Bike Loading and Weight

If your plan is to ride unsupported you will be riding with a loaded bike.  On that bike will be everything you will need to survive unassisted while on the road. It does not matter if your trip is 10 days or 50 days you’re carrying just about the same equipment.

You need to keep a few things in mind when you load your panniers. Let's start with the most obvious one, weight. You want to travel as light as possible and still have what you need. Don't pack any dancing shoes, you won't need them.  You're not going dancing after 100 miles of loaded touring. What I mean by this is only take the bare necessities.

We have listed what we carry on various tours on our site. Look over the equipment we tour with and the amount of clothing we carry. That is what has worked for us and something similar will work for you.

Tools are heavy items to carry but a necessity. You will be able to keep your tools and spares to a minimum if your bike is in good running order. Don't fool around with worn running gear. Leave with all new parts. Why train hard, invest all the time and effort to leave with a junk bike.

Front Racks

Low rider front racks are the way to go. You should have the bottom third of your saddle bags below your front axle. It is nice to have a top shelf on your front rack for fast access items like a camera or snacks but do not sacrifice bag height for convenience. Whatever brand of front rack you choose be sure they carry the front panniers low.

Look at how they are made and the thickness of the bars and mounts.  Remember you are a dynamic load moving down the road. Your racks will be subjected to movement in many directions and forces greater than the load they are actually carrying. Our racks are custom modified at our shop to suit our needs but you can buy quality American Made racks online that work terrific.

Rear Racks

Like the front rack you need a quality heavy duty rear rack. Again this is not the place to try and save a couple grams of weight.  You want your load as low as possible but make certain your heels will not impact your pannier.  Look at the material around the mounting holes.  Choose a rack that has strength in this area. Again invest in a quality American Made rack.  There are a few good ones to choose from. We have found adding straps to the racks to help secure the panniers is nice.  The straps help control any movement from the panniers mounting system or from inside the bag.  Also if you have your outside rain covers on it keeps them in tight and not grabbing wind. 

Speaking of rain covers, if you do not have any get them. We ride with our covers on all the time. First and foremost bright rain covers greatly add to your visibility.  Four bright yellow rain covers with a reflective strip show up much better than a black bag. They also help keep all the road grime and nasties off your bags.  And if they are always on you do not have to stop and dig them out if it starts to sprinkle a little.

Try and keep all your bags about the same weight.  Don't be guessing on this. Use a scale to check each pannier. Keep the weight distribution on the bike even and low. Remember to keep the same items in the same bag the entire trip so the weight stays about the same.

Try and keep each bag about the same size when full.  Remember wind drag is very noticeable.  You want each bags expanded size to be close.

A handlebar bag is super convenient to have but jams up the dashboard of the bike. We have our GPS, speedo, bell and two way radios in that area.  Handlebar bags also add weight high on the bike where you do not want it. Front handlebar bags just do not seem to work for us. We carry the gear that bag would have in our rear trunk.






Don't over load your trunk with gear. If you do yourbike will feel whippy when you hop on the pegs to climb a hill. The rear end will be swaying back and forth sucking precious energy that should be moving you forward. Your trunk should be just for your daily needs. Snacks, spare tubes, wind breaker etc. even with just the necessities for the day this bag will be stuffed. Try and keep it light.

All this talk is about the necessity of keeping the bike load as light as possible. The funny thing is your bike will be the lightest it is ever going to be on the day you leave.  After you leave your bike will gain weight.  That's right it gains weight. How you wonder?  It is simple; you will be carrying spare water for hot days, extra snacks on other days along with items you have accumulated along the way.