If you're a commuter or are planning some long-distance rides on your bike, a backpack designed with cycling-specific features is an ideal option for carrying your essentials. Cycling backpacks come in a variety of sizes and materials, and are usually purpose-built for a certain type of cycling. More and more companies are designing bags specifically for cyclists, giving you lots of options to choose from. Choosing the best mix of features for your specific needs will keep you riding comfortably when you've got to carry a bit extra.
Commuting Made Easy
The most versatile backpack for cycling is a commuter backpack. These packs usually have a capacity between 10 and 25 liters, which gives you enough space for your laptop, jacket, a book and a few groceries. Commuter backpacks almost always have an attachment point for a safety light, and some also have a pocket or strap for attaching your helmet when you're not riding. The back panel of these backpacks is usually designed for comfort, and can feature a trampoline-style backing that allows good airflow across your back while riding, preventing excess perspiration. A strap across the waist keeps these bags stable on your back so you can balance properly.
Delivering the Goods
Bike messengers and students alike have long used a messenger backpack for cycling. The one-strap construction allows the rider to swing the bag to their front when stopped so they can access the contents without having to dismount or take off the bag. Messenger backpacks are sometimes designed with huge capacities (upwards of 40 liters), and feature long straps on the top flap to secure unwieldy items like packages for delivery. For students and commuters, these bags can be useful if your ride sometimes involves extra-large loads.
Backpacks designed for mountain biking and bikepacking are very technical and usually very lightweight. These backpacks aren't usually waterproof to save weight, but they'll have a hydration reservoir and a tube for carrying a few liters of water on longer trips. Most feature outer pockets or cords for stashing extra items like a windbreaker on the outside of the pack, and they're designed to sit lower on your back so they don't encumber the balance of a rider who routinely goes off-road.
Determining the Best
The best backpack for you should be designed for your most common uses and provide the comfort you need to enjoy your ride. A waterproof liner and a durable outer fabric are some of the most popular features for commuter backpacks and messenger bags for commuters who get stuck in inclement weather; a ruined laptop is worth the extra weight of a sealed bag. For other riders, weight is a premium and a bag constructed from lightweight nylon reduces the overall burden of the bag. Hydration packs fill a niche for riders who need to carry a few hours worth of water with them.