tek, thinks & la strada ☯ॐ☢ csmr@kapsi

Notes on bicycle touring & packing bags and racks

Bicycling feels liberating. I know all about flying through the soft summer breeze all night. Or the enermous energy that one gets after few hours in almost freezing rain. Once the taste has been acquired, one wishes for larger bites of it. I want to travel the Earth on a bicycle. I love cycling, but have little experience with long-distance travel on a bicycle. Let me do some homework and notes here.

What type of bicycle-travel?

So I believe the first thing to do is ask, what kind of travel am I going to do? What type of equipment and kit do I need for this travel? One has to be realistic: 15 kg or so is probably the maximum load thats worth thinking of on a bicycle.

I have both touring type of travel in mind: mostly roads, shops, hostels and hotels are available on the route. Then there is the dream of days of wilderness travel, where no cars or even that many people are seen - at all!

The Consumerism Pitfall

Bicycling isn't just a pragmatic choice. It is also a lifestyle and a marketing target segment. And that means that companies and corporations want You to consume bicycling products and lifestyle-images, that you might not need, or that might not even exist in reality. Just another toy, that you do not need, that costs you many hours of your life. Or even worse: a poorly designed/cloned product, that does not function or breaks on you.

Racks or Bags? I have no experience with this!

Ideally I could get a generic rack, generic drybag or water resistant bag, and some straps to tie the bag on the rack. No brand names, no hipstery color options, no product lock-ins.

At the moment bags that hang off the the saddle and the handle bar are quite popular, and maybe still new-ish thing on the market. Racks, and bags or panniers for racks on the other hand were available on 1950's bicycles. I think that racks cost less, are more versatile and can carry more than the newer bags, lower on the bicycle. But strangely, As panniers get you extra air drag I think panniers are not the optimum. On the other hand panniers get the weight low relative to the center of your gravity, on a bicycle. At the moment I have bit of a fixation on rack-and-drybag, but due to season I've been unable to buy suitable rack yet. So I better explore the options.

I wonder if the saddle-bag-handlebar-bag -combo trends are ajust a scheme to sell more ultralight camping gear? Because while you easily do get 20 liters of space, in fact a typical normal sleeping bag, mat and a tent will easily occupy this space - and in fact to get small enough gear one needs to spend decent amounts of money.


Again, the focus here is to find a light-ish rack that can hold a 10-20 liter drybag on a gravel bicycle, and inexpensively so - expecting the front rack to cost roughly €30 and a drybag about €20.

Pelago Racks

Pelago has couple of racks that look nice: Pelago Commuter front racks are made from steel, and are available in Medium and Large size. The Pelago Commuter Medium Front Rack has a street price of €95, is 295x225mm, comes with several fork attachment adapters, weighs about 1 kg and promises 15 kg max carrying capacity.

Atran Velo AVS

Atran Velo AVS -system products are widely available here, and have several < 800 gram racks for less than €50. I have no way of knowing if these actually fit the front fork of my bicycle, but their AVS system bags for these racks don't seem bad, either - and there is an adaptor for converting bags into quick-locking on the racks.

At simplest the choice would be a minimalist Atran Velo Base -rack with a AVS bag. Strapping things on 'The Base' -rack seems unsuitable, AVS bag required, but then again, an easily detachable bag would be nice during travels.

A slightly more versatile rack would be Atran Velo Tour Front, which weighs around 570 g, promises 10 kg max loading capacity, and costs around €40. Not much bigger than the Base, its still looks like it might actually allow stapping bags and buns on it.

The racks that seem to allow for versatile strap-mangling or side mounting panniers or other stuff are the Atran Velo Tour -series racks.

In fact, assuming that the Tour Lite BS actually can be attached on my gravel fork, it seems like the perfect rack: at street price of €50, it promises max loading capacity of 25 kg, weighs 760 grams, and claims disc brake-compatibility. So maybe Tour Lite BS would allow me to just get 2 drybags and 4 straps for a nice rout through mountains somewhere.

Atran Velo AVS bags include a 10,5 liter Top Bag Travel, and a 10,5 liter + 8 liter Top Bag Atran Zap-bags, priced around €80-90 at enduro24.fi. They claim to offer water proof bag. There are also pannier-type bags available there.

In theory, another Option™ would be using a AVS-bag-adapter to make a bag, a steel basket or a box of some type usable with the AVS.

Saddle Bags

Topeak backloader 10 l is a typical "butt-carrot" that attaches under the saddle rails and around the seatpost. Stereotype of "bikepacking". It's a nylon outer shell that hangs a drybag-tube on your saddle, and is available here at under €80 street price (for example Lucky Bird Bikes). It offers a quick release mechanism for the bag, bag valve, is about 60 cm x 20 cm, and weighs around 480 grams.

Ortlieb offers Seat-Pack M in the similar size of 11 liters (also 5 and 15 liter, I think). The pricing is basically double of that of Topeak, but the seatpost mechanism seems sturdy, also offers bag valve, the bag is about 40 cm x 26 cm, and weighs around 325 grams. Youtuber Path Less Pedaled has a review.

A slightly different take on the seat-bag theme is Lightweight Audax Saddlebag Neon, a bright yellow wide saddlebag of 9 liters, with street price around €80. It offers two external pockets, is more of the wide format, at 28 cm w x 16 cm h x 15 cm d, and weighs 440 grams. This bag seems to require a separate seatpost bracket adaptor, like Carradice Bagman Expedition QR at street price around €75.

Handlebar bags

So, with a gravel bike, the standard is drop-bar -handlebars. And that leaves less than 300 mm between the horns of the handlebar to fit a bicycle bag on. I seem to find two types: a box-bag type of product with a quick-release mechanism, and a drybag-in-harness -type of product. The typical drybag-roll products are from Evoc, Topeak and Ortlieb.

A small Bar Handlebar Bag of 5 liters is also available from Acepac, for about €50 from Velobia webstore. Its 25x16x12 cm and weighs 270 g.

Thule Shield is a 9 liter boxy kind of a handlebar bag, with quick-lock and a window-compartment on top. Its local street price is €70, dimensions 25x19x17 cm, and weight 580 grams.

Fork cages and cagebags

Geosmina offers Cargo Cage Fork Bag, a 5 liter bag, for a +50€ street price. This is certainly an option, suits suspension bikes, and requires no rack-installation.


Whew! So many products to look at. I will skip panniers for now.


Several products offer a bottle-rack fitting containers for bringing things like tools.

The product I most commonly seem to encounter is Shimano Elite Byasi -containers with inner cup, at street price around €9 and weight about 100 g for ½ liter model.

Zefal Z-Box L is a 800 ml container bottle, with inner compartment, street price around €9 and weight around 130 grams.

Topeak offers Ecape Pod Tool Bottle S for about €8 from across the Baltic Sea, a 520 ml bottle weighing only 41 grams

DIY bag-kits

So, consider the simplest of touring setups: a generic 10 liter drybag, two straps and two short velcro-straps to hold the straps together in place, and on the handlebar and frame triangle. A cheap 10 liter dry bag costs €9,90 at Motonet, two 1 meter straps about €10, and 40 cm of velcro about €2. The total cost is about €25, and weight roughly about 600 grams. This setup could also hold the sleeping mat on the bicycle.

Copyright 2020 Casimir Pohjanraito

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