Prepare for Spring: Topic #2 -- Haul your stuff
So, you want to ride your bike to get places, not just for sport or leisure. Chances are you will have a load of stuff to bring with you. When riding with gear, the question is "on your person or on the bike"? Both options require some equipment. In this post, we will look at the pros and cons of each option, the things to consider in choosing the correct equipment, and we will call out some of our favorites for each.
On Your Person:
When you don't have a ton to carry, or like the aspect of being able to easily carry your stuff with you when you lock up your bike and walk around, some kind of personal bag is the ticket. Most of us who ride a lot, use some kind of messenger style bag or backpack. Bags that are designed for use while riding will have built in features to accommodate your needs while pedaling your steed.
1. Some kind of stabilization strap to keep your bag from flopping around while actively peddling.
2. Easy strap tension adjustment for when you are carrying a little or a lot.
3. Protection from the weather to keep your goods clean and dry.
4. Durability for the abuse this bag is bound to take.
There are a billion options out there for good wearable bags while biking, but when choosing one, please keep in mind:
1. Does it have enough volume to carry what you will need to bring with you?
2. Does it have protection against rain, snow and dirt if you plan to ride in inclement weather?
3. If you plan to carry electronics, does it have built-in padding or available add-on padding to protect against shock?
4. Does it have proper built-in padding to protect your body from the weight and stuff inside (i.e. padded straps and back)?
5. Does it allow you to access the things you will need frequently without pulling out or digging through everything in your bag?
If the bag you are looking at satisfies all of these needs, then you have found yourself a very good option.
1. Easy on and off the bike as you already have it strapped to your person.
2. Reduces the problem of unbalanced weight effecting the performance of the bike.
3. Keeps your bike free and clear of extra weight and bulkiness when you aren’t carrying anything.
4. Can be used across multiple bikes or in other facets of your life.
1. Weight on your back can cause soreness and tension on your shoulders, back and wrists.
2. When it is hot, your back will get sweaty.
On The Bike:
First things first. If you plan to carry loose goods or bags on your bike, you will need some sort of rack system to attach them to. The rack you choose can be as important as the bags. In some cases, you will have the choice of a front or rear rack. This will depend on your frame set and whether the manufacturer has designed it to take one or the other, or both. Some frame sets do not have the proper mounts on the fork, or rear triangle to accommodate for racks. When your bicycle frame set is not specifically designed to take racks, there are alternative options designed today so that you can still use some sort of rack system, such as a seatpost mounted rack, but in this article we will focus only on bikes designed to have racks bolted to the frame set.
The rear rack must properly fit your bicycle frame geometry, sit level to the ground, and allow for enough clearance for your feet. Some racks are designed to install more over the front of the rear wheel, closer to the frame. If you have a bicycle with longer chain stays, or just a bigger frame in general, these racks can work well. If your chain stays are short or you are on a "smaller" frame, then you will have to look at a rack that is designed to sit further back over the rear wheel. Be advised though that carrying heavy weight too far back over the rear wheel will have a “lifting” effect on the front and can impact your steering. Be sure that your rack is rated to carry as much weight as you intend to have with you. Each rack manufacturer should state their maximum capacity on the rack. When carrying cargo in the rear, it is also very helpful to balance the wight on each side. Too much weight on one side will cause the “pulling” sensation you feel when a wheel isn’t aligned correctly or your frame is bent to one side. You would need to lean to the other side to compensate for that “pulling”. If you have decided that carrying the cargo mounted on a rear rack, then your next decision is to have individual pannier bags, pannier “saddle” bags (dual bags connected), or a basket or strap system to the rack top.
Rack Mounted Bags —
It is very important to choose the proper rack mounted bag(s) that will suit your lifestyle. Some rack mounted bags have better structure and padding more suitable for carrying delicate goods such as laptops, cameras, etc. Some rack mounted bags are more waterproof than others. If you plan to ride with cargo no matter what the weather, or are planning a long trip which may require riding through the elements, choosing bags that are lined and have a roll top closure to keep out water is essential. There is nothing worse than riding through the rain, thinking about the dry clothes in your bag, and then finding out when you go to change that they are also soaked. Does the bag you are thinking of purchasing have enough volume, not only for your everyday needs but for the times when you are toting more than usual? When you get to your destination, will you be carrying the bags around with you? If so, you will want to look at the built-in carrying system with the bag. Does it come with a shoulder strap or at least a handle on top to lug it around with you? Nowadays, some companies are making rack mounted bags that double as backpacks. If you will need to carry the bag with any considerable amount of weight for some time, being able to toss it on your back could save your life. Shape of the bag can also be important. As mentioned earlier, sometimes there isn’t a ton of heal clearance on some bikes. In that case, there are bags that are tapered at the front bottom to allow for more heal clearance. If you are carrying a lot of weight, a bag that allows the cargo to sit lower on the frame is better. The lower the center of mass, the more stable the ride will feel.
1. You can just use one bag when you don’t have a ton to carry.
2. Easily removable and most of the time easy to carry.
3. Tons of options available on the market at all price points.
4. Keeps your body free of weight.
1. Rack is permanently mounted to your bike (possibly a pro also)
2. Slightly more expensive than just a bag you wear on your person.