If you like to travel by bike or go on longer bike tours, you need a good solution for your luggage. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing something on the way or unfavorably shifting the center of gravity of your two-wheeler. With a bike pannier, you can trust that you and your belongings will reach your destination safely. However, since there are now many available options to choose from, the decision is not always easy. In this guide, you will find out which quality features and criteria are the most important for pannier bags so that you can find the right model for your needs. I also introduce other options, such as a bike pannier backpack and the ever-popular handlebar bag, to complete your kit.
Important criteria for buying your pannier bags
As mentioned above, the range of luggage solutions for cyclists is now very large. But many of the bike panniers differ significantly in their quality, which has a direct effect on their longevity, your enjoyment while using them, and the possible purposes they might serve. After all, who wants to carry their weekly groceries in a container that emits harmful substances like PVC? This list gives you an overview of what is important when choosing pannier bags:
- Additional straps
- Exterior compartment
- Comfort and ease-of-use
- Quality workmanship
- Food safe and no plasticizers
- Sustainable and robust materials
Last but not least, your pannier bag should be visually appealing so that you feel comfortable having it with you in the city and during outdoor activities. In the next subsections, I will go into the individual criteria of pannier bags and explain what you should consider about each one.
If you don't just want to be out and about when the weather is nice, you definitely need waterproof bike panniers. This feature will not only serve you well in the cold and wet season, but also it will protect your luggage from sudden downpours and spray. Special materials ensure that moisture cannot penetrate even in persistent rain, so your luggage and the valuables in your pannier bag stay dry.
The size of your pannier bag should depend on what you intend to use it for. For everyday life and day trips, a bike pannier that offers 20 to 25 liters of space should be sufficient. If, on the other hand, you are planning a longer tour with overnight stays in hotels, you will need up to 40 liters of space. In order to get additional storage space, you can use a pannier backpack in addition to your pannier bags. If you also use a handlebar bag, you always have your valuables within reach and never have to take your eyes off them.
I don't know any cyclist who likes to carry their bag in their arms for a walk. Thus, when deciding on a model, it is important that you look for one with a shoulder strap on the top. Transport is even easier if the bike bag has a padded strap so you can hang it over your shoulder or transform it into a pannier backpack.
An exterior compartment gives you quick access to everything that is important. Whether you need your wallet, smartphone, or a dry handkerchief, you don't have to rummage around in your bag. You have what you need right away. My tip: This handlebar bag has proven to be particularly practical, because the sophisticated belt system allows you to use it as a hip or shoulder bag thanks.
Comfort and ease-of-use
A luggage solution for your bike has to be practical. Therefore, it should be possible to attach your bicycle panniers to the luggage rack without much effort so that you can remove them and re-attach them quickly. If the pannier bags also have adjustable clamps, all the better, because they have a stable hold. A roll-top closure is another quality feature that your bike panniers should have. You'll be amazed at how much luggage you can fit in it. Finally, consider using a handlebar bag for additional convenience.
Solid and careful workmanship is important if you want pannier bags that you can enjoy for a long time and that will remain your faithful companion for many years. You can identify quality bike panniers by the fact that all seams are clean and straight, no threads are sticking out, and the zippers open and close easily.
You must be clearly visible on your bike, especially in city traffic, so that drivers can see you immediately. Therefore, your bike pannier should have reflectors that reflect headlights and send a clear signal from your luggage rack.
Food safe and without plasticizers
Your bike pannier should always be free of harmful chemicals, not just for transporting groceries. Otherwise, every time the bag comes into contact with your skin, you will absorb tiny amounts of the substances into your body, which can have negative consequences for your health in the long term.
Sustainable and robust materials
Sustainability is also important when choosing your pannier bags. With a refurbished pannier bag, you make an extra environmentally friendly decision, as you counteract material waste. At the same time, you don't have to worry about quality, as refurbished products tend to have had minimal use. For example, they often come from returns that customers just looked at and sent back.
Simple packing instructions for bike bags
Now you know what criteria to use when answering the question "which pannier bag is the best?" Based on my own experience with bike tours, I will now give you a short guide on how to best stow your belongings in pannier bags. Basically, you should always distribute loads evenly on your bike. Instead of only attaching a pannier bag to one side of the luggage rack, you should always use two, even if you are not transporting particularly large quantities.
To make it easier to keep your balance, pack heavy items of luggage as low as possible in your pannier bags, because the lower your center of gravity, the more stable the ride. You can stow lighter and more sensitive objects — for example your first-aid kit, rain cape, or snacks — on top. Everything you might need to access quickly in between loading and unloading should go in the handlebar bag: money, ID, camera, smartphone, and tissue paper.
I hope you find my guide to buying your next bicycle panniers helpful. If you have any questions, you can reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form. It's worth checking out my blog from time to time. I'll update it regularly with new informative posts about bikes and equipment. See you soon!