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7 Alternatives to Leaving your Panniers on your Bike

If you’re anything like me, you will have started off cycling wearing a backpack to carry your things. But it’s not long after, you realise why everybody else is using panniers! (or saddlebags as they are also known as).

A backpack is fine when you have little to carry and your journey is short, but there are a few annoying side affects:

  • It can put a strain on your back, neck and shoulders
  • It will give you a very sweaty back. Not a good look when you’re on your way in to work!
  • It can be restrictive to your cycling. I definitely find it much more of a strain to signal, look behind me, etc when I have a heavy backpack on me than when I don’t.

Panniers Make Sense…

Panniers are an excellent and practical alternative to wearing a backpack.

Some of the advantages over a backpack are:

  • They can carry much heavier loads without you feeling so weighed down when riding. Because they attach to your bike and not to you.
  • They carry a much larger capacity than your backpack could ever carry.
  • They are much easier to waterproof when cycling in the rain.

So, weather it is your laptop and work clothes for your commute to work, your groceries for a local shopping trip, or camping gear for a trip with friends, panniers are an excellent way to make your cycling ride more practical.

Riding with panniers will solve one problem, but of course it will give you something else to think about…

What to do with the Panniers when you Leave your Bike Unattended?

After all, the whole point is that they are not attached to you, but attached to the bike. But when you secure your bicycle, you may feel uncomfortable leaving your panniers unsecured. Especially if they contain all your valuables.

There are quite a few options available, but what you do with them will largely depend on:

  • How long long you plan to leave your bike unattended – are you going for a quick pop to the shops or staying for a long day at work?
  • What your journey is for – is it a long road trip or your weekly grocery shop?
  • Where about’s in town you are – is it a high crime rate city center or the local quiet suburbs?
  • What you use them for – do you need to carry bigger valuables such as a laptop or smaller items like a wallet and keys?

Here are 7 alternative options that can work if leaving them unattended on your bike is not an option…

#1: Use a Handlebar Bag for Valuables

A handlebar bag is a smaller sized bag that attaches around your handlebar which can be taken off and put back on with no fuss.

This is an excellent option for keeping your smaller valuables in, whilst using your panniers for your other belongings.

This way, if you have to leave your bike, take your handlebar bag with you, as that is where your wallet, phone and keys are, and leave the panniers on your bike.

Some handlebar bags easily double up as a shoulder bag too so it’s a very convenient option when out and about.

#2: Have an Inner Bag

Separate your really valuable items, like your phone and wallet from the not so valuable ones such as spare clothes. Keep these valuable items inside a bag within your pannier bag. That way, whenever you need to be away from your bike, you can take this inner bag with you so that your valuables stay safe.

This is especially useful if you have a laptop to carry, as this isn’t really small enough to just keep in a small handlebar bag. It’s a good idea to keep it in a padded laptop sleeve with a shoulder strap so that it’s easily portable when you need to leave your bike.

#3: Use Cable locks and Padlocks

When locking up your bike, you can include your panniers into the locking system. If you use a bike lock that has an extra long steel flex cable, you can run the cable through the panniers, and through your bike frame and wheel  before securing your bike to the rail. This way, your bike is locked with your panniers included.

Using a padlock for the openings of the panniers will also make it more secure.

#4: Take Them With You

You may want to invest in panniers that are designed to come off easily enough for you to take with you and put away indoors.

There are many now available on the market that clip on and off very easily and have shoulder straps attached.

This is especially useful for cycling commuters. You can take off the panniers and keep them with you during the day at work, and simply fix them back on when you go home.

Choose panniers that are very easy to attach and detach. It’s important to note though, that the ones that double up as shoulder bags are rarely comfortable when using them as shoulder bags. They are really only useful for smaller distances away from your bike, or if you can leave them safely wherever you are going to be (like at the office).

#5: Make Them Unremovable

You can secure your panniers onto your bike permanently using bolts so that they are no longer removable. Whenever your bike is secure, your panniers will also be.

This option is good for people who like to always have some storage room on there bike for spur of the moment errands. But it is a more permanent solution and is only necessary if you know you definitely want to keep your panniers on your bike at all times. Because of course, the disadvantage here is that you can’t easily remove them when you want.

#6: Keep Your Bike Where You Can See It

It sounds obvious, but If you are just popping into a shop or a restaurant, and you don’t want to hassle yourself with taking your panniers with you, keep your bike securely locked in plain view of where you will be.

#7: Consider Baskets

These are baskets that are screwed into your bike and used instead of panniers. They are permanently fixed and are an alternative to panniers. Bear in mind though that you will still have to take your stuff with you with this option, as your belongings will be in full sight.

This is will work well however, if you want to keep your things in a comfortable backpack but don’t want to cycle with a backpack on. You simply keep your backpack in the basket, and take it with when you need to leave your bike.

Pick the right choice for you…

There you have it. 7 alternatives to leaving your panniers on your bike.

Of course, different things will work for different people. And the type of panniers you buy will also determine what you will do with them when you are not with your bike.

Take a peek over at my Recommended Gear section for some different types of panniers on the market today. I have some details of what sort of things you need to bear in mind when shopping for a set of panniers for your bike.