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Purchasing Proper Racks and Packs

Finding the right bike bag is fairly easy if you have an intended use but fear not if you’re unsure. You can combine most bike bags to expand or upgrade storage as needed. While most bags offer a lot of information visually it can be difficult to realize the size of each bag. From small and concealed to large and waterproof bags we explain some of the basics below for making an educated decision.

Seat bags
seat-bagSmaller bags are often seen on roads bikes and racers and similar riders traveling light and quick. Most common on a road bike is a saddle bag. This small bag which can vary in size attaches under the seat of the bike. It generally provides enough space for a spare innertube and a few tools to change or patch a tire. However larger saddle bags are available and quite useful for those who aren’t as fixed on traveling light or concerned about the length of each ride. A medium size saddle or seat bag can hold the basics for changing or repairing a tire as well as a camera, a wallet, or your preferred media items that you wouldn’t want in your jersey pockets. The saddle bag attaches neatly beneath the bike seat.

Frame Bag
frame-bagThere are several types of frame bags that secure to the corners of your bike frame and offer some extra carrying capacity that sits securely out of the way. A frame bag won’t hold a lot of gear but it’s perfect for smaller items that you don’t need access to while on the road. Keys, some ID cards, a bit of spare cash, and a cellphone typically fit nicely in most frame bags. If you pair the frame bag with another of the smaller bags you can easily be equipped with most of the major essentials you will need on the road or trails.

Top Tube Bag
top-tube-bagAnother small bag is the top tube bag which also varies in size but typically isn’t very large. It’s handy for those who don’t have a jersey or prefer a basic tshirt when they ride. The top tube bag can accomodate some snacks, keys, cash, cellphone, or a few similar small items. The bag conveniently located provides easy access to your items while on the road. You might find a combination of a seat bag and top tube bag as a perfect option for carrying all the gear you might need without too much material hanging off the bike while keeping the streamlined aerodynamics intact.

Handlebar Bag
handlebar-bagOnce you get into the handlebar bags you’re generally putting on a few more miles on the odometer than short afternoon rides. Often found on touring bikes, the handlebar bag varies in size and options. A basic bag can be a simple single compartment that houses all of your essentials. Larger handlebar bags offer a good deal of storage that may include a clear lid where your map would reside safely and easily viewed. Bottle holders and media pockets might also be included on the largest of these bags.

Trunk Bag
trunk-bagA trunk bag requires a platform to rest on or one that is built-in to the design of the bag. The trunk bag offers a decent amount of storage in it’s main compartment that is sometimes partitioned into section or pockets. It’s not uncommon for the trunk bag to also offer the space for an extra water bottle and an area on the lid for maps, sunglasses, and other low profile items. Even further you can purchase a trunk bag that supplies a pannier bag on each side of the trunk which usually fold or zip up nicely when not in use. These panniers are almost always smaller than a true set of panniers but they offer the perfect solution for commuters who need to carry work materials or need space for hauling a few groceries or even a light weekend tour.

Front Panniers
front-pannierThese panniers are bags that hang on the front forks of your bike via a mounting system. The idea is of course to provide more space for transporting gear typically for the cycler who is touring the country. These bags hang low to the ground and provide a great solution for those who really load the bike with gear for a lengthy tour. Many cyclists have a preference for loading the panniers whether they are front or rear in order to find a combination that balances well on their bicycle without affecting handling.

Rear Panniers
rear-panniersThese are the real workhorse and offer the largest carrying capacity. If you’ve ever noticed someone crusing down the side of the road and it seems like they have an overloaded bike it’s likely you’ve just seen someone on a self-supported bike tour. This means they are hauling everything they need from shelter and food to repair items and clothes. They undoutebly were using rear panniers. These panniers hang from a rack on the back of the bike keeping the center of gravity focused downward rather than riding up high where it might be too unstable. There are many options when it comes to panniers and prices vary considerably in size and quality. One area where you should focus your attention is your intended usage and the weather you might encounter. A good waterproof pannier can save you a lot of time and a lot of headaches. If you’re planning some extended touring then invest in some rear panniers that are large enough for all the gear you plan to carry. Smaller panniers are fine for weekend tours or in areas where you might be supporting the tour with hostels, hotels or overnights with friends and families.

The racks you generally find on a bike are there to support the larger bags. Whether you require a small rear trunk bag or a complete set of front and rear panniers you’re going to need a rack to hang the bags from securely. And while some bags come with the needed attachments this isn’t always the case. There’s not a lot to discuss in this area but here are a few options.

Removable Rear Rack
removable-rear-rackIf you’re looking at commuting, running errands, or doing some light touring, you can probably get by with a rear trunk bag with expandable panniers or a small set of panniers. Using this system and carrying up to 25 pounds you can usually attach a removable rear rack to carry your gear. These racks attach to the stem beneath the saddle or seat of the bike. They are designed to be removed and attached to the bike quickly and easily via a clamp. Typically they require no tools and are often the first choice for many riders just getting into the sport and require transporting anything from groceries to clothes or work essentials for daily commuters. The removable racks will have a specified weight carrying limit so take that specification into consideration when making your purchase.

Front Rack
front-rackThe front rack has several different designs and are not always created only for pannier bags. Some of the desgins offer just a basic shelf where a tent or similar item can be strapped down and secured. The front rack is most often used for a set of small panniers that compliment a larger set of carrying bags on the rear of the bike. Many cyclists use the front panniers to balance the weight of their gear out more evenly across the bike while paying particular attention to any affect this may have on the handling of the bike. Typically if you’re looking for a front rack you’re planning a little bit of traveling and these will provide that extra carrying capacity to store more gear on the bike.

Rear Rack
rear-rackThe rear rack that isn’t easily removed requires a few tools to attach to the bike. Often braze-ons can be found on the bike where screws for the rack secure itself to the bike frame. This type of rack is attached to the frame as well as the seat stem for a more solid support distributing the weight between the two anchor points. With this system you can load a lot more gear than with the removable rear rack. This type of rack is preffered by the touring crowd as it’s solid performance is due in part to it’s mounting system.