If you work at a computer desk then bike commuting is a very effective way to help you boost your mental capacity first thing in the morning. Cycling to work and home can be the highlights of your day. A desk job is just another reason to get into bike commuting. If you need to carry a laptop to work you may be concerned about carrying it to work safely.
Laptops are valuable not only for their price tag, but also for the information they carry. Most people who have one for work can’t do their job without them, which means that their laptop’s integrity is a major concern to them.
It’s quite easy to carry a portable computer on your bike and to make sure that it is properly protected along the way. These are the key elements to keep in mind:
Save your work and shut down your laptop before leaving
This is especially important if your computer uses HDD and not SSD. Hard disks are the computers most fragile parts, because they are made up of moving components. Although most laptops, especially those used in offices, use SSD instead of regular hard disks, there are still many computers with HDDs.
When you turn off your computer it parks the HDD head away from the disk, thus preventing it from accidentally hitting and damaging it. When the computer is only in sleep mode the disk head is not parked, and it can easily scratch the disk surface or bounce off.
Use a soft laptop sleeve for double protection.
A laptop sleeve will prevent your laptop from being scratched or banged against in your backpack or pannier. You don’t need to get a very fancy or expensive one. A simple neoprene sleeve will do the job just fine. Only your laptop should go in this case. Mouse, charging cable and everything else need to go separately.
Place the laptop to the most protected part of your backpack or pannier
The most protected part in a backpack is always the one nearest to you and in a pannier it’s always the one closest to the bike. This way you will prevent your computer from damages caused by accidental bumps and hits against other objects. Backpacks with dedicated laptop compartments always have the place reserved for the machine closest to your back.
Protect the screen
Computer screens are notoriously fragile and need to be guarded against pressure, especially against pressure on a small surface, which some of the objects you may be carrying in your bag can do. To offer your screen some extra protection, place the laptop in a way that the top of the notebook is facing towards your back in the backpack or toward your bike in the pannier, and the bottom of the computer is facing away from you or the bike. If the computer is pushed against inside your bag it won’t cause damage to the screen.
Keep it dry
Laptops don’t tolerate moisture and can easily break if they get in contact with water. If you’re bike commuter with a laptop, then a waterproof backpack or pannier is a must, even if you don’t live in a particularly wet country. You don’t ever want to be exposed to the risk of killing your work tool.
Backpack vs pannier for more security
Between backpack and panniers the more secure way of commuting with a laptop is a backpack. It sits in a position that can’t easily be hit against anything on the road (cars, poles etc). The downside of the backpack is that you have to carry the weight on your own body, which may or may not be much depending on the size of your computer and the amount of other things you have in it. It also causes you to sweat more on your back, which for some people (including me) is a deal breaker.
Panniers can also offer sufficient peace of mind. You don’t need to be constantly worried about your valuable work tool. If you opt for a pannier you will need to pay special attention when passing by cars, buildings, poles etc. Also, use your pannier’s security features. Don’t be lazy and just hook it onto your rack. On more than one occasion when I was careless and didn’t secure my pannier properly, it came flying off. On one occasion I even had my laptop in the pannier and it survived the fall without any problem.
If you follow these precautions you don’t need to worry about damaging your portable computer or losing any data on your bike commute. A little forethought goes a long way. Riding to work will help you be fresh and on top of your game for any computer related task you need to perform at your job.
Enjoy the ride!