Cycling Saddle Bags

Wherever you ride, you probably need to carry some essentials with you. Most people need a spot to hold their phone and keys at the very least. If you run errands, commute or spend full days on your bicycle, you might need a roomy compartment to hold your things. Saddlebags can carry everything from a bike repair kit to a picnic lunch.

Why Use A Saddlebag?

Cycling backpacks are available to make transporting items by bike easier. However, some cyclists don’t like to add weight to their shoulders and backs. Backpacks can trap heat and leave a tell-tale sweat mark on your shirt.

Saddlebags take the pressure off of your back. They can be just as roomy as a backpack or streamlined and compact. They can be used on any type of bike, but they’re not ideal for mountain bikers. Saddlebags may not fit on a bike with full suspension, and they can get knocked around on rough terrain and trails.

If you keep your saddlebag packed with your essentials, you’ll never leave them behind on a ride. You’ll be prepared every time you head out on the bike.

What Types Of Saddlebags Are Available?

Many people use terms for bicycle bags interchangeably. Technically, a saddlebag is one that mounts to the saddle. These are usually small compartments that sit underneath the seat. Panniers are larger compartments that attach to a front or rear rack and come down over the side of the wheel.


Pannier means basket in French. These large bags are usually ample enough to hold a few changes of clothing, groceries and even camping gear. They almost always attach to a rack on the bike. If your cycle can’t accommodate a rack, it might not be suitable for a pannier.

One of the benefits of a pannier is that you can carry all of your stuff without wearing it on your body. You are free to move without hindrance.

You do have to be aware of your pedal stroke when you use a pannier. If your heel hits the bag that’s attached near the rear wheel, you could increase your likelihood of getting in an accident. That also makes for an inefficient riding situation.

Large bags can also throw off your balance. This is something to consider if you maneuver over treacherous terrain while carrying loads.


Saddlebags vary greatly in size and shape. The most compact ones are shaped like ovals or triangles and can be nestled just under the seat of your bike. Larger ones, often referred to as saddle packs, can replace a pannier. These still attach to your seat but add heft to the bike.

Saddlebags are usually lighter than a rack or a pannier. They also don’t throw off your balance because they’re mounted in a central position instead of on the side of a wheel.

Features To Look For In A Bike Saddlebag

Cyclists differ in their preferences for size and shape. Some only keep the minimum with them, while others prefer to carry changes of clothing and more. There are some other considerations to think about beyond the size of the saddlebag.

Attachments And Mounting

How does the bag attach to the bike? Many are secured with hook-and-loop closures, which should be sufficient for lighter weight bags. Heavier bags need more secure support. They may hook onto the saddle or seat post with plastic mounts.

The mounts should be durable and easy to use. Some bags require special mounting hardware. These might be more secure, but they’re less convenient to attach initially. Bags with simple attachments can be transferred from bike to bike.


How does the bag close? Most use zippers. These hold your items well and prevent them from jiggling out. However, zippers can fail over time.

To keep you from being stuck with an unusable bag if it breaks mid-trip, some bags are manufactured with alternative types of closures, like buckles or clasps. These can last longer than zippers, but they can also be more cumbersome to use.

Materials And Water Resistance

You never know when the weather is going to turn sour. Saddlebags should keep your items safe from moisture in wet weather. Some feature water-resistant exterior materials and closures. Others come equipped with a removable dry bag or liner.

Your saddlebag will get hit with spray from your back tire. That means that it will get covered in mud, dirt and dust. A protective material that’s easy to clean will protect your gear and look good over time.

The fabric should also be durable enough to resist UV exposure. Over time, the sun’s rays can break down the material. A bag with UV protection will stay stronger as you use it.

You probably want to stay away from bags that are made of flimsy material. These are more prone to tearing and might not secure your valuables adequately.

Reflective Details

The more visibility you have while riding, the better. Many saddlebags include reflective details, which help cars see you when you’re on the road. Some have a loop from which you can hang a bike light, which makes you stand out when riding in dark lighting.

Separate Compartments

Depending on what you plan to carry, you might appreciate a bag with multiple compartments. These can help you stay organized and access what you need without rummaging around through all of your things.


Depending on your seat height, you may or may not have room for a large saddlebag. Before you make a purchase, it may help to measure the distance from the bottom of the saddle to the tire.


If you prefer a smaller bag but have days when you need to add more, consider buying an expandable bag. This doesn’t take up a lot of space if you’re only carrying your wallet. However, you have the option of stuffing it with additional items without the need for an extra bag.