The best options for carrying stuff on your bike

When it comes to transporting gear on your bike, your first choice is whether to attach the stuff to you, or to your bicycle.



Attaching stuff to yourself

Backpacks are ideal for carrying the typical commuter load (laptop, tools, waterproof, lunch). If it is for use on a regular commute you should look for good waterproofing and also good ventilation to reduce the sweaty back effect.

Messenger type bags sling over the shoulder and have a second waist strap to stabilise their position – this is important so avoid courier style bags that lack this feature. They tend to have larger capacities and are easier to access quickly. They also position the load lower down, which can be more comfortable and make bike handling easier due to a lower centre of gravity.

Here’s a more detailed head-to-head comparison of the pros and cons of these two options.

Attaching stuff to your bike

A basket can provide a quick and simple solution to carrying small to medium loads, with the advantage that everything stays where you can see it. They don’t offer any protection from the elements (although covers are available to stretch across the top of the basket) and there can be a risk of things bouncing out as you negotiate a speed bump or hit a pothole.

Saddlebags mount behind the saddle, which will need to have appropriate loops to fix the bag to. Sizes vary, but generally they will accommodate a tool kit plus rain mac, but not a laptop or similar. They offer a more traditional and elegant solution, particularly high quality versions from the likes of Brooks.

Panniers offer a great way of carrying larger loads on your bicycle. You’ll need an appropriate rack fitted over the back wheel, to which the panniers attach ordinarily with a quick-release mechanism. Not all bikes will have the fittings to accommodate this, so check first. Waterproofing varies between models but in general they offer a great way to securely transport loads whilst letting your bike take the strain.

Larger loads

For really large loads a specialist cargo bike might be needed. These come in various shapes and configurations, with a good selection now available at specialist stores like London Green Cycles. Some London councils are offering free trials of cargo bikes to local businesses as a way of making their deliveries.

If you have cargo that wriggles around and keeps asking “Are we there yet?” have a look at our guide to cycling with small children.


For really large loads, (or a really large family) you might need something like this world record holder.


Or perhaps you’re cycling to a picnic and the invitation asks you to bring a bottle? There’s a nifty solution to that to.


Summer cycling – taking the heat

Blink and you might miss it. The British summer doesn’t exactly overstay it’s welcome most years, so make the most of it while you can and enjoy whatever sun-soaked cycling is to be had.

It’s easy to think that summer should be the simplest time of the year to cycle around the city – just jump on your bike and go. However, it’s definitely worth some preparation to make the most of your warm weather riding.

Keep hydrated

This might seem obvious, but many utility cyclists neglect their bodies’ basic needs. When commuting in hot weather it’s important to keep well hydrated before you set off, and then drink little and often during the journey. Don’t forget to keep drinking after you get off your bike too, as this is often when dehydration catches up with you.

Dress appropriately

One of the great things about the warmer weather is that you can just jump on your bike in shorts and t-shirt. This is fine for nipping to the shops, but longer journeys may need a little more thought.

Layering up in hot weather may seem counterintuitive but a good summer base layer will wick away sweat and allow your skin to breathe, preventing overheating. Another good idea is to have a lightweight waterproof mac stashed away in case of sudden downpours.

Cyclists create their own breeze when moving so it’s often when you step off the bike that the heat most affects you. Consider keeping a change of clothing in the office, or at least a can of deodorant.

Take it easy on yourself

Imagining you are in a great unspoken race with your fellow commuters isn’t perhaps the smartest of ideas at the best of times, and even less so in the heat of summer. When the mercury’s rising ride well within yourself, unless you want to arrive at journey’s end as a big ball of sweat on two wheels.

It might even make sense to look at alternative routes that avoid hills, or offer greater shade.

By making sure that your bike is running as smoothly as possible you can minimise the amount of effort you need to put in, helping you to arrive more fresh faced than beetroot faced. Here are a few simple tips to getting the most out of your bike.

Depending on how much you love your job, or how much you need to impress the boss, you could even think about going into the office early, or leaving late, to benefit from cooler parts of the day.

Lighten the load

Use the summer to audit the amount of stuff that is being carted backwards and forwards with you every day on your commute. Go through your bag and take everything out. Assess, organise, and discard. Not only will this lighten the load but it will make finding your keys easier too. If you have to commute regularly with a bulky item such as a laptop it’s worth looking at a pannier.

Even if you do turn up to work feeling a little hot and sweaty, spare a thought for your poor colleagues, trapped underground on an airless tube, or pressed armpit to armpit with their fellow bus passengers. At least as a cyclist, no matter how hot it gets, it’s only your own perspiration you have to contend with.


Five cracking bike-themed reads

The bicycle, and the possibilities it creates, have inspired lots of great writing. We don’t claim these to be the best ever books about cycling (we’ll leave that debate to the comments), but they are a great way to start filling a shelf of your own that’s dedicated to all things two-wheeled.

coverCyclogeography by Jon Day

Ever wondered what goes on in the head of a London cycle courier? Jon Day, now a lecturer in English Literature, spent years as a bike messenger, and this essay published by Notting Hill Editions collects his reflections on the bicycle, on the city, and on the relationship between them. His prose has the precision and relentless forward motion of a fixed gear slicing through traffic, painting a vivid portrait of the city. Also highly recommended is Emily Chappell’s What Goes Around, a female courier’s memoir and another saddle-bound love letter to London and to an industry in terminal decline.

eat sleep cycleEat, Sleep, Cycle: A Bike Ride Around the Coast of Britain by Anna Hughes

Upping the ante significantly on the well established challenge of riding from Lands End to John O’Groats, Anna Hughes rode out of London along the Thames and then followed the coast until it became the bank of the Thames again, some 4,000 miles later. Like all good travel writing, Hughes’ account provides insight into the landscape, the people who populate it, and into how the journey changes the participant. Mike Carter’s One Man and his Bike is an entertaining take on the same route.

Thethe-rider-krabbe_medium Rider by Tim Krabbé

Originally published in 1978, and appearing in translation in 2002, The Rider is generally recognised as the best work of fiction ever written about the sport. The book allows the reader to experience a one day classic, the fictional Tour du Mont Aigoual, from inside the peleton as we ride along with Krabbe, himself a former racer. He lays bare the psychology and tactics of road racing, along with digressions covering its history and folklore. But who is the mysterious rider in the Cycles Goff jersey?

41VtTDvrU+L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Full Tilt is the best known work of Dervla Murphy who has been touring the world by bicycle and writing about it for more than 40 years.  Her writing is warm, witty and beguilingly matter-of-fact. The subject matter itself is quite extraordinary. Having determined on her tenth birthday to ride to India, twenty years later in 1963 she did just that, across Afghanistan, on a three speed bike, loaded down with a large stash of cigarettes and unable even to mend a puncture.

51tOaP4QqUL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Bicycle: Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide To Everyday Cycling

The majority of books on the cycling shelves of an average bookstore will tend towards the elite end of the sport. For most cyclists though their bicycle is not a high performance machine, but a trusty friend and chosen mode of day to day transport. Such utility cyclists are well served by Guardian journalist Helen Pidd’s invaluable guide to getting the most from your bike. Written for ordinary, non Lycra-wearing people who happen to cycle or want to start, it contains plenty of no-nonsense advice on topics such as choosing a bike, clothing and other equipment, proper use of locks, and how to stay safe on the road.