What is the right saddle bag for you?
Finding the right saddle bag for you will mainly depend on your ride style, the typical length of your rides and the weather conditions you expect to encounter.
Whether you’re cycling to work or embarking on an epic bikepacking trip, bike saddle bags are a great way to carry and easily access your ride essentials such as tools, food and even clothing. Connecting to your saddle and seatpost via straps, riders have a variety of choices when it comes to saddle bags- from small capacity, minimal, lightweight options to large seat packs laden with technical features, there are a variety of storage solutions for road bikes, gravel bikes, city/touring/hybrid bikes and mountain bikes.
What is the right saddle bag for you?
Finding the right saddle bag for you will mainly depend on your ride style, the typical length of your rides and the weather conditions you expect to encounter. If you are predominantly a road rider who prioritises low weight, specialising in fast rides on the tarmac filled with climbs and sprints, a lightweight, small capacity saddle bag is a perfect choice.
Conversely, if the majority of your riding involves long tours, bikepacking and MTB adventures, a larger capacity saddle bag with space for a variety of items is a better option. However, since many of us have more than one bike and do everything from road rides to multi-day gravel adventures, having a collection of bags to suit our particular ride and bike makes the most sense.
As mentioned, the contents of your seat pack vary depending on ride style, length of ride and other factors, but here are some essentials you should carry on every ride:
despite the advent of tubeless technology, punctures can and do happen, so carrying at least one inner tube is vital. From lightweight, fast rolling tubes to heavier, more durable options, there is an inner tube for every ride.
available in a variety of sizes and configurations, from detailed and complex to minimal and lightweight, there are a number of multitools to choose from. At a minimum, the tool you carry in your saddle bag should have Allen and Torx keys, a screwdriver and ideally a chain tool.
great- you’ve remembered your inner tube but how do you remove the tyre bead from the rim when you suffer a flat? Remember to bring tyre levers every time you ride.
Best saddle bag for road bikes?
Starting on the road, what is the best saddle bag for road bikes? Given most road bikes are typically lightweight, responsive machines designed for climbing and fast riding, a lighter, smaller capacity bag that keeps weight and bulk low represents an ideal choice. Like most saddle bags, road bike saddle bags feature a zip and inner pocket, providing easy access to an inner tube, a small tool, tyre levers and food items like energy gels.
What about aero bikes?
For aero road bikes with aero seatposts, a saddle bag that avoids adding unnecessary drag is key. A flapping bag that slows your precision speed machine and wastes your valuable watts is not the best choice, so a small bag that sits unobtrusively beneath your saddle, keeps weight low and avoids facing the wind is vital. Bags of this size and style usually have space for a lightweight inner tube and possibly a small pair of tyre levers. The remainder of your ride items would be best placed in a rear jersey pocket to avoid that dreaded extra drag.
Saddle bags for carbon seatposts
Those riders with carbon seatposts on their bike may be concerned that their saddle bag might rub, scratch or otherwise damage their expensive composite component. Luckily many saddle bags are compatible with carbon seatposts and most manufacturers will have information regarding whether their products will be suitable. If no information is available online it is always worth reaching out directly to your chosen saddle bag brand for clarification.
Mountain bikes and gravel bikes
For mountain bikes and gravel bikes, a secure, durable saddle bag designed to cope with the rigours of rocky, technical trails and rough ground is vital. To ward off wet and foul weather, riders should also be looking for products with water-resistant features. More than just durable, off-road saddle bags are often larger, making them ideally suited to all-day epics or even multi-day bikepacking trips.
These bigger bags should have ample space for larger tools, CO2 canisters and inflators, overnight gear, a variety of food and items of clothing. In addition to saddle bags, riders can bolster their off-road storage with a frame bag, pannier or frame strap.
Can you use saddle bags with dropper seatposts?
For MTB and gravel riders whose bikes feature dropper seatposts, there are now a number of compatible saddle bags. Dropper posts have proved a game changer in the MTB, and latterly, bikepacking worlds. By dropping the saddle during technical descents, handling, stability and rider confidence have all been enhanced.
Where previously, dropper-incompatible saddle bags meant riders resorted to using bulky backpacks, these new bags attach directly to the saddle rails or via brackets and have sufficient clearance to avoid impeding the seatpost’s travel yet still have sufficient capacity for essential items.
Saddle bags for commuting
Finally, for commuters and those regularly riding in urban environments, your saddle bag should be able to withstand the rigours of daily riding. Think- rain, road spray and other road debris. You want a saddle bag that is reliable, sturdy and with sufficient space for tools, a spare tube and maybe some dry clothing.
Saddle bags are positioned at the rear of your bike in the line of sight of drivers and those cycling behind you. For road riders and commuters cycling in low light and poor weather, staying seen and safe is crucial. For these reasons many saddle bags have safety features such as reflective strips and materials or the ability to strap rear lights to the bag itself. While visibility for those riding off-road may seem less vital, visibility on dark trails is still important and seat packs designed for these ride styles will also use reflective features.
Water-resistant saddle bags
Your seat pack contains vital items, from tools and inner tubes to food and clothing. A wet and rusted minitool, a soaked slice of cake or a saturated rain jacket is not what you want, so many saddle bags utilise waterproof or water-resistant fabrics and zips to keep your precious cargo clean and dry.
There is a saddle bag for every rider, ride style and bike, and while they may not be the most glamorous addition to your collection of bike-related items, they could be the most vital. If, for instance, you were unfortunate enough to suffer a puncture while riding, a saddle bag containing the right tool, pump, tubeless repair kit or tube patch will get you home and save you from calling a taxi. And if you were to run out of energy on a long ride, remembering you have an emergency gel or energy bar stowed away in your bike saddle bag could save the day.