Hints & Tips

Ask the Expert: How Do I Make My Commuter Bag Lighter?

Our top tips for lightening your load!

My commuter bag is so heavy. Is there anything I can do to lighten it?

Commuting can sometimes be a struggle. We’ve all let a mild drizzle send us into a spiral of depression. We’ve all forgotten to charge our lights and have been forced to run for the bus. And we’ve definitely all picked up our backpack and winced.

I understand that some people will not be in a position where they have to carry all of these items, but many will be thrusting a laptop, lunchbox, towel, change of clothes, d-lock, multi-tool, puncture repair kit, raincoat, shampoo, hairbrush, make-up and a purse into their bag every morning. And that can get hard on your wits as well as your muscles.

There is nothing that can magically make your load disappear. But here’s a few things you could consider to make your life easier.

1. Do you really need to carry that laptop?

For many your job will demand you carry a laptop into work morning and night. And as someone who did that very thing for a number of years, I sympathise with you. I am sorry. Invest in a good mattress.

If, however, you think your laptop-carrying might be overkill, it could really be worth looking at cheap tablets that would enable you to get some work done at home without putting your back out in the process. Tesco’s Hudl 2 is £129.

2. Tools can make a difference

Many enthusiastic cyclists are obsessed with all things carbon. But for a daily commuter, carbon can be of benefit too. A few grams shaved off your essential tools can really make a difference to the overall weight of your backpack. You can get a very posh and expensive carbon multi tool from Lezyne (84g), or this super cheap Birzman Cicada Carbon Mini Tool 5 Functions Multi Tool (45g) for £17.50.

3. Go through all your stuff and slim it down

It’s easy to assume you’ve got as few items as possible in your bag, but you’d be surprised how a look through your make-up bag can reveal a never-used bottle of something or other. My big one is my purse – getting rid of all the receipts and doing an evaluation of the various cards I’m carrying around turns my purse from a lead weight into something as light as a feather.

4. Find a stash point

I leave an umbrella and jumper in my drawer to ensure I’ll be able to layer up at lunch without having to drag clothes into work. I also leave shampoo and body wash in a drawer in case I use the shower. But if you don’t have any storage areas available, see if there’s somewhere you could hide it. At my old job I’d leave products under the sink in the kitchen, where they remained safe and, most importantly, not in my bag.

I’ve also left a myriad of items under reception desks, and I even managed to wangle myself use of the cleaning cupboard once. People are usually sympathetic to the cyclist’s cause.

5. Is it your bag?

Sometimes people are carrying a totally acceptable amount, but they are doing so in a bag not designed for daily use on a bicycle. Have a look at gigantic, good quality backpacks (probably not a messenger if you’re concerned about comfort and weight) with wide, supportive straps. It can really make a difference. And remember, you can always consider panniers or a basket to see whether you prefer carrying items via the bike rather than your back.

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