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The Best Cycling Bags for Biking Anywhere

Mar 23, 2024

If you’re a legit bike commuter, a daily rider for exercise, or just a sometimes urban explorer (i.e. you mostly ride out to get a drink at your fave bar or hit the grocery store), you know how essential a great cycling bag is. For one, you need something sturdy to tote around your lock; and—if you’re like me—you’ve always got a multi-tool, a Nalgene bottle, maybe a book, possibly a granola bar or two, one condom that’s been hanging out for at least eight years, and a pair of good bike lights floating around in there. If you really use your bike, you come to form a deep and personal relationship with your bag. And if you don’t have that special bag in your life yet, you’re in the right place.

For almost a decade, I’ve been a Chrome enthusiast, never hitting the street without my black, war-torn Citizen messenger bag. We've been through a lot together, from vacations (this MF has been everywhere from New York to Minneapolis to San Francisco) and concerts to countless Tinder dates. Beers have exploded inside it; boxes of pad thai leftovers have tragically emptied themselves within it. I’ve hung Bluetooth speakers from the buckle so I could listen to Yeezus while riding. I’ve cleaned mud and tomato sauce (and probably blood) off it. In my younger days, I set it on grimy restaurant kitchen floors day in, day out; later in life, it graduated to chilling on a desk. And after everything, it still looks great. (Like, I would take this bag into Mordor if I had to.)

That said, there are many other truly excellent bags that I admire and enjoy using, which is good, because, you know, sometimes your girlfriend (or your back) thinks you should upgrade your bag and leave the beloved messenger style of your youth behind before you’re 40.

There are a lot of different kinds of cycling bags. Obviously messenger bags are ultra popular, but roll-tops are also great, as are cross-bodies and fanny pack-style bags. It really just depends on how much you’re toting, how far you’re going, and how free you like your body to be. There’s truly no right answer—some people are biking to Whole Foods and need a huge bag, while others are doing a half century before lunchtime and just need water, a couple tools, and Clif bars. In any case, here are some of our favorite options.

Between its iconic front buckle, its tough, nylon exterior, its extremely comfortable shoulder strap, and its military-grade waterproof lining, the Chrome Citizen messenger bag is a durable, reliable masterpiece. Since I’m a Chrome lifer I’ll happily admit that I’m biased, but IMO this bag is one of the greatest things to ever happen to bicycles (and the people who ride them). Whatever you’re toting, whether it’s a 12-pack of beer, a laptop, dirty clothes, leftovers, a shitload of books, or even some work papers you need to stay clean, this bag will have your back. Literally!

A roll-top for the ages

Chrome’s backpack options are vast, but the brand’s Barrage Cargo backpack is a certified all-timer for many. Not only is it waterproof, it’s comfy as hell, no matter how much stuff you’re throwing in it. Plus, there’s an easy-entry U-lock compartment on the exterior, a laptop sleeve inside, and a cargo net to hold your helmet (or, you know, a few bottles of wine). This is the logical next step from a messenger bag—in case you’re looking for something that your chiropractor won’t be mad about.

Don’t need a big old bag, but want something to carry a couple li’l necessities, like your lock, some water, a container of hummus, and two beers? Herschel’s shoulder bag is extremely perfect for this. I recently took this one when I biked to a music festival that wouldn’t allow a full sized bag. It’s small enough that you can carry it around all day and barely feel it.

Angular but spacious, plain but compelling, San Francisco artisan brand Mission Workshop’s bags are just so attractive. They have a ton of different designs and styles, but I’m partial to the Fitzroy. Described as an “impenetrable fortress” on Mission Workshop’s website, this bag features military-spec construction, waterproof compartments, laptop spaces, and, frankly, a sick as hell vibe.

Timbuk2 always seemed to me to be the bag for regular cyclists who don’t care about bougier things, and I highly respect it. It’s like Carhartt or Champion—just classic, affordable, down-to-business gear that will not let you down. This classic messenger bag has all the touches of a piece two or three times as expensive, and looks truly great. I can’t recommend this one highly enough if you’re looking for an absolutely killer, full sized option for under $100. And the brand’s roll-top equivalent is just as good.

Unleash your inner camel

CamelBak is a brand that’s beloved by anybody looking to go long distances while staying hydrated and comfortable. This backpack is just clutch: ventilation technology for your back, bike light loops, helmet-carrying compartment, water-resistant shell, and effective reflectivity, [Dad voice] though you should still always wear lights when it’s dark.

Don’t forget to wear a helmet!

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

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A roll-top for the agesUnleash your inner camel