All Your Options When Considering a New Bicycle Bag
If you’re looking for a bike pannier to strap to your cycle, there is no limit to the options available to you. One of the first things you’ll want to consider is whether you need a frequent means of storing your gear or whether you only plan to use the bicycle pannier on occasion. Knowing how you will use the bag and how much gear you have to stow is the first step to finding the right bag for your needs. We’ll look at the typical activities that cyclists take part in and give you a few tips on how that might affect which pannier is perfect for you.
Touring vs. Bikepacking
There are a couple of popular options when it comes to securing your gear to your favorite bike. There is no wrong or right answer here, the right option is going to be a personal decision that you need to make on your own. That said, bikepacking is a modern option where you pack up all your gear into a bag which is then attached to your handlebars and frame rather than being on a rack. Some people believe that this helps streamline your cycling while reducing the amount of weight on your bike. Those who go with bikepacking are often those who own mountain bikes with dual or front suspension. This is the type of bike appropriate for riding on challenging terrain, often in an off-road location.
Bike touring is the more traditional mode of carrying all your gear on a bike. It is most often used by those who spend their time cycling on pavement from one specific location to another. Touring usually involves the use of a rack which is placed over the front or rear wheels. A bike pannier, or pair of them, are placed on the rack to hold gear. Most gear for touring is built to offer distributed weight on your bike so you are comfortable and can efficiently travel around. It’s also typically simple to remove the equipment when you hop off your bike.
Panniers for Touring
Most of the high-quality panniers out there are going to be a touring style. They are often waterproof or water resistant, which makes them an excellent choice for going on lengthy rides in the snow and rain. You don’t have to stress about moisture getting into your bag and ruining the contents. These panniers are also built to be durable and can handle long or repeated trips like a dream.
If you decide to go with this type of pannier, you’ll want to pay attention to the quality of the mounting hardware, while also considering the weight of the bag itself. This means your pannier isn’t going to go anywhere while you cycle, but it also isn’t going to fatigue you. Many of these panniers have a rolled top and large capacity. However, they may not have shoulder straps or a bunch of pockets inside. This is the pannier you want if you are a serious cyclist who needs the best of the best but isn’t too worried about the little things.
Commuter Pannier Options
Panniers made for commuting are more of a utility storage item that is perfect for students, workers, and other individuals who use their bike to get from one place to another. This isn’t the right bag for a long-distance rider, but it does provide great ergonomics, higher comfort, and easier use than some of the other panniers out there. Most of these bags won’t be waterproof but many will at least offer some amount of water resistance.
You will also find that they are often the simplest to detach and reattach to your bike rack, since it’s expected you’ll be hopping on and off your bike on a regular basis. Those who plan to use the pannier as a pedestrian will also find these bags are the right option. The majority of them will have a comfortable shoulder strap that can be removed when not in use. You can also expect to find internal pockets that help you organize all of your belongings easily.
Delivery and Errand Panniers
There are panniers that fall somewhere short of a commuter pannier but that isn’t quite a touring pannier either. This type of bag is usually made to carry larger and heavier items from place to place. A delivery pannier will often be seen by someone who is heading to or from the grocery store or running a bunch of errands while cycling. That means these are going to be the largest panniers, often coupled with a square shape that makes it simple to travel with boxed items. As with the commuter panniers, you can expect to see that these bags have a detachable shoulder strap or handles so the bag can be carried around while errands are being run.
Backpack Style Panniers
This is the least common type of pannier, but it bears a short description. A backpack style pannier is similar to a commuter bag, but it has features that make it stand out from the pack. The most innovative thing about these panniers is that they offer both shoulder straps and mounting hardware. This makes it simple to go from walking to riding in moments. You’ll find the function and capacity of these panniers is similar to that of a commuter, but you can also wear them on your back whenever you like. Most of these bags have detachable straps that you need to put on when needed, but a few of them have stowaway straps. This pannier option is great for someone who spends just as much time on their bike as they do walking around without it.
Choice of Placement for a Pannier
A pannier is made to hang on the side of your bike by virtue of a rack built to hold it there. The three locations you will find for panniers include near the top of your front wheel, close to the rear wheel, or nearby the front wheel’s hub. The most common location for a pannier is the rear, although there seems to be no particular reason why this is the case. If you choose this location, you’ll want to be certain you own a bike with a substantial chainstay. This ensures that your pannier leaves heel clearance for you while staying above the contact point of the rear wheel. This is one of the reasons that you aren’t likely to see this location used by road racing bikes. With a light frame, the load in back can be precarious and the pannier may shift and move around, which is far from ideal. Those who do more touring will find this pannier can work well since the bike is heavier and has a longer chainstay.
Those who want even more capacity than a single pannier can offer may want to choose panniers that fit on the fork, as well. There are various rack choices here, some of which place the pannier near the wheel hub and others which hold them as high as your rear rack.
Most people who choose a front rack are those who are looking to carry some lightweight items on the rack top. It makes an ideal location for a sleeping mat or similar items. In most cases, high front panniers are going to be a bit smaller than the ones you’ll find for the rear location.
What to Know About Rack Construction
In most cases, the racks you find are going to be made of either aluminum tubing or steel in a tubing or rod composition. If you want a bargain, the steel rod racks are the least expensive. The problem is that they can be more flexible and flimsier than the alternative. Aluminum rod is a better option for most people and is still inexpensive and fairly light. However, moving into a higher bracket of price is where you’ll find the best quality racks for your bike.
Choosing aluminum or steel tubing will immediately add to the durability of your rack. It’s what you want, at minimum, if you plan to be carting around anything heavy. Both are a bit more expensive than rod racks, but the price is well worth it. If you spend a lot of time on your bike, it won’t take long to wear out a rack made of steel or aluminum rod.
There are also a few racks that are made of even more high-quality materials. If you want the best of the best, you’ll want to look at titanium racks. However, keep in mind that these racks can be fairly expensive, so they may not be in the cards for every cyclist out there. If that’s the case, sticking with tubing racks is a reasonable compromise.
Beyond the material of the rack, you also want to be sure that the rack you choose utilizes triangulation which helps it remain stiff laterally. As an example, a rack that looks like nothing more than a rectangle is going to be less durable than one with struts incorporates into it. Choosing tubing of a larger diameter can also add stiffness to your rack, just like it does for a bicycle.
Options for a Bicycle Without Eyelets
The best-case scenario is that you are going to have a bicycle that already has frame eyelets that makes it simple to bolt on a rack of your choice of pannier. Most bikes today do, but that doesn’t mean that your does. The good news is that you still have options even if you don’t have eyelets installed. There are a few manufacturers who offer racks which don’t need eyelets installed. Those who have eyelets for the mudguard, but not the seatstay, can also manage something by replacing the seat clamp for one that is made to hold rack attachments. There are also some racks that go over the seatpost, but this option should be reserved for those who only plan to have light loads.
Considering Protection Options of Panniers
There is a large variation in terms of how well a pannier protects the items that are inside of it. Thankfully, times have changed since the first panniers. Back then, most panniers had to be lined with thick bags made of plastic to prevent water from reaching biker’s gear. When it comes to waterproofing today, most of the major manufacturers do a good job. Ortlieb is considered the best by some as they include a roll top closure and welded seams for the ultimate protection from moisture. However, other companies are jumping in and innovating as well so finding something that works for you shouldn’t be difficult.
The Perfect Pannier Size for Your Specific Needs
As we mentioned earlier, bike panniers are useful because they carry weight for you, so you don’t have to ride around with a heavy backpack for miles at a time. But the truth is that not everyone needs the largest pannier out there. Some people might need only a tiny bag to hold a few parts, others might want something medium-sized to carry home your shopping. There’s no wrong answer, but we wanted to provide some insight into what size of pannier might be best for you based on what you do while cycling.
The Teeny Tiny Seatpacks
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t carry around a lot, getting a massive pannier might be more trouble than it is worth. With a small seatback style bag, you can store a spare inner tube and repair kit or other small items without having a pannier taking up a ton of space. Even the smallest of these devices will hold a few tools and larger ones may even accommodate mini pumps or other compact tools. One of the perks of a seatpack is that a saddle bag can usually fit in the same space. This will give you additional storage space if you need to store your lunch or a fresh shirt to change into later.
Rear or Front-Loading Luggage Racks
Those who need to carry a larger amount of gear will want to look into a rear rack for their bicycle. This will attach a traditional pannier with ease, as long as your bike has the necessary eyelets to do so. One thing to keep in mind is that racks may be hard to fit onto bikes that feature disc brakes. If that isn’t an option, going with a seatpost rack is the next best thing. A front rack can also be used and is common for touring. You can have both rear and front panniers if you have a need for substantial space and don’t mind paying for dual bags.
Side Loading Panniers
With a pannier bag, you secure your belongings in the bag which is hung off of a luggage rack. We’re already looked at the pros and cons of this type of storage, but it’s worth mentioning again that this is one of the most popular options for bike storage today. A single pannier is usually reasonable for the daily commuter, while two panniers is best for those who are going on longer trips with large amounts of items that need to be stored. The good news is that side-loading panniers can come in small, medium, and large sizes so they work well for any cyclist.
Small Handlebar Bags
A handlebar bag isn’t the same as a pannier, but it can be a great addition to one. These bags are often the best choice when you have items you need close to you for easy use. For instance, you can sock your phone, wallet, and sunscreen in the bag and grab it out any time you want. There’s no need to take a pannier off the bike and dig through a million pockets. Plus, these bags are easy to remove so you can walk around with them, as well. Some of them come with a shoulder strap which adds even more convenience to the equation.
Top-Loading Trunk Bags
A trunk bag is an alternative to the seatback. They are quite similar but offer a large amount of space to you while you ride. These bags are behind you while you ride so there isn’t an effect on aerodynamics. Your rack holds them, so you also aren’t forced to carry around a lot of weight while you ride. This type of bag often comes with bungees, so you can add additional items on top when you have a lot of move from one location to another. For those who favor versatility, look for a trunk bag that unzips to turn into a pannier for the best of both worlds.
You should be well equipped to choose the best possible bike pannier for your needs at this point. All 10 candidates in this article are durable, capable, and offer features that will be appreciated when you’re on the road pedaling. Some are more appropriate for commuters while others are best for touring riders, but there are options for everyone. Take a look and consider what sort of riding you do most often and you’ll be on your way to purchasing a pannier that will be your new riding buddy. Good luck!