a rolltop closure to make sure no rain ever gets inside.
The back panel is cushioned to make it more comfortable to wear. I’ve never had backpack that holds so much while still feeling unobtrusive during my ride to work.
The whole thing is designed for extreme outdoor use, so cycling to work with this is a pleasure. It has reinforced shoulder straps that are fully adjustable, not to mention a sternum strap and a waist strap to help even out the weight better.
2. Specialized Base Miles Fthrwgt Commuting Backpack
Lightweight is the watch word with this Base Miles backpack, aimed at reducing the load on your back on every commute. Don’t carry much? This is the backpack for you.
This compact 15-litre pack is one of the smallest on the market, yet it still features an internal laptop sleeve and plenty of other storage possibilities as well.
It also has a strap system to securely attach your helmet to the bag once you are at work. The straps are padded and comfortable to wear, while the waist strap keeps the bag firmly in position during use.
Interior mesh pockets make light work of finding whatever you need.
3. Timbuk2 Spire Commuter Backpack
This smart canvas backpack is perfect for carrying all manner of items to work with you. The 30-litre compact bag has a sizeable main compartment, along with an internal organizer pocket for smaller items including your phone.
There is also a zipped pocket that is ideal for cash and other items you won’t want to lose in the main bag.
You can pop your drinks bottle in the external elasticized pocket, while the exterior webbing provides other versatile uses if you want to use carabiners as well.
4. Evoc Commuter Bike Bag
Striking and bearing the Evoc brand name on it for all to see, this commuter bike bag has a minimalist look. Don’t be fooled though – the roomy interior includes a laptop pocket, space for an iPad, and various pen holders and pockets to store whatever you need.
The back of the pack features six webbed sections to encourage airflow as you ride. The smart 18-litre bag is fully waterproof and free from PVC elements.
The base has been designed to resist damage, while the straps are comfortable and adjustable, ensuring the ideal fit.
5. Mardingtop Cycling Backpack
This smart Mardingtop backpack is available in three sizes, ranging from 25 liters through to 40 liters. It also comes in a selection of shades, ensuring you can get the one that suits you best.
The same water-resistant fabric is in use throughout the range, with a carry handle built into the design at the top of the straps (which are heavily padded for comfort).
The roomy front pocket is perfect for storing smaller items, while the interior includes plenty of pockets ideal for everything from a laptop to a hydration bladder for comfortable cycling.
An intelligent strap system also ensures the perfect fit every time.
Choosing A Bike Backpack For Commuting
If you’re cycling to and from work each day, it makes sense to travel as light as you can. While you might take all kinds of things with you if you drove or took the bus or train, you’ll need to be stricter once you switch to the two-wheel self-powered way of getting to the office.
You could buy a set of panniers that easily detach from the back of your bike when it is stored in a rack at work. You could get other bags that attach to your bike too. But they don’t look great and they don’t attach to all bikes anyway.
They’re certainly not easy or attractive to carry to the office once you’re there.
A far better and more practical choice is to invest in a decent cycling backpack. Not just any backpack but one that has been designed with cyclists in mind.
There are several features to look for when sourcing the best commuter backpack for cyclists. We’ve highlighted them all here, so you can make sure the backpacks you find are the best ones for the job.
How big is your backpack?
Or perhaps more importantly, how big does it need to be? Backpacks are measured in liters and there is a big difference between the smallest and largest ones on the market.
Our research found a selection of backpacks ranging from a conservative 20 liters to a whopping 44 liters.
Think about what you are going to keep in there. Do you need to take the same things each day? Do you only need a few bits and bobs, keeping everything else safely in your office drawer or locker?
It’s usually best to buy something slightly larger than you think you’ll need, if only to provide more options for the future. You know, just in case.
Does it have a laptop pocket?
Not every commuter will need one, but plenty of commuter-style backpacks for cycling do have them. Go for a padded one rather than a standard partitioned pocket, as it provides that bit more protection.
It won’t protect your laptop if you drop your bag, but it’s good for protecting against the occasional knock.
Does it have good interior organization?
This is a must. The idea of having one large interior space might sound appealing, as it provides you with a roomy place for everything to go. However, finding something in the great sea of stuff inside your bag isn’t going to be easy. A pocket for everything is a better motto to live by.
It also means everything is protected from everything else. That could mean no creases in your work shirt or no scratches on your laptop.
Is it waterproof?
We should probably have put this at the top of the section, as it is arguably the most important feature of all.
Sure, you can buy some waterproofing spray and do it yourself, but it is far better (in our humble opinion) to buy a commuting backpack that is already guaranteed to be waterproof.
One caveat here – always go for a backpack that is waterproof and not water resistant. The latter will provide some protection but is not guaranteed to keep your stuff dry in a heavy downpour. It will resist only so far. Waterproof is the only way to go.
What is it made of?
Something like heavy duty nylon is going to last a lot longer and take way more knocks than something made from robust cotton. Look at stuff like zips and closures too.
The straps are also vital as these enable you to position the bag on your back while you pedal. Those straps are going to be in use daily.
Are they strong enough to stand up to repeated use or are you going to be buying another backpack in a few months from now?
Is it comfortable?
There is nothing worse than wearing a backpack that looks good but is awful to wear and makes you constantly fidget. Your mind needs to be on the road ahead, not on how uncomfortable your backpack is.
Look for padded straps and lots of adjustment to get the right fit for you. It should sit squarely on your back without swinging from side to side – something that could be dangerous and throw you off balance.
Some backpacks have a waist strap too – usually optional, so you can tuck it away if you don’t want to use it. It does provide extra stability and security though and is worth thinking about.
Another feature to look for is some padding on the back of the backpack. This helps make it more comfortable and can encourage airflow between you and the pack. Some bags have padded and ribbed designs to keep some distance in there. It reduces the chances of you sweating as you cycle to and from work.
Other features to look for
Our research has indicated you’ll often find one or more of these features on the best backpacks too:
- Reflective piping or surfaces
- An additional waterproof cover to slip over the bag
- Separate waterproof pockets inside, providing double protection
- External webbing to carry items outside the backpack
- An outer drinks pocket for easy access to a bottle
- A handy point to lock your helmet to
- A pocket for your bike lock
- Lifetime guarantee (the best brands carry this, and we’d recommend getting a backpack with it included if you can)
You can see there is far more to think about regarding cycling backpacks for commuting than you might have thought.
Before you buy your pack, be sure to think about all the things you need to take (and possibly the things you’d like to take) on your daily commute. That should minimize the chances of buying a pack that turns out to be too small or just not organized in a way that works for you.
One final tip – look for a good and proven brand. You might pay a little more, but you’ll get more in return too.
Our ride through the world of cycling backpacks has been an eye-opener. With so many options on the market, this is one purchase that needs to begin with a good idea of what you personally want and need.
Your needs are paramount, so think about the essentials that need to be protected and carried inside the pack. After that, a few extra features such as those mentioned above would be great as add-ons.
Perhaps most important of all, we should mention that this is a highly personal purchase. Only you know what is going to work for you. That backpack will prove the best buy of all.