Guide to Bike Luggage - GO Outdoors
Whenever we go out on our bikes we'll be taking something with us - from a set of keys and a mobile phone to a week's worth of camping supplies. There are a great number of different products available to help you carry your things safely and comfortably while on the bike. Here's our guide to your options to help you decide!
- Jersey Pockets
- Saddle Bag
- Pannier Bags
While not an item of cycling luggage in their own right, the pockets found on cycling jerseys and other cycling clothes are a great option for carrying small essentials. Unlike the pockets on regular clothes, they are designed specifically with cycling in mind.
The pockets are placed in areas of the clothing where they interfere with your movement the least. The pockets on most jumpers or jackets, for example, are situated around the stomach. Storing things in these pockets can be uncomfortable while in a bent-over riding position. Heavier items tend to bounce around while suspended underneath you, potentially falling out of the pocket as well as being an annoying distraction. The pockets on cycling jerseys are on the lower back instead, out of the way and supported by your back to prevent contents bouncing around.
The pockets are secured with either zips or elastic hems to stop items falling out mid-ride. A cycling jersey has enough room for spare inner tubes, a minitool, keys, money, a phone, a packable waterproof and a mid-ride snack. Unlike the other luggage options, carrying items in jersey pockets means no extra weight from separate bags or racks. Another benefit of keeping all this on your person is that you can access it all mid-ride without even getting off your bike. Perfect for refuelling or quickly pulling on a waterproof if the weather turns.
Benefits of Jersey Pockets
Shop: Cycling Jerseys
- No extra weight
- Access your things while on the bike
- No extras to fit to the bike
Saddle bags are a neat solution to carrying a bit more on the bike. Tucked away beneath the saddle, these little bags are lightweight and have a minimal effect on aerodynamic performance. Saddle bags strap to the saddle rails, seatpost or often both for a safe, secure fit without any additional hardware. Many saddle bags are constructed from abrasion- and water-resistant material to keep your things safe. Reflective detailing and clips for bike lights are also common features.
Most people tend to use their saddle bag to carry tools or spares with them in case of an accident. These items tend to be a bit heavier and bulkier and can be uncomfortable to carry on the person in a jersey pocket. Saddle bags are, in fact, often teamed with jersey pockets to spread the load. You can keep the mid-ride essentials like food and clothing in your jersey pockets and everything else in the saddle bag.
One benefit of these bags is that you can fill them with an emergency repair kit and leave them on your bike all the time. It's something you should have with you every time you go out and the size and location of a saddle bag means that it never gets in the way. It's always there on your bike in case you need it and you'll never forget it.
Benefits of a Saddle Bag
Shop: Saddle Bags
- Small, lightweight and tucked away - extra carrying capacity with a low impact
- Protects contents from crashes and rainwater
- Perfect for emergency tools
f you're going on a longer ride and need to take more supplies, a cycling rucksack is a convenient option that is popular with mountain bikers. They're also great for commuting.
Cycling rucksacks have a slim profile to maintain full freedom of movement for your arms and upper body. A hip belt keeps the bag from swaying around uncomfortably over rough ground or while you're pedalling hard out of the saddle. The hip belt and shoulder straps often have small external pockets for quick access to small items like tools and snacks. They generally have reflective detailing and space for a bike light for extra safety in poor light.
One of the biggest benefits of a cycling rucksack is that many are now compatible with hydration packs so you can drink mid ride without stopping or reaching down grab a bottle from a frame-mounted bottle cage. Hydration packs are a particular benefit to mountain bikers who find that rough terrain can knock bottles out of bottle cages, forcing them to stop and pick them up. Dropped bottles can also cause accidents if they get caught in a wheel. A hydration pack allows you to safely carry water on your back instead.
Another benefit of a hydration pack is the sheer capacity you can carry. The biggest cycling hydration packs have a full three litre capacity. The very most that most bikes can carry on their frame is two 750mm bottles and many mountain bikes can't even carry that. A hydration pack allows you to go on much longer rides without refill stops.
Many mountain bikers also prefer carrying the weight of tools, spares, clothing and water on their person rather than on the frame. Extra frame-mounted weight can negatively affect the handling of the bike. Weight tightly and securely strapped to the rider's back is more easily controlled. There are also concerns that frame-mounted luggage is more easily damaged in crashes than a rucksac.
They're not just for mountain bikers, however. They're a great no-fuss way of carrying things to work. You don't need to fit anything extra to your bike - ideal if you use your bike for both work and pleasure. They're just the right size for a change of clothes so you can commute in cycling gear and keep your work clothes clean and fresh.
Benefits of a Cycling Rucksack
Shop: Cycling Rucksacks
- Extra space for long rides
- Access to a high-capacity hydration pack
- Keep weight off your bike for improved handling
- An easy option for the commute
Pannier bags are the only way to go if you've got a big load to carry. They attach to pannier racks, which themselves fit to your bike on special mounts. Some bikes come with pannier racks already fitted so all you need to do it clip on a bag and you're good to go.
Most pannier racks sit over the back wheel, attached to the bike near the rear wheel axle and rear brake bridge. Pannier bags then clip on either side. There are options for extra bags that sit on top of the rack, or you can leave it empty and simply strap extra cargo to the top. Some bikes also have fittings for racks either side of the front wheel which can hold bags as well.
The bags themselves have a firm back for structure with clips that securely hold onto the metal frame of the racks. Pannier bags are water resistant or waterproof and are constructed from tough materials to protect your things in the event of a crash. Many feature handy straps for carrying the bags by hand once you get to your destination and reflective detailing to help you stay seen in low light.
Pannier bags can carry more any cycling rucksack and there is no more comfortable way to carry a heavy load - after all, it's the bike carrying it, not you! Using rucksack might have benefits for off-road handling, but it is not ideal for touring holidays when you are riding for longer with a heavier load. Cycling is already tough on many people's backs; a heavy rucksack can just make things worse. Panniers have their benefits over rucksacks for commuters too: they'll help you stop getting as sweaty on the way to work by freeing up your back and letting the breeze keep you cool.
Not every bike has the correct mounts to accept pannier racks. Rack mounts are generally reserved for commuter bikes, city bikes or touring bikes. While it does limit their use to certain bikes, this is a good thing. Pannier bags introduce a significant amount of weight to the bike in places that weight would not normally be found. This extra weight has a sizeable effect on the handling of the bike and introduces new forces for the structure of the bike to withstand. Unless the bike is designed to cope with these changes, it will handle badly and could even break. A bike that is designed for the demands of fast-paced road racing is not necessarily capable of safely carrying several extra kilograms of weight over the rear wheel.
If you do have the correct mounts on your bike - or a rack already - that's a sign that pannier bags will be a superb addition. When fitted to the right bikes, pannier bags carry extra weight with such assurance and stability that the load will feel that much lighter.
Benefits of pannier bags
Shop: Pannier Bags
- Greatest weight and volume capacity
- Hardy construction to protect your things
- Let your bike carry the weight instead!
- Essential for touring, great for commuting
One traditional option for carrying small loads around town is a handlebar-mounted basket. It's a classic look and many town bikes just don't seem right without a basket hanging on the front.
It's also extremely practical. Nothing beats the convenience of being able to simply throw things in the basket and ride off. While they might not carry as much as a pannier bag, they certainly roomy enough for shopping, picnics, and bags.
Benefits of a bike basket
Shop: Bike Baskets
- Classic, elegant design
- Simple and easy to use