We’re going to talk about bags on this post. There are literally hundreds of types of bags for carrying loads on your bicycle at price points from $20 all the way to $200 plus. A decent bag should be constructed with sturdy materials and strong stitching to last through more than one commuting season. The design of the bag is important to make sure it will stay put and provide access to its contents while keeping them out of the weather. The size or type of the bag will depend if you’re using it for camping, commuting, holding your wallet and keys, or just keeping a few tools at hand. I’ve asked Freewheel for some input as we take a look at some decent all-purpose bags that will work well for commuting but might come in handy on a light tour.
Bags that hang on your handlebars:
These are bags that can work on several handlebar types (like mustache bars) and hold smaller items (less than 5 liters, usually). They strap to your handlebars instead of to a rack. Freewheels’ Pick: The VO Bag
Baguette Bag, which also works as a saddlebag. It cost $34. However, it holds everything I need to take with me when I’m not hauling anything: tools, spare tubes, wallet, keys, cell. There’s even room leftover for small purchases. (Apparently you can also take all that out and carry a baguette around, but I haven’t tried that).
Tom’s Pick: My choice is the very similar Rivendell Brand V Bar Bag is a simple tube bag with velcro straps. The V is for Vegan since it contains no leather. The form factor is exactly the same as VO’s Baguette bag.
Acorn has three choices of sturdy made-in-the-USA bags for handlebarsA simple nylon bag like this one from REI will work fine for smaller items.
Bags for a front rack or decaleurs:For the drop-bar crowd the popular choices are the boxy bar bags, which mount best on decaleurs, which are bag mounts that are typically attached to a small front rack. Bikes that can handle a front load can holder larger porteur bags. Folders and touring bikes work well with low-mounted front panniers.
Tom’s Pick: The Pelican Porteur Bag from Swift Industries. You can custom order this colorful bag or even order it along with a rack.
Freewheel’s Pick: Ortleib panniers (see more under panniers below).
Other choices:Boxy bar bags constructed of canvas like those at VO and Rivendell.
Nylon quick-release bags like the Banjo Brothers and Rixen & Kaul bags. Alan from EcoVelo recommended the Rixen and Kaul bags to me for my folding bike.
A small bag maker from Philadelphia, PA, Laplander Bags, has started making a very rich-looking porteur bag on the high end of the price range.
Bags for your saddle:These bags are great for keeping on your bike with essential tools, etc. This is one type of bag you can find at your local bike store. You can get larger saddle bags (5-11 liter) but beware they may rub the backs of your legs when you pedal, if that kind of thing annoys you.
Freewheel’s Pick: His trusty VO Baguette Bag, which doubles as a saddle bag complete with a loop for your blinkie.
Tom’s Pick: Minnehaha’s medium saddle bag, made of black canvas. It looks good, holds 8 liters or so, and the prices is right. Banjo Brothers Barrel Bag is a good choice for a smaller bag.
There are hordes of cyclists out there who will use nothing but traditional touring bags from Carradice and Gilles Berthoud, so you probably can’t go wrong there. You can get less expensive Asian-made copies of these bags by Zimbale and Minnehaha. Origin8 makes traditionally styled bags out of nylon instead of canvas. If you’d like something handmade then take a look at the Towpath Duffle from Laplander. If wool tweed is more your style there plenty of choices over at Rivendell.
Panniers are really the superior way to carry loads down low on your rear rack. They also leave the top of the rack free for carrying children, pizza, firewood or the like.
Tom’s Pick: Dutch Double Saddle Bags like Clarijs, CleverChimp and Basil
These are large boxy bags (40L total capacity) that straddle your rear rack and made of waterproof tarp-type material. They generally live on your bag and sometimes have cutouts to slide a lock through for good measure. The boxy shape means that you’ll have heel-strike issues unless you have long chainstays, so these are not great for typical road bikes.
Freewheel’s Pick: Ortlieb. I’ve been using these for years to haul all kinds of stuff in all types of weather. I’ve carried laptops through downpours with no worries. They truly are waterproof, and virtually indestructible. They’ve survived my worst crashes and wipeouts. They are very easy to latch and unlatch to your racks. With four of these (2 front, 2 back), you’re in good shape for bike camping and touring.
Bushwacker, Jadd and Arkel all make heavy-duty nylon panniers in various colors and sizes.
Swift Industries makes very nice panniers at a reasonable price. The folks at Path Less Pedaled used these bags every day for a year if you need a recommendation.
What if you could have only one bag?So this is one of those silly bonus categories, but I had to throw it in. If you have one bag it has to do lots of things pretty well.
Freewheel’s Pick: Ortleib Panniers. They’re tough and keep your gear dry.
Tom’s Pick: Sackville SlickerSack. OK, OK, so this is an odd bag. It’s flat like a suitcase, but rounded enough not to catch a headwind. It can hold a laptop inside or a pizza or sleeping bag on top. It fits on porteur rack or Nitto Platrack. It also looks great and will probably last a long time.
Other types of Bags:We missed a couple types of bike bags like rack-top bags, basket bags, frame bags and bento bags. And there are plenty of bags that you can wear as well. If you have a favorite bag, please add it in the comments!
Photos: Provided by Manufacturer unless noted otherwise
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