A bicycle bag kit usually includes a frame bag, a handlebar bag or seat belt, a seat bag, and several smaller outer bags mounted on the frame, handlebars, and front forks to help spread the weight To the whole bike.
The frame pack was conceived to allow storage within a bike’s triangle – the space formed by the top tube, seat tube and downtube. It’s usually lashed on by a series of velcro straps. Frame packs are available for both full suspension, hardtail and rigid bikes alike. While ideally each is custom made to fit a snugly within a bike’s unique frame, there are some universally sized bags commercially available that will fit most bikes. The frame bag is an excellent place to store heavier items as it maintains a low center of gravity, though smaller frames and full suspension will have more limited capacities.
Zips are the weakest part of a frame pack, as with all gear. Try and resist the temptation to cram as much as you can in, as it will inevitably stress the zip in the long run and cause it to split. These are especially well suited to longer journeys, where reliability is more important than practicality.
Many frame packs have a main compartment on one side — typically the drive side — and zippered flat pocket on the other. This is especially handy for keys, a wallet, or other odds and ends. For the organizers amongst us, frame packs with multiple compartments or dividers are available too.
If you are able to keep your packlist slim and trim, it’s worth keeping in mind the half frame pack. Typically these are long and rather skinny and can usually fit more gear than you’d expect. This format is especially fit for gravel bikes where the large frame triangle still allows two water bottles in addition to the pack. In addition, they are more versatile, they’re lighter, and can easily be swapped between bikes.
The seat pack may appear odd to the uninitiated, but it’s a key piece in a bikepacking bag kit. It’s sometimes conical, or missile shaped body is wedged under the saddle rails and strapped to the seat post. Most seat packs’ volume ranges from 5 liters, running all the way upwards of 14 liters. One benefit of a seat pack over traditional panniers is wind resistance. They’re considerably lighter than a rack and pannier setup. When riding off road, they don’t flap around noisily. They also make those innevitable hike-a-bikes more bearable; seat packs won’t catch on your legs like panniers do. In our opinion, the seat pack is one of the best investments you can make toward building a bikepacking kit.
While most seat packs on the market are touted as being water resistant, waterproof options are becoming more and more common. While it's no matter to some, others find the side to side sway generated by heavy loads in a seat pack rather bothersome. If you pursue a high-quality riding experience, you can choose seat packs with strong stability when purchasing. Hardly any impact on bicycle riding.
While it’s no matter to some, others find the side to side sway generated by heavy loads in a seat pack rather bothersome.
Seat pack systems are inceasingly being developed to allow quick and easy removal.
The handlebar is the most natural place to store equipment. Since the advent of bicycles, people have been tying bags to the handlebars. The special handlebar bag goes a step further, with strong handlebar connections, anti-wear patches to reduce damage to the gear lever, and additional accessory bags. The rule of thumb is to keep the front load relatively light, otherwise the handling of your bike will be affected.
Straps are another popular way to carry multiple dry bags or loads (such as tents), especially those that are too long to be placed elsewhere. For bicycles with suspension forks, a thinner roll is usually better, and the seat belt can "stack" multiple items in the bracket. Harnesses are highly adaptable and are usually cheaper.
A few things to pay attention to when purchasing a handlebar roll are the maximum length and diameter. If you are using big wheels with a small frame, or front suspension, consider a skinnier roll that can be packed long – the downside being they’re a little harder to pack.
Best for: Carrying bigger loads, or packing for short trips.
Want to carry big loads of your bike? Get some panniers! Attaching bags to your bike rather than carrying a backpack, you can evenly distribute the weight of your luggage better and carry far more stuff. Ideal on a commuter bike, panniers will enable you to carry as much as you’d likely need to and from work.
To attach panniers to your bike you’ll need a rear rack which attaches to your bike, so you’ll need to make sure that your bike has the necessary mounting points to fit it beforehand. Once fitted, most panniers have a simple quick-release clip so you carry them with you when you’re off the bike, and easily re-attached them when it’s time to get pedalling again.
Some bags adjust via compression straps or expandable collars. This allows you to carry loads of varying sizes without having the unused portion of the bags flapping in the wind or the load shifting as you move on your bike.
Handlebar bags are more accessible than panniers or seat bags, making them a great choice for small, frequently used items. Other characteristics to consider: How many openings are there? Zippers or flaps? Are there small pockets for organization or simply a large, undivided space?
If you're an all-conditions rider who doesn't shy away from rain and road spray, look for a bag rated as "waterproof" instead of "water resistant." Waterproof bags are made from a rubberized material to keep the contents dry even in a downpour. Many feature a roll-top closure to prevent water from getting in.
If you park in public areas, you'll probably want to take your gear with you. Panniers attach to racks using a simple system of spring-loaded hooks, clips or bungee cords and are easy to disconnect. For seat bags, look for one with a quick-release mounting bracket rather than a set of buckles or rip-and-stick straps.