Straps, Nets and Cords: Attaching Stuff To Your Bike

Cycling through (boring) FlavolandWe try to pack lightly, but nearly every bike tour involves attaching something to the back of our bikes.

Our sleeping mats and tent will never fit in our panniers with all the other things we’re carrying. They go in bags instead and get carried over the top of the back panniers.

There’s also extra water and food that we pick up for long, desolate stretches of road. When we do our laundry, we like to strap it to the outside of our bike to dry. And in Asia, where bananas were cheap, we often picked up a whole hand of bananas at a time and attached them to the outside of our panniers, for easy access and so they wouldn’t get squashed.

So, what methods work well for securing luggage to the back of your bike? Here are the options. Some we love more than others.

Compression Straps ($12.50 from REI)

These are our top choice of the moment and we’re not the only ones who think compression straps are great. Kayakers and other outdoor sports people – including most of our fellow bike tourists here in Holland – use them all the time.

The straps are solidly woven and the buckle that secures the straps doesn’t come loose during a day of cycling in the same way that bungee cords tend to slide around.

We’ve had our straps for about 3 months now and we have the impression that they’re much less likely than bungee cords to stretch and wear thin over time.

You can also use compression straps to hold your panniers firmly to your racks – a great solution if you’re planning to ride over some bumpy roads and not a bad extra anti-theft device as well (see lower right photo). The straps go behind the panniers and interlace with the racks.

Finally, a compression strap pulled tight around your front wheel and frame, can add stability by keeping your front wheel from swinging wildly to one side when you want to park it somewhere.

Cargo Nets ($6.95 from REI)

cargonetA cargo net is like several bungee cords woven together. The multiple hooks on cargo nets means they stay secured better than simple bungee cords and the net is better than compression straps for some types of luggage.

For example, a net is better if you’re carrying something that can’t be crushed, like a loaf of bread or bananas, or something oddly shaped, like a watermelon or whole bags of groceries.

Bungee Cords

bungeecordsDuring our world cycle tour, we used bungee cords. It wasn’t a well researched choice. They stretched over time, making it increasingly difficult to tie things down tightly. The hooks on either end that hold the cords tight also had a habit of coming loose and flying off the racks at the most unfortunate moments.

Sometimes we narrowly missed getting whipped in the face by bungee cords. Other times, the cord wrapped itself around our rear cogs, making a fine mess to untangle.

They are, however, available everywhere in the world and relatively cheaply too, so don’t rule them out if you don’t have another option. Just secure the cords well and be careful when you’re unhooking them from your bike.


  1. Becky
    25th June 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    We used old tire tubes rather than bungee cords. We found that the cords would wear-out really quickly (within 3-4 weeks) and we used the same old tire tube for 8 months before it needed replacing – and old tire tubes are free and can be found almost anywhere in the world!

  2. Alan
    25th June 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    I find velcro straps like these to be very useful: One side sticks to the other so they’re infinitely adjustable and quite secure.

    I also have a bike rack specific bungee on top of the rear rack for holding down various items. It’s similar to this:

  3. Alex
    25th June 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Been reading your posts for a month or so now. Its all good reading thank you. Old inner tubes – 1001 emergency uses including attaching stuff to your bike

  4. woollypigs
    29th June 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    What about coolclasp ?

    I have used them for anything that needs to be strapped to anything, even hanging my bicycles on the wall.

    Use them every time we going touring to strap our tent to our racks.

    • friedel
      29th June 2010 at 10:27 pm #

      Interesting. I have never heard of them before! It’s kind of hard to see from the pictures on the website but they look to be similar to the straps on Ortlieb bags? My only concern would be that the plastic clasps can get damaged from cold and sun and eventually break. We had to replace clasps on our Ortlieb bags after about 35,000km. Compression straps have a metal clasp that would be much harder to break.

      • woollypigs
        3rd July 2010 at 12:15 pm #

        yeah I’m sure that weather with get to them over time as they are plastic, like anything else. But how long that takes I do not know, as I have only been using them for a year and a bit.

        The best part is that they can easy carry me at 100kg.

  5. Carl Rubin
    26th April 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Rokstraps: after losing a bag bungeed to my back rack, I went looking for a better strap system. I found Rokstraps ( and after using them to secure a drybag to my rear rack on my last ride (Chiang Mai to Mae Hon Song) I can confirm they are the business. Good, strong secure retention system without hooks. Strongly recommended.

    • Liz
      3rd May 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Those straps look awesome! I checked the site and asked if they have any distributors in the L.A. area!
      Thanks & thanks Traveling Two for hooking me up with a response so fast!

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