Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

We here at LGRAB get a lot of questions about which bike bags we use and recommend.  Over the years, I have accumulated quite a collection!  I’m constantly switching from bag to bag – usually between my two Po Campo panniers, my regular purse and canvas shopping bags.  In this video, I go through my entire collection and discuss which styles I like best.

I figure this post will be a resource for new bicyclists searching for ideas about how to carry stuff on their bikes, so please share your bike bag recommendations in the comments.

Brands:

Wald basket

Basil

Arkel

Detours

Po Campo

Fieldguided canvas

Patagonia

Chrome

P.S.  For more info on my bicycle, see my Rivendell Betty Foy video.  Also, my bungie straps and Po Campo review.

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42 thoughts on “Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

  1. [...] Video: How to Carry Stuff on Your Bike (LGRAB) [...]

  2. Archergal says:

    Nicely done!

  3. Tomas! says:

    Three cheers for tote bags & bungees!

  4. My Loop-Frame Love coblogger Jen swears by her huge, bombproof, waterproof Ortlieb panniers – that last adjective is the main reason why. Angel and I have found that a milk crate or wooden crate (mine was made for carrying eggs) attached to a very sturdy rear rack allow us, with a bit of repacking and a bungee across the top, to easily carry two full grocery bags on our bikes. But I’m not sure either of these count as bags, since they are attached to our bikes more or less permanently. =D I hate the sweatiness that backpacks cause, but I *love* leather/plastic totes and purses with cross body straps. You can get ones that are roomy, comfortable to carry, and professional looking (my fave is from Roots).

    • Jennifer Litowski says:

      Ortliebs OWN the Seattle pannier market. They’re big, tough and, yes, waterproof, which is a real necessity here. I also have the Po Campo Loop pannier, which I love and use as much or more on non-bike occasions. I also second the importance of a good basket. Most panniers are narrow and deep, which can hold a lot, but is difficult for oddly shaped objects. Baskets are much better for takeout containers, pie, etc. All of which are very important to me. :-)

  5. Lipska L says:

    I have a shoulder bag by Basil that I use all the time, even when I don’t take the bike (just search for “shoulder bag” on their website; i have the “Elements” but saw that they just introduced one in black with polka dots…yum). Perfect size, doesn’t look like a pannier bag when you carry it around off-bike, very nice to handle. Only one complaint: the zipper bling fell off after 30 seconds. Replaced it by two keyrings and a reflective tassel.

    For carrying water-sensitive books, files, and folders to and fro, I have an Ortlieb Office Q2 bag. Bombroof indeed. Bulky to carry around off-bike though.

  6. Julie H. says:

    I have a Linus “The Sac” that I love. It’s great for running small errands or taking to work if you have a thin laptop with a separate padded case.

  7. Dennis Hindman says:

    I have made several purchases of backpacks, panniers and rack top bags over the years.. Here’s a few things that I have noticed with several different design elements:

    I have used the Arkel Bug for several years. This was designed for students and can be used as a a pannier or it can convert into a backpack. I use this as my all around pannier. What appealed to me was the ability to attach a u-lock and bike helmet and it has zippered storage area accessable on the outside of it. If you put a bike on the front of a transit bus, this can make it easier to sit down and store your helmet out of the way. Also removing as much weight from the bike (such as a lock or bag) makes it much easier to lift a bike into a slot of a rack on the front of a bus.

    One of the downsides to the Arkel pannier designs (and several other traditional pannier designs) is the lower hook which provides a third attachment to a bicycle rack. This can poke into you or hook onto your clothes when you carrry them around with the shoulder strap in a store.

    Another problem is that their bags are square shaped at the bottom which can cause your heel to hit the bag when you pedal. Most large rear panniers from other manufacturers are designed with a tapered bottom to reduce the odds of that happening. A tapered bottom also enables you to bring the bag closer to the center of the bike, which keeps the weight from having as much side-to-side swaying affect on the rear wheel as you ride.

    The Arkel Shopper pannier has a zippered top that also has a zippered compartment where you can store smaller purchases or your wallet. This bag can hold about as much as a brown paper grocery bag. It has handy mesh pockets on each side that can hold a quart of milk or loaf of French bread, but this can also create an even greater problem of having to deal with your heal hitting the bag as you pedal.

    A cheaper Arkel pannier that can be used for grocery shopping is the Utility Basket. It has a zippered attachment that extends the height of the bag beyond that of the Shopper and this can be pulled shut with a cord. Having a top that can close helps to keep your purchase from falling out. It also has the advantage over the Shopper in that it has two velcro straps that can keep the pannier flat and a flap to cover the rack hooks when you carry the bag around a store.

    Another problem to look out for is getting a pannier that rides low to the ground. I have found that with a Tubus rear rack the bottom of the Arkel bags are low enough to rub the curb when I move over to rest my foot on the curb at the red lights. My Bug pannier has developed holes at the bottom from it rubbing the curb.

    When I first started commuting with a bicycle I used large daypacks to bring a change of clothes and then I noticed that bicycle riders in Denmark and the Netherlands just bike with clothes that they would normally walk in. I also realized that if I am going to lift a bicycle up and down stairs or onto a front rack of a bus, its much easier to take some of the weight off of the bike, or redistribute the weight between two arms by using a easily detachable single side pannier. It also makes it less stressful on your body to put the extra weight on the bike rather than pull down on your upper body. The downside is that putting more weight on the bicycle makes it less maneuverable.

    Waterproof bags tend to be heat sealed using a stiffer material and not stitched (water can leak into where there is stitching or regular style zippers). My Ortlieb backpack is made with heat sealing and it came apart at the seams. The company has a strong warranty and replaced the bag for free since I purchased it directly from them.

    Ortlieb also uses a waterproof zipper that has to be lubricated with silicon to get it moving using a reasonable amount of force. Even with the lubricant, its still is a very difficult zipper to move due to the additional friction the smooth rubber-like waterproof design creates. The silicon lubricant can also get on your clothes if you sit with the pack close to you on a transit ride.

    I purchased a large daypack from Ortlieb mainly for its ability to store both my bicycle helmet with two hidden bungee like straps and additional items in a large zippered pocket on the outside of the bag.with two smaller storage areas on each side (probably intended for shoes). This leaves more storage room on the inside of the bag. And again, makes it easier to find a place to store my helmet when I’m on a bus.

  8. Thanks for these. It’s hard to find a bag to fit all your needs. I had a front basket on my last bike, but some bike racks didn’t accommodate that configuration. So on my current bike I attached a collapsible wire basket to the back rack. It’s great because when not in use, you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

    • LGRAB says:

      Oh yeah, I’ve always liked the look of those collapsable wire baskets, although I’ve never tried one myself.

    • Ryan Patterson says:

      I have two of the Wald collapsible wire baskets on my bike and they work for both commuting and spontaneous shopping trips. They’re the perfect size for a paper or reusable grocery bag and having two, I can balance the load if I happen to buy a gallon of milk & a six pack.

  9. Shawn W. says:

    This was a great, informative video. Keep it up! Thanks to your blog (&inspiration) I am bike commuting at least two days a week, all because of this blog. Thank you!

  10. Shawn W. says:

    This was a great, informative video. Keep it up! Thanks to your blog (&inspiration) I am bike commuting at least two days a week, all because of this blog. Thank you!

  11. phenager says:

    I have a front wicker basket which is where I toss my purse. On my back rack, I use a Novara (REI brand) single pannier bag – I actually own two. They’re simple and inexpensive, and have a handle so you can carry them in to the grocery store. (Or work, or the library). They are open on the top though, so not good for rain, but since we get about 8 inches a year here, it’s not a big deal. Here’s the link to the current version. http://www.rei.com/product/825299/novara-round-town-single-bike-pannier

  12. Accordion says:

    I have an Ortlieb office bag. It is six years old, bought when a pretty pannier was not available in the land downunder. Absolutely bombproof, waterproof, sturdy, will be given to my grandchildren. Really quite ugly however. I’m experimenting with stickers at the moment…

  13. Accordion says:

    I have an Ortlieb office bag. It is six years old, bought when a pretty pannier was not available in the land downunder. Absolutely bombproof, waterproof, sturdy, will be given to my grandchildren. Really quite ugly however. I’m experimenting with stickers at the moment…

  14. Jax+Puzzle says:

    I have an older Po Campo that is great, and a newer one from last year that looks terrible. I think the new one is probably poorer quality as a result of the Chicago to China manufacturing switch. The “leather” color is peeling off and revealing a darker, cheaper bonded leather underside. It started peeling within a week or so of purchase. It also had a noxious odor upon arrival, but this dissapated after a few days of airing out. My older model is holding up nicely, but I wouldn’t recommend Po Campo now, sadly.

    I also have a Fast Rider woven pannier (Lovely Bicycle reviewed it quite a while ago) and I highly recommend it. It looks so pretty and delicate, but it’s a workhorse. I have it in the cherry pine and my friend purchased it in lemon. Cute and very functional. The only problem with it is it can be a bit heavy if you load it up then have to carry it around. However, it’s really durable and waterproof, and it looks fantastic, so it’s my favorite.

    Finally, I have a Carradice Barley, and a few Acorn bags, in green, which are very good quality – the Carradice is hefty waxed canvas, the Acorns just thick canvas, but because of the nature of the attachments and closures, these are not really practical for commuting. However, they are just fine for trail riding and have classic good looks.

    I’d have to peg my best bicycle bag so far as the Fast Rider, it’s so easy to take on and off and exhibits very little wear and tear (other than the zipper pull coming off almost immediately, which didn’t affect anything).

    Nice overview, Dottie! I’m going to check out some of the other links you’ve posted as well.

    • Po Campo says:

      Jax – We did stumble a bit in switching to a new manufacturing partner but we have fixed the problems you spoke about. Please contact us so we can replace your bag with a top notch one! info@pocampo.com.

  15. Sara Struckman says:

    This was super helpful! I’m on a mission to use something besides my backpack to haul things. Looking forward to my first Po Campo bag thanks to you :).

  16. Heather says:

    Great list.
    For me, I love my Timbuk2 bags (I have 2 different styles) for work since I am often bringing change of clothes, lunch etc. For food shopping, my Ortlieb panniers are the best! I like my Po Campo bag if meeting friends out. Last, I have rear rack bag from Sackville that is great for small errands.

  17. Guy says:

    Really like the very informative video. During my work years I bike commuted in Germany, California ( SFO area) and Arizona. Once I got the routine down it was easy, only forgot my belt once, but I kept my load to a minimum by keeping extra shoes, shirts and trousers at the office. I usually drove in once a week to swap out items. A small detachable handlebar bag with a shoulder strap was all I really needed for ID cards, small camera etc. But as a guy my fashion needs were pretty basic. Thanks LGRAB for providing great info I can share with our local bike community.

  18. Walter Anderson says:

    Nice, useful video! One correction, you placed the Arkel bag on the bike backwards! The end you placed toward the front of the bike has a tab for attaching a blinkie!

  19. Lauren @ Lauren Runs says:

    Great video! I loved seeing the different types of bags you’ve used and when you seem to use different ones for different things!

  20. Amanda says:

    This is so helpful! Thanks :)

  21. Dennis Hindman says:

    Dottie, you didn’t mention how you handle grocery shopping, especially if you want to carry heavy items. I tend to go shopping for groceries more frequently as a small Trader Joe’s grocery store is within about a half of a mile from where I live. The fact that I can park within a few feet of the front door makes bicycling there more irresistible than trying to find a place to park in their small lot. Bags that you can carry in a front basket, or large grocery bag sized single sided panniers can make shopping by bicycle fast and convenient.

    For hauling very large and heavy items I bought a trailer made by Burley that attaches to the seat post and can be easily wheeled into a store. The handle folds and the wheel are detachable, and its still bulky to store (takes up more room than a upright vacuum cleaner), but it has come in handy for loading supplies when I volunteer for CicLAvia events in LA, or even hauling flower pots, or soil. I used it to haul a roll-up table, long heavy flag poles and gallons of water to thirsty riders, which I found was a great way to get cyclists to stop in order to give them information about the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. I found myself hauling gallons of water at a time from a grocery store nearby and then having to almost immediately turn around to go get more at more than one event.

    I even came up with an idea of carrying lots of inflated balloons with it one time on the subway to help attract attention at a event. I’m glad it was a weekend, the trailer was bulky attached to a bicycle and it was hard to maneuver something that long in and out of a subway train (the inflated balloons multiplied the level of difficulty). I happened to run across a bicycle patrol policeman at the station platform that I knew who helped me in and out of the subway car (at first when he approached from a distance, I thought darn, is this illegal to carrying so much stuff onto a subway car? Evidently not, bicycle liason Sgt. Krumer to the rescue!

  22. Dottie

    Great review of bags and thanks. I often wonder how you pull it off being a professional which adds a challenge to riding and then working in nice clothes.

    So many products, I don’t feel so bad having so many myself. Not that they are poorly designed but I think we all are in search of what works whether it is bags or other bike products.

    Bill

    Madone Six Series

  23. [...] affects my bike riding at all, and it so nice to have it out of mind while I am riding. Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike recently did a video on all sorts of bike bag options if you want to see what else is out [...]

  24. Elisa M says:

    I recently received a Po Campo bag for Christmas and I am hooked. I have already bought another one. How did I go so long without one (or two)?! For every day commuting, I am a huge fan of Banjo Brothers panniers. In rainy New Orleans, the waterproof one is perfect…keeps everything dry even when it has to sit on the wet ground for 5 hours while I work at the market. Bike bags are the best bags!

  25. SLG says:

    Any tips for finding a front basket that doesn’t attach to the handlebars? I looked at Wald’s website and didn’t see one.

    Thanks for the video! Super helpful for this beginning bike commuter.

    • LGRAB says:

      Happy to hear the video was helpful!

      For my front basket shown in the video, I have a Nitto rack that attaches to my front stays (or whatever they’re called). Then I simply bought an inexpensive Wald basket with no attachments and secured it to my front rack with zip ties. This set up has been working perfectly for years.

      • SLG says:

        So helpful — thanks!

        So far I’ve been strapping my laptop back/purse to my bicycle’s rear rack with bungees … but my purse is beginning to show the wear, unfortunately. I think a front rack & basket will be a better solution.

  26. Deb Mozurkewich says:

    I use three different types of bag/basket depending on my needs and my mood. I have a beautiful wicker basket from The Basket Lady for cruising around town with and to the farmers market. I have a beautiful set of panniers from Public Bikes that I won in a contest that you ladies from LEGRAB sponsored that I use when I have a lot to carry or plan on extensive farmers market shopping or for touring, they carry an amazing amount of stuff. And lastly I have a Novara trunk bag that I use as my most everyday bag. That one fits my tools, phone, camera, spare tube, snacks and what-have-you. The attached photo is with my BEAUTIFUL PANNIERS that I won from the LEGRAB summer games the year before last. Thank you again! One thing to note is that all of them have great easy to use straps for attaching to the bike. The panniers are nice to carry because they have a carry handle.

  27. Jenna says:

    This review was EXTREMELY EXTREMELY HELPFUL!!! I’m 28 years old and a first time by bike rider in my adulthood. I located the bike I plan to purchase, and before I buy it, I’m looking for various ways to commute to work and around town and storage, Particularly the best way to carry my purse, was a big question for me. I looked high and low on Google, and this website, your video has been the best by far. Thank you very much for posting this video. As a fashionista myself you gave several options that are realistic and fabulous :) Can’t wait to see more from you!

  28. April Galarza says:

    Most of the bags Dottie demoed are too small to carry a laptop. How does everyone carry a laptop on their bike?

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