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How to Select the Best Bike Panniers Racks and Bags (Complete Guide)

Bikepacking and Biketouring or even regular commuting require some way to bring items by adding bike bags or pannier racks. However, most riders aren't aware of them. And while bikes don't offer the convenience of being able to haul large amounts of items, they can be equipped to do so. 

Most cyclists might know about messenger bags or biking backpacks. They are convenient to carry a few items over short commutes. However, when it comes to hauling more items or going on long trips with a bike, you will need to install a bike rack and bag.

The challenge with this is that most persons don't know how to choose a good bike bag or rack. Moreover, there are so many different types of racks available that it just becomes a struggle to find the right ones for your bike. 

In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about bike rack bags and panniers racks. By the end, you'll know all you need to haul all the items you need with no hassle.

Choose the right type of Rack

Picking a bike rack bag or pannier isn't rocket science. However, you need to know what type of racks are the best for what bike and situation. This information is crucial as some racks just won't work with your bike, or they might completely change the way your bike rides. So without a doubt, the first step in choosing a rack is to know the different types.

There are three universal racks used to transport items on a bike: Bike Trailers, Rear racks, and Front Rack.

Let's start by looking at the types of Bike Trailers:

Bike Trailers

A bike trailer is an attachment that fits on the rear hub of a bike. They are perfect for when you plan on hauling lots of items. However, they require a little bit of practice before you start going for long commutes. 

If you have heavy gear or items that you need to bring with you, adding a bike trailer is a must-have. Many cyclists prefer using a bike trailer over racks or panniers as they allow the weight to be off the bike instead of on it and affect their riding. 

Front Racks

A front rack is a standard part of some commuter bikes. But for bikepacking and bike touring that is usually done on specially designed bikes, a front rack allows a rider to haul extra gear at the front of their bikes. 

Front racks are often left unused unless there is a need to carry lots of additional gear that can't hold on the rear racks. This is because adding weight to a front rack on your bike and loading weights on it can impact how well you can turn the bike. 

There are two main types for front racks that you will see on touring bikes: the standard Rack and low rider racks. 

A standard front frack extends above the front wheel and allows you to load your items on it. In contrast, a low rider rack will enable you to distribute the weight in bike bags on the sides of the fork equally. Moreover, since low rider racks are placed near the wheel's center, they allow better weight distribution than a standard front rack.

Rear Racks

Rear racks are very common for backpacking, commuting, and bike touring. These racks are preferred over front racks and bike trailers as they don't impact your ability to ride the bike. With a rear rack or seat post rack, you can utilize various containers such as panniers, bags, or bike rack trunks. 

Rear racks typically enable you to haul quite a bit of items weighing up to 80 pounds depending on the type of Rack. However, not all bikes allow rear racks to be mounted on them, so you would need to go with seat post bike racks in those cases.

What are the best types of Bike Rack Bags?

Next up is choosing the right type of container to pair with your bike rack. There are several items you can use to haul your items with a bicycle rack. They are Baskets, Saddle packs, panniers, Rack Trunks, frame bags, and handlebar packs. 

Bike Baskets

Bike baskets are best used for carrying a small number of items. And these baskets are typically mounted to the front or rear of your bike. If you don't have a bike rack, there are a few bike baskets that can be mounted without a rack. The only downside to bicycle baskets is that they have a lower weight limit, usually around 20 pounds, and in rare cases of heavy-duty models, they allow a max of 40 lbs.  However, they offer the benefit of being able to take taller items or a pet since most of them are lidless. 

Saddle Packs

As the name implies, a saddle pack is a bag that is just under the saddle or seat of your bike. These bags are small containers that will only allow you to carry a small number of essential items. 

Panniers

These bags are for those long backpacking or bike touring adventures where you need to carry your daily necessities. They usually come in pairs and offer quite a large amount of room to store a good amount of clothes and other essentials. You will often find quite a wide variety of panniers in different styles and sizes. Moreover, the best bike panniers are often waterproof too.

Panniers are also very portable as they can be quickly attached or removed from the side of the bike. So you can utilize them to carry some items that you need quick access to. 

Rack Trunks 

Rack Trunks are the suitcases of bicycle bags. They sit on top of the rear bike rack and hold a few more items than a regular seat bag. However, rack trunks typically won't hold as much as a pannier. 

With that said, Rack trunks are a great addition to your backpacking or bike touring trip. You can store all your essentials in it without worrying about them being damaged as they usually have a hard base. 

Handlebar Packs

These are maybe the smallest bike bag among the available options. They are attached to your bike's handlebar and are great for carrying things like your tools, phone, repellent, and other quick reach items.  

Frame Bags

Bike frame bags provide the perfect way to carry tools, wallets, keys, and other essential items. They are conveniently placed between the frame tubes and usually take on a triangular shape.

Wrapping Up 

Now that we've covered all the different types of bike rack bags, all that's left is learning about the most important features to look out for when choosing one. 

Choosing the right fit

As with any gear selection, the fitting will vary by bike type, or size of the bag you choose. So you always need to ensure that the bags you choose will fit where you need to place them. For example, if you don't have the facility to mount a rack at the back of your bike, you wouldn't be able to use a rack trunk unless you go with a Seatpost bike rack. Or in cases where you need to carry large items, a bike basket would be the wrong choice. 

Accessibility & Portability

Most bag options for a bike are portable. However, some have far more portability than others, such as panniers. While others are placed or of reach, thus end up not having great accessibility. As such, we recommend identifying the exact items you plan to carry in these bags. With that in mind, you will be able to know what to bring and where to store them. For phones, energy bars, or a water reservoir, a frame bag is best. If you need to carry tools, a bike rack trunk or seat bag is a good choice. And if you need to carry a few small gear or snacks using a handlebar bag is a good choice. 

Features

Lastly, you need to note the features of your bike bags. Some bike bags offer features such as multiple pockets, are water-resistant, or waterproof. You can also find bags with different weight limits and even bags with a charger pack. The options are endless, so knowing which bag is best for your riding condition is the right way to go about choosing a bike bag and Rack.

We're at the end of the guide, and by now, you should have a better idea of which bag and Rack are best for your needs. Do pay close attention to the details of the bags you select and make sure they match how you planned to use them. Also, remember that improper bag placement and weight balancing can drastically affect your rides.