Today we are going to discuss how to carry touring or commuting gear on your bike and not on your body. The simplest way to do this is to have a rack compatible bike, install a front and rear rack, purchase panniers for said racks, and pack away.
There are many options out there today for panniers and racks and I am going to attempt to give you some things to look for when you decide to have us order some in for you.
Waterproof Panniers: This is the best way to go because if you are on a tour of any type of length you are more than likely going to hit some wet weather and keeping your clothes and gear dry is very important. When my buddy and I did our Underground Railroad tour his panniers were not waterproof so he had to wrap all of his important gear in bags and then load them. I have read that condensation can be a problem doing this but it never seemed to be an issue for him over the course of our tour.
I chose waterproof panniers long before our tour was scheduled for commuting since I didn't want my work clothes to get wet. Nothing like having to wear wet clothing all day long at work so I felt this was the best choice for me. On the Underground Railroad rain really was not an issue but last summer when I went out west and did the Pacific Coast Tour rain was a daily issue and having my stuff stay dry was imperative since the highs at times were in the 50s and staying warm was top priority for me.
Top Load vs Side Load: This is where I think opinions vary the most when it comes to panniers and the ease of using them. Once again the rear panniers I purchased were for work commuting and I had them before our tour ever became reality. As much as I like their waterproof ability they are top loaders and for a long tour finding something can become a pain to be honest with you. For work it is not an issue because I don't open them until I get changed at work but on the tour I had to make sure I kept important stuff towards the top so I could find them easy while traveling.
Side Load panniers give you so many more options to access your gear when it is needed while touring. You have many different compartments and can store more items as well - something that is quite handy when you are on a self-supported tour.
At the end of the day there are many different options for panniers and many different manufacturers. If you have more questions about them or know what you are looking to order stop by the shop and let's talk. If you have never done a bike tour you are truly missing out on a great opportunity to see some beautiful areas of the world and to challenge yourself. I will tell you this there are some low points when you commit to spending 30 days on the bike but when I look back at photos and remember some of the people we met I don't ever regret doing the tours - I just wish I could do one annually because they are truly inspiring! But for now I will just ride my bike.
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