Monday, September 11, 2006

bike messenger bags

Yes, they're trendy and they're expensive, but dangit, if you've got a really nice messenger-style Chrome bag, maybe you'll be more likely to ride your bike and haul your stuff around so that you can show off that stylin seat-belt latch on the front. Plus, they're totally ergo, and just bombproof.

Where to get'em in Ann Arbor? Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness at 2107 West Stadium.

Contributed by: Homeless Dave

6 comments:

Bruce Fields said...

So, a stupid question for anyone that uses messenger bags: what's the practical advantage over an ordinary backpack?

(Also: "seat-belt latch"?)

HomelessDave said...

Bruce,

Seat-belt latch: Probably a better way to put it is 'seat-belt-latch style clasp'. Un-hitching this clasp separates the shoulder strap into two pieces ... for super easy on-off. Plus, while wearing the bag, you have a seat-belt latch smack in the middle of your chest, which makes your style point, but probably hurts if you crash and land on it.

Advantages over an ordinary backpack: I think for non-messengers, they're probably marginal.

For example, the fact that you can slide the bag around to the front where you can access contents (for removal or adding to) without taking off the bag is advantageous for messengers, who need to do that with high frequency. For me, it just means that the interaction I have with my bag, when locking and unlocking my bike, is one step easier (I carry my lock in my bag). Or if I wonder, Did I remember to bring my X? Checking for that item is just that much easier, and I'm more likely to check, so I'm more likely to arrive with everything I wanted to have with me.

Another marginal advantage over an ordinary top-loading backpack is speed of loading due to the larger 'mouth' of a messenger bag. If you're carrying some standard load to a destination, as is the case with many commuting cyclists, this is a very small advantage. If I'm taking an empty bag to buy groceries, though, I'd rather have my messenger bag to prevent a log jam at the end of the register conveyor belt. This also goes back to the earlier issue of checking to make sure you have everything with you. It's little easier to rummage through a messenger bag via its wider mouth than a traditional backpack.

Finally, for a given volume, a typical messenger bag design will spread out the contents wider and put the load 'flatter' against your body than a traditional backpack, which makes you slightly more stable. For a messenger, any slight gains in stability would be highly advantageous. For regular folks, less so. And in hot weather, the increased surface area contact counts as a disadvantage.

But the fact that Chrome also manufactures bags with two straps like an ordinary backpack suggests that this design is not inherently ass-backwards, either. One advantage of these bags over any significantly cheaper ordinary backpack would be the quality of construction (super-dooper heavy duty).

Bruce Fields said...

"Probably a better way to put it is 'seat-belt-latch style clasp'"

Oh, alright, I probably should have just looked at the picture.... Got it.

"Finally, for a given volume, a typical messenger bag design will spread out the contents wider and put the load 'flatter' against your body than a traditional backpack, which makes you slightly more stable.... And in hot weather, the increased surface area contact counts as a disadvantage."

Yeah, so the problems I have with my backpack are: it can make my back hot and sweaty; it tires out my shoulders a little; and it tends to accentuate any bouncing in an annoying way. (Not sure if a messenger bag would help there.)

Panniers solve most of those problems, but they're a little less quick on-and-off. Uh, except when least desired--I had one bounce off on my way home yesterday. Argh.

Murph said...

Poorly adjusted or unfamiliar messenger bags can be bad news, though. I bike with my (messenger bag-style) laptop bag all the time, with no problems, but I swiped my wife's messenger bag for a grocery run once, and nearly killed myself when it suddenly slid/swung sideways, both pulling me off balance, and interfering with my pedaling by hitting my thigh.

Fortunately, it was curb side, rather than lane side, that the unexpected pendulum pulled me to. But, at any rate: suck.

Lesson: make sure your bag of choice is stable on your back!

Scott said...

Bikehugger just posted a complimentary review of Timbuk2 messenger bags. They also point to a more in-depth, if older, review at the fixed-gear gallery.

Scott said...

CommutebyBike has a DIY on adding a hydration system to your messenger bag.

It looks so simple and functional, I wonder why anyone would buy the expensive camelbacks when you can just put the insert into any bag you already own.