You may be liking the idea of a bikepacking bag setup but perhaps you have reservations about the limited volume. Or maybe you have some four-season gear that simply isn’t conducive to packing down small. Or perhaps you simply want to stuff odd-shaped vegetables (like broccoli) into your bags…?!
Not to worry, we are living in a time when bag options for bikes are seemingly endless!
The Benefits of A Highrider Bag Setup
Volume doesn’t need to be a priority.
It’s pretty easy to get more than 50 litres out of a front and rear bag. Add in a full-sized framebag and you’ll be good for a multi-year trip! In addition, highrider bags will fit cheaper camping gear, as well as products that use less-packable synthetic insulation.
These bags mostly employ roll-closures, small clips and zippers to make access to your gear very quick and easy. They also open up super wide so that you can dig around and re-organise gear without removing anything from the bag.
Narrower and more aerodynamic than panniers.
Panniers have a large surface area that slows you down more than a set of bikepacking bags (I’ve calculated 6-8% slower at my cycling speeds). While highrider bags are a bit bigger than bikepacking bags, they should still work out a couple of percent faster than panniers.
Higher from the ground than panniers.
If you’re cycling on rocky trails, through ruts or past a whole bunch of tightly-packed shrubs you’ll know that ground clearance is key. A highrider setup gives you all the ground clearance you’ll ever need.
The Physics of A Highrider Setup
The weight distribution of gear on your bike has a pretty dramatic effect on the way your bike handles.
A low centre of gravity is the most ideal characteristic for maintaining stable bike handling with a load. This principle calls for any weight associated with your bike to be distributed low. That’s why panniers are so great for bike travel; they allow your gear to be distributed as low as practically possible.
Highrider bags, on the other hand, are arguably the worst place you can carry gear because the weight is distributed at the highest possible points.
That said, most bikes will still handle a highrider setup perfectly fine, provided you pack light. I’d suggest around 10kg/22lbs front and rear as an ideal maximum. If you do have more weight, consider adding a framebag, a set of cargo cages or some bikepacking panniers so that you don’t need to compromise your bikes handling any further.
Wide handlebars will help to better manage a front load too. This could be via some flared drop handlebars, or just some regular riser bars. Go with something with more than 600mm width. The additional steering leverage will not only make your steering lighter and more precise, but it will provide additional clearance for larger volume highrider bags.
Porteur, Rando and Basket Bags
HANDLEBAR PACK // Tribulus Limited Endover 27L+
The Endover is a 27-litre handlebar pack that’s only 445 grams! For comparison, that’s about 30-50% of the weight of comparable bags. It mounts to the bike via six straps, two of which are clips that allow you to access the goods in your bag. Keep in mind that this bag requires a bit more handlebar-to-tyre clearance than most handlebar packs, given its sheer size. Many people like to support this bag with a minimal front rack – check out some randonneur rack options from Nitto, Surly and Velo Orange.
BASKET BAG // Porcelain Rocket Meanwhile 20L+
PR has recently introduced a seam-welded bag designed specifically to fit the Wald 1392 basket. Two simple clips on either side of the bag loop into the basket to keep it in place. As these bags are quick and easy to make, PR only charges you US $60 for one.
PORTEUR BAG // Outer Shell Adventure Rack Bag 20L+
The Adventure Rack Bag is custom-made to suit different porteur rack models by Pass and Stow, Velo Orange, Soma, Surly, Origin8, Specialized and Rawland. You can add the decaleur kit if you’re planning some off-road use.
BASKET BAG // Terra Rosa Gear Basket Bag 20L+
Terra Rosa Gear makes bags mostly for Australian customers. The Basket Bag is designed to suit the Wald 1392 and comes with some nice details including some reflective material to keep you seen on the road. The weight of this bag is around 1.2kg.
BASKET OR PORTEUR BAG // Realm Wald Basket Bag 20L+
The Realm bags are also designed around a Wald 1392 basket, but can mount to a front porteur rack using its adjustable straps. Realm use some pretty funky material patterns to give your bike a bit of character!
PORTEUR BAG // Laplander Porteur Bag 30L+
These positively gigantic porteur bags are designed specifically to fit the Velo Orange Porteur rack. The retro styling is a bit of a favourite for those with older steel bikes and wool jerseys.
PORTEUR BAG // Swift Polaris Porteur Bag 20L
Designed around the Velo Orange Porteur front rack, the custom Polaris has been seen on bikes for about a decade. Over this time it has been refined to be durable, functional and stylish. The 20-litre bag comes in at 1090 grams.
PORTEUR BAG // Surly Porteur House 20L+
The Porteur House bag is ideally designed to fit the Surly 24-Pack Rack but will fit other similar sized racks too. While the outer material isn’t waterproof, there’s a waterproof liner inside the bag to keep all of your gear dry. The 24-Pack rack isn’t particularly light at 860 grams, and only really fits Surly forks, but it’s strong enough to handle up to 13.6kg (30lbs).
PORTEUR BAG // Inside Line Equipment Porteur Rackbag 20-42L
The waterproof Porteur Rackbag has an insanely big max volume of 42L with the included tie down straps! It can be fitted to a Pass & Stow, Velo Orange, Soma or Cetma rack via two underneath straps. It’s available in a waxed cotton canvas or Cordura nylon exterior.
BASKET BAG // Restrap Basket Bag Large 30L+
Restrap makes three different basket bags with a zipper closure. The size large is designed to fit snugly in the Wald 157 basket, and the size medium pairs with the Wald 1392 (but it’s a bit less than 20 litres). It’s worth noting the Wald 157 basket alone weighs a whopping 3.5kg/7.8lbs, so perhaps keep this setup away from any hills!
Versatile Front Or Rear Luggage Options
SEAT PACK // Arkel Rollpacker 25L
Arkel makes a super neat oversized seat pack and rack. The rack itself requires no tools to add/remove from your bike. If you have lots of exposed seatpost, you can even hang the Rollpacker upside down to lower its centre of gravity. The bag+rack weighs just 930 grams.
HANDLEBAR PACK // Arkel Rollpacker 25L
The same Arkel Rollpacker 25-litre bag can be fitted to a flat handlebar via a different rack. The front rack clamps around your handlebars and allows the bag to ride nice and stable.
HANDLEBAR OR SEAT PACK // Roadrunner Bags Jumbo Jammer 29L
The Jumbo Jammer is a positively massive bag at 29 litres. It’ll fit on your handlebars or behind your saddle. You may like to support this bag with a minimal front or rear rack, especially if you head off-road. Check out some suitable rack options from Tubus, Nitto, RatKing, Surly, Thule and Velo Orange. The Ratking and Thule seem to sit the tallest.
SEAT PACK // Carradice Camper Longflap 24L
The Camper Longflap has been around for longer than I’ve been alive. It was originally designed around Brooks saddles as they have two rear loops which fit the bag’s adjustable straps, but these days you can find saddle loop adapters from Velo Orange and Hobo Pieces to suit your preferred saddle. Many people prefer to use the Carradice bags with a ‘support’ to reduce any bag wag. Check out the supports by Carradice, Yellow Bird Society or Ocean Air Cycles. You may like to support this bag with a minimal rear rack, especially if you head off-road. Check out some suitable rack options from Tubus, Nitto, RatKing, Surly, Thule and Velo Orange. The Ratking and Thule seem to sit the tallest.
HANDLEBAR OR SEAT PACK // UltraRomance Large Fabio’s Chest 30L+
Fabio’s Chest is the largest handlebar/seat pack made by Swift Industries – it expands all the way to 44 litres! This is one super wide bag, so make sure you’ve got the handlebars to match (UltraRomance uses the Crust Towel Rack). The way the Chest mounts to the rear is via some 9″ Titan Straps which are threaded through your saddle loops. Don’t have any saddle loops on your seat? No problem. Hobo Pieces makes the Restuvus loop adapter and Velo Orange makes some more affordable aftermarket Saddle Loops. You may like to support this bag with a minimal front or rear rack, especially if you head off-road. Check out some suitable rack options from Tubus, Nitto, RatKing, Surly, Thule and Velo Orange. The Ratking and Thule rear racks seem to sit the tallest.
Rear Trunk Style Bag Options
RACK BAG // Tailfin AeroPack 20L + 5L Drybag (Available 2019)
While most trunk style bags offer around 10L of storage, the Tailfin AeroPack has longer dimensions which help it offer double the volume. Two long cinching straps allow you to expand your volume even further by adding a drybag to the top. These all-in-one bag and racks are designed to fit almost any bike. The AeroPack Alloy rack weighs in at ~780 grams and the Carbon model at ~600 grams. The Tailfin AeroPack is in the prototype phase and been successfully funded via Kickstarter.