When it comes to transporting gear on your bike, your first choice is whether to attach the stuff to you, or to your bicycle.
Attaching stuff to yourself
Backpacks are ideal for carrying the typical commuter load (laptop, tools, waterproof, lunch). If it is for use on a regular commute you should look for good waterproofing and also good ventilation to reduce the sweaty back effect.
Messenger type bags sling over the shoulder and have a second waist strap to stabilise their position – this is important so avoid courier style bags that lack this feature. They tend to have larger capacities and are easier to access quickly. They also position the load lower down, which can be more comfortable and make bike handling easier due to a lower centre of gravity.
Here’s a more detailed head-to-head comparison of the pros and cons of these two options.
Attaching stuff to your bike
A basket can provide a quick and simple solution to carrying small to medium loads, with the advantage that everything stays where you can see it. They don’t offer any protection from the elements (although covers are available to stretch across the top of the basket) and there can be a risk of things bouncing out as you negotiate a speed bump or hit a pothole.
Saddlebags mount behind the saddle, which will need to have appropriate loops to fix the bag to. Sizes vary, but generally they will accommodate a tool kit plus rain mac, but not a laptop or similar. They offer a more traditional and elegant solution, particularly high quality versions from the likes of Brooks.
Panniers offer a great way of carrying larger loads on your bicycle. You’ll need an appropriate rack fitted over the back wheel, to which the panniers attach ordinarily with a quick-release mechanism. Not all bikes will have the fittings to accommodate this, so check first. Waterproofing varies between models but in general they offer a great way to securely transport loads whilst letting your bike take the strain.
For really large loads a specialist cargo bike might be needed. These come in various shapes and configurations, with a good selection now available at specialist stores like London Green Cycles. Some London councils are offering free trials of cargo bikes to local businesses as a way of making their deliveries.
If you have cargo that wriggles around and keeps asking “Are we there yet?” have a look at our guide to cycling with small children.
For really large loads, (or a really large family) you might need something like this world record holder.
Or perhaps you’re cycling to a picnic and the invitation asks you to bring a bottle? There’s a nifty solution to that to.