Beyond racing your road bike and tearing trails on your MTB, there are a whole host of other uses for the humble bicycle whether that be cycling to and from work or taking on a long distance touring adventure.
While a rucksack might get you through the odd two-wheeled trip when you need to carry things with you, it's always better to let your bike take the load. Not only will you be much more comfortable with less strain on your back and shoulders, but you can also carry much, much more! And you're not limited to just trusty panniers and an old touring bike if you want to travel with kit (although these are often the best way to do it) - the latest bike luggage doesn't always require mounts, and with a huge array of options available there's certain to be something to suit your needs.
Here's your guide to bike luggage and how to find the best bike bags for you!
Best for: Carrying small loads, like a few essential spares.
If you just need to carry a few essentials, and don't fancy squeezing them into a jersey pocket, then a saddlebag should do the job perfectly! Attached to the saddle rails and/or the seatpost, saddlebags tuck neatly out of the way under your saddle while even the smallest bags have space for a multi-tool, repair kit and spare inner tube. Available in a range of sizes, you can find room for even more luggage in larger sizes, like spare food or a rain cape.
Ortlieb Saddle Bag Two 1.6L
Fits all your cycling essentials in, perfect for a day out on the bike.
- 100% waterproof roll closure
- 5-year warranty
- 1.6 litre capacity and 220g weight
- RRP: £36.99
Best for: Carrying bigger loads, or packing for short trips.
Want to carry big loads of your bike? Get some panniers! Attaching bags to your bike rather than carrying a backpack, you can evenly distribute the weight of your luggage better and carry far more stuff. Ideal on a commuter bike, panniers will enable you to carry as much as you'd likely need to and from work.
To attach panniers to your bike you'll need a rear rack which attaches to your bike, so you'll need to make sure that your bike has the necessary mounting points to fit it beforehand. Once fitted, most panniers have a simple quick-release clip so you carry them with you when you're off the bike, and easily re-attached them when it's time to get pedalling again.
Best for: When you need even more storage and rear panniers alone aren't enough!
While rear panniers will handle most of your transport needs, if you plan to travel beyond the usual commute - on a touring holiday, for instance - chances are that you'll need more space. Just add another rack at the front, and you can as good as double your capacity with some front panniers.
Best for: Adding a little extra space when you have a rack, or supplementing rear panniers.
Once you've mounted a rack to your bike you can always opt for a trunk bag. Sitting atop a rack, trunk bags aren't usually as cavernous as panniers, but will provide much more space than a saddlebag and because their weight is supported by the rack you can carry much more weight. Many trunk bags will also bungees on the top so you can stuff in any extra items you might need.
Best for: Keeping essentials close at hand with no fuss removal.
Alongside panniers, handlebar bags are certainly one of the more traditional methods of carrying luggage by bike, and they're particularly useful if you want to keep essentials like food, sun cream, maps, phones, or cameras close at hand. Easily attaching to your bars, handlebar bags unclip with no fuss so you can carry them with you if you need - many even come with a shoulder strap for just this reason. If you plan on loading up your drop bar bike, just be sure to check the dimensions so that the bag will fit between the drops.
Best for: Adventures, and for bikes without racks.
Growing in popularity in the last few years thanks to ultra-endurance events like the Transcontinental Race but originally stemming from off-road bicycle touring, bikepacking places slightly different demands on your luggage. Tending to be done on lighter weight road bikes, or mountain bikes which won't accommodate traditionally luggage like racks and panniers, riders need to carry only the bare minimum but attach it to their steeds by more unconventional means. Here, you'll find slightly more rugged gear, and kit that'll fit to almost any bike like large capacity rackless seatpacks, and frame packs. Ideal for adventure, if you want to get off the beaten track on your mountain or road bike.