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How to Choose the Right Bike Bag

Rohini Mohan
A bike bag comes in handy to store tools, maps, and other essentials. However, every cyclist must own at least one big bag that can accommodate greater load, when required.

Glow Bag

Rickshaw Bagworks from San Francisco have designed bike bags that glow in the dark to help make cyclists more visible.
Irrespective of whether you cycle for leisure, as a means of exercise, for carrying your groceries, or for bicycle touring, the need for more storage space often arises. Many times, we avoid buying certain things because there simply isn't enough space on the cycle to carry big or fragile items.
Apart from carrying the indispensable repair kit, you usually have to carry a satchel or backpack that contains your wallet, phone, and laptop, among other valuables.
So, where would you store a change of clothes that you need for the gym, or provisions that you would require during bicycle trekking/touring? In such situations, installing bags to the cycle helps in accommodating the extra load. Here is the most popular types of bike bags, and how to choose the right one for yourself.

Types of Bicycle Bags

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Panniers are fixed on the sides of the rear rack. Not every bicycle comes with a rear rack, and hence, you may need to install one for your bike in order to fix the panniers.
These bags come in pairs, and thus, provide plenty of storage space on either sides of the rack. Panniers can be made of several materials such as leather, canvas, and synthetic. In case you own a touring bicycle, consider investing in a completely weatherproof pannier that comes with flaps, zippers, and clips.
These bags are extremely easy to fix, and can be removed from the rack whenever needed. If there are hardly any compartments, pockets, or dividers in the panniers you come across, you may need to use pouch bags to store things in an organized manner.
Note: Test the pannier on your bike before buying it, to make sure it's not too large and is balanced properly. The bags must not rub against your heels, or come in contact with any part of the wheel. Some panniers can be used on both the front and the rear racks, thereby allowing the cyclist to carry more weight.
Handlebar Bags
As the name suggests, these bags are fixed to the handlebar with brackets, Velcro straps, or clamps. Since a handlebar bag is not supported by a rack, it cannot withstand excess weight.
Therefore, keep lightweight objects such as your phone, wallet, keys, and other knickknacks in this bag. The biggest advantage of having a handlebar bag is the easy access it provides to the items in the bag.
It is recommended that you select a bag that comes with a fixed flap or zipper so that none of the contents topple over while cycling. Once again, buying a bag that offers compartments and pockets will make it easier to find and use the items in the bag.
Note: Overloading the bag can make it difficult to maneuver the handle. Secondly, you must be able to use the brake and gears without any interference from the bag. Therefore, choose a bag that fits perfectly on the handle of the bicycle, and is neither too large, long, or wide.
Bicycle Saddlebag
Also known as bicycle seat bags, bike saddlebags fit under the seat, and are attached with a clamp. These small bags are designed to hold items such tools, bike lock, spare items, torch, etc.
Depending on what you intend to store in this bag, you may choose a bigger make. These bags are the perfect solution for those who do not like carrying excess baggage; literally! The tiny items that make your pant pockets stuffy, and interfere while pedaling, can be shifted to the saddlebag instead.
Note: Ensure that the bracket, clamp, or Velcro of the bag is tightly wound under the seat, to prevent it from slipping towards the mudguard or bare wheel.

Rack Trunk Bag

These bags are sturdy, and designed to be rest on top of the rear rack of the bike. Rack trunk bags are larger than seat bags and smaller than panniers. Some bags have a solid base that allows them to retain their shape. These bags are usually used along with panniers, and come in handy during longer journeys, camping, etc.
Note: In case the trunk bag and panniers are used together, make sure that the rear rack is strong enough to withstand the excess weight.

Things to Consider When Buying Bike Bags

Should Be Adjustable

The bag you choose must have compression straps, and expendable collars and pockets, which will help re-size the bag, and manage various loads. Such bags help balance the weight, and occupy the right amount of space on the bike.

Should Be Easy to Re-size

Go in for a bag that will serve you for several years. The bag must be neither too big nor too small, and must meet your storage expectations in a satisfactory manner. Also check if the bag is compatible with the make and model of your bike. The bag must not interfere with your pedaling, should not slow you down, or make you uncomfortable while riding.

Must Be Weather-resistant

Since your bike is going to be exposed to all types of weather conditions, it is imperative that the bags you intend to buy are weather-resistant. The bag must be UV protected and waterproof so that the contents of the bag remain dry during a heavy downpour.

Must Have Useful Features

Opt for a bag that offers useful features such as pockets and compartments that make it easier for you to find what you need without having to search the entire bag. Similarly, choose a bag that is easy to access and open. For instance, the handlebar bag should have a flap that can be opened while cycling.

Should Be Detachable

Any bag that you choose for your bike must be easy to fix and detach at a moment, as you need to carry your gear with you when you park your bike. A bag with quick-release mounting brackets is easier to use, as compared to the ones with hook-and-loop straps. These brackets provide excellent support, which cannot be met by bags that use Velcro and straps.
Another thing to remember is, the load on your bike must be balanced so that it does not tilt while being parked on its stand or a parking rack. Secondly, the rear part of the bike is more suitable for carrying greater load as long as the bags are placed on the sides and not stacked.