What makes a messenger bag either great or bad for biking?
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of messenger bags on the market, and picking the right one is difficult.
This is the guide for you.
Some of these bags look great, but just don’t hold up for a period of time. On the other hand, the best messenger bag on the market might look unassuming but be perfect for a bike ride.
This guide will give you some basic guidelines for choosing the best messenger bags for biking. We will then go over some of the top picks that meet those criteria just to make the whole search process easier for you.
Buyer’s guide – the best messenger bag for biking
Looking to get riding?
Here are the 4 main things that I look for when choosing a messenger bag for use while biking:
Wide shoulder strap
This just makes everything much easier while riding a bicycle. First of all, if you carry a heavy load then it will distribute the weight much better across your shoulder.
A narrow strap will just give you an ugly red mark on your skin after a day of riding. Even worse, a narrow strap might cause chafing, which is something you definitely do not want.
This is especially important if you live somewhere with lots of rain.
You don’t want your papers or your computer soaked while on the bike. Weatherproof bags will cost a little more than a normal bag, but this is one feature that most cyclists will want on their bags.
Another feature not often talked about is the thick material used to build bike messenger bags.
This is great for any accidents while riding. You do not want to worry about ripping a massive hole into your bag after an accident.
Some of these bags have fabric so sturdy that a skid on concrete may not even be noticeable. However, not having a hole in the bag is the most important thing. A scuffed messenger bag may actually look more fashionable than one that looks brand new.
You know how some backpacks have a lot of structure?
That makes them good for carrying books. However, they have very little flexibility for carrying different types of objects.
An unstructured bag lets you carry a wide range of stuff. You can carry books, a laptop, a bike pump, and sandwiches. This makes it a great choice for a cyclist and a good alternative for a regular backpack.
Ready to see our favorite picks?
Top Pick for Biking: Timbuk2 Especial Messenger
In fact, they manufactured messenger bags before they became popular. They also hand-sew all their bags.
Needless to say, this makes Timbuk2 one of the most respected brands on the market.
Their Especial Messenger might be one of the most popular bags that Timbuk2 sells. You will see cyclists riding around major cities all over America and Europe with a Timbuk2 on their back.
Some of its best features include a waterproof liner, an extra-wide strap, and reflective panels. The reflective panels on this are a nice safety feature.
Another amazing thing about this messenger bag is the magnetic buckles. This allows you to easily open the bag with one hand — great if you need to open your bag while sitting on your bike.
However, if you do not want to open the strap you can still access the bag through a zippered side pocket. This is a great feature to use in the rain and one that you will not find on many other bags.
Features we like
- Waterproof liner and seams
- Extra-wide strap
- Magnetic buckles for one-handed access
- Side pocket for quick access
Furthermore, the Timbuk2 comes with a lifetime warranty for any manufacturer defect. You can simply send them your bag and they will repair any defect for the life of the product. This will give you some peace of mind about owning the bag.
Don’t believe me? Check out this video for more info straight from Timbuk2:
Runner Up: Chrome Unisex Mini Metro Messenger
If you look closely at couriers, you might notice the unique Chrome logo on their bag.
As with Timbuk2, there is good reason for this. The bags produced by Chrome are very high quality and functional.
They also cost less than the bags available from the Timbuk2. The Chrome Mini Metro Messenger bag is one of the most popular options that Chrome has to offer.
This bag is a little smaller than the other options listed. However, it still has 20L of space to store just about everything that you need. It even has a water bottle pocket, a U-lock pocket, and a built-in bottle opener.
Other features we like include the waterproof liner, the wide, foam-padded shoulder strap, and the vintage seatbelt-style release buckle on the shoulder strap.
Features we like
- Waterproof liner and seams
- Wide and padded shoulder strap
- Vintage seatbelt buckle release. This adds a nice aesthetic to the whole bag. Plus, it adds some functionality,
- The lifetime warranty
Yes, Chrome has a lifetime guarantee on their bags.
This limited lifetime warranty will cover the cost of repairs for any manufacturer defects for the life of the bag. Just like Timbuk2, this adds some peace of mind to your purchase.
Most versatile bag: Timbuk2 Commute Messenger Bag
Timbuk2 is so great that another of their bags makes our list. The Timbuk2 Commute is a little more budget-friendly than the Especial. However, it still has all the quality that you would expect with a Timbuk2 product.
Some of its great features include the 10 interior storage sleeves for placing items that can include a laptop, a tablet, books, and notebooks. It also has a large interior storage space for clothes, books, or just about anything you can fit inside it.
The storage sleeves help keep things organized. The bag also has one small exterior storage space for quick and easy access. This spot is good for placing your business cards, pens, and other small items.
Further, the bag is 100% waterproof on the inside because of the sealed Velcro on the interior combined with the water-resistant fabric.
The Velcro strap also has a strip that makes it silent. You can still use the loud Velcro strip for extra security, if you really want to.
Features we like
- 10 interior storage sleeves for easy organization
- Silent Velcro strap
- The wide, padded strap
- Timbuk2’s limited lifetime warranty
- Can be carried as a commuter bag, attached to a rolling luggage bag, or carried by two shorter straps
All in all, this is a great bag. It’s best strength is its versatility. The large amount of internal storage sleeves and different methods of carry definitely make this a top pick.
You can still use this bag while riding a bicycle, though. However, the other bags listed above might make more sense for a professional courier than the Timbuk2 Commute.
Here’s a great walkthrough of the bag, straight from Timbuk2:
Budget choice: Osprey Men’s FlapJack Courier Day Pack
Osprey is a popular brand in the backpack industry. But you might not know that they also have a messenger bag available.
Now, this bag does not have all the features that the other bags have. However, it does come at a great price, which makes it a good choice for those on a budget.
The Osprey FlapJack has a wide strap, reflective parts on the exterior, and an external zippered pocket. An external zippered pocket is especially useful for storing anything small that you do not want to put in the main compartment.
It does have a wide strap, but it can get slightly uncomfortable after a prolonged period of time because it does not have any padding. It is simply a normally thin, yet wide, strap.
This bag is also not waterproof, which would be okay if you live in an area without much rain. It does have decent water resistance during light rain showers. The seams are not water proof, though, so the interior will get wet during a rainstorm.
Features we like
- The low price
- Wide strap for comfort
- Side pocket to carry a water bottle
- Internal laptop storage sleeve
Osprey does have a very good lifetime warranty. They will cover any manufacturer defects for the life of the product. You will not find many budget options that offer a lifetime warranty as good as Osprey.
This bag also comes in 4 different colors, which gives you more options for fashion than most bags offer.
All in all, this is a great messenger bag for someone looking for a first bag at a low price, though it wouldn’t be suitable for someone expecting to commute in serious rain.
It also works great as a bag for everyday use.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I clean my bag?
Cleaning a messenger bag is easy, but not many people know how to properly do it.
Putting the bag in a washing machine is probably a bad idea because of the straps and the overall sensitivity of the bag.
You should just hand wash it with normal laundry detergent and let it dry out on a flat surface. Spot cleaning any stains is also an option.
How do I dry my bag if it gets wet?
You should place your bag on a flat surface and let it dry. Hanging it from a clothesline is an option though this can stretch the bag. Avoid placing the bag in direct sunlight for too long as this can cause sun rot.
Definitely do not put the bag in a drying machine.
Is it safe to carry a laptop in these bags?
Yes. This is probably a more convenient option than a laptop bag, especially if you commute by bicycle or train.
However, if the laptop fits will depend on the size of the laptop and the bag. However, all these bags should be able to easily carry a 13″ laptop.
How well does the waterproofing work?
It should keep the interior dry during rain. However, if you spend a prolonged period of time in the rain, then you might have some dampness.
Are these bags a suitable replacement for a backpack?
Yes. Messenger bags are a suitable replacement for a backpack. They are comfortable and cause significantly less sweat than a backpack. This makes them great for commuters.
Can I sew patches or pin buttons to my bag?
Yes. You should be able to sew patches to the flap of the bag. Pins should work as well, just be careful not to pierce the water resistant liner.
Wrapping it up
Hope you enjoyed the post!
Before you hit the road, here’s your last chance to click for our top pick for the best biking messenger bag, the Timbuk2 Especial Messenger. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any other ideas!