8 best saddle bags for carrying all your cycling essentials

Leave the rucksack at home and switch to one of these on-bike solutions

Charlie Allenby
Tuesday 30 March 2021 12:53
<p>We tested both discrete packs and bike packing-worthy luggage</p>

We tested both discrete packs and bike packing-worthy luggage

Although they might not look like much, saddle bags can be as useful as their contents. These bike bags vary in size and features, but at their core they are designed to make carrying mid-ride maintenance essentials – multitools, inner tubes and maybe even an energy gel – seamless.

Whether it’s freeing up space in your cycling jersey pockets for all-important snacks, or removing the need to take a rucksack, the on-bike storage solution has a number of benefits.

Once you ride with a saddle bag, it’s unlikely you’ll ever again leave home without one.

The capacity of the bag will determine how much you’re able to carry, but even the smallest saddle bag should be able to carry the spare tubes and tools required to fix a puncture. From there, bags go all the way up to more than 17l (the same capacity as a standard pannier bag), allowing you to lug everything you could need – whether you’re crossing continents or commuting to work – without the need for a pannier rack.

While older designs might have required you to bolt a mount to your saddle to secure the bag to, most modern bags can be attached to the underside of your seat using straps, clips, Velcro or a combination of all three. This makes things a lot easier when it comes to attaching the bag for the first time, while switching it between bikes doesn’t require any tools or additional mounts.

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Capacity aside, there are a number of features that make some saddle bags stand out from the crowd. Water-resistant and waterproof materials are a real bonus for year-round riding in the UK, while reflective fabrics add some visibility if riding at night and loop at the rear allows you to clip a bike light to the back of it – key if the saddle bag prevents you from attaching one to your seat post.

To help you find the right bag, we compared a range of products on ease of installation, how secure they felt when riding and their accessibility when attached to the saddle. As testing took place towards the end of winter, waterproof and water-resistant claims were also put under the microscope.

From discreet packs that wouldn’t look out of place on a race-focused road bike, to bike packing-worthy luggage, these are the best cycling saddle bags to buy in 2021.

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Topeak dynawedge

The Topeak dynawedge allows you to do something that a lot of saddle bags fail at – accessing its contents without having to remove it from your bike. This is thanks its rather unique zip. Running the length of the bag’s body, you’re able to fully unzip it, easily get out the specific item you need (without having to remove everything else), and zip it up again. What’s more, thanks to an internal, hammock-like bit of fabric, the contents of your saddle bag don’t all fall on the floor when you open it.

Made from a durable hard shell and featuring water-repellent zips, the 0.8l capacity is enough for a spare inner tube, multitool and a CO2 canister. Its combination of Velcro rail straps and a rubber strap for the seat post felt secure throughout testing and we didn’t have any issues with things coming unstuck in inclement weather.

Altura nightvision saddlebag XL

Pound for pound, the Nightvision saddlebag XL takes some beating. The extra-large saddle bag is as big as you can go before you start hitting bikepacking-leaning “saddle pack” territory, but it doesn’t leave you with a sluggish-feeling ride, even when fully loaded. The bag can fit a couple of inner tubes, a multitool and a lightweight waterproof cycling jacket, and still has space for some energy gels. The inside is a neoprene pocket, which we found kept everything nice and dry, while reflective details and a light loop made this one ideal for both day and night riding.

Pro strap medi saddlebag

One of the cheaper bags we tested, the strap medi from Pro does everything you could want from an entry-level saddle bag. Its main compartment was able to fit an inner tube, multitool and CO2 canister, and there is a mesh pouch for loose items such as keys or extra canisters. A separately-accessible side pocket is ideal for carrying a bank card. Fitting and removing the bag was as simple as opening three Velcro straps. Its only downside is that it’s water-resistant, rather than fully waterproof, but that’s a minor quibble at this price point.

Evoc seat bag 0.3l

If you’re looking for a saddle bag so discrete you have to look twice to see it’s there, this 0.3l bag from Evoc is it. The pack snuggly fits a road bike inner tube, tyre levers and a CO2 canister, and doesn’t protrude any further than your saddle. This makes it ideal for road cyclists who want to free their pockets of mid-ride maintenance essentials without having to sacrifice those all-important aerodynamics. Unlike most of the other saddle bags tested, the Evoc offering is attached using a clip – something we found stayed cleaner for longer than Velcro when riding in damp and grimy conditions.

Apidura expedition tool pack

Although renowned for its bikepacking offering, London-based brand Apidura has entered the saddle bag market with its expedition tool pack. While it may look fairly basic for its price, the 0.5l bag is made from a durable, lightweight waterproof fabric that really stood up to the test of both on- and off-road riding. It was large enough for a couple of inner tubes plus other road or trailside repair essentials. Finishing touches include a light loop and reflective graphics. Although an investment, it’s one worth making if you need your saddle bag’s contents to stay dry in all conditions.

Silca mattone

Another of the weenie-focused designs, the mattone from Silca is easily the most premium saddle bag we tested. At a fraction under £50, it’s quite a sizable outlay for something so small. But did it live up to its price tag? Its main downfall was the fact that you need to remove it from the saddle to fully access its contents. That said, it certainly has some dazzling features, such as a Boa dial system (technology usually reserved for premium cycling shoes) that secures it firmly to your saddle.

Fizik saddle bag

At around half the price of the Silca saddle bag above, you might think that this bag from fizik is half as good. Well, you’d be wrong. Sure, it doesn’t have a fancy securing system – instead opting for Velcro – but it does the basics right. You can get to your inner tube and multitool without having to remove the bag from your bike, plus its zippered loop makes opening and closing a cinch – even in gloves. The lack of a light loop and reflective detailings are its only downsides, but it was small enough that we were able to fit a rear light to our bike’s seat post anyway.

Restrap saddle pack

When does a saddle bag become a saddle pack? This 4.5l design from Yorkshire-based Restrap is probably the point. Although much larger than some of the other picks on this list, a lot of the features remain the same – clipped straps on the saddle rails and a Velcro enclosure on the seat post keep it secure, while waterproof materials and taped seams ensure its contents stay dry. Where it differs is its carrying potential – it offers a true alternative to a pannier or rucksack. During testing, we used the space for all sorts – be it lugging a change of clothes, food and tools for a full day in the saddle or even a bit of shopping – and the pack passed with flying colours. It didn’t succumb to the swinging from side-to-side that can sometimes happen with larger saddle packs, and its roll-top closure kept the water out.

The verdict: Saddle bags

The Topeak dynawedge’s unique zip made it stand out from all of the other saddle bags we tested for the right reasons, but its 0.8l size means it won’t be for everyone. For something that can carry the bare essentials, the Fizik saddle bag is tough to beat for the money, while the Altura nightvision saddlebag XL is great for those who want something that can fit maintenance essentials, a waterproof jacket and the odd energy gel. A final notable mention goes to the Restrap saddle pack, which is a great pick if you’re looking for an alternative to a rucksack or pannier for commuting.

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