Spinner vs. 2-wheel luggage

Is there any reason to get 2-wheel luggage anymore? Reader K asks….Briggs Riley transcend

I am in the market for a new rollaboard. I know what size I want, but I’m having a hard time deciding if I should get one with spinner wheels or 2 wheels. Is there a reason to choose one over the other? Thanks!

That’s a great question! Construction and warranty are important criteria for anyone, but other things—pockets, wheels—are up to individual preference. Most of the suitcases I use are 2-wheeled, but that is just coincidence rather than design.  I have some experience with spinner suitcases, and after consulting with others who use them exclusively I’ve put together this list.

Advantages for spinner wheels

  • Much easier to navigate airports
  • Less effort to maneuver, leading to less back pain
  • Easier to get into small spaces (ie airport bathrooms)

Disadvantages for spinner wheels

  • Harder to maneuver on carpet
  • Will roll away if on an incline
  • Not great for cobblestone walkways, and more difficult to use over bumps and curbs
  • Adds inches to bags, which makes it harder to fit into overhead bins
  • More vulnerable to breaking

Overall, it seems that for business travelers the advantages of spinner wheels (ease of maneuverability, less bag pain) outweigh the disadvantages, and most of the cons can be managed. For example, if your bag is on a slope, put it on its side so it doesn’t roll. Make sure when you’re looking at which bag to purchase that the wheels are included in the height given. Choose a high-quality brand with a great warranty in case of breakage. (If you plan to use the bag for personal travel (or where there may be lots of cobblestones) you may consider getting traditional 2-wheeled luggage.)

I currently use the Victorinox Werks 4.0 20” rollaboard with two wheels (which I love), but it is also available with spinners. Another highly rated option is the Briggs and Riley Transcend (pictured).

Readers, what are your thoughts on spinner vs. non-spinner wheels? What is your favorite rollaboard with spinners?

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  1. Spinners are horrible, and myself and my colleagues all use 2 wheeled. They are more durable, easier to manage when having your laptop bag hooked onto the top, and give more space to packing.

  2. I switched to large 2 wheel bags after having to walk in the snow a few times. Even a couple inches of slush or snow is a huge deal with the small spinner wheels. I would prefer spinners if I spent all my time at the airport. My advise is see what the flight crews used on average and buy that. Those folks are hard on bags so they know.

  3. I’m mostly afraid of the spinners when I see them on shuttle buses etc. Owners have no clue that they will roll, and eventually they will come shooting in my direction like a projectile. Spinners should come with a warning label 🙂 🙂

  4. Not being familiar with spinners, I am surprised that they can’t be used as 2 wheel if necessary. Though, I am also in awe that it took so long to put wheels on luggage and then for the progression to spinners. I think about that whenever I remember standing in the middle of the road with a purse, carry-on and large 20 year old suitcase that has 4 wheels and a broken leash.

  5. I have a hard sided case with spinner wheels and I mostly use it as a 2 wheeled bag both in and out of the airport. The only time I consistently use it as spinners is on people movers and up and down the aisle of the plane as I prefer to have the bag in front of me when I get to my seat to lift it in the overhead compartment. Interestingly enough I use this bag primarily as my business bag and. Two wheeled bag for personal travel mostly because my husband wouldn’t want to be caught dead wheeling a bright pink bag around ever. I have begun shopping for a newer business roll aboard because I don’t particularly care for the half and half packing style that the hardsided bags require. Most of the newer bags on the market are all spinner bags.

  6. Two wheels for me. No spinners!!! Ask any luggage store and you will hear that spinners are the ones that give them a lot of work. They break too much and people have to pay for fixing it.

  7. Good luck finding 2 wheels – almost everything is spinners. We just bought 2 and I hate them. They are really geared for occasional travel and not for business. Forget trying to put a laptop bag on one. They roll away when you don’t want them to and are like dragging a bag of cement on carpet. We’re only one trip out with them and I’m already looking to replace them. Live and learn.

  8. @newnomads: it depends on your budget. I got a Tumi carry on two months ago and it has 2 wheels and not spinners. You will rarely see business travelers using spinners so there is a niche where 2 wheels is still preferred. I also just bought new suitcases for my family since ours was over 10 years old and were in terrible shape after multiple travels and I found a good deal on Briggs&Riley 2 wheels in a model that is being discontinued. Hope they can survive another 10 years of family travel.

  9. I’ve been known to be a little impatient and for that reason put me in the spinner-hater camp.

    I associate spinner-users with amateur travelers, not road warriors. Spinner-users tend to walk with their bags beside them rather than to the rear of them. Because of how you have to pull them, they also tend to be walking more slowly than a two wheel user. As amateurs, many of them don’t have a clue as to where they’re going in the airport. So, what you have is a slow-walking person who is too wide to pass easily.

  10. While I don’t do any travel for business, spinners are fantastic for family travel when you have young children who can’t manage their own bags through the airport.

    Most recently, we took a trip where we had 3 spinner bags, 1 large 2 wheeled bag, an umbrella stroller, two car seats, a pack and play, another travel bed for our toddler, and then 4 personal items. I wore our youngest in a carrier and our oldest in able to walk through the airport himself. In getting into the airport, we stacked the car seats in the stroller with the pack and play on top of them, hung the other bed off the back of the stroller and each of us had our own personal items. My husband was able to take the two larger spinner bags in addition to the one 2 wheeled bag and I took the smaller spinner with the loaded stroller. If it weren’t for the spinners, there wouldn’t have been any possible way to get to check in without paying for a cart.

    We are also not just occasional travelers. In the two years that we have had our set of spinner luggage, it has probably been on 30-40 flights with us. Now I know it’s not as much as a business traveler would use but it’s far more than the occasional leisure traveler.

  11. I just bought our first set of spinners, and wondering if I will regret it. Not even packed, and I am realizing that they don’t push through the house as nicely as out 2-wheeled cases do. I usually push the 2-wheeled cases in front of me, since it is much easier to control whatever may be on top of it, and it does not wreck my shoulders. The spinners can be dragged in 2-wheel model and that is likely how they will get used, but I doubt that we will be able to push them in 2 wheel mode. And I have no intention of using them in 4-wheeled mode. The model at the store was bent on the bottom, and wobbled on the 4 wheels. At least they were cheap from Costco, and come with a 10 year warranty. I think I’ll keep the 2-wheeled cases for myself, and let my wife use the 4 wheeled ones until they break and we throw them away.

  12. As an airline employee who has worked in baggage for years, who travels extensively, and who scrutinizes people manage their bags, the only redeeming quality of a spinner bag is the speed it can roll on a marble floor between point A and point B. It is impossible to pull the bag, which is the easiest way to manage luggage. Adults & children struggle endlessly trying to pull luggage that can’t be pulled. The wheels protrude far more on spinner bags, which means the bags often do not fit in the overhead compartments, & they are much easier to damage.
    As someone mentioned, look at the flight crews: they all use 2 wheel bags.
    I don’t know how the manufacturers have managed to push spinner bags on the public, especially the hard shell bags, except that they do not survive air travel nearly as well as 2 wheel bags, and thus, must often be replaced.
    Stick with 2 wheels, although they are increasingly difficult to find. I am ordering a back up, as we speak, as I have s very real fear of being stuck with a dreaded spinner!

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