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  1. #1
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    frame bags vs. racks + panniers

    i've got a surly nice rack on the rear and a cheap sunlite front rack on my ogre....they've been great so far.
    seems like the trend is going away from racks and panniers to frame bags. bike camping season is upon us, and i was thinking i'd give the surly revelate frame bag a go...that coupled with my anything cages ought to hold just about everything i need. my only complaint is when i grocery shop, i use the platform rack to hold a case of water and stuff everything else in my ortleib back rollers. i guess i could pull a trailer to grocery shop (which i don't by bike very often).....
    have any of your guys made the switch from rack and panniers to frame bags?
    any regrets.....?

  2. #2
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    I didn't really "switch" from racks/panniers to bikepacking-style bags; I just bought those bags to begin with (I do have a rack and some large Ortlieb panniers that can be added to the bike for longer trips, and I've had those for a while longer for commuting, shopping, and so on).

    You want to think about your needs and wants for touring, camping, bikepacking, riding and so on. There are pluses and minuses of every format.

    Racks/panniers' main pros are that you have lots of space. If your gear isn't overly bulky and you aren't overpacking, a front and rear pair of panniers gives you 65L of space or so, which is all anybody should ever need unless they're going off-road into the back-country for days at a time without resupply, or traveling for extended times (6+ months or something) or both.

    Framepacks and other bikepacking gear are meant to address some of the main downsides of racks/panniers, which are weight and bulk. By minimizing your gear and keeping it all tightly strapped to the bike, you both keep the weight down (meaning riding is easier and probably more enjoyable) and keep the bike narrow and more maneuverable - important for the off-roading aspect of bikepacking, which is what inspired the style of bags to begin. However, that kind of ultralight setup has its applications for on-road touring as well, for people who just want to save weight or enjoy minimalism.

    With panniers, you also have the option to go a lot cheaper than you would with bikepacking bags, but for higher-end stuff the prices start to come out fairly similar.

    So, there are a few questions to ask yourself before you start buying gear (and that's the best time to answer those questions).

    -What kind of riding do you plan to do? Short tours of one night to several nights? Long-distance, extended touring? Commuting/shopping/errand trips with the bike? On-road, off-road, or both?
    -What's your camping gear like? If you have a lot of experience backpacking/camping, you should have a good idea of the weight and bulk of gear you need to bring. If not, that's something good to think about in the meantime.
    -Is it important to you to minimize weight and bulk? Either to make uphills easier, or to be able to ride singletrack while fully loaded?
    -Are you OK with the "packing tetris" and/or minimalism and/or gear purchases necessary to cram all your stuff into bikepacking bags? In some cases this may mean purchasing new, ultralight equivalents to gear you might already own (especially shelter, clothing and insulation) which could get expensive.
    -How much experience with bike touring/camping do you have? If it's not a lot, I might suggest starting cheap and building up from there.

    In my experience, I've found a frame pack (plug alert: it's by Greg Wheelwright of Bolder Bikepacking Gear) to be a hugely useful addition to my mountain bike, both for day rides and overnighters. Instead of just two water bottles inside my triangle, I can fit a ton of stuff - all the food and cooking equipment needed for an overnighter, for example, plus tools and maps. However, if I were using different, bulkier cooking equipment rather than an MSR Pocket Rocket and 700 ml pot/mug, I might have a lot more trouble fitting everything in there.

    But if you have a frame bag, you could also get two relatively cheap racks (like Blackburn) that will still be plenty solid for all kinds of riding, and either put panniers on there, or just strap stuff sacks/dry bags full of gear on top of them. Not quite as lightweight as a handlebar roll and saddlebag, but certainly cheaper, and still keeps your bike's profile narrow.

    Here's my setup as of last weekend's overnight trip:


    And here was my setup last October (note that I've since replaced that synthetic sleeping bag with a down equivalent, which is half the weight and less than half the bulk when compressed):


    There were a few differences in gear - in the fall trip, I was using a hammock, and a pad as under-insulation (which I had to carry in a backpack), whereas in the trip last weekend, I didn't use a backpack at all, and used a tent and Thermarest, all of which went in the handlebar roll.

    My site has trip reports from a couple outings, btw: Bikepacking - Julian Bender - Travels and Photos

    In any case, this setup would be impossible if I didn't a) have a lot of light, compact gear which has, alas, cost me a decent (though not at all outrageous, by outdoor recreation standards) amount of money (it helped that I've not paid full price for most things, instead accumulating it gradually, waiting for discounts when I could get them) and b) take exactly what I need and no more. Last weekend, the only thing in my pack I didn't use was the trowel and toilet paper. But if you are experienced enough with camping that you know just what you need, you should be able to pull this kind of thing off.

    Edit: Just realized you already have racks, but the rest of this still applies, and might help a person just starting to buy gear, as well.
    www.julianbender.net

    Pictures of bike trips, hikes, and other travels

  3. #3
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    here's my setup grocery shopping...

    and without...

  4. #4
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    So you've already got racks...unless dropping weight is highly important, I don't know that frame packs or a handlebar roll would be that necessary, though a handlebar roll could expand your capacity to carry volume when combined with the front rack.

    As it is, putting a frame pack inside your main triangle would provide you with a good deal of space, and then lashing stuff onto the top of both racks would cover much/all of the rest. A simple handlebar roll like the Revelate Sling (unfortunately not sold anymore, but maybe you can find one used) could hold any additional light items. The Ogre is already set up for fork attachments - put water bottles on there, or Anything Cages.

    The main thing to be gained would be dropping a pound or two by ditching the racks, but that may not be that important to you (I don't know).

    Give it a try! I've found a frame pack to be incredibly useful.
    www.julianbender.net

    Pictures of bike trips, hikes, and other travels

  5. #5
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    Uh... stop buying bottled water. Bottled water produces tons of waste and tap water is regulated to higher standards. Then you won't need your rack.

    Story of Bottled Water « The Story of Stuff Project

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  6. #6
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    Use both.

    I like my frame bags because i can grab things from it while riding without stopping. For urban use racks are great. For race/lightweight use bags are great. Use both, and be twice as great.

  7. #7
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    I thought framebags were a newer concept, boy was I wrong!

    The Daily Bike, May 24, 2013
    frame bags vs. racks + panniers-daily-bike-buffalo-soldiers-660.jpg

    I decided to go with a non-rack setup for my banff bikepacking trip on June 9-14. rear panniers can be problematic on singletrack due to the increased width. I'm hoping to have enough room to get a lot of stuff off my back, since I don't think I'll be carrying my bike over too many downed trees on this trip.

  8. #8
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    I'm a rack kind of guy. I find that if the panniers mounted to the rack is too wide for single track then so are my legs and the pedals that are situated right in between the front and rear rack. I use racks that allow the panniers to be mounted fairly high, the bottom of the pannier is above the wheel axle.

  9. #9
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    One other downside to racks that I don't believe has been mentioned (could be wrong, lots of words here) - if you are riding in rough terrain, the 'soft' connections of bags will stand up much better as they will not fatigue like a solid rack does. This, in addition to being slimmer, is why the bag setup makes more sense for trail-primary touring.

    However, that's more a point if you're debating between one or the other - if you have bags already, keep using them until you're unhappy with them. I am using front and rear Salsa racks with Ortliebs plus a Revelate frame bag. If I was doing a very ambitious tour, like the Tour Divide, I'd probably invest in bags to save potential trouble - but for tours lasting a few days and not really getting deep off the beaten path it doesn't really matter that much.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lostboyscout | www.beerscout.ca
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny the boy View Post
    have any of your guys made the switch from rack and panniers to frame bags?
    any regrets.....?


    I am using Porcelain Rocket bags on my Krampus & Pugsley and have no regrets not using racks and panniers, but my Krampus is not a grocery hauler.



    I use racks and panniers when I have to haul more than softbags can handle, but I never enjoy the ride as much.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
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  11. #11
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    Another positive aspect of rear racks is a place to mount a rear light and "protection" of the rear fender/wheel (if you're into those "commuter" types of things). Also a place to lean your bike against a tree, without touching your frame or saddle. I feel like the rear rack is like a Roll-Cage, offering some protection from falls/crashes. I also like the way they look, and wish more people made them integrated into their frames.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gritter View Post
    I also like the way they look, and wish more people made them integrated into their frames.

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    Have you seen the Tout Terrain bikes?

    Grande Route from Peter White Cycles

  13. #13
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    I've seen their asymmetric fork blades and was turned off. Seems like really nice, high quality stuff though.

    frame bags vs. racks + panniers-tout-fork-rear.jpg

    My non-weird-looking forks handle my disc brakes just fine.

    Some other aspects of frame bags I just realized:

    When lifting my bike up into the workstand, I usually grab the top tube, back by the seat tube. A frame bag would block that place to lift the bike with, so I'd have to adjust my style to lift it by the nose of the saddle, I guess - which is harder to lift high (I have my work stand adjusted almost all the way tall).

    The frame bag would pretty much live on my bike all the time. More permanent, than pulling panniers off (Ortliebs take like two seconds to mount or dismount from the rack). It's too much velcro to be taking on and off all the time. Riding in rain will mean it'll be wet and soggy/heavy with absorption when I get home.

    Frame bags aren't as versatile, switching to different bikes. My racks and panniers can pretty much work with any of my future bikes, as long as I plan for it - they're "future proof". On the other hand, my next bike might have a slightly different shaped triangle, and I'd have to buy a "custom" bag for each different bike. I have the same rack on two of my bikes, so with panniers I can just toss them on whatever bike on a whim.

    It sounds like I'm only listing the negatives, but I'm just highlighting points I didn't see posted here. I just ordered a frame bag, and I'm really excited about it. It's 8.2L, compared to the 40L rear panniers. I also ordered a handlebar bag, to completely revoke any cool-factor the frame bag might have had.

    Some positives already mentioned:

    Weight distribution centered between axles.
    I think they look really cool.
    Trendy and fashionable.
    Might be a good place to sew patches, if you don't like putting stickers on your bike.
    Lighter in weight, less racks to buy.

  14. #14
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    All that I write here have been said earlier in this thread, but here goes again:

    It's not an either or regarding panniers vs frame/bar/saddle bags for touring. Two distinct uses, IMO: The first is ideal for road touring, typically long distance/long duration, and are most often applied to road geometry touring bikes.

    The latter is for mountain bikes ridden in rugged terrain, single track, hike-a-bikes and down rivers lashed to the foredeck of a pack-raft. Trips are generally shorter, more intense and out there. The soft goods systems are better than rack and panniers for this because: less noisy, less chafe and shifting of weight, more reliable, with no screws/threads to strip, metal parts to work-harden and break, etc. It is easier to walk one's bike on singletrack when nothing sticks out to the side, easier to apply to a bike with no rack mounts, or even to a full suspension rig. The load have to be smaller and lighter (much less space in those little bags) so technical riding is more of a possibility.

    That said, some folks have successful hybrid systems, taking a little from both camps.

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