Bike bag memories

What’s in your bike bag? Squashed banana, two dog-eared maps and some unidentified tent pegs? Laptop, lunchbox and a copy of Rouleur? A week’s worth of food shopping? Spare inner tube, tyre levers and a credit card?

While cycling itself is the definition of freedom – just hop on and go – how to carry our stuff has always presented more of a dilemma.

When we were kids, we just stuffed our pockets with football cards and Lion Bars and were off. Anything bigger went in a plastic bag dangling from the handlebars (at least, until it got caught in the spokes and sent us flying). Riding to school just meant throwing our bag into the front basket. A few years later, student days saw us struggling up gentle hills under the weight of twelve overdue library books in a bashed-up bike pannier. Early commutes meant a rolled-up trouser leg and, if we were cool, a courier bag; our first bike holidays featured tents bungeed to rear racks and the height of sophistication, a handlebar saddlebag with a little see-through pocket for your map.

Carradice Panniers

Nowadays, we have a bag for every occasion. Roomy, waterproof panniers are still the best way to carry significant amounts of gear when we’re touring, camping or just going-on-holiday-but-taking-the-bike. (And we’re delighted that pannier fixings have improved from the old stretch-the-elastic-‘til-it-PINGS method). For shorter trips, saddlebags come in a range of sizes – from ‘just enough room for a toolkit’ to ‘country weekend away’ – and looks, from the classically retro to the individually groovy. Commuting options have moved on, too: our Brompton has its own bespoke Carradice Stockport, and Hill & Ellis’s bike bags are a striking take on the classic satchel. They blur the line between ‘functional bike bags’ and ‘things of beauty we are proud to be seen out with anywhere’. ILE’s bike rucksacks are waterproof, in fact possibly bomb proof; a proper go-anywhere, do-anything companion.


And we’re engineering opportunities for dalliances around town, because we’ve now got our very own Victor & Liberty musettes, handcrafted by Carradice and in mouthwatering colours.


But whichever bag we choose, a few lessons have been learned. Don’t attempt a cyclocross dismount when a saddlebag is fitted. Use two panniers and distribute the load evenly, unless you like toppling over at traffic lights. And whatever goes in the bike bags, the banana goes in the back pocket. Just in case.


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