Given the number of jobs that have you tapping away at least part of your day on a laptop computer, if you're a bike commuter, you'll probably have to carry a laptop between home and work, maybe occasionally, maybe every day.
So what's the best way to do this? You want to protect the machine, but not add unnecessary weight. Fortunately there are a number of choices in bags and racks designed to look good and work well, and in a variety of prices, depending on your budget and your tastes.
A hardshell backpack is the Fort Knox of backpack style laptop carriers. With a molded polycarbonate hardshell, your laptop is safe well beyond the ordinary bumps and bruises of commuter travel and everyday use as these are designed to protect your machine even if you should wipe out and hit the pavement.
However, with that level of protection comes a bit of weight (5 lbs., 4 oz for this model, the Urban hardshell by Axio, plus the weight of the laptop too) meaning this could get hot and heavy. MSRP: $199.
- external dimensions: 18.5”H x 13.5”W x 9”D
- fleece lined padded laptop compartment
- large external back zipper pocket for easy access
- holds up to a 17" MacBook Pro or 15" notebooks
- dual zone compartments with 4-panel organizers
For many people, a plain old shoulder-carried messenger bag will do the trick, especially if your laptop is relatively lightweight and you're not carrying tons of other stuff. For extra protection, you can wrap the computer in a padded neoprene sleeve, which will also help keep it dry.
Wear the bag low across the bottom of your back, so it rides steady and is not shifting around. You don't want it so high that you're top heavy and if you carry it on the side you may feel unbalanced, in addition to having it hitting your knees when you pedal. Lengthen the strap until it is long enough that you can wear it across your chest, i.e., over one shoulder and down under the other arm. Just draped over one shoulder is not enough to keep it on.
Another less expensive option is a softsided backpack. The model shown, the Mobile Express Edge backpack is a more reasonably priced pack ($59.95 MSRP), which holds 15" and 15.4" laptops. With soft sides, its biggest protection for your machine is in its padding, and you can add a neoprene sleeve to your machine for additional cushion as desired.
- interior pockets for CDs, PDA and files
- fits in overhead bins or under seats
- media pocket for MP3/CD player w/headphone port
- Cool-Mesh™ ventilated back panel
- Heavy-Duty Duraflex™ fittings
- lifetime warranty
- exterior dimensions: 20 x 8.5 x 16 (inches)
- interior dimensions: 13.2 x 1.9 x 11.7 (inches)
Rather than toting laptops in backpacks, many bike commuters use panniers -- packs mounted over the wheels that take the weight off you. Designed specifically for carrying computers, the Arkel Commuter Pannier shown has a suspended internal pouch to keep your laptop protected and safe. Somebody I know who uses this said, "It's not cheap, but is one of the best purchases I've make for bike commuting."
With room for shoes, lunch and a change of clothes, this pannier makes your bike commute a breeze.
- suspended, padded internal pouch keeps your laptop safe
- dimensions: 17.5 x 11.5 x 8 in.
- weight: 1.17 kg/2.6 lbs.
- water resistant zippers on the three outside pockets
- padded shoulder strap for carrying off the bike
- optional rain cover
If you've got a bike designed for urban/commuter riding, you'll likely be able to find accessories from the manufacturer made specifically for your bike. For instance, Breezer Bikes have a line of racks, bags and carriers to go with their line of commuter bikes to make the ride to work or school fun and easy. Their Biz Pannier shown here is a business briefcase with laptop sleeve. It has a slick, zip-off suspension system and three point mounting system to keep the bag (and your computer) safely attached to your bike. No bouncing off when you hit those big bumps.
6. Tip: Reduce Weight, Protect Against Moisture
Finally, when you're looking to haul your laptop, the two biggest things to protect against are moisture and shock. While all options presented modify these to some extent, and a fairly reliable and inexpensive solution is to wrap your laptop in a neoprene sleeve for an extra layer of protection before you tuck it in your carrier, whether that is a backpack, pannier, messenger bag, whatever.
To reduce weight that you're hauling, also consider if you can keep multiple accessories (power cords, etc.) at each location if possible so that you're not toting them back and forth.