We all know that one of the best ways to get fit quick is by commuting to work. Fitting in time to cycle every day within a busy work schedule can be tricky, but commuting by bike makes regular exercise part of your daily routine. You’ll be doing your bit to help the environment too. A barrier for many is the question of transporting your kit, laptop, lunch and anything else that you need to work. But with a proper commuter bag and a good bike setup, it really couldn’t be easier.
How to set up your bike for commuting
Before delving into luggage solutions, let’s take a quick look at bike setup. The good news is that you can of course commute on any type of bike you want whether that’s a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid or electric bike.
With the bike sorted, it’s time to get it ready for the unpredictable UK conditions. Mudguards are crucial in this respect. They protect both you and your bike from mucky water and corrosive road grit so even if you don’t usually ride with them, it would be foolish to leave yourself at the mercy of the roads. Another thing to consider, and which might be an add-on to the original setup, is fitting wider tyres to your road or hybrid bike, giving you a slightly more comfortable ride. Both of these steps prioritise comfort, which is vitally important as you don’t want to turn up at work grumpy having endured a wet and/or painful ride on your rigid road bike decked out in your office clobber.
How to pack and carry your kit
As well as everything you need for work, there are some essential pieces of kit to consider packing in your bag. Remember to always bring a spare inner tube, tyre levers, multi-tool and a small pump just in case of mechanical issues. Don’t let a puncture make you late for work. Equally, don’t let the risk of puncturing put you off commuting – if you prepare correctly, there is no problem you won’t be able to solve. A lot of these items can be packed away in a saddle bag or clipped to the frame 24/7, meaning you’ll never leave the house without them and saving space in your rucksack.
A lock is also crucial so make sure that you can mount it to your bike or that your rucksack has enough space. If you’re taking your work clothes with you, roll them up and pack them carefully in a separate section to reduce creases. Alternatively, you could keep spare clothes at your workplace to change into post commute – keep them in a drawer with the USB charger for your bike lights.
With your cycling-specific gear mounted on the bike, your rucksack should be reserved for work essentials, reducing the risk of putting too much strain on your back and neck, and keeping potentially grubby tools away from your work clothes.
5 things to look for in a commuter backpack
Comfort – this should be your number one priority. Make sure the straps are secure and don’t dig into your shoulders when the bag is full. Also look out for a bag with waist straps which will redirect the pressure, lightening the weight carried around your shoulders. The Ortlieb Commuter-Daypack fits this job description perfectly.
Waterproof – in the UK this is a no-brainer. Waterproof bags are made from special fabrics and will have taped seams to keep moisture out, most will also come with detachable covers. If you’re transporting tech and dry clothes, it’s probably best to go overboard on the waterproofing. You can’t do much better than the aptly named Altura Thunderstorm City 30 Backpack.
Compartments – check out the inside of the bag before you buy. If you need lots of room, a backpack will work better than a messenger or courier style bag, with different pockets keeping everything separate. You won’t want your lunch rubbing up against your work clothes, the same goes for any tools you’re carrying, so this separation is crucial. Lots of bags also have a padded sleeve for a laptop bag, which keep your device safe and makes for a rigid backboard of sorts.
Breathability – a mesh rear will prevent you from sweating too much. If this is important to you, check out the Radial daypack from Osprey, market leaders in rucksack and luggage design.
Reflection – look for bags with reflective strips or bright hi-vis covers to help make you stand out to other road users, like the REFLECT360 Cycling Backpack from Proviz. This certainly does not negate the need of lights which should be attached to your bike at all times.
If you’re not a fan of riding with a backpack, and if your bike is equipped for a rear rack, panniers might be your best bet. Waterproofing becomes even more important in this instance, as a pannier positions your belongings much closer to the road. The Ortlieb Back-Roller is probably the most popular model on the market, boasting a robust and waterproof fabric construction, hermetic roll-top closure and a timeless design.
The options are almost endless when it comes to ways of carrying your kit, but this should be a good place to start. If you have any more questions about getting your bike and yourself set up for regular riding, keep an eye on our blog.
You can also find information on approved locks to ensure you’re fully covered, something which is particularly important for commuting.