Your cycling setup, no matter how casual or decked out, is not complete without the right set of panniers. How you pack your essentials affects everything from pace to comfort, and different options are available to make sure your ride is as smooth as could be.
For those who aren’t familiar with cycle gear lingo, panniers are bags that attach to front and rear racks; they are best used on trips totaling more than a few miles, but are also a great asset for a grocery run or work commute. If you’ve ever carried a backpack while biking, you know that post-ride aches and giant pack-shaped sweat stains are not uncommon. Having panniers allows your bike to carry your weight while you cruise along, knowing that extra jacket or thermos full of coffee is there when you need it.
Panniers range from under 100$ to about two or three times that, and come with distinguishing features that are worth paying attention to. Consider the options below based on your current needs and future cycling plans. Luckily, most panniers are versatile enough to be multi-purpose and are usually a one-time purchase that will last you through years of pedaling.
When shopping for panniers, there are a few characteristics you should look for in every product.
Waterproof gear is hands down one of the most vital parts of a cyclist’s checklist. This includes waterproof clothing, shoes, and outerwear, but also applies to your panniers; you don’t want to end a wet ride and find your belongings submerged in a puddle at the bottom of a soaked bag. When it comes to product descriptions, look for “Waterproof” as opposed to “Water-Resistant”. While some water resistance is always better than none, a fully waterproof rating will keep your things dry even in heavy rain and is usually worth the higher price tag.
Next, think about just how much you’re planning to carry and how you’ll distribute the weight on your bike. Panniers are usually measured in liters, and range from approximately ten to thirty liters each.. Rear panniers are normally larger than front panniers, and you can definitely get away with having only rear panniers if you are planning day or weekend trips.
A full set of four panniers is best suited for longer tours and more mileage; think a cross country trip or month long loop. Most front racks are designed to hold your panniers low to the ground to keep a low center of gravity and stabilize the front end of the bike.
If you’re just looking to carry home groceries or work supplies, two budget-friendly rear panniers will do the job.
Riding with a single pannier isn’t recommended because it prevents you from distributing weight evenly. It’s definitely possible to ride with a single pannier, but you might find yourself teetering to one side and losing your balance while pedaling.
Daily commuters might want to consider forgoing panniers altogether and settling for a handlebar and frame bag setup. Strapping a smaller bag on your handlebars and one to your frame centralizes your weight and could be enough to carry everything you need for your work day without the bulk of double panniers. A small seat post bag that attaches under the seat can hold small essentials like tools or valuables. Green Guru makes a variety of bike bags that are made out of up-cycled materials and also happen to come in awesome color combinations. Your purchase will be sewn in Boulder, Colorado, and made of materials sourced from donated outdoor gear that might have ended up in a landfill otherwise.
Check out this convenient stem bag from Roadrunner Bicycles while you’re at it; use it to hold drinking vessels that might not fit in a standard bottle cage (this is where that huge coffee thermos comes in)!
There are plenty of reputable brands that produce panniers and other cycling products; make sure to carefully read product specs and reviews.
Ortlieb is by far the best known pannier company, and is a great option for those looking to invest more for quality and longevity.
Blackburn has been creating cycling products since 1975, and offers uniquely designed bike packing bags for cyclists of all levels..
Working out of Minneapolis, Banjo Brothers makes some lauded grocery and casual panniers made to accompany you on daily runs. Best of all, these bags won’t empty your pockets!
Even if you consider yourself a casual cyclist, it doesn’t hurt to leave your future bike travel possibilities open. A day trip from your home city can shake up your daily routine and show you how far you can go on two wheels. Consider the following panniers based on different forms of cycling, budgets, and special features.
Blackburn Barrier City Waterproof Pannier
Sporting welded seams and waterproof zippers, Blackburn’s Barrier City Pannier totals just under $100 but rivals pricier panniers in quality and durability. Designed to keep out the slightest droplet, this bag is a foolproof choice for intense commuting, but also works well for long distance touring. Coming in at just under 300 grams, the Barrier City is a classic roll-top, meaning it can get as compact or expansive as you need.
Chrome Urban Ex Pannier
Loved by cyclists and civilians alike, Chrome Industries is best known for their cycling apparel outfitted with a regal logo. The company also makes a waterproof pannier fit for commuters and those looking to get more serious about distance cycling. For a day or weekend trip, consider the Urban Ex Pannier 2.0. This bag falls in a slightly higher price range, but welded seams and locking mounts will carry you through the rainiest city commute and any micro tour, especially if you face unpredictable weather. With loops made to hold U-locks and a padded laptop pocket, the Urban Ex even allows you to work from the road if you want to fit a small tour into a busy schedule.
Banjo Brothers- Market Pannier
The Market Pannier, made by Minnesota’s Banjo Brothers, is the most budget friendly option on the list, and is ideal for those looking to get used to using their bike as a primary form of transportation. With inside pockets and an attached shoulder strap, the 24.5 liter Market Pannier will comfortably fit your haul for the day. It’s easy to attach/detach and carry when off the bike, making it a good choice to start with.
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
This classic pannier can be found almost anywhere on the road; world-touring cyclists and casual day trippers sweat by Ortlieb products for their legendary durability and sleek look. The Back Roller is a waterproof rear pannier with a snug roll-top and a front counterpart (The Front-Roller). These panniers are sold in pairs, and are a great investment for those looking to travel by bicycle. The Back Roller’s mounts, described by Ortlieb as QL2.1 fixing, make taking your panniers off quick and easy; just pull on the handle of your bag and watch the top hooks seamlessly detach from your rack. Pair the Back and Front- Rollers with Ortlieb’s new 11-liter Handlebar Pack Quick Release for a spacious, full-spectrum touring setup.
Crosso- Dry 30 Click System
Less known in the American gear world, but definitely up and coming, Crosso is a Polish company started out of pure need for effective adventure cycling gear to fulfill a passion. All Crosso products are field- tested, with an emphasis on waterproof build and long-term use. The Crosso Dry 30 pair rivals bigger brands in terms of weather resistance and generous carrying capacity. An easy to use click system makes these 15 liter panniers simple to attach and detach, and they have the welded seams and roll top design of the best panniers on the market.The Dry 60 set is double the size of the Dry 30, consisting of two 30 liter bags.
One of each pair will complete your set up, with the smaller bags on the front rack and the larger ones taking the rear.
Getting your hands on one of these might require a bit of research, but the company works with distributors all over Europe. Customers outside of Europe can access Crosso’s English-version sales site here. This is a brand that embodies the do it yourself spirit of bike touring, bringing functional, well made products to a niche that can sometimes feel elite.
When you’re ready to complete your rig, the right panniers can make all the difference. Base your choice on function, durability, and yes- aesthetic. The success of your commute, microtour, or long distance trip of a lifetime depends on how you pack. While it’s important to pack light, the right-sized pannier can help you avoid sacrificing all the comforts of home on your next ride. Choose waterproof when you can and make sure you get to know your pannier’s mounting system so that everything stays where it should on a bumpy ride. Pedal safe, distribute your weight evenly, and never underestimate the weather!