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.
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.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.