Pannier vs Backpack: Which is better for cyclists?

Pannier vs Backpack: Which is better for cyclists?

It’s a debate for commuters and cyclists all over the world. Which one is better: Panniers or Backpacks? What are the pros and cons of each? How do they affect your ride? Is it personal preference or is there an outright winner between the two? With many people switching from four wheels to two, getting the right set-up can change the way you ride. We go through the various options with the pros and cons of each so you don’t have too!  

Backpacks

Backpack for cyclist

Backpacks are the cheapest, easiest and most readily available carrier options. The incentive to save money may seem like a good reason to purchase a backpack, however, there are other things that need to be taken into account.

If your usual carry load is quite heavy, then cycling long distances could cause back problems. Added weight can lead to aches and pains in the riders lower back, neck and shoulders which can lead to prolonged discomfort. They can also get hot and feel uncomfortable, especially in summer. In addition to this, carrying weight high up can affect your riding ability which could be dangerous when commuting during busy hours. Reaction times and movements on the bike become slower due to the weight on your shoulders. This can also affect your balance.

For carrying small/light items, a backpack is a suitable option. The small space in a backpack means you can carry multiple small objects objects such as a laptop, books, shopping, or even your bike lock.

 Pros

Cons

  • Cheap to buy
  • Lots of options, colours and sizes to chose from
  • More convenient for shorter or lighter trips
  • Easier to carry when you are off the bike
  • Can be used for things other than cycling
  • High-Security options available
  • Heavy loads can cause back pain/shoulder pain.
  • Less space
  • Limited upper body movement while riding
  • Can be hot and uncomfortable
  • Can move around if not adjusted properly, leaving you off-balanced while riding.


Panniers

Pannier on a bike

A pannier is an alternative to a backpack that can carry a lot more items and weight, as well as stopping back and neck pain so that you can enjoy riding. 

Pannier racks can fit on most bikes that have the appropriate brackets. If your bike doesn't have the right brackets, you can get many adapters or frame/seat post racks that'll also work (except full suspension bikes).

With the weight being lower down centre of gravity is lower so balance is much better. Also it leaves you free to wear what you want as your back and shoulders won't get so hot.

But, there are disadvantages to panniers. Firstly, adding extra weight to the rear triangle can cause you to feel like you are pulling a car. This will be come quite apparent when riding uphill for long distances. Although, you will have stronger legs over a certain amount of time! You may find the extra weigh on the rear will create more wear on the rear wheel and tyre along with the brake pads.

Lastly, buying pannier racks and bags do come with an additional costs as you will need to purchase a specific  rack to fit your bike. You may also need a stronger rear wheel if you plan to carry heavy loads. This can all add up when purchasing a premium or a good quality pannier. There is also more effort with the initial installation and you may need your local bike shop to help with fitting. Once set up, attaching and removal of pannier bags is very easy. I sounds But it can be worth it if it is needed for everyday use.

Pros Cons
  • Allows you to carry larger & heavier items
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Allows natural upper body movement & comfortable.
  • Low centre of gravity for better balance.
  • You can carry multiple panniers at the same time.
  • Can make your bike feel heavy and slow
  • More expensive when you include mounting racks required
  • May not fit every bike type
  • Might need to upgrade your wheels and brakes
  • May need a bike shop to fit for you


Verdict

Backpacks are perfect for shorter rides, however, they can affect your back/neck and can feel uncomfortable when you cycle over longer distances. Panniers are better for heavier items but can make it feel like you are pulling an anchor behind your bike. 

When it comes to which is better? it really does depend on you and your type of cycling. If you cycle to the shops or commute to work with laptops and heavy notebooks, shopping or luggage then panniers will suit you, however, if you plan on carrying just your lunch and a change of clothes for a short distances then a backpack will probably be the one for you.

Pannier Litelok Silver

A pannier on a bike being secure by a Litelok Silver 

There are other types of carriers such as saddlebags, frame bags and baskets. These are normally seen as add-ons to carry smaller items which may not fit in a pannier or backpack but may suit some riders instead.

What is your preference? Let us know which you prefer and why through facebook or twitter and let us know.