Five Key Steps to Embrace the Bicycle Lifestyle
If you are one of the thousands that discovered, or re-discovered, the joy of biking during the COVID shutdown, welcome to the Bicycle Lifestyle. You have found that euphoric feeling of riding a bicycle and how regular riding improves your physical and mental health. The Bike lifestyle is a mind-set in which your FIRST choice of transportation is the bicycle. That includes quick trips to the market, escorting kids (on their bikes) to their piano lesson, and of course, biking to work. Unfortunately, owning a bike is not enough. Over the next three installments, Shellback6 will take a look at the equipment and accessories you’ll need to continue your bicycle lifestyle through the difficult days and in poor weather. First, we’ll look at the most important element of the bicycle lifestyle, how to transport your stuff:
Step 1: Choose a Pack or Pannier
Probably one of the most heated debates for cyclists is how to transport their gear—Pack vs. Pannier. The Pack is pretty straight forward: The rider wears a backpack, messenger bag, fanny pack, or sling that carries their cargo on their person. The Pannier is French for basket. Bike panniers are similar to baskets as they offer deep pockets for carrying items while on your bike but requires semi-permanent installation on the bike. The pro and con of each conveyance is provided below:
|• No modification or addition to your bike
• More selection of backpacks than panniers
• More organization inside
• Easier to keep clean because it is further from the wheel
• Aerodynamically more favorable and safer, especially in vehicular traffic
• Balanced load (do not lean left or right)
|• Excessive perspiration unless there is a ventilated back panel
• Heavy load may be uncomfortable (especially with cheaper backpacks)
• Harder to carry bulky items or a lot of stuff.
|• All the weight rests on the bike, not shoulders
• Reduced perspiration on your back
• Come in large size options
|• Awkward to carry off the bike
• Modify appearance and handling ability of your bike
• Requires installation of semi-permanent racks
• Get dirty easily given that they are closer to the ground and the wheel.
• Aerodynamically less favorable; reduces speed and increases effort
• Difficult to maneuver in traffic congestion
• Some bikes do not have mounting points for a rear rack
When deciding in what way you want to transport your belongings to and from work, it’s a good idea to consider your commuting distance, terrain, and if you ride in work clothes or get changed for the ride. An additional factor is whether this is your only bicycle. If so, do you want to modify a bicycle to be an exclusive commuter bike with a rack attached? We at GrüneStrasse think that a well-constructed commuter backpack mitigates most of the cons of using a backpack while a pannier is always strapped on, awkward, and hampers the rider’s ability to maneuver, particularly in congestion. Let’s take a closer look at Backpacks vs. Panniers.
The a backpack is extremely maneuverable. If you park up your bike at a bike rack, and then walk into class or the office, chances are you will need the items that you have in your backpack. The great thing is, you do not need to pick anything up, you just hop off the bike with everything safe and secure on your back.
You can also use a backpack for a multitude of different activities, even if it is designed for biking. For example, your pack may also be useful when hiking or for general days trips.
Another feature that sets backpacks apart for cyclists is the pack’s ability to comply with a hydration system. Having a hydration system built into a backpack allows cyclists to easily consume water while stopped or riding.
Backpacks usually also have lots of room to stuff other protective gear in and spots to clip helmets to. There are also almost no compatibility issues for a rider with a backpack and their mountain bike, road bike, gravel bike, or even a scooter.
When buying a backpack, you know it will work while riding any bicycle. However, panniers are different. Some bikes may not fit certain panniers. If you are a rider who likes to swap between different bikes, a backpack is a much easier choice. Otherwise you will have to make sure each bike you ride, will have the proper areas and attachments to fit your pannier, and proper seat for your saddlebag.
An important thing to note about panniers is that they almost always secured to a rack mounted to your bike. There are different styles of panniers for front and back racks. This is great for bikes that easily fit racks, but for many mountain bikes, a pannier will be hard to fit. Be sure to check compatibility with your bike before buying a pannier.
Panniers are the best for storage when it comes to touring. Since panniers can hold so much, they are great for carrying clothing for long cycle trips. They also work really well for storing any other items you may need such as camping gear. Most touring bikes will fit panniers without issues.
When choosing a pannier, be sure that it will not be in the way of your pedaling when it is mounted. Some panniers will get hit by your heel when pedaling causing an inefficient, and dangerous riding situation.
The greatest benefit that comes from using panniers is the fact that you can carry large amounts of items without having to wear something on your body. This makes for a comfortable ride and allows your body to move as it needs to without interference.
Unfortunately, panniers usually lack organizational pockets. This means that small items will be hard to find when the bag is packed full.
Want to Bike to Work But No Place for Your Professional Attire?
Is your Bike to Work day confined to Casual Fridays? Do you have two wardrobes—the Bike to Work wardrobe at the office and the rest at home?
GrüneStrasse Backpack Co. produces the Shellback Bike to Work backpack. This hand-crafted backpack stores the entirety of your one-day work requirements to include: crease-free professional attire (suit); laptop; shoes; toiletries; bike repair kit; accessories, and dozens of other bike-friendly features that Simplify, Organize, and Protect.
Unquestionably, there are limits to a backpack and if you want to transport lacrosse sticks and a sousaphone, you will probably want something other than a backpack. One of our recommendations is to look at the PedalPorteur, which is a modular rack that is adjustable and scalable to fit what you are carrying, be it groceries, a case of beer, sporting goods, or your Halloween pumpkin.
Both backpacks and panniers are suitable luggage options for commuting with, both of them have their pros and cons. It would seem that for lighter loads and trips to the office, a backpack is cheap, easy and functional for the job. However, larger and heavier loads may be better suited for panniers as they would be less restrictive on riding performance, although may slow you down somewhat.
Ultimately, it’s down to personal preference and what’s best suited for your commuting needs and performance over time.
Next Installment: Bicycle Lifestyle Attire
Shellback6 is GrüneStrasse’s regular blog contribution to the Bike to Work and Alternative Transportation Movement. Comments, suggestions, and dissenting points of view welcome!