Messenger Bag vs Backpack vs Panniers For Cycling – Comparison From Cyclist’s Perspective

Cyclists often need to carry some burden when they go out for a tour. The longer the tour is, the more object will you need to carry with you. Carrying lots of stuff with you might be necessary from time to time, but it’ll definitely be very challenging. You won’t only be carrying extra weight, but the container in which you’re carrying them will also impact the performance of the bike.

There are three major types of bags that people carry while cycling. These are messenger bags, backpacks, and panniers. If you’re new to this, it’s okay to be confused about which one to pick for yourself.

In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the three packs so you understand which type will fit you the best. Let’s know more about the individual types first.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links in this post at no extra cost to you.

Messenger Bag

light brown canvas messenger bag for cycling

Messenger bags are asymmetrical bags that can be strapped to one of your shoulders. The bike messenger bags do offer some great benefits, a major one among them is that they can be accessed during riding even.

As these bags are slung across one shoulder, you can slide them towards your chest from the back and access the pockets when necessary. If you’re picking up and dropping things off continuously during your trip, you should definitely consider these. You won’t have to take the pain of unstrapping the bag every time you need to bring something out.

They allow you to carry a considerable amount of items, and they can be found in various sizes as well. These always come in a rectangular shape. So, if you’re carrying a laptop, documents, or other rectangular objects, then you’ll be able to fit them in nicely.

Another reason many people prefer using these is definitely the fashion choice. If you’re looking for the most fashionable and modern designs, you won’t find any options from panniers and backpacks. The messenger bags are definitely much better in this case.

However, there are certain drawbacks to these as well. If you plan on carrying them for a long time or a considerable amount of time over the years, then you’ll find overdeveloped muscles on the side where you carry them. This may lead to shoulder pain in the beginning as well.

Another thing about messenger bags is that they can lead to accidents if you’re inexperienced. There are incidents where an inexperienced rider accidentally hit another vehicle or a pole because they were accessing the bag while driving. However, this can easily be prevented if you’re cautious and experienced enough and learn how to wear the messenger bag when riding your bike.

Then again, messenger bags aren’t usually that big and they don’t allow you to carry a lot of things at once. Due to their compact nature, they won’t disrupt the basic performance of your bike. So, if storage capacity isn’t your prime concern, you should definitely go with these.


  • Easy to access
  • Doesn’t take much time to put on
  • Great for carrying documents, laptops, or any other rectangular object
  • Compact
  • Easy to carry


  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Low storage capacity
  • Can be distracting at times

Read more: Best Bike Messenger Bag Reviews & Buying Guide


male cyclist with bike commuter backpack sitting on the bicycle

If you don’t need a bag that can be accessed while riding or without unstrapping but you need a bit more storage, then you should definitely go with backpacks. Cycling backpacks offer tons of variety in terms of storage, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding the right size for yourself. Backpacks won’t be as stylish as messenger bags, but there are definitely premium picks that look and feel amazing. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger are known to make quality backpacks that stand out.

Another factor that makes backpacks a great choice over messenger bags is the even weight distribution. Unlike messenger bags, backpacks must be slung across both shoulders. So, you won’t end up with overdeveloped muscles on one side compared to the other in the long run.

So, if you’re already suffering from issues like back pain or shoulder pain, then you should definitely try using a backpack over a messenger bag. Another great advantage of backpacks is the hip strap. The hit strap allows you to distribute the weight across your shoulders, back, as well as pelvis. Thus, no specific point on your body will feel immense pressure, providing you a healthier experience over time.

However, if the backpack is too heavy, there’s still a chance to suffer from chronic pain over time, provided you’re exposed to this daily.

One major problem with backpacks is that they tend to make your back sweaty. However, certain backpacks come with specially crafted mesh fabric on the back. These backpacks provide a certain level of clearance for the moisture to dissipate. If you find using a regular backpack uncomfortable, you can try using these.

Although using a backpack won’t necessarily affect your biking experience, they can still do that if they are too heavy.

There are definitely certain disadvantages to backpacks. However, you can make things better for yourself if you purchase a quality backpack designed to be used while cycling.

Related reading: Best Bike Backpack Reviews & Buying Guide


  • Great weight distribution
  • Can allow the user to carry a lot of things at once
  • Doesn’t hamper the balance of the bike


  • It Will make your back sweaty if it isn’t made of mesh fabric
  • May suffer from chronic pain if a heavy bag is carried for a long time


Panniers are bags that can be strapped onto your bike. You can strap them above the front and rear wheel of your bike. In fact, you can strap up to four bags on either side of any wheel.

Panniers come in many size options but don’t offer many varieties in terms of looks. Then again, these are used more for their functionalities. Panniers are crafted to allow you to carry tons of things at once. You should carry these if you’re going on a long camping or cycling tour.

The best thing about panniers is that you won’t have to carry them on your shoulders or back, so there will be a lesser impact on your health. You’ll need to spend more energy, and we’ll get to that soon.

Even though these are very useful, they can affect the performance of your bike. If you’re carrying one pannier at the left back of your bike, then you’re increasing the weight of the bike at that portion. This creates an imbalance in the overall weight distribution and creates a feeling of discomfort.

However, if you’re carrying more than one pannier with you, you should be able to cancel the weight of each bag by placing them strategically. Even if you stick to carrying only one bag, you’ll eventually get used to the feeling. Plus, carrying panniers means you get to save both your shoulder and your back, so that’s a plus.

A lot of panniers are waterproof. We recommend getting these as they’ll keep your belongings dry and fresh.

Another great thing about panniers is that you can carry many extra things if you plan on taking them. Even if three panniers aren’t enough for you, you can always carry a messenger bag or a backpack for carrying the extra. If you need to carry certain things that you must use on the road, you can carry a small messenger bag.

As you can see, panniers offer tons of benefits, but these aren’t for everyone. You’ll benefit from them only if you’re planning on carrying many items with you.


  • Offers the highest storage capacity
  • Can be tied to your bicycle
  • It saves you from carrying the load on your back
  • It leaves room for carrying extra bags on your back
  • Waterproof


  • The extra weight makes biking harder
  • It will create uneven weight distribution if not used in pairs


Messenger bags, backpacks, and panniers, all are quite different from one another and serve the same purpose in different ways.

We recommend identifying your needs first. If you can identify your requirements and pick the type that meets those, nothing can go wrong!

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *