Cycling Accessories

Are Bike Panniers Worth It? (Answer: Yes, But Only If…)

Man riding bike with panniers.

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In Short

Bike panniers are worth it for medium to long-range commuters and city riders who want to carry items without strain on their body. They offer convenience, waterproofing, and increased storage capacity. Consider weight distribution and compatibility with your bike rack when choosing panniers. The durability and versatility of panniers justify their cost.

Panniers are designed to make cycling less stressful on a rider’s body. They shift the weight of the things they carry from the cyclist onto the bike. Their materials can be waterproofed and sturdy and their aesthetic now incorporates city riding as much as cycle touring.

Is it worth investing in panniers to help your commute or trip to the shops? Let’s have a look at some of the riding conditions and circumstances where they might just come in handy. 

What Are Bike Panniers?

Bike panniers are essentially a bag which offers a solution for carrying stuff by letting the bike take the strain of the weight of the load. A pannier is secured to a rack which is bolted to the bike. They can be carried on the front, or more frequently, the rear of the bike.

They are made from synthetic materials which are stitched together. Some are waterproofed, with ‘welded’ seams. Early models carried items in a ‘bucket’ style with a fold over cover but modern variations offer more flexible storage and carrying options – especially off the bike.

What Are Panniers Used For?

Panniers used to exclusively be the choice of cycling tourists. These intrepid adventurers ride hundreds of miles on trans-continental journeys day-to-day, carrying everything they need for their escapades. Their bike is their mule. 

By moving the weight off the body and onto the secured racks at the front and rear of the bike, the rider becomes more efficient and less likely to incur a muscle strain or back pain.

The shoulders and hips are relaxed under less tension. The whole upper body benefits from freer movement. The neck can turn easily. Riding all day is easier too. 

It takes some practice to account for the extra weight in the turns and going up and down gradients.

Panniers are a common sight at ferry terminals and international rail hubs across the globe. They can be locked onto the bike and stored safely while the rider plans the next stage of the journey. They are easy to clip on and off then carry if needed.

Do panniers have a place on the streets too? Hybrid-working and living has made commuters and cycle users multi-layered. Ready and prepared for anything. We don’t put our pursuits into separate boxes any more.

A pannier should have a home on your bike if you are a medium or long range commuter who likes to squeeze life and leisure into each day. Starting with the most comfortable ride into your place or work or study. 

Lockable panniers on the rear of an electric bike at a railway station – one part of a commute ticked off (Image Credit: Kevin Glenton)

Riding with panniers means not stopping to adjust a backpack which is riding up your sweaty back, or always needing a shower after you get to work or home. If you only need the workplace essentials, bike pack manufacturers have your back.

It’s important that you can transport your gym clothes, a packed lunch, your laptop and leave space for your lock and any shopping you might want to pick up on the way home. By carrying at least one pannier you can manage all this.

Take a look at the modern range of city or commuting bikes. They have racks for panniers installed as standard. Or at least eyelet on the frame and fork for fitting afterwards. 

The extra zip provided by electric commuter bikes means carrying racks are de rigueur. Because it’s a little easier to ride with rear panniers, most racks are fitted to the rear of these bikes. Heavier loads usually go onto rear panniers. The lighter the carriage at the front, the easier the steering will be.

Pannier carrying capacity is measured in litres, like rucksacks. For comparison, a 20 litre backpack will take a raincoat, trousers, flask and might struggle with a laptop. The rigidity will not work well with your cycling posture either.

One front pannier will typically carry between 12 and 25 litres. A rear pannier will usually start from around 18 litres going up to around 65 litres for a three-bag-in-one option and with plenty of options in between.

This Pannier doubles as a backpack for easy off-bike transformation (Image Credit: Kevin Glenton)

Everyday biking can become tiresome if you let the weather get in the way. A lot of panniers are designed to be waterproof and also run with zips and clips you can operate without having to take your gloves off. 

All panniers have handles or carrying capabilities off the bike. It’s this change in attitude towards using the bike as a means of transportation which has shifted the attitudes of pannier manufacturers towards activities like shopping or carrying through town.

Many now have specialist padded or lined laptop sleeves, interior zipped pockets and exterior pouches. It’s easy to find models with shoulder straps, attachment loops for lights and helmets and reflective inserts.

Two Interior Pockets with padding for this single Pannier (IMAGE CREDIT: Kevin Glenton)

Bike Panniers: Pros and Cons

Bike Panniers require a little bit of commitment in terms of attaching and removing from the bike. Carry handles and clips which secure and hook onto the carrying rack take care of most of this. However, it’s fair to surmise that you might need to be loyal to a manufacturer because many panniers are designed to work with a specific type of rack. 

Don’t be put off by this, you won’t be trapped into buying a pannier bag size you don’t need. Another consideration is weight distribution. Riding with rear panniers is easier but be careful that you don’t overload or over-compensate on one side.

Riding with one pannier will take a little getting used to. The weight will feel funny at first and you have to remember that your bike will be a little wider. And you should always be more considerate of other road users with panniers, especially on the front.


  • Highly convenient
  • Takes the pressure off the back and hips
  • Most are waterproof


  • Single pannier might create imbalance under more athletic riding conditions
  • You may be tied to one manufacturer

Why Are Panniers So Expensive?

Panniers are designed and manufactured to be durable. That means on and off the bike. Waterproofing is subject to an international scale. Stitching and materials are tough. Weight-saving aluminium is more costly than steel. As you move up the price range, you benefit from multiple off-bike use too.

What Are Pannier Bags?

Pannier bags are simply another name for panniers. As the practical and utilitarian design and use for panniers has crossed the rubicon into the city, the carrying potential has increased. More straps and carrying handles means more efficient use off the bike – from station to workstation.

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