If you’ve got the bike sorted, the next key item on your shopping list is a set of panniers and bags. When you are covering quite a distance you need to make sure that your clothes, food and kit is safely stored on your bike.
Ideally you want good fittings, comfortable and light panniers and bags so that you can make your merry way all the way from London to Amsterdam.
Panniers are the bags that attach to luggage racks at the back and front of the bike. They are the most common way for cyclists to carry their gear whilst touring.
Good quality panniers will enable you to quickly un-clip the bags from the racks very quickly. This is handy if you are camping in rain or simply want to pop into a shop and keep your valuables safe. Most panniers that you can buy will be fine at doing the job of getting you to Amsterdam. However the cheapest panniers don’t last, won’t be waterproof and the zips can brake.
If you are only planning on doing this trip once then we suggest you go for a cheap set of panniers. If on the other hand you cycle often or think you might get into cycle touring then we suggest going for better quality panniers. In the long run this will save you money as you don’t need to keep buying new ones.
When considering what Panniers to buy and how much to spend you should consider which of these features are most important to you:
Some panniers on the market are 100% waterproof (take for example Ortileb). This is a must have feature if you plan on cycling somewhere where it rains often or heavily (such as the UK).
It means you don’t need to stop and quickly attach waterproof covers over them.
If you want 100% waterproof then it comes at a higher price due to the materials used. Popular alternatives include water resistant panniers that are cheaper but you run the risk of your stuff getting wet.
When you are spending a long period of time on a bike you want to think about how many pockets you want the panniers to have.
Some people like lots of easy accessible pockets so they can quickly grab things. Other people like one section which is more difficult to access. This not only is more waterproof but also can deter pickpockets and theft.
Do you want black panniers that blend in, pretty ones covered in flowers or bright yellow high-vis coloured panniers?
High-vis (high visibility) panniers are another way to make you more visible to other traffic on the roads. There will be a time in your cycle touring where you will find that your ride took longer than you were planning and you end up cycling into the night. By having high-vis panniers it makes you super bright to any cars that might come your way.
Weight and Volume
Panniers come in different sizes and shapes. If you are planning a big touring trip then you want big panniers to store all your kit. On the other hand if you wanted to cycle as quickly as possible then we would recommend small panniers so that your bike doesn’t become too heavy.
Another thing worth considering is how easy the panniers are to attach to the bike. You will be unclipping the panniers quite a few times each day. If it’s fiddly and takes ages after a few days this will become tiresome.
With this in mind here are our recommended panniers:
These Ortileb panniers are one of the most popular choices for touring. They are 100% waterproof and easily clip on and off the bike rack. The only point that some riders dislike about these is the lack of easy access pockets.
These panniers are all about looks. On a bike they just look so pretty when you see someone slowly cycling through the country side in the sunshine. Not only do they look good but they are practical too with a 20 litre capacity(40l per pair) and reflective strips on the front and back.
For serious tourers of those who want to carry everything including the kitchen sink the Altura Orkney is a good choice. It boasts a combined capacity of 56 litres and unlike the Ortileb panniers there are a selection of pouches for storing your gear.
These Ortileb panniers are actually designed with the commuter in mind but we think they are also ideal for light bike touring. The pannier includes 25l of storage (so 50l for a pair) are 100% waterproof but most importantly are covered in high-vis material. This makes you a glowing beacon of light if you are cycling in the dark.
Panniers are attached to your bike using luggage racks. Pannier racks again vary considerably in terms of price, metal and weight so you want to make sure that you are buying the right kit to begin with.
General things to watch out for
What is it made from?
The material used in building a pannier rack is really important. Aluminum frames are lighter and are a good choice for shorter, less demanding touring or where you are concerned with keeping the weight minimal. The other common material used is steel. This is obviously heavier than aluminum, however it is much sturdier. This means that if you want the panniers to last or are planning some longer trips on bumpy un-even road surfaces then this is the choice for you.
This is another important consideration. You need to check that the frame on your bike has rack eyelets. This is the most common way to attach a rack to your bike. It is not uncommon for some road bikes to not have these. If this is the case then you need to have a rack with an alternative mounting method. Also if your bike comes with disc brakes you will need to ensure that the bike rack you select is compatible with these.
Popular bike racks
This bike rack is made from an aluminum frame combined with a stainless steal fitting bracket. This rack si designed specifically if you have disc brakes on your bike and can fit on the rear of the bike.
This rack is made from aluminium tubing and weighs in at only 580g! This makes it ideal for people looking for really lightweight kit to complete the bike ride in super quick time. It can also hold up to 20kg which is enough clothing for a cycle to Amsterdam.
This is a serious heavy duty rack which also doubles up as a handy mud guard. It also includes a rear mount for a Cat-eye bike rear bike light.