> Our review guidelines
A saddle bag lets you carry bike tools and personal items on the bike discreetly. It avoids the need to overfill your pockets or use up other valuable bike space.
Part of the appeal of a good saddle bag for some riders is that it doesn’t detract from a bike’s clean, minimalistic look. It’s easy to install and it’s tucked out of the way.
This article will tell you how to fit a saddle bag onto a bike. You’ll find out exactly what it entails and get tips on what to put inside the bag.
How To Attach A Saddle Bag To Your Bicycle
For the most part, attaching a saddle bag to your bike is straightforward.
There are a couple of different types of saddle bags.
Some saddle bags attach to your bike using only straps, which are likely to be Velcro or nylon. A benefit of this system is that it requires no tools.
- Attach Saddle Rail Straps – the bag will have straps that thread through the saddle rails to support the weight of the bag.
- Secure Saddle Rail Straps – each strap-only saddle bag has its own way of being secured. Some have Velcro or a buckle on either side. Others may have straps of unequal length, where the longer one wraps under the bag and passes back through a D-ring on the shorter strap before attaching to the bag.
- Tighten Saddle Rail Straps – make sure the straps are tight enough to prevent excessive lateral movement. Test how snug the fit is by gently attempting to push the bag from side to side.
- Attach Seatpost Straps – a medium to large saddle bag is likely to be supported at the front by Velcro straps wrapped around the seatpost. This helps prevent movement and keeps the bag stable.
Brackets & Straps
A saddle bag that attaches to saddle rails via a bracket does not offer tool-free installation, though there may be other benefits. In some cases, the installed bracket acts as a dock for fast bag attachment and removal.
- Gather appropriate tool(s) – you’re likely to need a 5mm Allen wrench or multitool for installation of this type of bag. That’s because the bracket has to be tightened onto the saddle rails. Some saddle bags come with the Allen wrench.
- Prepare mounting bracket – a saddle bag mounting bracket consists of two opposing metal plates joined together by one or two bolts. You’ll have to loosen the bolt(s) with your Allen wrench so that the saddle rails can pass between the plates and sit inside the provided grooves.
- Position & Tighten – once you have the bracket positioned where you want it along the saddle rails, you can retighten the Allen bolts. The position may need to allow for a front strap to go around the seat post.
- Secure Strap – bracket-style saddle bags are still likely to have a strap at the front to stabilize the load. Usually Velcro, this strap wraps firmly around the seatpost to prevent excessive movement.
Video: Topeak QuickClick Fast Saddle Bag Attachment
What To Consider Putting Inside Your Saddle Bag
There are many things you might put in a saddle bag, the main limiting factor being its size.
Items you need easy access to are not usually put in a saddle bag.
Here are ten things you might store in a saddle bag:
- Chain tool
- Quick link
- Mini pump
- C02 inflator & cartridges
- Spare tubes
- Puncture repair kit
- Tire levers
- Latex gloves
Let’s elaborate on some of this stuff and talk about why you might need to carry it.
Multitools & Chain Tools
You never know when you might need to make an adjustment or remove a component during a bike ride. A multitool is useful for that. It can help you remove a thru-axle wheel, too, if the wheel has no built-in lever.
A multitool might include a chain tool or chain breaker, though generally the dedicated ones are more robust. This is a vital thing to have on you if you snap a chain for whatever reason (e.g., wonky derailleur).
Quick Link (aka Master Link)
If you need to break a chain during a repair and don’t have a spare quick link available, you could compromise the strength of the chain where you rejoin it. The repair should get you home, but it’s not ideal in the long term.
This is because many multi-speed chains use fully peened pins to enhance their lateral strength. Breaking a chain snaps off the circular peened collar around the relevant pin and makes loaded gear changes riskier.
Mini Pumps, CO2 Inflators
If you’re riding clincher tires with tubes, especially, you’ll need to carry a pump of some type when riding so you can fix punctures.
A mini pump is a reliable thing that you can’t “run out of”, so it’s always wise to carry one. CO2 inflators get you back in action quicker, however.
A CO2 inflator is also more useful for inflating tubeless tires. Note that CO2 escapes much faster from tires and tubes than air (perhaps up to 13x faster using figures from the 1920 work “Permeability of Rubber to Gases”).
Whether you ride tubeless tires or tubed, it’s sensible to carry spare tubes. On a tubeless tire, a tube offers a way of getting home if you get a puncture that won’t seal.
For someone on tubed tires, it’s a good idea to carry two spare tubes. You’d be unlucky to sustain two punctures in one ride, but if you did get one in the first few miles, you’d feel more comfortable about carrying on.
Alternative products like Tubolito tubes take up less space in a saddle bag, expensive though they are.
Video: How To Prepare A Spare Tube For A Saddle Bag
Puncture Repair Kit
If you carry spare tubes, you shouldn’t need a puncture repair kit on rides. However, this is a small item that might bail you out if you’re on a nightmare ride with multiple punctures.
One problem with mending punctures on a bike ride is first being able to find them. It’s easy at home, where you can dip the tube in water to detect escaping air. Older riders might also want to carry glasses with them on a bike ride for better near vision.
You need tire levers to remove tires if and when you get a puncture. You might get away with only two levers, but three is better.
Make sure you’re confident in using tire levers before taking them on rides. They’re not all the same. One useful feature is a thin lip that enables you to easily slip the lever under the tire bead.
If you “lose the chain” out on a bike ride (i.e., the chain comes off), it’s usually an easy fix to re-seat it. However, your hands may get filthy in the process.
Latex gloves take up very little space in a saddle bag and can prevent you from riding around with black, oily hands after fixing the drivetrain. Dirty hands transfer grime to your handlebar tape, too.
An alternative to carrying gloves is to carry a pack of wet wipes, though these are likely to take up more space.
During moderate to intense exercise, liver glycogen metabolism gives you about 90 minutes before your energy levels start to dip. You’ll need food on long bike rides.
Most food will be stored in your pockets, but a saddle bag is handy for a backup stash or snacks that might melt close to your body (e.g., Snickers bars).
A saddle bag is an easy way to carry essential tools and spares, leaving your pockets free for your phone, personal items, and food.
At the same time, saddle bags are often unobtrusive. And they’re likely to be more aerodynamic than bags mounted on the front of the bike.
We hope you found this article useful. Please feel free to add a comment or share it.