Carrying Stuff on your Bike

You can actually carry quite a bit of gear on your bike.

Fitting a rack and panniers, or saddle bag or even a basket can completely alter your perception of carrying loads on your bicycle. A lot of cyclists tend to carry loads in a backpacks round town, but for longer distances this will leave you sweaty backed and uncomfortable. The further the distance you ride, the stronger the case for a carrying feature on your bike. However in some circumstances, there is still a role for back packs.

Panniers

Conventional fabric panniers often have multiple pockets and compartments. This makes it easier to keep tomorrow’s shorts and yesterday’s socks separate. Fabric panniers can eventually get saturated in heavy rain, so it’s a good idea to organise your cargo in stuff sacs (or plastic bags) before packing your panniers. Better still, spend a bit more and opt for bike bags that are 100% waterproof.

When buying panniers you’ll also need to invest in racks which secure your pannier to the bike.  Look for racks that are welded together (no nuts and bolts to shake loose) with triangulated rear sections, as these tend to be strongest. Also note how the rack fits to the bike, to avoid fouling your brakes. Tell the shop assistant what type and size of bike you have, to ensure a good fit. Knowing what type of brakes you have will also help. If you don’t know, take your bike with you.

Backpacks

Packing gear on your back can be an ergonomic option for hauling around the necessities. The versatile nature of a backpack makes it the ideal choice for someone who needs to take their gear with them, when they get off their bike.

Bike backpacks usually have all of the benefits of a regular backpack, but are amped up with detailed comfort features and helpful organisational capacity. These details are what separate the good bags from the great bags.

A good bike backpack should fit well and utilise weight distribution in the most efficient manner for your body.  Additionally a bike backpack can incorporate helpful features such as an integrated hydration reservoir making it easy to sip on your water while riding, helmet holders that pack your helmet out of the way while walking, or small pockets and loops which offer quick access to important items.

To reduce the common sweaty-back phenomenon look for a backpack with a system which pushes the actual backpack off your back for full, flow through air venting. Other backpacks include mesh cooling vents on the back and shoulders to maximize air flow at contact points.

Saddle bags

Saddle bags are small and sleek and don’t call much attention to themselves. They are an important item for a multiplicity of cycling styles, from the weekend warrior to the hardcore commuter, as they generally accommodate all of the necessary items you would need to change a flat tyre, make minor repairs on your bicycle, or stash your spare cash, phone, purse, or maybe a small snack. Not to mention, saddle bags are located conveniently underneath the rails of your saddle (i.e. bike seat), where you have easy access to your tools and other small necessities, while their mounting systems prevent them from bouncing off your bike no matter how bumpy things get.

They are very easy to mount with either integrated velcro and buckle systems or brand-specific mounting hardware. Last but certainly not least, saddle bags don’t impede your leg movement for cycling.

Bike saddle bags come in a range of sizes and variety of materials, which provide different levels of water-resistance. Standard saddle bags are generally constructed from canvas and are lighter-weight and more pliable than their foam or plastic counterparts.

Beyond carrying the bare necessities, saddle bags are convenient to use in combination with a variety of other bags. They also provide a great option for cyclists who are looking to add a little cargo capacity on their bicycles without having to install a bike rack. For even more “rackless” capacity, the combination of a handlebar bag and saddle bag provides a good amount of easy-access space.

Other handy features of saddle bags include brands which offer expandability allowing your saddle bag to increase its carrying capacity. Some saddle bags come with a light built in and reflective logos or piping for added visibility.

Child seats

Children love cycling. It’s time spent with you, talking together, discovering things and enjoying fresh air and exercise.

Child seats provide a safe seat for a child that can be attached to a bike so they can come along for the ride. Depending on the type of child seat, the most common place for them to be attached is at the back of the bike so the rider’s vision is not compromised.

Child seats come with padding, a seat belt buckle to keep the child secure as well as leg restraints so the child cannot get out.

To understand if your child is ready to come cycling with you, consider the following:

  • Your child must be strong enough to support their own head while sitting upright.
  • By Australian law they must wear a helmet, so make sure they can bear that extra weight and will tolerate the unfamiliar headgear.
  • They’ll also need to be able to cope with the bumps and bounces experienced when riding, and with acceleration forces as you speed up or slow down.

Generally, most children are ready at about one year old and will continue to fit into a rear child seat till about four years of age (or when they reach about 20kgs).

After fitting the rear child’s seat, it’s a good idea to accustom yourself to the bike’s compromised handling by taking a trial run with a heavy bag in the seat. And practice getting your leg over the top-tube without swinging it over the saddle – or you’ll kick your child in the head!

Front seats can also be used and though these affect the handling less than rear seats, they force you to ride bow-legged so they’re not used as often.

When fitting the child seat, ensure the base of the seat back is above or in front of the rear axle. Weighted further back can significantly compromise handling otherwise.

Baskets

If you think baskets are just for kid’s bikes, think again. For a lightweight, versatile solution for carrying all your stuff, consider bike baskets.  They come in a variety of sizes and materials and nowadays are pretty stylish looking.

Baskets can be mounted to the front or rear of a bicycle. Rear bike baskets tend to be deeper to accommodate larger items like groceries and, unlike most panniers; they have no lid, allowing you to carry taller items. Bike baskets mount to rear racks and typically hang on either side of the wheel.

Front baskets, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, wider and shallower and mount to either the handlebar or front fork.

When shopping for a bike basket, look for ones that you can quickly detach and take with you, preferably with handles or shoulder straps.

Whilst wicker baskets offer a retro appeal, they tend to hold less and are not waterproof.  Wire baskets are generally the way to go.