If you are lucky enough to get to ride your bike to work, getting the best messenger bags for bike commuting is essential. You can’t just “swing by the house” to pick up something you forgot, so you have to carry everything you might need throughout the day, but you’re going to be carrying that thing on your back, so it has to be light and comfortable. You want to have a bag that has one-hand access and is ambidextrous for righties or lefties. Good ventilation is key as well as a washable surface because face it, you’re going to be sweating and you don’t want swamp back. It is recommended that you find a bag that has a stabilizer belt for much better stability (or just add one yourself). I have also added pannier bags to the list as another option.

The best bags for bike commutes I have found are:

Timbuk2 Especial TresSerious bike commuting$$$Vented back, hydration linesReview
Chrome CitizenDurability, Style$$$$Quick release buckleReview
Ortlieb VelocityRainy areas$Waterproof, vented backReview
Timbuk2 ShiftLonger commutes$$PannierReview

Timbuk2 Especial Tres

This review is for the Tres version, which is the middle size of the Especial bags. This one comes from Timbuk2, so you know a lot has gone into the features and design of the bag. It features a roll top layout that, when open, can greatly increase your storage capacity, but when closed offers weather resistance. It is not as waterproof as other bags, so if that is critical, you might consider other bags. A key feature of most Timbuk2 bags is the “Backbender” rear panel which is molded into the bag and allows for air flow. It also features routing lines for hydration reservoirs and headphones as well as a U-lock holster.

Chrome Citizen

Man this bag is durable! The Chrome Citizen bag itself is made of weatherproof Cordura outer shell with a truck liner. The strap is a seatbelt style material with matching quick release buckle that doubles as a bottle opener. It has a foam pad on the strap that is generous and feels comfortable. There are spots for carabiners and velcro for other accessories. Inside there are not any compartments besides in the front for smaller items, but you could opt for a laptop sleeve (at an extra cost). This bag is not ambidextrous, so you have to make sure you select the left or right hand strap. The Citizen is the medium size to the larger Metropolis and smaller Metro versions.

Ortlieb Velocity

While technically more of a backpack since it has two straps, the Ortlieb Velocity is by far the most waterproof of the bunch. It is a true roll top with a velcro roll closure to keep it that way. It has a padded back with vent areas for added ventilation. As an added feature it has a clip for a light or your helmet as well as reflective stitching for those night rides. Because it is backpack style it can also double well for hikes and with the handle makes it usable for carrying around the office. It’s biggest drawback for me is that it is not the best looking messenger, unless you want to showcase your bags durability.

Timbuk2 Shift Pannier

Sometimes having a┬ábag on your back isn’t for you. If you have longer commutes or have heavier items to carry, a pannier might be your best bet. You can get a front or back wheel pannier that attaches to your bike directly and save your back. When it comes to panniers, you are generally looking for similar things you would in a messenger bag, storage capacity, durability and material. The Timbuk2 Shift Pannier offers the same great features you would typically see in their products. It also has adjustable clips for mounting to your bike. It is smaller than other panniers, but this is an advantage as it makes it less obtrusive.