QUESTION: Do you need a saddlebag on a road bike? I notice some riders have them and some don’t. —Jen W.
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: If by “saddlebag,” you mean something sizable enough to stuff your jacket and lunch into, the answer is no. But unless you count on handling all mechanical problems that may arise by phoning for help or pick up, you need some provision for carrying a few things, and a seat bag or other bag comes in very handy for that purpose.
Your wallet and phone can usually travel in your jersey pockets, but most experienced riders choose to also have a spare tube (or a tubeless kit if you’re running tubeless tires), a multitool, a pump or CO2 inflator, and a few more items of personal choice. Those can often go in your jersey pockets as well, but many riders put them in a little under-the-seat wedge-shaped bag, in a handlebar bag, a small top-tube bag or even in a “tool bottle.” (The latter is a container that fits into one of your water bottle cages. You can purchase containers made for that purpose, or simply use a wide-mouth water bottle.)
The no-saddlebag choice has grown out of road-bike riders’ desire to keep their bicycle as lightweight and as aerodynamic as possible for fast-and-agile riding and hill climbing. Why drop $5,000 on a carbon-bike with lightweight components and then add two or more pounds of wind-dragging saddlebags plus contents, plus, depending on the type of bag, a metal rack to attach the bags to? (Besides, riding a steed unencumbered by bags looks cool!)
Bike-accessory suppliers make minimalist items to help riders go without bulky bags — such as sleeves that cover your arms on cool mornings but which can be removed when it warms up and put into your jersey pockets, windbreaker jackets that stuff into their own back pocket and which then can be carried around your waist by means of attached elastic straps, and similar products.
Still, if you’re not worried about speed or a bit of extra weight on the bike, a small but not tiny seat bag can make it easier to take your lunch or a few additional items along.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.
Mike Togo says
Where’s the photo of the saddlebag on the bike?
One of my “cycling ten commandments” is “Don’t lard up your road bike”.
That said, I use a small handlebar bag (Arkel Signature that says it is 4 litres, but in reality it is much smaller than that imo). It holds extra ride food and a few extra essentials that I carry no matter which bike in the fleet I am riding that day. I have tried larger bags and other options over the years and inevitably I take them off bc that much cargo capacity was not needed and tbh it affected how the bike handled in a way I did not like. I’ll use a camelbak if I need a lot more water for long unsupported rides but I know this is not a popular option for the road bike crowd.
I agree arm-warmers and *double-zip* cycling vest gives a lot of flexibility for cool-mornings/inclement weather protection and they store up very small when not needed.
“Do you have some sort of bag(s) on your road bike?” should be a question of the week.
chris tsien says
An important point: Keep your identification on your person, not in a bag, not in a pocket. An ER nurse long ago pointed out that if you are taken to the ER, then (1) you will not have your machine (or anything mounted to it, with you, and (2) there is a distinct probability that you will be unclothed in some fashion, i.e., your pockets will be left behind.
Stan Purdum says
Good tip! Thanks.
ID, personally I have a “dog tag” with my insurance #s. P of A, allergies, BT and phone numbers. ~$10 at A. On longer trips on my motorcycle I have a small USB with medical records going back 30 years, a shop manual for the Italian motorcycle and other information. My bike phone is a rugged model. Of course minimal tools repair kit for tubeless and a latex tube. It all goes in an underseat bag in Florida and bottle in Canada. Of course I almost always ride alone.
May I air one of my pet peeves? If you’re going to use a saddlebag (I do), make sure it’s snug and tight up against the seat and not swinging around underneath.
Roy Bloomfield says
I agree completely! The loose hanging saddlebag always reminds me of something I might see AT A ZOO! (the camel exhibit comes to mind) 🤣 🤣 🤣
Kenneth Pierce says
A “Rattle Bag” is what I call them and they are very annoying.
K. Pierce says
I do not use a saddle bag as I am a minimalist and only carry a small pump, tube, lever and one of those adhesive patches in case I get a 2nd puncture. I attach these items to the back of the seat tube using a velcro strap. In almost 35yrs of cycling I’ve very rarely needed anything except what is already mentioned. Only broke a chain once, and that was my first year of cycling and I did not yet know to NOT shift under load. I always keep up on all my maintenance and never have a problem. If all is tight, secure and set correctly nothing should fail. I see so many riders with huge saddle bags carrying stuff they’ll never need on most rides, it hurts my OCD to see, and sometimes, hear this. I try to keep everything neat and simple, sometimes less is more.