How To Choose And Install A Bike Bag

If you want your stuff transported efficiently by bike, you’ll need the right bike bag(s) that meets your needs, like storage capacity, attachments, or what they’re used for. Check out these tips for choosing the right bike bag.

You will find in this advice sheet a simple guide to choosing bicycle panniers according to the desired use, then examples with photos of the different possibilities for installing a pannier on a bicycle. In the third section, you will find a description of the pannier profiles. The last section answers some common questions about bike panniers.

1- Complete Guide On Choosing A Bicycle Pannier

If you’re in a bit of a hurry, here’s a short guide to the main criteria for choosing a bike bag according to your cycling practice. Here we present the critical characteristics to consider when selecting a model of bicycle bag for going to work, instead of shopping or carrying some things around town, for day rides, and for longer rides, cycling, and cycle touring.

How To Choose And Install A Bike Bag To Go To Work?

The ideal bike bag for going to work by bike is compact, equipped with a padded compartment for the computer, resistant, waterproof, and easy to clip. The three main criteria for choosing the right bike bag for work are, therefore:

  • Able to carry a small volume of often essential and sometimes fragile things. For example, the bike bag must be able to carry a laptop, some files, a “bowl” for your lunch, and a small windbreaker for the return at the end of the day.
  • Resistant and waterproof, because your bike bag for work is used every day, in all conditions
  • Provided with a solid attachment and easy to clip and unclip to be taken to the office.

We recommend, for urban use, a relatively compact bicycle bag. So your bike and its work bag can fit everywhere, between parked cars and in bike rooms.

For bike-to-work, don’t forget to consider the look of your bike pannier, primarily if you work in an office environment. A brightly colored sports bag gives a less professional look than a lovely urban satchel! Many people start commuting by simply using a good old backpack. It is often an economical choice if you already own this bag. However, the classic pack has some disadvantages compared to panniers: risk of back sweat, possible neck discomfort, and tendency to slip from side to side, especially if it is too loaded. If you want to use a bike bag rather than a bag for commuting, prefer the messenger bag or a backpack designed for cycling.

How To Choose A Bike Bag For Shopping In Town?

If you instead want to use your bike bag mainly to carry your shopping, the first question is how often you plan to take the bike for shopping.

For occasional use (once a week or less) of your bike for shopping, the main criteria for choosing your bike bag will be:

  • Weight: a lightweight bag will allow you to carry more gear without slowing you down
  • wide opening to easily slip in your purchases or your personal effects.
  • solid attachment system to leave the pannier on the bike at all times, preferably with a small anti-theft cable designed for bicycle panniers. Or on the contrary, a method of attachment is easy to unclip on a bag with a shoulder strap for transport. Instead, we recommend a bag that stays on the bike, so you don’t have to carry the bike bag in your hand while shopping.

The same criteria apply for frequent use (several times a week) of your bike for shopping. Still, you will prefer a more resistant and waterproof bag to use in all weathers, sometimes compromising on weight. 

If you only want to transport your groceries on your bike, bicycle baskets can be a good option. Either a basket on the front or the back of the bike, in which you can put your shopping bag directly (reusable, of course) or a shopping basket with wheels that attaches directly to the back of the bike. This last option is efficient if you cycle slowly over short distances. 

How To Choose A Bicycle Bag For A Hike?

The first question to ask yourself to choose a bike bag for a ride is quite simple: what is my type of cycling practice for this short ride?

The handlebar bag is an excellent choice for a simple leisure ride for the day or the week, as a couple, or with the family, for example, on a pretty, well-marked greenway. The handlebar bag allows you to keep your personal belongings close at hand, it does not require a luggage rack, and you can store a phone, rain gear, and a snack in it.

If your bike is equipped with a luggage rack, panniers are designed for short rides: they are most often installed on top of the rear luggage rack for easier access. 

For a sportier ride of a few hours on a road bike or an all-terrain bike, the saddle bag is often the favorite of cyclists. The saddle bag does not unbalance the bike; it is installed on the saddle rails without luggage racks. They come in several sizes, depending on the volume you want to carry: from a small minimalist repair kit to clothing against the rain.

For an outing on a mountain bike or forest paths, we advise you to go for bike packing bags: although they are sometimes less easy to open than classic handlebar bags, they are waterproof and designed to hug the bike’s frame closely as possible. Close for improved pedaling efficiency.

How To Choose The Right Panniers For Cycle Touring?

A cycling trip lasting several days on a cycle route such as the Loire à Vélo or a cycle touring expedition abroad requires a little more preparation.

Plan to do a lot of cycles touring. The reputation of the brand of bike bags can be an essential criterion, especially to have spare parts in case of breakage. OrtliebVaude, Apidura, or Restrap bike bags will follow you on your bike journeys.

You can also think about renting during your next adventure; it’s economical and ecological since the product will have several lives.

2- The Different Installation Positions Of A Bike Bag

Handlebar Bags

The handlebar bag is practical for storing small valuable pieces of equipment during the day. You can quickly access your belongings. The handlebar bag with shoulder strap can be carried on your person, which is practical if you leave the bike unattended for a few minutes:

  • The handlebar bag holds the leading equipment for a bike ride for cyclists: a camera, maps, etc.
  • For the urban cyclist, a handlebar bag allows for more monitoring of things.

To be well maintained on the bike, handlebar bags are generally offered with their mounting bracket. The second support can help install a pannier on two bikes (the support remains mounted on the handlebars permanently). In addition, some models are equipped with a transparent plastic pocket to insert a road map or a GPS/telephone.


The Bags On The Luggage Rack

Equipping panniers on luggage racks is the solution most used, especially for cyclists. Thus, we can transport travel equipment in large quantities. For urban cyclists, panniers on luggage racks can also carry substantial loads: work items or food shopping.

Advice: with panniers on the rear luggage rack, the bike will be more stressed, especially at the level of the rear wheel (which already supports the cyclist’s weight).

You can install a bag on a luggage rack in two different ways:

A. On the sides of the luggage rack (side bags)

The single front or rear bags are fixed to the side sides of the luggage rack. These are the most classic bicycle bags.

There are also double bicycle and triple panniers installed on either side of the rear luggage rack and fixed on top of it.

B. On the luggage rack plate

It means that it is the top of the rear luggage rack that the bag will use. When the bag is flexible, it is called a “panel bag on a platform” or “a bag on a platform”; when the bag is a rigid box, it is instead called a ” top case. “


Saddle, Stem, And Frame Bags

This bag allows you to store the small essential equipment: tire levers, inner tubes, patches, first aid kits, snacks, etc. These panniers are generally used for mountain biking and cycle touring if additional storage is needed. As with a handlebar bag, the advantage is to access things quickly.

A. Saddlebags

  • Classic bag on saddle rail: it uses a specific fixing by clips that the bag comes to cling to the rails of the saddle. This system, particular to each bag, is quick and easy to use.
  • Classic saddlebag on seat post: a seat post attachment has no more advantages or disadvantages than a rail attachment. The choice depends above all on the compatibility of the binding on the bike.
  • Minimalist saddle bag: This bag will allow you to insert one spare inner tube and a tire lever, for example. As its name suggests, its attachment is fundamental (with Velcro fasteners, for example). 
  • Expandable saddle bag: it differs from other bicycle bags by its oval shape and expandable compartments by zipper. You can slip in a rain jacket, food supplements, and puncture-proof equipment.

B. Frame bags

  • Bag on the horizontal bar: conveniently, this bag is fixed on the flat bar of the frame by Velcro strips. It is necessary to check that this bag is not too wide so as not to have friction with the thighs and to avoid pedaling “duck.” The latter makes it possible to optimize storage on the bike.
  • Storage container: here is an effective means of storage for your small equipment. Perfectly airtight, the storage container can hold keys, an inner tube, or a mobile phone. It is fixed in a bottle cage, previously installed on the bike’s frame.

Small tip: if the container is not filled, add bubble wrap or another soft element. It avoids the noise of objects when riding on bad pavement.

Shoulder Bags And Backpacks

A. Shoulder Bags

Bags with handles allow you to carry your belongings comfortably once you get off the bike. On the shoulder or by hand, you can move around with your bag without having the impression of carrying a suitcase. Shoulder bags can be installed on the luggage rack of the bicycle or the handlebars, depending on the model.

We recommend the Hapo-G computer shoulder bag for urban cyclists’ recycled canvas look and its opening and easy fastening system. The Thule Pack’s Pedal Commuter bike bag with shoulder strap is also suitable for cyclists and can accommodate a 15-inch laptop; cyclists recommend the Ultima KlickFix shoulder bag for all its compartments, its large capacity, its card holder, and its pocket for smartphone and GPS.

B. Backpack bags

Using a carrying system, you can transform the bags into a backpack. It takes up little space during the bike ride and is applicable when you end your hike with walking. The Ortlieb carrying system makes it possible to transport bicycle panniers.

This system is included in the convertible Ortlieb Vario backpack, which is installed on both the rear rack of the bike and on the back of the cyclist.

A similar system is found on the Basil Miles Daypack convertible bike bag. Shoulder straps and a shoulder strap are provided to carry this bag as a backpack or on the shoulder.

Otherwise, you can equip yourself with a backpack for cyclists. Warning: if you carry a backpack during the bike trip, it is strongly recommended to have a small capacity, exceptionally light equipment. For example, the Velocity cyclist’s backpack makes transporting your belongings by bike comfortable: padded and adjustable shoulder straps, reinforcements at the back, elastic waist strap.

Other tricks make it possible to combine carrying a backpack and a bicycle. For example, the FreePack Sport Klick Fix backpack can be attached to the stem or the handlebars using a specific KlickFix attachment.

Finally, if you want to keep your classic backpack, you can use a suitcase holder on a bicycle luggage rack. Very wide, this support holds the backpack with an adjustable strap.

3- The Different Profiles Of Bicycle Bags

Urban Bike Bags

Generally speaking, city bike panniers have the main, convenient features detailed below. In addition, there are very modern and innovative models in terms of their look and functionality.

A. Ease of access to belongings

The opening and closing of urban panniers allow quick access to shopping or belongings, and sometimes with a single gesture. Other systems for space and closing the bags exist to access your belongings quickly. For example, the 46 Liter Beck panniers are equipped with clips on a pouch.

B. A practical mounting system on the bike

The other advantage of an urban bike bag is its ability to quickly attach to the bike or, on the contrary, the possibility of remaining securely on the bike. Additional straps often reinforce the attachment, such as the Wanderlust Basil double pannier, or there is space for a safety cable.

C. Carrying what you need

An urban cyclist can use a single bag to carry your essentials: a laptop computer, a handbag, and documents. Having a single bag does not unbalance the bike.

The urban cyclist can opt for a double pannier on the rear luggage rack, especially for running errands in town. The latter offers more space and optimizes storage.

D. Saddlebags with a contemporary look Generally, urban saddlebags have a modern design that adapts perfectly to transport in town. Whether patterned or plain, all have a unique look.

Panniers For Cycle Touring

Panniers for cycle touring have many qualities to make hiking or cycling trips comfortable and practical. Here are the advantages:

A. Large loading capacity

Hiking and cycling require a much larger load. If you equip yourself with front, rear, and handlebar bags, you can carry up to 70 liters of equipment on average.

  • The front panniers: must be mounted lower than the rear panniers to improve the bike’s stability. 
  • The rear panniers are more significant, to put bulky but not too heavy equipment.  
  • The triple bag consists of two side compartments and an upper part fixed on the plate of the rear luggage rack. This third element can be transformed into a backpack depending on the model.

B. Waterproofing

When cycling, having waterproof panniers is essential to protect your belongings effectively. The most resistant bags are those made of polyester coated with polyurethane or PVC (like a truck tarp). Saddlebags made of softer fabrics such as Cordura or nylon are just as waterproof and more practical to use (because they are less rigid than PVC saddlebags).

C. A stable fastening system Things

It must be well maintained on the bike. For safe transport of belongings, you must:

  • The back of the saddlebags should be equipped with reinforcement to counter the damage caused by repeated friction with the luggage rack. An outer plate thus protects the fabric of the bag. A little tip: for more protection, wrap your luggage rack in thick Scotch tape or an inner tube to limit the impact of friction.
  • That the bag is equipped with a practical and stable fixing, and a quality fixing system locks around the tubes of the luggage rack, so the bags cannot come off in the event of jolts.

The fixing system is generally completed with a self-locking hook (called lower tooth or shark tooth) at the bottom of the panniers: it is a tab positioned on the rail of the pannier, which passes behind the tubes of the luggage rack to avoid panniers swinging

To hang this bag style on the luggage rack, always put the top hooks first, then the bottom self-locking hook last. To remove the bag from the luggage rack, the operation is reversed.

D. Different closures for accessing belongings

There are 3 types of closure for travel bags: flap, roll-up, and drawstring. It is advisable to choose a model that mixes several closures to protect your belongings further: flap and roll-up bags, flap and drawstring bags, or roll-up and drawstring bags.

  • By roll-up: the roll-up closure is generally accompanied by a self-gripping band to ensure the excellent maintenance of the belongings. This closure makes it possible to adapt the volume to the content simply and effectively. On the other hand, handling can be a little more complicated if the bag’s canvas is of the truck tarpaulin type.
  • With flap: panniers with flap closures allow you to slip a garment underneath that you can retrieve quickly. Some have pockets to make it more convenient to carry things. Note that flap bags are a little heavier than roll-up ones.
  • With drawstring: the panniers with drawstrings guarantee additional protection. The drawstring is generally more potent than a zipper.

4 – Frequently Asked Questions About Bike Bags

What Is The Average Volume Of A Bicycle Bag?

Here is the approximate capacity corresponding to each type of bag:

  • The loading capacity of a post and frame saddle bag varies between 0.5 and 6 liters.
  • The volume of a handlebar bag is, on average equal to 6 liters.
  • A pair of front panniers can typically carry 25 liters of gear.
  • A couple of rear panniers have a cargo capacity of approximately 40 liters.

Which Bag To Choose According To Which Load?

Choose your bag according to the equipment transported!

Minimal load: tools, inner tube, a snack, camera. Choose handlebar bags, saddle, or frame bags to access your small equipment quickly.

Small load: carry a handbag and a few belongings. Opt for a pannier bag (single or double) with a capacity of around 15-20 liters, a handlebar bag on rails, or a reasonably bulky Seatpost.

Medium load: food shopping or bulky items. Choose a double bag on the luggage rack of about 20-40 liters, and add a handlebar bag with a shoulder strap to carry your personal belongings everywhere, such as a wallet, keys, telephone, etc.

Large load: business travel or extensive shopping. Equip your bike with a double rear pannier of approximately 40-50 liters, a double front pannier of roughly 25 liters, or a triple pannier for long cycling trips. Optimize storage on your bike by adding a handlebar and frame bag. And for the heaviest cyclists, opt for a backpack (containing only light items).

Huge load: to transport very bulky packages such as on a utility bike, there are large double rear panniers or a system that allows boxes to be transported on the rear luggage rack: the bakkie convertible bike bag.

In Which Cases Should You Equip Yourself With A Waterproof Bag?

All the bags are more or less waterproof to protect your belongings against the weather. We recognize a perfectly waterproof bag thanks to the welded seams and the composition ( polyester canvas, PVC coating, or tarpaulin, for example).

The waterproof bag is handy in the following cases:

  • Hikes or bike trips.
  • Camping or camping (you can leave them outside the tent if it is too small).
  • Picnic (you can put them on the wet grass without any problem).

How Do I Know If The Pannier Is Compatible With The Bike?

To ensure that your bag will be compatible with your bike, we advise you before any purchase of:

  1. Measure the tube where the bag will be installed: racks, frame, handlebars, rail, Seatpost, etc.
  2. Check the dimensions of the saddlebag attachment system, which must correspond to the tube
  3. Check the dimensions of the bag itself: for example, the width of the handlebar bag compared to the other accessories already installed on it

Why Choose Saddlebags Over Trailers?

Trailer or bike bag? Equipping yourself with bicycle panniers is the most common method used for transporting equipment while traveling. There are many advantages compared to a bicycle trailer:

  • Panniers are more compact and lightweight
  • Several storage spaces make it easier to find the equipment
  • They are a bit cheaper
  • There is no lengthening of the convoy, which is more practical when you are riding with several people
  • Panniers are easier to carry on the train
  • Ability to carry things by hand 

How To Repair A Bag?

Bike panniers wear out over time. Any hole can be repaired with a kit. For example, the repair kit can improve Vaude bike bags and panniers, which include several PVC-free patches in different shapes and sizes and special glue.

Suppose it is instead the attachment system of the bag that has been damaged. In that case, spare parts are often available from recognized brands.


Marcelline is a writer and covers several categories thanks to her multidisciplinary expertise.

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