Pretty much any bicycle that hangs out for any length of time in our household seems to go through transitions. For me, this is just par for the course and I've learned to accept that I don't always know right away how I want a bike to be used or set up. Sometimes this necessitates a bag, basket or rack change too.
There are those who prefer to use panniers to carry their goods, and I've done it myself, but I have found that I am lazy about removing them, so when seasons change, or I want to use the bike as a road bike, rather than an errand bike, I'm carrying needless weight (not to mention getting the pannier dirty). For some, this isn't an issue, but I've simply chose over time to go in a different direction.
|An example of a folding rear basket as illustrated on Sam's city bike.|
Initially, I rode the Hillborne with nothing on it. I wanted it stripped down as bare as possible. Then, very quickly a rear rack was added and soon decided that it wasn't enough, so a front one was installed as well.
The great thing about having two racks is that I always have a place to attach head and tail lights to the bike. Additionally, I could carry a bags of goods strapped on each of them. Panniers were easy to handle as well, but as mentioned above, I wasn't the best about removing them when not in use, or I'd forget to put them back on and end up somewhere without them.
This particular setup wasn't my favorite, and I always seemed to need to carry just a bit more than the configuration allowed. If I remembered panniers, it was pretty functional, but if not I was left holding bags and attempting to figure out how I was going to get everything home.
|This round was a front rack to be able to strap something to the bike and on the rear was a Sackville SaddleSack in the x-small size.|
The Sackville SaddleSack was a nice compromise because it was large enough to carry more than just a tool and a pump, but not so large that it required the support of a rear rack.
Regularly, this bag carried a bike lock, a pump, tool, patches, a small towel, wallet, and still had room to spare. The bag itself, however, was a bit saggy with regular use and slowly started to droop. The more weight it had to hold, the saggier it became. The problem for me was that there wasn't much clearance between the rear tire and the bottom of the saddlebag once the sagging began.
|Rivendell's Brand V saddlebag pictured here on another bike.|
All of the bags tried worked as intended, but I struggled to figure out the best set up for the Hillborne specifically.
|This iteration had both front and rear Nitto racks with a Wald x-large front basket (zip-tied to the front rack) and on the rear was my Carradice Barley bag.|
Using a very small rear bag on this Hillborne isn't functional for me because it just doesn't hold enough, but using the very largest bag I own necessitates a rear rack, so if I remove the rear rack, I have to choose something a bit smaller.
At one point I had a large Wald basket on the rear of the bike (the very same pictured on the front above), and it's also obviously been on the front of the bike.
I like this arrangement because it allows me to carry up to two large grocery bags on the rear of the bike (or on the front, depending on the location of the basket). What I haven't liked in the past is that I couldn't get the basket far enough away from the saddle to keep from hitting me in the rear as I pedal. If the basket was on the front of the bike, it was frequently too heavy with its contents and caused the front to feel unwieldy or twitchy at times.
It seemed like a nice compromise to put the basket on the front and carry the large Carradice Barley bag on the rear of the bike. For me, this set up was probably one of the most functional when using the Hillborne as a city bike; however, the way that I used this bike was beginning to shift and pretty soon I changed the set up yet again.
|Only carrying the front bag, the Sackville BarSack at this juncture.|
Sackville BarSack into my life.
Additionally, the D-rings on the top of the bag are quite functional for using a map case if one is in need for directions along the way (such as for a brevet or other organized ride that may not be clearly marked). These rings also work well in a pinch to tie something to the top of the bag that doesn't way too much.
Another convenience of this bag is the detachable carrying strap included with purchase. I've used it myself as a kind of shoulder bag when I don't want to carry the individual items around with me after the bike is parked and locked, or if I just don't feel secure leaving the bag on the bike.
It's truly a functional bag. The only real down side I've found is that it requires the use of its own special "rack", which is definitely not the cheapest thing around (especially when combined with the cost of the bag). The bag itself is only intended to carry 3-4 pounds of weight, but I find that seems to be plenty for my needs. It is very sturdy though and I've loaded the bag up beyond its intended weight limit without issue (I don't do this frequently, but in a tight spot it's worked just fine).
One great aspect of this set up is that the bag and rack come off fairly easily, so if I want to use it on another bike, it isn't at all difficult to switch it out. I can also easily remove the bag alone and just leave the rack on (it just looks like bull horns sticking out of the front of the bike) if I don't want the added carrying convenience (or its added weight).
|The current bag configuration: Carradice Zip Roll bag on the rear and a Sackville BarSack on the front.|
Although I'm slowly adding back the weight I'd eliminated, it's really easy to remove either or both of these bags if needed.
|Carradice Zip Roll saddlebag|
|This bag actually holds quite a bit. Despite looking packed in for this photo, I can still fit my large wallet, phone, bike lock, and other smaller items.|
|Visual comparison of three sizes of saddlebags: Carradice Barley, Carradice Zip Roll, Sackville SaddleSack|
In reality, a persons set up is going to be quite individualized. It would be impossible to provide the perfect setup for everyone because we all have different needs. I have no doubt that over time I'll go back to one of the configurations I've already used, and will probably try out others as well. The great thing about bags, baskets and racks is that they're fairly easy to both add and remove from a bicycle. There are also less expensive and more pricey options, allowing for individuals to choose dependent on his/her own requirements.
What sort of set up do you use on your transportation or city bike? Have you found that one way in particular works best for you? Do you use one bike for both transportation and sport? If so, how do you deal with transporting larger items by bike? Do you prefer to keep it loaded up and ready for carrying goods, or do you take your chances and keep your bike more bare bones to carry only minimal extra goods?