Dawes touring bike with red and black pannier

What are panniers?

Panniers are bags that attach to each side of a rack. They are the most useful kind of bike luggage because of their large capacity. Various designs are available, some being waterproof.

Tips for riding with panniers

  • Distribute the weight.
    This usually means using a pair of panniers, not just one.
  • Gear down to climb.
    You’ll need to select a lower gear than usual when going uphill with luggage.
  • Ride patiently.
    Panniers will make your bike slightly wider so you may not be able to take narrow gaps in the same way, or accelerate as fast.
  • Steady the bike with both hands.
    Full panniers can make a bike tip sideways when you’re pushing it along or when you’re parking it. Once you’re aware of this, you tend to adjust for it naturally.

Features to look for in panniers

  • Roll top.
    These panniers can easily be carried over the shoulder when off the bike. Ortleib makes a fully waterproof roll top pannier (but without pockets for small items).
  • Sprung clips.
    Here, the clips wrap around the top of the rack to stop the bag jumping off when you ride over a bump.

Be sure to choose a pannier that goes on the rack you have. Some racks have large diameter tubing, others have rectangle-section tubing which can prevent some pannier clips from engaging.

Older panniers use a strap and loop to fasten them to the rack. There’s an explanation of how to attach this kind of pannier, on this page below the photo.

Here’s a blogger who made panniers from normal bags stiffened with wood and with hooks screwed to the backs. I like the concept and might try it some time. I reckon it would need a securing clip to stop the bag jumping off.

Other types of luggage