Our Bike Luggage
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We use Ortlieb pannier bags. The German build quality is second to none, both in terms of 100% waterproof (you can use them as buckets), the robust bomb-proof build quality & the reassuring five-year guarantee. In fact, Ortlieb state that their products will last 20 years plus. Cycling across Europe, we saw that most cyclists ride with Ortlieb pannier bags.
Alysun has the “Packer” style with traditional hooded top style rear panniers, where one can easily open the top with snap-click buckles. It is easier to get into this style of pannier bag and they have a handy front outside pocket.
Tim has the “Roll-Top” style rear panniers, that are “expandable” so that Tim can pack lots of food after a big shop, and they completely “water tight” (just in case you ride into a river).
When cycle touring with our tent, we both use front & rear panniers to spread the load. It is not a good idea to load everything on the rear pannier rack, as this can lead to poor steering stability, especially when cycling fast or climbing on steep rough tracks. We load lighter items into the front panniers such as sleeping bags, sleeping mats or clothing. We load heavier items into the rear panniers such as our tent, cooking equipment & food. Organising how we pack our pannier is crucial to our life on the road. We use light-weight dry bags to compartmentalise our packing, so it is easy to find things and to avoid having lots of small things spilling out everywhere, such as underwear or socks, when getting something out of the panniers.
All the items that we have need for constant access to such as valuables (wallets & passports), camera, notebook diary, mobile phones etc, we keep in our handlebar & saddle bags.
We both have Carradice Saddle Bags, made from waterproof, hardwearing cotton duck fabric. These are big enough for day rides, to carry a lunchbox, small thermos, tool kit, first aid kit and waterproofs. Alysun has the “Barley Saddlebag” (9 ltrs), suiting her sensible minimalist luggage requirements. Tim, the “mule”, has the much bigger “Lowsaddle Longflap Saddlebag” (15 lts) with the expandable flap so that he can carry the tool kit, first aid kit, D-Lock & even a mini-tripod for his camera. Both saddle bags have side pockets for soap (or hand gel), mobile phones, wallets, multi-tools and an Opinel knife.
We both have handlebar bags. Alysun has a Carradice Keswick handlebar bag, with a built-in clear map case on top. She does not always use her handlebar bag, particularly since getting her saddlebag, as she likes to see the road in-front of her front wheel. Having a handlebar bag can obstruct this view. Tim has an Ortlieb Ultimate 6 L Plus handlebar bag, that carries his camera and lenses, plus an Anker 10,000 mAh power bank that can be used to keep re-charge our mobile phones and to keep the Garmin charged up on long day rides. Having the camera in the handlebar bag, means that it is always easily available and can be put quickly away if the weather turns very bad. Also, when we stop & leave the bikes, Tim can easily carry his camera gear with him.
It is worth using a cycle touring shop/website to buy panniers, handlebar & saddle bags for the best range of choice and good prices, such as SJS Cycles (Thorn Cycles online shop) ….