What are bike panniers?

May 18, 2013 0 Comments
What are bike panniers?

There comes a time when every bike commuter or tourist is making a decision about bicycle panniers. Whether its what type of pannier to get, or just whether or not to ride with bike panniers at all, choosing bicycle luggage can be tricky.

What types of questions are you asking yourself about bike panniers?

Panniers come in many shapes, sizes, styles, materials, and with different mounting systems, pockets, closing systems and more!  We've got some time today at to go over some of this with you!

Let's start at the beginning? (That makes sense right?)

What are bicycle panniers?

A bike pannier is a type of bag that can be attached to your bike rack.  It can be any type of bag, and can even be a box or basket that hooks on to the side of your bike rack.  Here's an example:



Panniers are used to by bike commuters to carry the things you need for they day, such as, a change of clothes for work or the gym, your laptop and school gear, or groceries.  Anyone using panniers for travel would use panniers to carry almost everything they would need on their trip, including clothes, extra bike tubes and tools, food and more. 

Bike panniers can either attach to your front or rear rack.  In most cases, a larger pannier is used on the rear and smaller pannier would be attached to the front of your bike.  Most people using bicycle panniers for bike commuting would only need one set of two panniers--either for the front or rear of the bike. 

Panniers that fit onto the rear of your bike are certainly more popular because they can be a bit larger and offer the easiest riding experience. 


Types of Bicycle Panniers


Bike panniers come in many styles that fit into more or less two larger categories: utilitarian and classic. 

Utilitarian bike panniers are generally a bit bulkier in design, but offer the ultimate in waterproofing.  One of the most popular panniers on the market in this style are the back-roller panniers made by Ortlieb.  The design is great for keeping your things dry, while the look is more modern than classic. 



Heavy duty panniers like this are great for bicycle touring because you can organize all of your things within a few different panniers, and know that your things will be dry inside. 

Classically styled panniers can be a great compromise between function and style.  Often times a water resistant canvas, or leather may be used instead of nylon which gives the pannier a more stylish look. 

These Ironweed Panniers are made with water resistant waxed canvas, which allows for good protection from the elements while also keeping more of a classic look on your bike.


Mounting Systems

The mounting systems are a very important component of any pannier.  When looking for panniers, it's good to look for a mounting system that is not only secure on your bike, but also easy to place on and off.  Most panniers use either heavy duty plastic or steel for mounting.

The standard hook and bungee system is very common and useful for commuters and people who run errands on their bike. The hooks attach to the top of your rack while a bungee is used to secure the pannier to the bottom.  This keeps the pannier held securely on the bike for your ride, and is very easy to place on and off.  Below is an example of a standard hook and bungee system. 

A standard hook could be replaced with a secure hook, which wraps around the top tube of your rack.  This system is optimal for people who may be riding on rougher terrain.  The secure hook ensures that your pannier will not pop off while you ride. 

You will also find panniers that mount with a quick release hook and lower plastic hook.  These are easy to use and quite secure.  Instead of a bungee securing the bag to the bottom of the rack, a plastic hook is put in place.  This system is secure, but is generally done with plastic which is very strong, but can break under high pressure.  


When considering any bike bag or bike luggage, waterproofing is an important consideration.  Often times as bike commuters we're carrying around a lot of important items from documents and laptops, to food, clothes, gifts and more!  If you live in a climate that changes often, or gets wet, you'll want to think about how to keep your things dry as you ride. 

Like all of our bike bags at, our bike panniers are at the very least highly water resistant if not completely waterproof.

As mentioned earlier, panniers can be made from a variety of materials.  Most commonly would be waterproof Cordura fabric, nylon, or waxed canvas.  Waterproof Cordura and Nylon are some of the most waterproof, and a roll-top design seen in the Orlieb or Vaya Bags Pannier adds an extra dimension of waterproofing.  


This pannier from Vaya Bags is made with a waterproof nylon interior, and a waterproof marine canvas and recycled bike tube exterior.  It also features a roll top design which means no water will make it in from the top or bottom.  This pannier also converts into a backpack when you want to take it from your bike. 


When it comes to compartments, everyone is a little bit different.  Some people love to have a lot of pocket and zippers and latches, and others prefer to keep it simpler.  Which ever you prefer, there is a pannier for you.  

For many, it's easiest to have one large compartment, with one small pocket for the smaller items you need more often.  Panniers designed in this style also tend to be more waterproof.  

Our Ironweed Panniers are designed by two bike commuters in Iowa City who wanted to make things a bit simpler.  The designed the pannier with one large compartment that also features a stiffener, this allows the pannier to keep its shape.  This makes it very easy for you to get in and out of your pannier.  This pannier has just one pocket on the inside for your smaller essentials.  The Vaya Bags pannier is similar, with one large interior compartment and one small exterior pocket.  

You want to make it easy for yourself to get in and our of your pannier while its on your bike and also find the things you need.  When considering a pannier think of how you like to keep yourself organized.  

At we often find that the more pockets and compartments you have the more gets lost in there!  We like to keep it simple! 

Carrying Systems

Three types of carrying systems are commonly used when it comes to panniers.  You'll find panniers with either a hand strap, a shoulder strap, or backpack shoulder straps. 

All three are good ways to get your pannier from A to B after your take it off of your bike, but depending on the distance you may be traveling with it, you may prefer one over the other.  

For commuters who are parking their bike directly in front of the office or home, a simple hand carrying strap is great.  Because you won't have to carry your pannier very far, this is a great alternative.  Simply unhook, and carry away.  Orlieb and many other brands use this method on their panniers. 

If you're going slightly longer distances, and may want to take a bit of a walk with your bag, a shoulder strap is another good way to hold your pannier.  Our Ironweed Pannier has a convenient hand strap, as well as hooks for a shoulder strap.  Currently we do not sell a shoulder strap but you can find one and hook it on! (Soon we'll have them for you!)  

For people that are traveling longer distances with their bag off of the bike, a backpack style pannier might be best.  This would be great for people who are in school, walking around campus with their bag or using their bag for a day around the city.  This is the most comfortable carrying method for longer days.  You'll see this style of strap featured on our Vaya Bags Pannier/Backpack hybrid.

How to pick the right pannier?

Selecting the correct panniers depends on what you need it for.  As a bike commuter or for running daily errands, a simple pannier may be best.  Something that's easy to get on and off of your bike, and also easy to carry is optimal.  

If you're taking your pannier on a bicycle tour, you'll want to be sure that the mounting system is a bit more durable and secure. A fully waterproof bag is an important feature to look for as well. 

When it comes to pockets and styles of bike luggage like this, you'll have to decide what you like best, there's no wrong choice!

Checkout our selection of handmade bike panniers

All of our bike bags and panniers are handmade in the USA with the highest quality materials.  Each bag is a bit different and unique.  If you're looking for a classically styled pannier check out our Ironweed Panniers, and if you like a more modern look, check out our Vaya Bags pannier and backpack hybrid.  We can get all of these in different colors if you like so just contact us if you see something you might like in a different style.


As always, if you have any questions about anything, don't hesitate to ask.  We'd love to hear from you!