How to Choose Bike Racks and Bags

  Whether you use your bike to commute, run errands or take longer trips, you’ll need a way to carry essentials, from a small repair kit to full-on camping gear. A daypack or messenger bag is good for shorter trips, but some of your best gear-carrying options are racks, baskets and bags that fit on your bike.

  Types of Bike Racks

  Rear Rack

  A rack provides a stable framework to hold gear on your bicycle. In good weather, items can be strapped directly to the rack without a cover. For foul weather or the ability to hold loose items together, bags such as rack trunks and panniers can be easily attached to the rear rack.

  Rear racks are usually rated to carry loads between 20 and 50 pounds, which is sufficient for most uses. A few heavy-duty touring models are able to carry up to 80 pounds. These racks typically have three supports per side (others have only two).

  Rear racks are designed to attach to the braze-on mounts that many bikes have. If your bike does not have braze-on mounts, you can still mount a rack using metal C clips included with the mounting hardware of most racks. These clips wrap around your bike’s frame tubes and accept the lower mounting bolt.

  Front Rack

  A front rack offers an additional mounting spot for gear. It is a secondary option after a rear rack as it adds weight to the bike’s front wheel and can affect steering and balance. Front racks are popular mostly with touring cyclists who carry large volumes of gear.

  There are two primary styles of front racks:

  •   A standard rack (also called a “top mount”) maximizes gear capacity as the load can be carried above the front wheel as well as hung off the sides.
  •   A low rider rack accepts bags only on the sides but holds that weight closer to the ground for better balance.
  •   As with rear racks, front racks are designed to attach to the braze-on mounts on your bike.
Thule Camber Hitch Bike Rack

Thule Camber Hitch Bike Rack

Hanging hitch-mount bike carrier for 2 bikes
Rack tilts down for rear of vehicle access
Designed to fit 1.25″ or 2″ hitch receivers
Superior bike stability and fit
BestEquip 10 Holders Floor Bike Rack

BestEquip 10 Holders Floor Bike Rack

This floor bike rack is made of premium powder-coated galvanized steel tube, resistant to scratch, wear, corrosion and rusk. High hardness, not easily bent.
The bike storage rack has a large hold capacity with up to 9 bikes at the same time. The stand can hold bikes and avoid tilting. Save space and keep neat.
68"L Wave Bike Rack

68"L Wave Bike Rack

Rugged 12 gauge steel construction
Black polyester powder coat finish
Wave design eliminates sharp edges for safety
Tyger Auto TG-RK4B102B

Tyger Auto TG-RK4B102B

Fits all types of dual-arm bikes on vehicles equipped with either a 1.25 or a 2 inch hitch receiver.
bike capacity with sturdy and handy construction. Easy ratchet buckles. TYGER cable lock & hitch lock & security strap included.
Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack

Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack

Only takes a few minutes to assemble and the upright ratchet arms easily adjusts to different bike frame sizes, will accommodate bike frames up to 59 cm (23.2″)
Sturdy design includes a built in anti-wobble hitch device to keep bikes in place

  Bike Trailer for Cargo

  If you have lots of gear to haul, consider a bike trailer for cargo. A trailer gives you lots of storage space for carrying heavy loads in town or on long-distance tours.

  Cargo trailers typically attach to the rear hub of your bike. A trailer can be used on its own or with front and rear racks, depending on how much you need to carry. Some riders prefer the feel of having the weight off of the bike frame and therefore choose to pull a trailer rather than carry everything on front and rear racks.

  Do bike racks damage bikes?

  Hitch-mounted bike racks are much safer than trunk-mounted racks, but they also have some disadvantages. Although the rack does not have direct contact with the vehicle, the bike can hit the car if not secured properly. If the bike sways or the wheel turns, it can hit against the car and cause damage.

  What is better a hanging or platform bike rack?

  Hanging bike racks are much better when it comes to maximum capacity. That’s due to their minimal design, which results in lower weight. As the hitch receiver has more headroom because of a lighter rack, you can carry more bikes.

  Can you open trunk with hitch bike rack?

  Yes, you can open the trunk with a hitch bike rack. However, this will depend on the positioning of the hitch receiver and the model of your vehicle. As you know, hitch racks are great for carrying two or more bikes securely. But not every hitch rack can fit in every vehicle model.

  Do bike racks wobble?

  Even the best fitting bike racks can ocassionaly have a little sway/wobble when you’re on the road, especially when fully loaded with all your bikes. The best solution is to get an anti-rattle pin kit to help get the tightest fit possible.

  What is a hitch bike rack?

  A hitch-mounted bike rack is a type of bike rack that slides into the receiver of a trailer hitch on a car or truck. This type of rack has some advantages over roof- and trunk-mounted bike racks: Available in a large variety of styles. Make it easy to load and unload bikes. More aerodynamic than roof-mounted racks.

  Do bike racks fit all cars?

  First, you’ll need to consider what vehicle you’re using as not every bike rack fits every car. Rear mounted bike racks are vehicle-specific so if this is what you’re after then use our online registration check first or speak to one of our store colleagues who fit these racks day in, day out.

  How do I stop my bike from swinging on my bike rack?

  An easy and inexpensive way to keep your bike rack from swaying and wobbling while you’re driving is to use a hitch clamp or an anti-rattle hitch device. With the hitch clamp installed, the rack should move with the vehicle and not independent of the vehicle.

  Can you open the back hatch with a bike rack?

  Bike manufacturers don’t recommend opening the trunk with a rack as you could damage the trunk’s door hinges and bring the door down or scratch the painting. Remember, the door’s hinges are not meant to support the rack’s weight, and so the door could quickly come down if you forcefully open the trunk.

  What is a hitch mount?

  A receiver hitch is a type of trailer hitch that bolts onto the underside of a vehicle, at the rear, and provides a tube for attaching a ball mount or other hitch accessory. Receiver hitches generally have a vehicle-specific design, a standard receiver tube size and fall within one of five hitch classes.

  Are rear bike racks universal?

  Not all rear bike racks work with all bikes so be careful when shopping. For example, if your bike has disc brakes, you need to make sure you choose a model specifically designed to work on disc brakes. Most racks feature stays that attach to braze-on mounts or eyelets near the bottom rear of your frame.

  How can I make my bike rack more secure?

  I use a long cable lock that loops around the outside bike, through the frame of the inside bike and locked to the hitch. This is not so much to stop a thief as to stop my bikes from tumbling down the highway onto another car in the event the rack fails.

  Why does my hitch bike rack wobble?

  Bike racks can wobble a little due to the connecting joints and the motion of the vehicle. The momentum of a moving car can cause the wobble as well. But if the bike racks wobble a lot, you should check the security straps and nuts and bolts of the joints of the bike rack to the vehicle.

  Can I install a bike rack myself?

  While installing a hitch trailer often requires a wrench, most bike racks can be installed without any tools. They tend to be fairly straightforward when it comes to assembly and installation as well, although there can be a lot of variation between brands and models.

  How do you put a tripod on a bike?

  Just strap it to the top of your rear pannier rack. Bungee cords are probably the best, but you can use compression straps or whatever you tried lashing it to the top tube with. Orient the tripod so that the swivel head is at the very front of the rack, with the feet sticking off the back.

  Do trunk bike racks damage your car?

  Trunk-mounted bike racks have the greatest potential of causing damage to your car. This type of bike rack sits against the car’s paint and straps to the edges of the trunk. Since this type of rack is always in contact with your car, it can rub against it and cause scratches.

  Do all bike racks require a hitch?

  To use a hitch mount bike rack, you do need a trailer hitch on your vehicle, while roof and trunk racks don’t require a trailer hitch. A trailer hitch can be installed on just about any vehicle – from small hatchbacks to minivans to oversized SUVs.

  Are bike racks universal?

  Bike racks are vehicle-specific, and most of them are bike-specific. They fit specific types of vehicles and bicycles, which means they are not universal.

  What class of hitch do I need for a bike rack?

  For the most part, class I and class II hitches can only carry two, sometimes three, bikes. If you want to carry 4+ bikes, or have the ability to swing the rack to the side, you’re going to need a class III or higher hitch.

  What size hitch is needed for a bike rack?

  The two most common hitch sizes are 1 ¼” and 2”. Although some newer vehicles use a 2.5” which we have an adapter for. Another important thing is to note the class of your hitch. The class is based upon how the hitch is manufactured and attached to your vehicle.

  Do bike racks fit all cars?

  First, you’ll need to consider what vehicle you’re using as not every bike rack fits every car. Rear mounted bike racks are vehicle-specific so if this is what you’re after then use our online registration check first or speak to one of our store colleagues who fit these racks day in, day out.

  How do you measure a bike bike rack?

  Measuring the wheelbase of your bike to determine the correct bike rack for you is pretty simple; all you have to do is measure from the center of one wheel to the center of the other wheel and this is the measurement of your wheelbase.

  Types of Bike Bags


  Best for carrying everyday essentials, extra clothes and camping gear on bike commutes, urban rides and long-distance tours.

  Named after the French word for baskets, panniers offer roomy storage, protection from weather and the ability to quickly disconnect from a rack on your bike so you can take your gear with you. They attach to racks using a simple system of spring-loaded hooks, clips or bungee cords. They can be used singly or in pairs, and are designed specifically for front or rear racks.

  Small items tend to get lost in large panniers, so consider using stuff sacks to get organized.

  Caution: Make sure your heel does not contact the bag during your normal pedaling rotation. Too-large panniers (or those improperly mounted too far forward) can cause this impact and an unsafe riding situation.


  Best for carrying a range of items, including grocery bags, on fair-weather rides.

  Baskets can carry loads on the front and/or back of your bicycle. Rear baskets are usually mounted on either side of the rear wheel. They can carry tall loads, as they have no lid.

  Front baskets tend to be smaller than their rear-mounted cousins; they are most often hung off the handlebars or anchored to the front fork with metal stays.

  Saddle Packs

  Best for carrying small items like a multi-tool, spare tube, tire levers, a patch kit or an energy bar.

  Also called a seat bag, saddle bag or underseat bag, this fits under your bicycle seat and usually attaches to the rails of the saddle itself. Larger models can carry a few extra items. Keep this mounted to your bike to ensure you never leave home without the essentials.

  Handlebar Packs

  Best for carrying frequently used items, such as a camera, sunscreen and snacks.

  This attaches to your handlebars with clamps or straps. It offers easier access and often more room than a seat bag. Some models feature a clear plastic sleeve on top to display a map—a popular choice among touring cyclists.

  Caution: Be sure the bag you choose does not affect your ability to operate the brakes or shifters on your bike, and do not overload it as extra weight carried up this high can affect balance.

  Rack Trunk

  Best for carrying a jacket, tools and food when you need a bag smaller than a pannier, but larger than a seat bag.

  Rack trunks are smaller than panniers but larger than seat bags, making them a happy medium for carrying extra clothing, bike tools and lunch. Many have plastic sheets to reinforce the base area and retain the shape of the bag. Packing is simplified by some sort of pocket system or divided storage. Some trunks even offer integrated raincovers.

  Frame Bags

  Best for storing food, phones and tools within easy reach.

  Most frame bags attach to the top tube of your bike and are sized to keep food, phones, tools and other essentials within easy reach. Larger frame bags for bikepacking and touring can hold hydration reservoirs.

  Bike Bag Features


  Some bags adjust via compression straps or expandable collars. This allows you to carry loads of varying sizes without having the unused portion of the bags flapping in the wind or the load shifting as you move on your bike.

  Ease of Access

  Handlebar bags are more accessible than panniers or seat bags, making them a great choice for small, frequently used items. Other characteristics to consider: How many openings are there? Zippers or flaps? Are there small pockets for organization or simply a large, undivided space?

  Water Resistance

  If you’re an all-conditions rider who doesn’t shy away from rain and road spray, look for a bag rated as “waterproof” instead of “water resistant.” Waterproof bags are made from a rubberized material to keep the contents dry even in a downpour. Many feature a roll-top closure to prevent water from getting in.

  Attachment Options

  If you park in public areas, you’ll probably want to take your gear with you. Panniers attach to racks using a simple system of spring-loaded hooks, clips or bungee cords and are easy to disconnect. For seat bags, look for one with a quick-release mounting bracket rather than a set of buckles or rip-and-stick straps.

  Caution: Be sure that your bags attach securely to your bicycle. Loads that are not secured can shift during your ride unexpectedly and cause a loss of control.

  Cycling backpacks and hydration packs

  Compared to a regular backpack, cycling backpacks often come with a few bike specific features. Look for things like bike-lock pockets, loops to attach a blinky light, reflective details, waterproofing, helmet attachments and flexible back panels that keep your riding position in mind.

  Hydration packs give you a way to drink without taking your hands off the handlebars, along with room for other items. Some mountain bike backpacks have special compartments sized for bike tools, a bike helmet or body armour.

  Since backpacks (obviously) cover your whole back, you might get a little sweaty underneath.

  Great for: Bike commuting, urban cycling, road cycling, mountain biking and anyone who wants a bag for more than just cycling.

  What should I look for when buying panniers?

  Look for things like bike-lock pockets, loops to attach a blinky light, reflective details, waterproofing, helmet attachments and flexible back panels that keep your riding position in mind. Hydration packs give you a way to drink without taking your hands off the handlebars, along with room for other items.

  How do you size a bike rack?

  The height of the bike rack should be 33 inches tall (30-35 inches allowable), measured at the center-point of the bike rack’s length. At 33 inches tall, the bike rack will be slightly taller than most bikes’ top tubes.

  Do bike racks fit all cars?

  The only two types of bike racks that will fit all types of cars are roof racks, and hitch racks, however there are some exceptions with this as well. Make sure to know before you buy, if you will need to get a different rack for your car, or additional equipment to make sure your bike rack fits all of your vehicles.

  How big should my panniers be?

  A typical front pannier might have a 10–15 litre capacity (ie: 20–30 litres per pair). Larger panniers at the front would also be at risk of hitting the down-tube of the bike (or even the ground) when turning sharply, or interfering with disc brakes.

  Do pannier racks fit all bikes?

  With the right equipment you can fit panniers to a bike that isn’t designed to take them. Some bikes – tourers, most hybrids, and many gravel bikes, for example – have the threaded frame eyelets required for a rear pannier rack: two high on the seatstays, others down by the dropouts. Many road and mountain bikes don’t.

  Are pannier bags universal?

  Indeed many small panniers are marketed as ”universal’ meaning that they can go either front or rear.

  What is the difference between front and rear panniers?

  Front panniers reduce your clearance as they sit lower to the ground – I’ve found it’s much easier to squeeze between cars with the higher-sitting rear bags. At slow speeds, you use your steering to balance from left to right. With your weight up the back, your steering is light – making it easier to balance your bike.

  Do you need two panniers?

  Typically two panniers at the rear of your bike is best suited for bike touring. When you need to carry more than just what is typically required for the daily commute. The single pannier setup it more suited for the commuter.

  Can you ride with one pannier?

  Riding with just one pannier bag is more efficient for normal city commuting because you then only have to remove and carry off one single bag. Some people do find it a little unbalanced when the bag is really heavy, but, most people don’t notice the difference at all.

  Is it hard to cycle with panniers?

  Riding low on the bike and with three points of attachment, panniers will have the least effect on your stability (apart from just using your pockets, that is). They’re easy to take on and off and often have a carrying handle or strap.

  How do panniers affect handling?

  Very heavy rear panniers can dramatically affect the handling of your bike, causing the back end to wag around. Because the weight is close to the steering axis of the bike, low-rider front panniers have far less effect.

  Why are messenger bags better for biking?

  The messenger bag has an asymmetrical design and while the chest strap helps, there is still a lot of strain on one side of the neck and shoulder. The benefit of the messenger bag is the ease of use without having to take the bag off, while the backpack requires you to remove it to access [belongings].

  How do you carry a gym bag on a bike?

  Using a wire, securely tie the plank to the bike. Make more holes along the plank wherever needed to fasten your luggage. Take the wooden sticks and drill a hole in the middle to make the ends of the rope go through them. Put the rope through the newly made holes, and place your gym bag over the plank.

  How do you wear a messenger bag when cycling?

  If you are not riding the bike, wearing the strap across your body is the proper way to wear it. The strap of the messenger bag should be over one shoulder and across the biker’s body. In selecting which side of the shoulder, it is up to you to select which is more comfortable for you.

  How do you attach a bag to a pannier rack?

  Start by placing the backpack straight up, leaning its back side against the saddle. Next step is placing straps over the saddle – criss-crossed. All that’s left now is to secure the backpack with a bungee cord.


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