This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.
From: Mark Buell <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 20:52:00 -0500
A FAQ covering courier bags, backpacks, panniers, saddle bags, and
There is an existing FAQ on panniers, but it doesn't cover courier bags,
etc. However, for more info on panniers, please refer to it.
Courier bags, backpacks, panniers, and trailers,
Which system is superior?
The real answer is "None." But that's a little confusing, and not very
illuminating, eh? In this article I try to offer some of my experience,
that of other experienced cyclists I've known, and opinions that have
been found on rec.bicycles.misc from time to time.
Critical Questions To Answer.
1: Distance. How far are you traveling?
2: How much weight are you carrying?
3: What is YOUR sense of style?
4: What kind of cyclist are you, and what is your ability level?
5: How do you feel most comfortable dealing with traffic?
6: Traffic levels and roadway conditions, i.e. off-road, city, Mongolian
track or US highway?
Changing your answer to one of the above may well change your decision
about how to carry your cargo.
These questions are all important, but numbers 1 and 2 are at the top
because they are arguably the most
Technical factors to consider:
Center of gravity.
Ease of access.
Personal style (again).
THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE.
There are a lot of options! You can get panniers, front and rear, in a
thousand different styles. Then there are handlebar packs, for which
every manufacturer has different mounting hardware. You can choose
from backpacks, fanny packs, courier bags, Carradice bags, and
trailers! I've used all of these at some time, and, I've worn out a
few. In this article I discuss backpacks, Carradice bags, courier
bags, fanny packs, handlebar bags, panniers, racks, underseat bags,
Following the description is a table showing how I rate the systems
for the characteristics above. A rating will vary, possibly a lot, due
to hardware particulars of a brand or design, how the hardware is
packed, and purely from subjective opinion. A user may find they
prefer, say, the ease of access of a set of panniers over that of a
The bottom line is "Do you feel in control of your bike, and
comfortable with your choice?" The ratings in the descriptions are for
a useable range of load capacity. This is not a maximum capacity, nor
a minimum. This is what I have found to be a wise capacity in real
life, used on a bicycle. On one extreme, you can use touring panniers
for a single jacket and camera, but it would be total overkill to use
a trailer for that same load. Obviously, too, some people will safely
use their system with larger loads, and they will happily tell you
so. But, the rider with the 100 pound touring rig knows how to pack
those panniers - very well. Larger loads increase the likelihood of
problems. There is a lot of gray area here. Higher quality equipment
will enable larger loads, but the principles still apply.
One ng commentor wanted prices. I will say that this is the easiest
thing for the reader to find. Since the systems vary so widely it is a
hard question to answer here.
But some generalities may be useful. Quality costs more. Backpacks can
be real cheap, but the ones designed for cycling are only available at
medium backpack prices and above. Right now that means at least $50 to
$90. Courier bags, good ones, can be had for under $100. Panniers mean
you have to buy a rack too, so you're probably over $100 there, for
quality. Fanny packs can be cheap, or expensive. Trailers are easily
over $100, and most likely more; they are not a cheap
solution. Carradice, or saddle bags seem to be competitive with good
backpacks and courier bags.