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Best Bike Messenger Bag – 2022 Buying Guide

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Taking a lesson from linemen in the 1950’s, bike couriers in the ’80s needed the exact same easy access to their bags as they dived between city offices. The relationship between cyclists and messenger bags was born.

Not to be confused with shoulder bags, messenger bags have cycling at the heart of their design. There are lots of ways to carry things on your bike but none are as cool or accessible as a good quality messenger bag. 

Whether you are commuting to the office or heading to campus, in this article we dissect the best bike messenger bags to help you find the perfect bag for your riding. 

Top 7 Best Bike Messenger Bags Reviewed

1. Timbuk2 Especial Cycling Messenger Bag (best overall)

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  • Capacity: 22L
  • Water Proof? Yes

The Timbuk2 Especial messenger bag is designed with the journey in mind. This is a messenger bag that takes cycling seriously and won’t let you down on the way to lectures or the office. 

Timbuk2 have basically thrown every feature you would ever want in a messenger bag at the Especial. Everything from the quick magnetic buckles to the clip for a light screams functionality. 

The ambidextrous main and stabiliser straps means that left handers don’t have to miss out on everything that makes this bag stand-out. 

The everyday waterproofing means that your contents are more than safe in a rain shower. The recessed zips add the weatherproofing and have neat little bike handle zipper pulls. Far from being a gimmick, they really work well.

The Especial messenger bag has a large capacity compared to other messenger bags and the space is filled throughout with thoughtful design features. 

Features:

  • Suitable for up to 13-inch laptops.
  • Extra-large capacity.
  • The strap can be set-up for left and right handed riders. 

2. Osprey Men’s FlapJack Courier Day Pack

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  • Capacity: 20L
  • Water Proof? Weather resistant.

The Osprey FlapJack Courier Day Pack is a rugged commuting bag with a casual look. If you are looking for a bag with excellent organisation potential and great pocket designs the FlapJack makes the cut.

There is not an inch of wasted space with the FlapJack and all the pockets are so thoughtfully placed that the bag feels bigger than it really is. Mary Poppins would approve. 

The padding is also excellent and the back panel is stiff enough to protect expensive electronics and laptops. 

The internal handle might seem like a subtle design feature but it is extremely convenient. It makes moving the bag around easy off the bike without constantly having to close the flap. Great for going between meetings or just shuffling seats in a coffee shop.

Thanks to the rugged materials, your contents in the main compartment will remain dry in rainfall. The same cannot be said of any contents in the top stash pocket so this is not a good place to store any expensive electronics. 

Features:

  • Suitable for up to 15-inch laptops.
  • Useful internal handle for carrying the bag off the bike.
  • Reflective graphics and loops for a light are great safety features. 

3. Arc’teryx Granville 10 Courier Bag

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  • Capacity: 10L
  • Water Proof? Weather resistant.

The genesis of the Arc’Teryx Granville 10 Courier Bag comes from designing a bag that meets the needs of those who want a smaller, more streamlined messenger bag.

With an overall capacity of 10L the Granville 10 Courier Bag is still good for carrying laptops up to 12-inch. 

The design of the back of the bag, the part that sits against your back as you ride, is a real standout feature. The bag really does fit nicely to the contours of your back and prevents the bag rotating around the body. 

This is no accident and clearly a lot of effort went into this design. 

On first impressions the padding on the strap looks too thin to be comfortable but in fact the opposite is true.

There is a hidden pocket to add extra security for any valuables in the bag.

Features:

  • Suitable for up to 12-inch laptops.
  • Ergonomic design means that the bag stays put on your back when riding.
  • Ambidextrous cross-body shoulder strap.

4. Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bike Bag

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  • Capacity: 20.5L
  • Water Proof? Weather resistant

The Chrome Mini Metro is what you get if you take the original Chrome messenger bags and shrink them down.

It is still the same iconic and durable bag just in a smaller package. 

Like its bigger brother, the Chrome Mini Metro is built to last. 

To achieve this the bag is built twice – the inside liner is made with 22oz truck tarpaulin and the outside is made with abrasion-resistant military grade nylon.

All of this means that the Chrome Mini Metro should last a lifetime (in fact it comes with a lifetime guarantee). 

The strap is fastened using an old school seat belt buckle that is reassuringly chunky. The integrated bottle opener is a cool hidden feature.

The main compartment is spacious but lacks compartments. This is not really an issue for most riders who prefer the freedom to organize as they please. 

The front flap is held in place with Velcro and a couple of clips. The Velcro is strong enough to hold the bag closed on its own. It is quite loud when opening which is something to bear in mind if you arrive late to a quiet lecture. 

Features:

  • Suitable for up to 15-inch laptops.
  • Extremely durable bag that is built to last.
  • Easy access to the main compartment on the go. 

5. Brooks England Strand Messenger Bag

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  • Capacity: 15L
  • Water Proof? Yes

They may be better known for their iconic saddles but Brooks have also made something of a design classic with the Strand messenger bag.

The abrasions on the bag give it a slightly worn look but be under no illusion that this bag is made from premium materials. The riveted aluminum buckles enhance the look and provide extra durability.  

The strap does not have a buckle so you do have to remove it over your head but the waist stability strap shows this is a bag designed with cycling in mind. The padded back is effective at increasing airflow.

Aside from the main compartment with an integrated laptop pocket there is also a handy hide-away pocket on the front and shallow pockets for a couple of pens. 

Overall this is a great option for people that want a functional bag on the bike and a stylish bag off the bike. 

Features:

  • Reflective features on the main flap.
  • Professional styling off-the-bike.
  • Quality padded laptop compartment.

6. Ortlieb Daypack Urban 15 L Pack

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  • Capacity: 15L
  • Water Proof? No

The Ortlieb DayPack Urban is a messenger bag in disguise. Although great on the bike, the minimalist design means that it easily fits it to more urbane environments compared to traditional messenger bags. 

From the outside the only clues that the DayPack Urban is a true messenger bag is the flexible belt strap to enhance stability on the bike and the extra loop on the front of the bag for a bike light. 

The large zippered flap allows easy access to your contents whilst keeping everything in the main compartment dry in the rain. The large opening makes it easy to find what you are looking for in your bag and take it out with ease.

This is a bag with chic looks but not at the expense of overall functionality. 

Features:

  • Chic and elegant messenger bag.
  • Large opening for easy access to contents.
  • Loop for rear light.

7. Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag (best budget bag)

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  • Capacity 21L
  • Water Proof? No

The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger is just that – a classic. It does a great job on the bike without reinventing the wheel. 

Sitting at the lower end of the price range, the Timbuk2 Classic has no right to be as comfortable as it is on the shoulder.

There is also a discrete handle towards the top of the bag that is great for grabbing the bag and turning it into a professional looking briefcase.

The bag is not completely waterproof but it will stand-up admirably to drizzle without worrying about your expensive content. 

The long length of the key lanyard on the Classic really addresses a common flaw in messenger bags. 

The Classic will transport up to 15-inch laptops without issue and there is plenty of additional storage throughout the bag. There is even enough space for two water bottles. 

Features:

  • Suitable for up to 15-inch laptops.
  • Low profile handle for easy transportation off the bike. 
  • Well thought-out key lanyard.

Features To Help You Choose A Bike Messenger Bag

Capacity

When choosing the right messenger bag for your needs, the capacity of the bag should be the number one priority

Most people would simply choose a bag with a large capacity and never worry about being able to fit everything in. In reality, the bigger the bag, the more bulk you have to carry with you every time you get in the saddle. 

It is much better to work out how much gear you will be carrying day-to-day and tailor your choice to that.

Read more:

Weather Proofing

Since most people will have to carry a laptop, even occasionally, protection from rain is vital. Most manufacturers know this and produce bags with sufficient water-resistance. 

It is worth noting that not every compartment of the bag will have the same level of weather resistance. 

Straps and Access

In contrast with shoulder bags, messenger bags prioritize on-the-body access.

Messenger bags usually feature quick-release shoulder straps to seamlessly drop the bag off the shoulder when you reach your destination. 

Magnetic buckles on the main compartment also aid the ease of access. You just close the flap and the magnets do the rest of the work to keep the bag and your contents secure.

Some messenger bags use Velcro to secure the flap and although this is great for quick access, it can be loud. This is something you might want to consider if you plan to use the bag in an office environment or are usually late to lectures.

Visibility

Surrounded by tons of fast moving steel, cyclists are extremely vulnerable out on the roads and more so when riding in busy city environments. 

Being safe means being seen. If you typically ride in dark conditions, it is worth looking for a bag that has plenty of reflective features and sensible loops for a light. 

Compartments and Laptops

Nowadays, laptops and tablets are basically extensions of our limbs. Modern messenger bags understand this and usually offer separate, padded laptop compartments. 

The size of your laptop will dictate how big you will need this compartment. Typically, messenger bags can comfortably fit 13-inch laptops. 

Read more: Carrying your laptop on a bicycle

Comfort

Whilst messenger bags don’t spread the load as much as a traditional rucksack, that doesn’t mean that they should be uncomfortable when on the bike. 

Comfort can be enhanced with a wide shoulder strap that will help to spread the load and avoid pinch points on your shoulder. 

woman with wide straps messenger bags on a bike
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Since messenger bags are worn close to the body, a well-designed back channel improves the breathability.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to wear a messenger bag on a bike?

On the bike, messenger bags are worn over one shoulder and sit snugly against your back. 

Video: Backpack vs Messenger Bag

How Do You Clean A Bike Messenger Bag?

If you have to clean it, one effective, if slightly unusual method, is to stick it in the freezer overnight. This will kill any smells without ruining the waterproofing.

 Is A Bike Courier Bag The Same As A Messenger Bag?

Bike courier bags and messenger bags are interchangeable terms.

Final Words 

It is no accident that legendary cycling couriers rely on messenger bags. 

For comfort and utility there is no better way to carry equipment on the bike. They look more professional than rucksacks and don’t look out of place in a busy office. 

If you are new to the world of messenger bags the Timbuk2 Especial ticks a huge amount of boxes. It is comfortable without sacrificing all of the features that every messenger bag should have. 

The Chrome Mini Metro comes close to bag greatness and wins serious kudos for its iconic buckle and hidden bottle opener. It is a feature you didn’t know you even needed.

If you are on a budget, and what student isn’t, the Timbuk2 Classic is loaded with great features that won’t break the bank.

Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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