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Carrying your laptop on a bike can be a challenge. You want to protect it from knocks and scrapes, but you don’t want to add too much bulk or weight.
In this article, we’ll show you how to carry your laptop on a bike safely and securely.
Steps To Carry A Laptop On Your Bike (The Best Way)
Follow the easy advice below to ensure your laptop is protected at all times on your bike commutes.
1. Save Work And Shut Down (Or Not?)
Carrying a laptop that has a hard disk drive (HDD) rather than a solid state drive (SDD) is a little riskier unless you first save your work and shut it down. Why?
If an HDD laptop awakes from sleep or hibernate mode while in transit, its delicate disk can become damaged with knocks and vibrations.
You should routinely shut down an old HDD laptop before carrying it on your bike. There is significant risk of data loss if the disk drive is awake and unparked during your bike ride. A modern laptop with superior software may behave more predictably.
Laptops with an SSD are more resistant to shock or vibration, so there is less risk in commuting with such a machine in sleep or hibernate mode.
You can put a laptop into sleep or hibernate mode when you close its lid whilst still switched on. Which mode it goes into is usually adjustable in settings.
2. Slide Your Laptop Into A Padded Sleeve
A padded neoprene sleeve is ideal for protecting your laptop from damage. Before you buy one of these, you might want to consider what bag or backpack you’ll be carrying the laptop in. Does it have a laptop compartment already?
Some backpacks or panniers come with a detachable laptop sleeve, and a great many will include a padded laptop compartment. If you’re carrying the maximum laptop size the bag will carry, an extra sleeve may make the laptop a tight or impossible fit.
You can also choose to protect your laptop with a hard-shell case, though this will make it too large for many laptop compartments. It’s an option if you’re using a regular bag without special laptop provision.
3. Place Your Laptop Carefully Into Your Chosen Bag
You’ll probably carry a laptop inside one of two types of bag: a backpack or a pannier.
The advantage of a backpack is you don’t have to fix anything extra to your bike. This makes it quicker to use as you won’t need to unclip anything when you stop. You and your luggage are as one.
The downside of carrying a laptop in a backpack is obviously the weight, and the fact that you’re personally bearing that weight. Even this has a flipside, as your back is better at absorbing shock than the bike frame.
In a backpack, position the laptop so the lid is at the back of the backpack. This protects the screen, which is vulnerable to any pointy objects you might be carrying.
A pannier has the notable benefit of removing weight from your back. You might value this if you’re lugging a 17” gaming laptop! Panniers also avoid your back getting sweaty, unlike the average backpack.
The design of bike panniers is such that the bike-facing side of them typically has some kind of rigid framework to keep the luggage stable against a cargo rack. This is where laptop compartments are likely to be, protected from outboard strikes to the bag.
You must install a cargo rack before you can benefit from using a pannier.
Any other items you’re carrying in a bag that can protect your laptop should be placed in strategic places. Clothes are an obvious example.
Video: Best Way To Carry Stuff On A Bike Commute
4. Keeping The Laptop Dry
Most backpacks or panniers you’ll buy will be rain resistant at the very least, and many will be impervious to rain. Roll-top panniers are among the best you can buy in this regard, as there is no vulnerable zip to allow water in.
Naturally, if you’re carrying a laptop on a daily commute, it makes sense to buy a waterproof backpack or pannier. Any bag with a dedicated laptop compartment is likely to be weather-resistant, but you should study the specs carefully.
Your other option is to seal the laptop inside a waterproof container or sleeve within the bag. Be wary of doing this if your laptop is generating any heat. Switch it off if you have any doubts about its ability to stay hibernated.
5. Ride Safely!
It goes without saying that you should always endeavor to ride safely, but when you’re carrying high-value luggage it’s wise to be extra careful. Avoid hitting cracks or potholes.
On icy or snowy roads, ride on fatter tires or run your tires at a slightly lower pressure for better traction. Use studded tires if roads are persistently snowy or icy.
Make sure the bag you are carrying is secure. If it’s a backpack, use any waist straps or sternum straps it has to keep it stable. Make sure a pannier is securely tied to your cargo rack and not haphazardly hooked over.
On bumpy, offroad routes, you might favor carrying the laptop on your back. This way, it’s less likely to be hit or dislodged like it might be in a pannier.
Other Ways To Carry A Laptop Without Breaking It
Of course, there are other ways you might carry a laptop on a bike in addition to using conventional backpacks or panniers.
A trunk bag is usually an oblong bag that you fit directly on top of a rear cargo rack. This is a method that can work okay for laptops, but the bag is less likely to include a dedicated compartment for them.
Anything mounted on top of the rack rather than being suspended from it is likely to meet with more road vibration. So, you need to pack a laptop carefully and ensure it is cushioned against bumps.
A messenger bag is usually a bag you sling over one shoulder for urban or commuter use. But carrying one on a bike presents obvious problems; you don’t want it to be sliding forward and impeding your pedaling.
Nonetheless, people do use messenger bags on bikes simply by wearing it diagonally over one shoulder and under the opposite armpit. This prevents it from swinging around on the bike, as long as the strap length is not overly long.
You can also buy a frame bag to carry a slimline laptop or notebook. This bag attaches to the top tube of your bike. As long as it’s well designed and doesn’t have too much girth, it shouldn’t obstruct your knees when cycling.
These frame bags come in various styles, ranging from modern and durable nylon bags to traditional leather briefcase-style bags.
Read more: Best bike frame bags
If your bike has space for a wide front basket, you can wrap a laptop up in almost any padded bag and place it in the basket.
This is one way to carry your computer in a regular laptop bag with a handle and shoulder strap.
A clear benefit to carrying your laptop in a front bike basket rather than a rear one is that you can keep your eye on it. You’ll see any shift in position straight away.
Shutting Down (Conclusion)
Carrying a laptop on a bike is a question of balancing your comfort with the security of the laptop. There are several ways to transport your machine from A to B.
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