Tips & resources

Bike packing 101

From jersey pockets to milk crates – discussing the subtle art of carrying stuff on your bike.

Everyone needs to carry stuff on their bike at some stage. Whether it’s a packed lunch, your work gear, or everything you need for a two-wheeled adventure.

Regular riders are familiar with the basics: mini-multi tool, spare tube, mini pump or C02 canister and valve head, tyre patches, tyre levers, etc. But once you start adding on to that, the pockets of your jersey or jeans are probably no going to cut it.

From jersey pockets, to back packs, panniers, saddle bags, handlebar bags, or the good old-fashioned milk crate – there’s a lot of options, but what’s best for you?

Of course this is a personal choice, and some trial and error is generally required, but to help you pick your perfect packing preference, we’ve listed some of the main options below.

Jersey pockets

The simplest place to start. You can fit a surprisingly large amount of food, spares, wallet, phone, etc. in the standard 3-pocket jersey. Perfect for short rides up to a couple of hours where you are not really going to take much.

Positives

It keeps everything with you as you get off the bike and move around. You can easily access your stuff while riding, and they’re very cheap and easy to get your hands on. Fits all the basics.

Negatives

Put too much in and you will inevitably stretch your favourite jersey. It can also get a bit bulky on your lower-back, as you swing your stuff around at the local cafe.

Image: sparebrand.com

Handle bar bags

These are perfect for short little trips off the beaten track. You can fit a little bit of extra food and maybe a change of clothes or a rain jacket in case the weather suddenly changes. They also come in some cool designs, making them increasingly popular fashion accessories for trendy commuters.

Positives

Very convenient and easy to grab food/stuff on the go.

Negatives

Quite limited in capacity, as not only do you not have much space on your handle bars, you also don’t want to put too much weight or it will impact your steering.

Saddle bags

Ranging from a tiny compartment under your seat, just barely big enough to squeeze a spare tube and levers into, right up to big bags that will hold all your clothes for a weekend away on the bike.

Positives

Storage is out of the way and out of the wind, and you have the ability to hold more here than on your handle bars. 

Negatives

You can’t access the contents while you’re riding, and larger units can start to ‘sway’ a little with each pedal stroke.

Image: wohobike.com

Back packs

Image: rushfaster.com.au

Everyone’s used a backpack before, and they’re pretty common for commuters, but quite uncommon for those choosing to go off the beaten track. While they’re easy and convenient for short trips, and you probably already have one at home, it can be quite uncomfortable to carry something on your back for day-long adventures.

Positives

Nothing touching the bike, with no fancy straps or clamps on expensive frames. You can get off the bike and take it with you straight away.

Negatives

Can become uncomfortable carrying all the weight on your back and shoulder straps, and also gets pretty sweaty under there in summer!

Panniers

This is your go-to for ‘bike touring’ – where you cover many miles over many days/weeks/months on the bike. Taking their name from the bags slung over pack animals, they have evolved over time to take on many forms – from soft nylon sacks, to waterproof bags and hard case compartments. Most need a mounting system to attach to the bike.

Positives

Can fit everything you need, including the kitchen sink.

Negatives

Generally require special frame mounts which are not suitable for all bikes. Larger bags can collect a fair bit of wind, and they are unfortunately a target for thieves if you plan on publicly parking your bike unattended.

Image: macpac.com

Milk crate

Image: bicycle2work.com

The original option, made famous by youngsters delivering newspapers. Many modern-day solutions follow the same basic design of a box on a shelf.

Positives

It’s cheap, and has a certain old-school charm.

Negatives

You aren’t actually allowed to pinch a milk crate from the local milk bar, but there are plenty of good wooden crate alternatives if you’re feeling handy.

Other options

There are of course many other varieties of bags on the market, like frame packs, top tube bags, bento style boxes and even bicycle six-pack or umbrella holders. If you’re keen to further explore your options, we recommend checking out sites like:

bikepacking.com
adventurecyclingvictoria.com
outdooraustralia.com

Looking to test your packing skills?

The Great Victorian Bike Ride is a fun, friendly and challenging cycling holiday where you’ll join a community of bike riders travelling from South Australia’s Limestone Coast to the Great Ocean Road over 5 or 10 day ride options.

LEARN MORE

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