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cycling 101: pack or pannier?
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Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 01/18/2012 07:52:59 MST Print View

while toolin' round on my ancient mt. bike i often load my rucksack with obscene amounts of this, that, and the other. at times it's heaps of clothing from the thrift, gear for a game of hockey, or scours of crabapples that i salvaged from the ground. when the garden hits full throttle, i deliver obscene amounts of veggies to the neighbors. in times like these, i appreciate a pack. two words: hip belt.
still, what chalenges me (and what i find mostly unsafe), is when my pack height compromies my ability to physically turn my body to see those vehicles behind me. as in when crossing the road. oftentimes it's a logging truck, or a construction vehicle, or a plow truck behind me. i know panniers present value when toting heavy loads, but honestly, i appreciate tailoring the fit of a pack to my body. my area is mostly hilly dirt roads, and oftentimes, i need to stand upright on my pedals to gain the momentum for ascending. a pack moves with and i dig! would panniers be a drag? the metal ones-- do they easily rust? are they easily removed when not needed? i'm not always carrying a 30 lb. load, but a messenger bag/ pack with something in it, yes, and the convenience of a clip always supercedes my desire for a metal basket that lacks protection from the elements. what i really wish to know: would coverting to a pannier be compromising my safety in other ways (that i don't yet know about)? or any straight-up advice you wish to offer, hit me back. thanks. lt.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 01/18/2012 09:38:57 MST Print View

For just toting things around town/going to the store, nothing beats a huge front basket. I prefer the Wald delivery basket

Having the weight upfront really helps with handling, and you can see your load in case anything tries to pop out. I made a little bungee spiderweb thing to go over the basket. I have hauled loads of flowers, cases of beer, groceries, you name it. Really functional and cheap and made in the USA.

For bikepacking trips, I prefer to strap as much as i can to my bike using straps/bungees like this:

If you do decide to go the panniers route, you will need a sturdy front rack (i would recommend surly) and some panniers (i would recommend banjo brothers)

Thing is that panniers are expensive. Also you don't want rear panniers in my opinion. Weight rides much better up front.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 01/18/2012 11:55:28 MST Print View

MYOG kitty litter panniers. Should hold a ton and let you use a smaller pack if you need to carry something else that won't fit inside.

Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
"cycling 101: pack or pannier?" on 01/19/2012 06:52:04 MST Print View

thanks kids, for the reach back and links!
i previoulsy failed to mention...
90% of the roads i ride are BADLY "corduroy" ed if you will...
jolts my every bone!
i continue to question how toting glass (pannier-style) would fare on this terrain?
beer is good only when still in it's bottle.
i'd rather not wear it, and i'd rather not risk broken glass near my tires.
especially when i'm miles out.
perhaps i should simply continue cycling with my rucksack?
(feel free to convince me otherwise)
should i get taken by a truck, well at least i die living, eh? :) lt

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: "cycling 101: pack or pannier?" on 01/19/2012 07:45:08 MST Print View

beer bottles are built to be transported... in their case i'm pretty sure they would be fine. you could put a piece of soft foam in the bottom of the pannier to take some of the shock out. panniers would catch any glass even if something crazy happened so worrying about tires isn't an issue.

remember bicycles are the cars, trucks, minivans, delivery vehicles in many countries and they do just fine in pretty harsh conditions.. ie vietnam, india, china etc.

Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
"cycling 101: pack or pannier?" on 01/19/2012 09:34:56 MST Print View

thanks j + j!
i should know this--
that glass can in fact travel, and travel well-- provided it's properly cushioned.
having toted many a jar of peanut butter into the backcountry....
(somein' 'bout pb in a jar)...
panniers it is!

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Front vs back on 01/19/2012 14:22:30 MST Print View

I totally disagree about the handling of having the weight up front. In my experience it is awful and totally affects your steering in a very bad way.

I don't notice any change to handling when the paniers are in the rear at all. I completely forget they're there if less than 40 pounds or so. For around town (up to 15 pounds) I just take one, on one side, and even that doesn't negatively affect handling.

Probably depends a lot on your bike. Mine is a cross between road and touring geometry. Relatively long chainstays.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
My Experiences on 01/20/2012 11:18:55 MST Print View

Personally, I do a hybrid of the two. I ride a beach cruiser (yeah, yeah, not lightweight, I know; but I live in Florida, and the hills down here are generally pathetic), and use a dry bag strapped to my bikes seat post rack for the heavy stuff. Most of my bike camping rides are in the ~40 to ~50 mile range, on fairly decent pavement, if that helps.

I can carry up to about twenty-five pounds on the rack without an issue, and then I stuff the rest into a framed ruck with a waist belt (one of the advantages of sitting mostly upright on the cruiser is that the weight transfer to the belt works well). I like having a Camelback when I ride, so the ruck always has at least that in it (or on it, with my most recent bag) when I go.

Now, I don't put anything particularly fragile in the dry bag for my camping trips--on the other hand, I've carried twelve packs of beer around town (~7 miles at most) on the rack before and not had a problem. Well, other than the beer being shaken up a bit, anyway. However, that's on fairly decent pavement, with high-volume tires, so take it with a grain of salt.

I've used both a front basket (my last bike) and a rear rack, and I have to say that the rear rack is superior if you're going to carry more than five pounds or so. Otherwise the basket definitely wins on convenience.

My two cupronickel disks...

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
pack or pannier on 02/04/2012 21:40:05 MST Print View

packs totally suck on a bike. You are much better off with panniers, either front or back. The exact optimum configuration will depend upon the individual bike and its geometry. For small things that I want to keep with me, I prefer a waist pack.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 02/04/2012 22:16:02 MST Print View

Pannier primarily for stability, pack as brief spill-over, trailer for heavier and/or longer rides.

I've been cycling to the supermarket for 26 years, and my family has increased the frequency and the volume for the last 18 years. I've just come back with gallon of milk, 6 bottles of Sierra Nevada and some apple-juice and no handling problem, just the slower acceleration from the weight.

Affecting steering - it depends what its attached to. Mine attaches to the frame, not the forks so as I steer I'm not moving mass. In the past I have used two low-rider panniers centered on the front wheel and just put low-volume stuff there. For one 10 year period I'd use two 40L on the back and two 15L on the front 105L total and sometimes strap something on the rack also. That bike would like any reason to fall over....

Currently, for upto 60L I use panniers, for briefly extra I add a backpack, for longer extra I have a 100L trailer which obviously adds a hassle but the weight is not on the bike and the trailer weighs 5Kg so needs a good reason to be added.

I prefer, the system which has proved to be the must sustainable over the years is shop little+often en-route whilst doing other stuff, like on a commute home that way a relatively modest pannier can handle 99% of the shopping. I do have to keep a bike with a rack to strap larger loads to, and BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) are a double-edged problem!

If your roads are really bad then my bike isn't for you its really a good surface machine.

Example trailer around town

Example trailer rural

Example spill-over backpack

Example front large pannier on the frame

The bike pre-dates the car and plenty of countries live by bike, in Europe the Dutch are well known for it and in a few places in USA, Portland OR being the most well known. Obviously poorer countries like India are still significantly bike-powered. Usually there are specific "mule bikes" in USA the Xtra Cargo.

There is a loose relationship between carrying stuff on the bike and backpacking, in that you're tending to have better bad weather clothing and generally err on the side of compact lighter equipment, but in general they use their own specialist equipment.

Jack Hoster
(OrlandoHanger) - F
cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 02/18/2012 16:14:32 MST Print View

I like mounting a basket in the rear. Easy to get things in and out. Bumps are easier on back [you] or front [bike]. You can carry a lot of weight. The bike is a little tipsier when getting on and off if you place a lot of weight high in the back.

Found this:

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: cycling 101: pack or pannier? on 02/18/2012 16:30:05 MST Print View

That's illegal in all 50 states.

Jack said, "I like mounting a basket in the rear. Easy to get things in and out."

Jack Hoster
(OrlandoHanger) - F
In the rear on 02/18/2012 17:09:34 MST Print View

Hmm...doesn't sound right when you read it.

Tim Anderson
( - F
Ultralight bike touring on 04/15/2012 08:54:38 MDT Print View

So I'd say, neither pack (more weight on your butt) or pannier, as they stick out into the wind and add at least 5 pounds to the bike.
I bike tour for months on end with around 32 pounds (14.5kg), bike included.
My gear weighs under 10 pounds (4.5kg).
I only use a modified handlebar bag (9liter capacity, 350g)
And this rack with a 20l dry bag strapped below, and a 10l wide-mouth dry bag on the top.
This set up, with bags directly in front, breaking the wind, and directly behind, reducing turbulence, is actually faster than just me on my bike.

Bill Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
ultralight bike touring on 04/15/2012 18:13:43 MDT Print View

Very cool. With just 10 lbs of gear, after comfort, it seems like aero should be a major priority. The behind-seat bag makes good sense. Have you run tests (such as roll-down tests) on the handlebar bag to see whether it's also working well aerodynamically? Maybe I'm looking at the wrong model, or thinking about it wrong?



Edward Barton
(edwardalbarton) - F
Revelate designs bags on 04/15/2012 21:24:48 MDT Print View

You might check out the large capacity seat bags and handlebar bags and strap kits from Revelate Bags in Anchorage. He also does custom and stock bags that go inside the main triangle. They eliminate the need for racks, put the weight in the center of the bike, and his stuff is solidly made. Salsa also has started making one of his stock main triangle bags for a couple of their frames, which could be retrofitted. Another rackless option, though less aerodynamic is the anything cage by Salsa for mounting on the fork, which can fit a sleeping bag or tent/tarp and insulated clothes. In my experience, the mounting brackets failed quickly. I had to hose clamp mine with little pieces of wood while on the road, but they've worked well ever since.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Panniers on 04/16/2012 04:17:09 MDT Print View

Panniers. Using backpacks for heavy loads is sweaty and bad for your back. I've had a big rear basket on my commuter but they do sit the weight very high and do catch the wind. If your roads are really bad and you're carrying really big loads a lot then you will break pannier racks eventually. Pannier racks don't rust in any meaningful way.