Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bags for Bikes

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 it’s 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 & 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.

Other choices:
Acorn
has three choices of sturdy made-in-the-USA bags for handlebars
A 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 & 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.

Other Choices:
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.

Rear Panniers:
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.
Photo: Rob

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.
Photo: REI

Other choices:
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

13 comments:

Joseph E said...

Excellent, work, guys.

My wife has tehe Axiom Town & Country Pannier, in "Yellow Floral". At $26 with shipping, it's a great deal, and it works well as a shoulder bag, too:
http://www.amazon.com/Axiom-Town-Country-Pannier-Print/dp/B0025UQ476/

I prefer panniers, but many people like bags that go on top of the rack. These work well if you keep them on the bike permanently, and don't effect parking in close quarters (Panniers work better if you plan to remove the bags when you stop).

I like this one from Bango Brothers: http://www.amazon.com/Banjo-Brothers-Rack-Top-Bag/dp/B003D4GRI4/ref=sr_1_2?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1297106689&sr=1-2

kronhaus said...

I just got a PUBLIC bike and absolutely love it. but I'm partial to a good front basket. Do you all have any opinion on front basket/rack combos? I love the look of the porteur rack from velo-orange but don't need a 100+ lb load capacity.

Tom said...

@kronhaus I recommend mix and matching baskets and racks. I have the Wald "Huge" basket ($20 from Rivbike) zip tied to the front "box rack" on my Cargo-T. You can do a similar thing with the Nitto Platrack (mentioned above). The Nitto is a bit lighter and less heavy duty, but not much less expensive.. You can get a cetma rack (simpler type of porteur rack http://cetmacargo.com/CETMAracksindex.htm ) and zip tie a basket to it as well. Basil makes baskets of various sizes and colors, you should check them out as well.

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debiguity said...

I'm an Arkel fan myself. I use one large rear pannier for commuting, which I almost fill up with my work clothes and food for the day. It's stood up to something like 16,000 miles of wear and tear so far. Doesn't look brand new these days, but still looks really good! The nylon is water resistant itself, but it comes with rain covers, which have worked great. I've ridden for over an hour in the kind of drenching downpour that got me soaked to the skin in seconds, and everything in the bag stayed dry.

For anyone thinking about waterproof bags vs water resistant + rain covered bags, something to consider is that the water proof bags prevent water from getting out just as well as it prevents water from getting in. So if water does get in - if something spills or if you reach in during a downpour or if you put wet clothes in there - it's trapped in there. This doesn't make a difference for commuting, but if you're touring for days/weeks/months, it would be a potential impact to consider. Just depends on your needs (my clothes won't be ruined by getting slightly damp, as opposed to if I was commuting with a laptop, which is more sensitive to moisture) and what you'd prefer to deal with, or what type of riding you'd be doing.

I also use a .. honestly, I don't remember what this type of "bag" is called. The Novara brand calls it a "quick draw bike pack", and it's similar to what I have, though mine has a regular (not mesh) covering: http://www.rei.com/product/780462

I love this thing. I keep my p&s camera in there, and also my handkerchiefs. Very convenient. I miss it a lot when I am on my alternate commuter (too lazy to move it, generally)!

Anonymous said...

excellent post

Scott Loveless said...

@Tom and kronhaus If you're going to consider the huge Wald basket that has to be fastened to a rack, you should really consider the Wald 157 Giant Delivery Basket. It's the one with the handlebar clamps and stays that attach at the end of the fork. http://www.waldsports.com/index.cfm/wald157basket.html

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adventure! said...

(I think a couple of those comments above are spam.)

Great post! Many of the bag manufacturers you list I've known about, but there look to be some nice ones which I haven't, which can be a good or bad thing for me!

Re: Minnehaha: I'll throw into the list the barrel bag. It works as a good handlebar bag like the VO one mentioned, but can also double as a saddle bag.

And I just got a set of panniers from a local (to me in Portland, OR) bagmaker, the Route 7 series from North St:
http://northstbags.com/products/route-seven-pannier/

I'm going to get some of these at some point, the Avenue B, which are beautiful convertible pannier/backpacks:
http://northstbags.com/products/avenue-b/

Alexander said...

I got a Minnehaha saddle bag as a christmas gift from my wife this year, and I absolutely loves it.

I think she is jealous now. She borrows it from me all the time, so i guess i soon have to buy a own bag for her.

Keep up the good work on this blog!

mary Westmacott said...

Very cool bikey bags, love the little handel bar ones, really useful, bit like a clutch bag for you bicycle, keep em coming, great weekend read, M x

JDL said...

Got the minnehaha barrel bag for my seat bag. Found out it works better on the handlebars. A good looking versatile bag that can hold a wallet, keys, and small flat kit.

(my flat kit had to go on a diet to fit)

I like being able to move it from front to back and bike to bike. It is too small to replace a proper trunk bag, but has made a great possibles bag.

Thanks for doing the review, it helped.

Now we need a "helmets for the rest of us", until someone can review the Sun longtail cargo bike.

Freewheel said...

Update: My VO baguette bag fell apart. A strap tore off and it wasn't worth repairing given the holes in the fabric. I've upgraded to a Carradice.