Look, I’m the first person to deride cars for the soulless metal prisons that they are, but you have to hand it to them in one area – cargo capacity.

I know, I know, the whole point of a bike is to be light, fast, and free, but most of us have at least a few possessions that we need to lug along with us – lunch, a laptop, maybe some tools to torque your Harley’s bolts every 50 miles. You know, essential stuff.

Panniers and saddlebags can do a great job for those biking vacations, but they are a pain in commuter traffic. Which is why the humble backpack has been a favorite of bikers for ages. Companies have noticed, and now you can get backpacks specially made for use with motorcycles. Which means you no longer have to endure strange looks from moms in the school supplies department of your local store.

I’ve had a look at some of the best and most popular motorcycle and powersport backpacks here. So hopefully you won’t have to worry about your spare underwear flying into some poor soul’s window at 100 miles per hour.

Best Backpack Overall – Ogio No Drag Mach 5 Stealth

Do you feel the need? The need for speed? Well, Ogio is offering a little more of it with the “No Drag” backpack. As a backpack this is actually a very nice-looking product. The main gimmick is how aerodynamic it supposedly is, but the curves actually make it look really attractive too. This is the “stealth” model which is all black and carbon-fiber finish. There’s also a high visibility version in yellow.

Obviously the aerodynamic part of the product will most appeal to people who ride sport bikes that put them in a riding position that actually exposes the backpack to the airstream, but even for those of us who ride dual-purpose or other upright position motorcycles there’s much to like about the Mach 5.

The bag has a degree of “weather resistance” which should get you through the sort of light rain that you could find yourself riding in. Heavy rain is best left to abate while you’re in a coffee shop, unless you are Charley Boorman or Ewan McGregor tooling around the globe on BMWs. In that case you’d use aluminum panniers anyway, so it’s a moot point, in my opinion.

There’s enough space for the typical 15” laptop and even a dedicated tablet computer compartment; all with protective padding. The pockets for smartphones and other similar devices are fleece-lined so you won’t have any issues with scratches, unless you decide to chuck some keys in there for some reason.

OK, get ready for this because there’s actually more. There are dedicated spaces for your visors and shoes, a helmet carry strap, a hip belt, an expandable main compartment, and a space ready for a hydration pack. There are also a lot of ergonomic concessions such as a padded back panel and straps. To top it off, the piping is reflective so there’s some added safety as well.

I’m having a hard time thinking of reasons I would NOT want to buy this bag. I mean, it isn’t perfect – there are some minor quality complaints – but none that would put me off it. At about $170 this is great value for money. Definitely what I would buy for myself the next time I need a biking backpack.

Best Mid-Budget Backpack – Joe Rocket Blaster Max

I have to be honest, in general I have been less than impressed with the stuff that Joe Rocket makes. I always read complaints about the quality or design. Not everything is bad, though, and it seems the brand is improving over time, if people’s impressions are anything to go by.

This bag is not cheap, for one thing. It’s over a hundred bucks, which puts it into the mid-range, if you ask me. It has an abundance of pockets and zippers and lots of other things I can’t really list. It’s made from Dobby which, for those that don’t know, has to do with the texture of the weave and not anything about Harry Potter.

There’s a separate helmet bag that attaches to and hangs off the bag, and pockets for things like phones; with a media port in case you, for some reason, are not using Bluetooth and want to run a cable from your backpack. Safety-wise, they have some proper 3M reflective material on the straps and front of the bag, so you should be clearly visible at night.

There aren’t any quality concerns that I’ve seen, and the bag seems set up for just about anything you are likely to carry on a bike, which makes it very hard to say no. It even looks pretty good, although all the practical pockets and stuff make it much less sexy than, for example, the Mach 5.

If you want something really useful at a good level of durability, but don’t want to spend $200, I think the Joe Rocket Blaster Max is the way to go.

Best Budget Choice – Seibertron 37L Backpack

I have to wonder whether Seibertron’s choice of name is only coincidentally a phonetic match for “Cybertron”, the homeworld of every 80s kid’s favorite Transformers robots. I mean, I would eat up a licensed Transformers bike backpack, but that’s just because I’m also a huge nerd.

Anyway, weirdly coincidental (yeah right) name aside, this backpack has a label on the back that says “tactical”, which matches my first impression of it as being something a SWAT dude would wear. If they did indeed, you know, wear backpacks. You can make it even more military-looking by opting for the khaki version, if that’s your thing. Generally, I like its look and it is really cheap. The little American flag at the top left corner may not be to everyone’s taste, but apparently it is only attached with Velcro, so you can remove it if it isn’t your style.

This backpack is made from 900D polyester, which is primarily known for being waterproof, thanks to the heavy fabric weight. So if you foresee yourself doing any regular riding in the wet stuff, then that’s definitely something to consider.

37 liters is a pretty decent capacity too. Really, I can’t believe they’re selling this bag for only about fifty bucks. Optimus Prime would be proud.

Shoei Backpack 2.0

Shoei sure didn’t pull any punches naming this backpack. It’s literally just “Backpack 2.0”. Can you imagine if someone like BMW had the audacity to name their newest car “Car 2.0”?

Anyway, this backpack is pretty well-priced at about $100. It has specially-padded compartments to keep your electronics “safe from impact”, although I honestly wouldn’t expect my laptop or tablet to survive a serious fall in any case. It is a nice thought, though.

It helps if you also have a Shoei helmet, as some of the compartments have been specifically sized for Shoei components. For example, there’s a compartment for spare shields, in case you need to swap between tinted and clear ones, that will work with “most” Shoei helmets. Still, I suspect helmets of all brands have shields that are not too dissimilar in their sizes, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this. The pack has padded straps and a three-point buckle, and flap systems that will hold your Shoei helmet while walking around. I can’t tell, however, why this would only work with Shoei helmets, other than blatant marketing reasons.

The bag looks, well, average. It’s priced well and is made by a reputable company. I think you could probably do much worse for the money.

TMS Aluminum Armor

OK, so I’ve seen a few products from TMS company – mostly helmets. They tend to be very cheap products, but not actual junk. This aluminum armor backpack is really, really cheap. Like, lunch with a friend at McDonald’s cheap. It seems OK at first glance and most people are happy with what they got for the price, but I doubt that metal plate is for anything other than show, and there are complaints about lightweight material and zippers. Maybe not the best choice unless you really are only able to spend this much.

Viking Moto Backpack

Another day, another pack for a fifty. I’ve never heard of Viking, and looking at this pack I have to say that at first sight I’m not particularly impressed. Besides, I have some distant Viking ancestry and somehow I don’t think those particular forefathers would like the look of this sad-looking backpack.

It’s got some of the things that I’ve come to expect of bike bags though, like a helmet hood and a compartment designed to accommodate a 15” laptop. The Moto is made from heavy duty Cordura, which is a actually a very hardy material. There’s reflective piping and adjustable shoulder and sternum straps. All in all, if you can live with the looks, this is a decent bag for the price.

Alpinestars Segment

This backpack from Alpinestars isn’t specifically for biking, but for “power sports” in general, so the first thing I noticed was a lack of helmet hood or holder. It may have one, but I don’t see it in the feature list. This bag looks pretty good and it is one of the less expensive Alpinestars backpacks I’ve seen.

This bag is notable for having a big main compartment and a top-loading design. 25 liters of volume is not the largest bag on this page, but it is still pretty capacious. There is also a separate compartment for a laptop, to stop it from knocking around with the rest of your stuff in the bag.

The bag is made of ballistic nylon, which is what WWII flak jackets were made of. Although, I guess the worst most of us have to worry about is the odd bit of rain or gravel. Still, it’s obviously a durable material. There’s ample padding in the shoulders and back panels and there’s an optional sternum strap for that extra bit of security.

So it’s a reasonably-sized backpack, easy on the eye, made of good materials, and backed by a decent brand. At less than 80 bucks I’d say that’s a winner.

AXO Red Commuter Backpack

There’s cheap and then there’s a backpack for twenty five bucks. The AXO has the distinction of being the cheapest backpack I could find. It looks, well, cheap. Like a high school kid’s gym bag. There’s enough space inside to stow a helmet, although this probably leaves no space for anything else, as far as I can tell.

Nonetheless, despite a lack of internal spacers, apparently sticky zippers, and no solid inserts to retain the shape of the bag, the AXO seems to be a decent-quality product. It is so cheap on face that you can probably take a chance on buying it and not lose out on much more than the cost of some burgers.

Packing Your Bags

For the most part, these are some really nice backpacks. It’s a big change from a few years ago when bikers were not really catered to properly in this area. I rode around with a 45L outdoor camping bag for years, simply because it was big enough to accommodate my helmet.

It’s great to see so many decent products that make life as a biker just that much easier. Luggage solutions like these mean less agonizing over practicality versus freedom and fun, which is always a great thing in my book.