Protecting your computer takes on a different meaning when you’re cycling. Here’s how to transport one safely and comfortable.
High-speed internet, cloud services, and capable phones have reduced the need to carry a laptop to and from work. But some of us still have to do it. A standard laptop bag with a shoulder strap isn’t a great solution; it’s unlikely to have the secondary strap across the chest that a courier bag has to stop it swinging round as you pedal. Use dedicated cycle luggage.
Back or bike? It’s always more comfortable and less sweaty to put the load on the bike, assuming you’ve got a suitable carrier. How heavy is your laptop and how far will you be riding? Small (11-12in) notebooks weighing 1kg or so aren’t much of a strain on your back. A 17in gaming laptop weighing 3-5kg will soon feel uncomfortably heavy there – even if you minimise the total weight by storing the power cord and any peripherals elsewhere (seatpack?).
Use a padded, neoprene laptop sleeve, or even a bubble-wrap envelope, for protection from other items in your bag. The padding will also help if you drop the bag or fall off the bike. If your bag lacks a laptop pocket (many waterproof bags don’t have them), pack it out with your (dry) waterproofs and/or some bubblewrap. This will soften any blows and help prevent the laptop moving around, which will reduce vibration…
A laptop on your back will be subject to less vibration because your body will soak up some of it. That’s less of an issue if your laptop has a solid state drive (SSD). A hard disk drive (HDD) uses a spinning disk, whereas an SSD is like a memory stick. It has no moving parts so shaking it shouldn’t do any damage. An HDD can be damaged by vibration – generally only when it’s left on. Turn the laptop off. Not asleep, off. A thin silicone keyboard protector between keyboard and screen can prevent the former marking the latter.
You really, really don’t want your laptop getting wet. If you’re not going to use a waterproof pannier or backpack, put the laptop in a drybag inside your main bag.
A few good bags for laptops
You don’t need an office bag, just a waterproof one that’s secure on your back or bike. These three qualify; there are loads more.
Cyclescheme Price: £63.75*
Tough, waterproof, roll-top backpack with a 24-litre capacity. Chest and waist straps keep it stable while cycling. Ortlieb’s Front and Back Roller panniers are excellent too.
Cyclescheme Price: £37.50*
Another waterproof roll-top, this time for a pannier rack. Sold singly, it has a 15-litre capacity and good quality KlickFix hooks.
Cyclescheme Price: £67.50*
16-litre front bag for the Brompton made of waterproof, recycled truck tarpaulin. You’ll need to factor in £30 for a Brompton front carrier frame.
Whatever bag you use, don’t forget to backup your laptop regularly. The data might be more valuable than the computer…
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* Based on minimum savings of 25% inc End of Hire - many save more. Check your personal savings here.