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Bags

Whatever type of riding you do you should always carry at least enough equipment to fix a flat tyre and probably a basic multi-tool so you can make minor adjustments whilst on a ride.  Unless you want to carry these items in your pocket (not advisable as they can easily get lost or cause injury if you crash) you will need some kind of bag.

You might want a bag that has enough capacity to carry other essentials as well, like a rain top, mobile phone, money, packed lunch etc. If you’re commuting you might also want spare capacity to carry things to and from work.  And if you are planning a cycling tour you may require a combination of bags.

Bags come in many varieties (but check that you are able to fit them to your bike before purchasing any):

Saddle bags

As the name suggests, these attach to your saddle.  They come in a range of sizes from tiny, just big enough for an inner tube and a pair of tyre levers, to spacious 20+ litre capacity models.  They attach behind the rider, so do not effect aerodynamics overly, and above the back wheel so are not too detrimental to handling.

Features to look for:

  • waterproofing, especially if you have no mudguards.  The larger bags act as fairly good mudguards in themselves and some models have wipe clean plastic bottoms for this purpose.
  • easy access to contents
  • pockets for holding loose items
  • bungee net or straps to attached items to the outside of the bag
  • quick release detach – if you keep all your valuables in it you can carry it into shops/cafes etc.
  • reflective trim and an attachment loop for a light
  • carry handle on larger models


Handlebar bags

These attach to your handle bars.  They are very useful for carrying the things that you will need easily to hand, like food, rain cape etc, especially if you do not have nice big back pockets in your cycling jersey.  It is also a good place to keep a camera for quick access for those impromptu shots.  If you are going to do this try to get one with some padding inside (or add padding) otherwise it will get rattled around.

The downside of handlebar bags (and any bag on the front of the bike) is that steering is affected.  They can also interfere with other items that would normally attach to your handle bars, like computers and lights, and may restrict where you can rest your hands. 

Features to look out for are:

  • waterproofing
  • map/route viewer
  • quick release detach
  • side pockets to hold small items
  • interior dividers
  • interior organisation for papers/maps/routes, pens etc
  • reflective trim and attachment loop for light
  • carry handle


Rack bags

You will need to have a luggage rack fitted to accommodate one of these bags.  If you do not have frame fittings for a ‘proper’ rack, racks are available that attach to your seat post, providing you have a sufficient amount of seat post clear of the frame.

Features to look out for are:

  • waterproofing, especially if you have no mudguards (the bag will act as a mudguard once in place)
  • quick release detach
  • side pockets to hold small items
  • interior dividers
  • reflective trim and an attachment loop for a light
  • carry handle


Pannier bags

These are available for the front and the back of the bike.  Most commonly used are rear panniers which attach to a luggage rack.  In this case a seat post mounted rack will not suffice because it lacks the side framework to stop the bags interfering with the rear wheel. 

You would only need to fit front panniers if you are considering a serious touring/camping trip.  You will need to have a front luggage rack fitted to your bike to accommodate the bags. 

Pannier bags can affect handling quite dramatically.  To minimise this, ride with a pannier bag each side (front and/or rear) and try and distribute weight evenly between them.  Stow heavier items at the bottom of the bags to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.

Features to look out for are:

  • waterproofing
  • quick release detach
  • side pockets to hold small items
  • reflective trim
  • carry handle


Rucksacks

Rucksacks are very versatile but not ideal for cycling because all the weight is borne by your body causing aches and pains in neck, shoulder and back.  As well as additional fatigue, your back sweats profusely and the weight is up high, raising your centre of gravity so making bike handling more difficult.

The only benefits of using a rucksack are that they are easy to carry away from the bike, some can accommodate a bladder and drinking tube for one the move hydration and the additional weight on your body might help you to cycle up hills, if you stand on the pedals.

Features to look out for are:

  • waterproofing
  • additional waterproof and high visability rain cover
  • side pockets to hold small items
  • compression straps to aid stability
  • reflective trim and loop for attaching a light
  • air channels on the back panel to improve ventilation to your back
  • padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • chest and waist straps for stability
  • mesh pockets/bungee nets/cords for containing items on the outside of the bag
  • make sure it doesn’t interfere with your helmet when you are on the bike