Pannier or large saddle bag for commuting?

by craig749   August 12, 2014  

Hi all,

I'm currently commuting about 160 miles a week and using a rucksack to carry my lunch/clothes which is driving me insane. It not only makes my back really sweaty but its also a pain when i want to do longer rides on the way home as it means carrying it for longer distances. Its a good/expensive rucksack, however its time for a change.

With my new frame nearly built i'll have the facility for a rack/panniers. I've also been considering a large saddle bag or frame type bag (maybe something from here:

Do any of you use any of the above? if so which would you recommend?

As always thanks for your thoughts Wink

11 user comments

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I'm assuming you don't actually commute 160 miles. Wink

The lower you can carry weight the better, so if you can fit panniers then great.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1251 posts]
12th August 2014 - 9:13


If you can fit a rack easily enough then panniers are the way forward. I don't have stays for a rack on my commuter and I like to take it out on longer runs at the weekend, so I use a Carradice saddle bag to carry my gear and the SQR system so I can whip it off easily enough when I don't need it. They aren't cheap, but when you consider the back pain and sweatiness caused by wearing a rucksack it's worth every penny.

posted by bamilton wackad... [68 posts]
12th August 2014 - 9:23


I use a Vaude pannier that converts into a rucksack when you're off the bike. Lots of 'slots'/sections for things and I think they do different sizes. Very sturdy and has a waterproof cover. I came off last year and the bike skidded across the road on top of the bag; not even minor damage. I think Altura have produced something similar. If you want holdall style panniers, then Ortliebs are the only option. Totally waterproof and 'bombproof'. Mine are 15 years old and still going strong. I've seen some pretty stylish and functional Brooks panniers as well, but at a price! Panniers are the way to go and, contrary to some opinion, don't slow you down. I'm sure it's just 'image' for some people who can't bear to look like a 'shopper'.


posted by Shades [273 posts]
12th August 2014 - 9:54


I used 2x Ortlieb front roller panniers (the classic) for years of commuting, various jobs, between 8km and 30km each way, never had a problem.

Colleagues often ask, "oh, are those some kind of special bicycle bags?" when they see them, or even, more depressingly, have absolutely no idea what they are.

Now my commute is bike free Sad so it's rucksack, train, and microscooter Smile

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posted by PJ McNally [602 posts]
12th August 2014 - 17:34


+1 for carradice.

At first look they are expensive for what is effectively a canvas satchel, but get one and you'll realise they're worth every penny. I have a Pendle, it's about 11 ltr and apart from the occasional waggle when I'm out of the saddle I barely notice its there. Plus it goes really well with my Brooks, I had to get a black one though because I have a black saddle (would love the olive/green, but I thought it would clash). Make sure you get one of the fixing systems though as they are well known for the "carradice sag".

If I needed to carry more, I have my old Ortlieb panniers and a rack. I personally don't like how heavy it makes the back end feel once they're on though.

posted by dazwan [313 posts]
12th August 2014 - 19:03


Thanks for all your thoughts. I've just had a look at the carradice bags and that could be ideal for what I need as I don't carry too much although that could change in the winter as I'd probably carry spare kit.

I still like the thought of panniers although having to take the rack off on the weekend for longer rides could get annoying. Would you advise on getting a rack top bag or a bag that sits at the side of the rack? This might sound daft but if you only have one pannier bag on does it make the riding feel any different?



posted by craig749 [63 posts]
12th August 2014 - 20:43


+1 again for Carradice.

I use this:

Nice and easy, quick release, waterproof, also saves your @ss from road spray. The mount weighs nothing on your bike - great for when you're not riding with luggage.

I've even done weekend credit-card touring with it (shoes, jeans, t-shirt, thin hoodie, underwear, small tool kit/spares) - just! So plenty big enough for commute duties.

Also, in my experience you will get excellent service from Carradice if you ever need it, I posted on here recently that I lost the spring from my quick release system while cleaning my bike, 1 email to Carradice (reply took 2 mins!) and a kindly person there sent me a replacement spring free of charge - received the next day!

posted by newtonk [29 posts]
12th August 2014 - 21:02

1 Like

A single pannier, lightly loaded, is hardly noticeable. TBH even a heavy load doesn't matter much, as your brain's balance center naturally compensates for any slight list the vehicle might have. The only thing it affects is how often your bike will fall over when you park it against lamp posts.

posted by chokofingrz [403 posts]
12th August 2014 - 21:04


I have a similarly long commute and went from rucksack to panniers (Ortliebs, they're brilliant). Most of the time I'm using only one of them (and yes, your brain quickly compensates, even if the pannier bag is fully loaded).

The rack is quickly removed if you want to take it off for the weekend. But then, if you don't want to be faffing about with one at all, a carradice certainly makes sense. Personally I'm quite fond of the additional cargo capacity of a set of panniers. Smile Can do all my groceries shopping by bike too.

Got milk? Doesn't fit in your bottle cage? Get a Carton Cage.

Video: we put a GoPro on a sparrow.

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posted by userfriendly [469 posts]
12th August 2014 - 21:12


Gizmo_ wrote:

I'm assuming you don't actually commute 160 miles. Wink

Why not? That's 16 miles in the morning, 16 in the evening, five days. That's close to what I'm doing too and I'm not particularly fit.

Best part of the day, too Smile Could do without the work part in between, of course.

Got milk? Doesn't fit in your bottle cage? Get a Carton Cage.

Video: we put a GoPro on a sparrow.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [469 posts]
12th August 2014 - 21:20


The OP updated his original post. At first it read like he commuted 160 miles in a day.

I've got the Carradice Camper Long Flap which I use for commuting. It might seem excessive given it's their biggest bag - but I take a towel to shower at work and my work clothes, as well as lock and various bike bits so it's just about the perfect size. Then if I want to take it away for a weekend I have the option of expanding it.

I'm off to Scotland tomorrow for a week and my only luggage will be the Carradice and a 7 Lt Ortlieb bar bag. Granted, I'll be staying with friends and family while I'm up there - but I'm really putting the idea of ultralight packing to the test Big Grin

posted by bamilton wackad... [68 posts]
13th August 2014 - 10:33