For carrying loads large and small on your bike there is a great selection of bags, panniers and other accessories available. Your choice of baggage will depend on what you are carrying, how you want it fitted to your bike and whether you need access to your items during the ride.
Panniers are a popular choice for carrying heavy, cumbersome objects such as laptops, clothing and paperwork. They attach at the back of the bike and provide a large capacity for storing bulky items. For commuters with items stored in panniers which they need to take into meetings or the office with them, a removable pannier is a good option and it also means the bag can be carried with you if you stop at a shop on route, but for touring a sturdy, fixed pannier might be better.
Panniers are available in a range of sizes to fit whatever you need to store, but it is important to make sure that they are well balanced in both size and weight as uneven weight distribution and one sided wind resistance will affect the steering and balance of the bike. To fix the bags to the bike you will need to purchase a pannier rack or a mounting system which suits your bike. Racks should feel well made and strong and be fabricated from a material which will not crack when cold but also which will not add too much weight to your bike. Panniers should be fitted with reflective strips so other road users can see the width of the cycle in poor lighting conditions.
For storage which can be easily accessed whilst on the move, saddle bags and handlebar bags can be a good, convenient solution. Saddle bags sit underneath the saddle and have a moderate storage capacity, not as much as some panniers but more than a handlebar bag. These are excellent for carrying tools, wet weather gear and other useful items but should be used in conjunction with a pannier or rucksack for best results. For small items such as keys, mobile phones and wallets a handlebar bag which secures conveniently on the handlebars is ideal.
Whichever type of storage you decide to purchase, the most important element to check for is the quality and durability of the fabric it is made from. Man made synthetic fibres are the most durable, with thick canvas or polyester being the most abrasion resistant fabrics. Nylon is good at resisting ultra violet light and rip stop nylon can prevent small abrasions from spreading across the bag.
Waterproofing is important in cycle storage to protect your belongings and the bags themselves. Nylon bags often have a resin coating to provide water resistance or some packs use Durable Water Repellency which is an outer membrane coating. These are usually designed in conjunction with sealed seams, ensuring no water ingress is possible. The downside of such a sealed environment is that the bag becomes unbreathable, which can cause the interior to get very hot and ‘sweaty’ which could be a problem depending on what you are planning to store. Good panniers sometimes have additional venting solutions such as flaps or mesh to allow moisture and heat to escape.