Cycling with a laptop is straightforward, so long as it’s protected from rain and from accidental knocks. It pays to have a good-quality bag.
Since the pandemic there’s been a surge in part-time remote working and office hot-desking, which means more of us are hauling laptops around. It’s easy enough to do this by bike as long as your cycling luggage is suitable.
The main requirement, given how rainy it is in the UK, is that the bag is waterproof. Not water-resistant or showerproof. Waterproof. Laptops are expensive and store important data. It makes no sense to compromise when it comes to keeping yours safe from water damage.
Any waterproof pannier, backpack or messenger bag that’s large enough will do the job. Laptop-specific bags generally come with a padded internal sleeve to stop the computer from moving around inside the bag and to prevent other contents from banging against it. Today’s laptops tend to use SSDs rather than hard disk drives, giving them much better resistance to knocks and vibration, but it’s still worth protecting the laptop chassis from potential damage. If your bag doesn’t have a padded sleeve, put the laptop in a neoprene case first, then pack other contents around it to keep it in place.
If you have the choice – and are not just given one by the IT department – a lightweight laptop with a smaller screen is, of course, easier to carry by bike. That’s especially true if the laptop is going on your back rather than the bike. You can minimise carried weight further by having two chargers and leaving one at work. Likewise with peripherals.
Laptop-specific bags will generally say what size laptop they’re designed to accommodate. If not, bear in mind that laptop screens are measured diagonally; even a huge 17in laptop will only be about 14in wide. Measure your laptop before buying your bag if you’re unsure – or, better yet, take it with you to the shop.
Prices for the bags below are RRP. Don’t forget to factor in your Cyclescheme savings.
Bags for the bike
This big, boxy saddlebag (36x29x15cm) is one of the few ways to carry a laptop on a bike without a pannier rack. Its quick-release bracket fits to any round, metal seatpost up to 40mm in diameter. The only other requirement is that there’s at least 18cm between the top of the seatpost and the rear wheel or mudguard. The SQR Slim is made from waterproof, waxed cotton duck, and has a wipe-clean mudguard surface underneath. It’s designed to carry files and books but any laptop should fit. As there’s no special provision for one, you’ll want to put it in a neoprene cover first. Volume 16L. Maximum capacity is 10kg.
Thule Shield 17L £90
This waterproof single pannier from car-rack specialist Thule is specifically aimed at office commuters. It has a padded compartment for a 14-15in laptop, plus another for a 10in tablet. An external pocket is designed to give easy access to a phone, wallet or keys. The rack hooks fit rails from 8-16mm in diameter, and there’s a detachable shoulder strap for use on foot. Reflective panels aid visibility at night, and you can clip an extra light to the pannier if you wish. It’s also available in 13, 22 and 25-litre sizes but this 17-litre bag is probably the best option for laptop-toting commuters.
Like the Vaude Bayreuth (below), Ortlieb’s 21-litre Office-Bag is a waterproof briefcase pannier that mounts diagonally to the left or right of a rear rack. It sits at an angle so that the extra width (it’s wider than it is tall) won’t mean clipped heels when pedalling. There are two versions of the pannier: QL2.1, which has standard-looking hooks; and QL3.1, with lower-profile mounts that fit nodules on a compatible (QL3.1) pannier rack. Either bag can be removed from the rack with one hand. Most of the internal space is one big compartment. There’s a laptop sleeve big enough for a 15in computer but a neoprene cover would help protect it from other bag contents bouncing around. It has a shoulder strap, and the base is reinforced with feet.
Vaude Bayreuth IV M £162
The Bayreuth IV comes in two sizes: a 12-litre size M and a 20-litre size L. The smaller version has a padded pocket for a 13in laptop, whereas the larger one will accommodate a 15in machine. Both have additional inner pockets, a bottle holder, and a zipped outer pocket that’s suitable for a phone. The external fabric is waterproof, with welded seams, and there are small feet on the bottom of the bag so it stands up off the bike. The hooks fit pannier racks with 8-16mm diameter rails, and they can be quickly set up for attachment to the left or right of the rack. You can even remove the hooks entirely. The Bayreuth has a padded handle and a shoulder strap.
Restrap City Loader £164.99
The City Loader fits the front carrier block of a Brompton folding bike. It’s a little cheaper than Brompton’s own waterproof bags – at least those big enough for a laptop – but is fully featured. Internal and external stiffeners ensure the bag keeps its shape when loaded, and there are compression straps to stop smaller loads moving around. The main compartment of the 20-litre bag is 35cm wide, 30-35cm tall and 15cm deep, so it’ll accommodate all but the largest laptops, with plenty of room for spare clothing, snacks and so on. External pockets on the sides are big enough for bottles or D-locks, and a waterproof jacket can be strapped on top. The City Loader has a removable shoulder strap.
Bags for your back
Budget-priced messenger bags are seldom waterproof. This one is. It’s made from heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin with welded seams, and a roll-top closure prevents rain ingress there. There’s an external pocket with a waterproof zip in the flap that covers the front of the bag; it’s handy for thin objects like a phone or a wallet. Internally, it’s just one big compartment. There’s no laptop pocket unless you add the Messenger Tidy – Large (£24.99), which fits laptops up to 15in. Like all good messenger bags, Overboard’s has an extra strap that runs across your body to prevent it swinging around on your shoulder as you ride. The shoulder strap itself is padded and adjustable.
Elops is the own-brand of multi-sports behemoth Decathlon, which is why this 25-litre waterproof backpack is such good value. It’s not because it’s lacking in features. The padded shoulder straps are supplemented with a chest strap to stabilise the bag when pedalling, and big foam pads on the back keep you comfortable. On the outside there’s a small side pocket with a weatherproof zip for a wallet or phone, and another pocket (unzipped) for a bottle. Inside there are multiple compartments, including a padded one for a laptop (up to 17in) and another for a lock. The bag fastens with a roll-top closure but there’s also a long side zip (weatherproof again) for quick access to the main compartment. Reflective details add nighttime visibility.
There’s also a 30-litre version of this waterproof backpack (£90) but the smaller 20-litre bag should be big enough for most commuters. It has a 15in laptop sleeve, plus a zip pocket for valuables. Other than that it’s just one big space on the inside. The roll-top closure is secured with a loop-and-hook fastening, which is simple and durable. The shoulder straps are padded and wide, and a chest strap between them holds the bag snug against your back. Reflective print over the front, sides and base of the bag make it highly visible in headlights. There are mounting points for up to three clip-on lights. It comes in black or hi-viz yellow.
Apidura made its name with bikepacking bags but has diversified into urban luggage with the City Backpack and City Messenger, both of which come in two sizes. The 13in model is the larger of the City Messengers (the other is 11in). Despite the name, its padded sleeve should accommodate a 14in laptop – the bag measures 32x27.5cm (12.6x10.8in). It’s a welded-seam, waterproof bag with a large flap rather than a roll-top. There are a few other organiser pockets inside, plus a zipped pocket under the flap for keys or a phone. There’s also a light mount and some reflective detailing. The ambidextrous shoulder strap has a stabilising strap. At 550g, it’s remarkably lightweight for a messenger bag.
Chrome Industries specialises in urban cycling and has a wide range of bags and clothing. With a volume of 24 litres, the Buran III is the brand’s biggest messenger bag. Its padded laptop pouch will swallow even a hefty 17in computer, and there are compartments and pockets for everything else you’re like to carry on your commute. While the nylon outer isn’t itself waterproof, the bag’s liner is so contents will stay dry. The Buran’s large flap is held in place by Velcro when flipped over but can be buckled down for greater security. The shoulder strap, which is fastened by a seatbelt buckle and which has a stabilising strap, is left-right interchangeable. Good news for left-handers!