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7.18.3 Courier Bags


This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.

7.18.3 Courier Bags

My favorite for around town shopping and shorter commutes, they are
generally stable, simple, and convenient. I find them only becoming
less comfortable at distances over 10 to 15 miles. In my opinion, for
comfort and convenience they are unmatched. They are easy to get into
and out of.

They are completely unfussy as to how they are packed. You can toss in
a laptop or a briefcase - they will carry unweildy and oddball loads
any other system (except trailers, or baskets, which aren't covered
here) would choke on. They are readily available, relatively
inexpensive, and don't require hardware on your bike. They are also
easily misused and can easily be unstable. Stylish, look- alike,
copycat designs are often much less stable. However, if they are
unstable, in my experience, they do so in such a way that this can be
controlled by the rider. Example, if the load is going to shift on
you, it does so before you are all the way into a lean, and not when
you are already deep in a lean. You can easily compensate for such a
shifting load with a simple blocking move of your elbow. Design
features that make the courier bag stable (and convenient) are the

width of the bag, the width of the strap, and the addition of a chest
or waist strap. The courier bag design is wide. Chest straps have been

in recent years for greater stability. The bag is worn low on the
body, putting the weight on the hips. This keeps it from being
top-heavy. The width of the bag also allows it to "wrap" around the
hips; which helps provide extra security against load shifting. A wide
(2") shoulder strap means it is comfortable on the shoulder, and also
helps keep it from shifting. It is worth noting that a CHEST strap is
preferred by most couriers over a waist strap for stability. The
reason for this is quite simple: a waist strap allows the bag to
rotate (load shift) around the body, which is exactly how it wants to
shift when it is unstable. So the waist strap, for most, prevents
nothing. On the other hand, the chest strap triangulates the load
security and greatly decreases the likelihood of a shifting bag. My
first courier bag was made before there were chest straps, and I found
that I knew when it was unstable, and would ride accordingly. I pretty
much wore that bag out. My second and current bag has a chest strap.

And, last of all, there is the matter of style. I found when I
commuted and shopped with panniers I got more "odd looks". I have a
certain level of tolerance, but I generally don't like getting "odd
looks". A courier bag, on the other hand, is not out of place in an
office today. The grocery store clerk who looks at panniers with a
completely bewildered expression doesn't give my courier bag a second
glance. Final analysis: what else can I toss my laptop, a 6-pack, or
a watermelon into with equal ease?

Courier bags

C. of G. Poor-Very Good
Stability Good-Very Good
Ease of Access Very Good
Comfort Very Good
Typical usage: Short distance/around town, commuting, light
Weight capacity: Up to 35 lbs. would be typical.


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