Why do cyclists prefer pannier bags when they can carry a backpack to lug things around?

We asked a few riders who regularly commute to work on their bicycles and they gave us a few reasons why they prefer pannier bags vs a backpack

  • Comfort was the most important. Everyone hates a sweaty back because of a heavy backpack on their ride.
  • Ability to carry more items on their bike
  • Safety. A heavy bag strapped to the bike felt a lot safer and more stable in city traffic.
  • Pannier bags are stronger and a lot more durable to lug heavy items.

Panniers are uber useful for commuting to work – but they are an absolute essential for cyclists touring on their bicycles.


Bicycle Pannier Bags

People are often confused with the word “Pannier”. A pannier can mean two different things, which is why it’s important to be specific.

Pannier bags are bags that hang off the side of your bike, on purpose-built racks called Pannier Racks. The racks are mounted to bike frames – usually on the seat stay assisted by the seat clamp or seat post. Pannier racks are usually meant to take anywhere between 8 to 20 kgs. Pannier racks are not to be confused with pannier bags and are almost always sold separately.


Front and Rear mounted Pannier Bags

Rear-mounted pannier racks – For the rear-mounted position to work well, your bike needs fairly long chainstays so that the panniers can be over the rear wheel contact point and still leave heel clearance.

Fitting rear panniers on a road racing bike might not be ideal as these speed machines end up having short chainstays and might even interfere with the rear wheel because of close frame tolerances.

Touring specific bikes have longer chainstays and have heavy-duty frames that can support greater loads.

Front-mounted pannier racks – If you’re out on a longer trip you may want to consider front fork mounted panniers.

A front rack is good if you want to carry light items. It’s a good place for a sleeping mat, for example. Typically, front panniers for high-position racks are smaller than rear panniers. Always remember that these front-mounted panniers aren’t meant to lug around too much weight as heavy cargo upfront can adversely affect handling.


1. Materials – Panniers are usually made of cloth infused with nylon or some sort of plastic of rigidity. Waterproof panniers are available too. These bags are usually made of tarpaulin or PVC. The seams and joints are welded shut to make them as resistant to water entry as possible.

Pannier racks are usually made from steel or aluminum tubing. Steel rod racks are the cheapest but are usually only found on entry-level bicycles. They tend to be flimsy and harder to install. Aluminum rod racks are lighter and slightly more expensive. Most brands have added thicker tubing with reinforcements and braces to make the racks stiffer and stronger.

2. Capacity – Pannier bags come in a variety of size options. Commuter specific bags are smaller and more compact for city usage. Touring pannier bags are often larger with a greater carrying capacity – up to 50 Litres. Touring bags also have heavy-duty hardware for mounting and usually come with rain covers or are completely waterproof.

3. Compatability – Pannier racks can fit on to two main locations: next to the rear wheel; by the top of the front wheel and; and next to the front wheel hub. The rear-mounted pannier rack is the most common as it is the most convenient and does not hinder rider movement in any way.

Before purchasing a pannier rack:

• Check for the presence of rack eyelets on your frame. If they are not there you will need a rack with an alternative mounting method
• Check that the rack is compatible with disc brakes (if you have them)
• Check that the maximum load limit recommended for any rack corresponds with how you intend to use it
• Check that the rack is compatible with your pannier bags if you have them already.

Pannier racks can be fit on to pretty much any bike. What you want to look out for, are the mounting points. These points are called eyelets. You’ll see that most bikes have them at the rear, just above the dropouts. Additional points are provided on the seat stays.

Some bikes have special seat clamps that are hollow and can accommodate the rack stays. Don’t worry if you don’t have these mounting points. You can look at racks that are a universal fit and don’t require eyelets. There are also accessory kits that can be used to fit racks to such bikes.


Saddlebags – These bags attache to the underside of your saddle. Its small form factor allows it to neatly tuck away underneath your saddle. The saddlebag can store your ride essentials such as a – patch kit, tire lever, spare tube, and maybe even a phone. Saddlebags are convenient, handy, and essential for every bike.


2. Frame stowage bags – These kinds of bags can be mounted on multiple locations on the bike, such as – the top tube, handlebars, seat post, downtube, and even the seat tube.

This kind of setup is ideal for tourers and bike packers. It gives you the ability to carry multiple items aboard your bike. Having multiple smaller bags will ensure that all of the weight is not concentrated only on one area – making it easier to ride and handle.

These frame bags can accommodate all of your travel gear including clothing if you add panniers. With frame bags that can accommodate up to 8-10 liters, there’s nothing you cannot carry on your next bike trip.

Frame Bags

Panniers and bike bags are a great investment for commuters and tourers alike. It makes it convenient to carry a greater amount of luggage than in a backpack, provide additional safety and comfort to a rider and are a lot more durable and purpose suited for lugging things around.

It’s never been easier to carry your luggage around with these innovative on-bike storage solutions.

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About the Author

Shaun George

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING I'm an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often. Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time. DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking CURRENT BIKE: Merida One Twenty 9.600 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010

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