We 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.
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.
A 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.
During 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.