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How to mount a backpack and panniers on a bicycle?

The topic/theme of this post might seem funny to some, but I’ve had the following conversation many times over:

“My back sweats when I carry a backpack on a bicycle.”
– Have you tried putting it on the rear rack?
“How?”

That is why here I’ll explain, with pictures, how to mount a backpack (and panniers) onto a bicycle rear rack.

If you have any questions (or additions and corrections), please use the BikeGremlin forum:
www.bikegremlin.net

Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):

  1. Mounting panniers on a bicycle rear rack
  2. Mounting a backpack on a bicycle rear rack
  3. How to mount Ortlieb Panniers and Rack-Pack – video


1. Mounting panniers on a bicycle rear rack

For mounting panniers on a bicycle, one needs a rack that is designed to take panniers. Such racks have sides designed to support panniers, preventing them from getting into the spokes. Good ones have pannier hanging rails placed a bit below the top side of the rack – so both panniers and a backpack/bag can be mounted at the same time.

Rack in the pictures below is no longer made, but the “current” most similar model is Topeak Uni Super Tourist DX (Amazon affiliate link). It is made in a version for bicycles with disc brakes as well. Model in the pics has also a spring loaded… “thing” (not sure what it’s called in English), that is not necessary, but comes in handy – for paved roads it is often sufficient so bungee straps are not needed.

Bicycle rear rack suitable for both panniers and backpack mounting.<br> 1 - pannier side support<br> 2 - lowered rail for "hanging" the panniers<br> Picture 1
Bicycle rear rack suitable for both panniers and backpack mounting.
1 – pannier side support
2 – rail for “hanging” the panniers is lowered
Picture 1
Pannier mounted on the rack Picture 2
Pannier mounted on the rack
Picture 2
Pannier mounted on a rack - up close Picture 3
Pannier mounted on a rack – up close
Picture 3
What it looks like from the opposite side - pannier mounted on a rack Picture 4
What it looks like from the opposite side – pannier mounted on a rack
Picture 4

Principle is the same for mounting the other pannier. The one in the picture is Ortlieb (Amazon affiliate link) – durable, waterproof and with very convenient patents for mounting, dismounting and carrying around – I’d recommend it.

There are various types of pannier mounting patents. Some come with hooks, some have stripes to be thrown over the rack – in which case one must always mount both panniers. They all benefit from the above noted rack design that lets them sit a bit lower and further “out”.

– T.O.C. –


2. Mounting a backpack on a bicycle rear rack

Here I’ll show how to mount a backpack on a rack. The method shown has proven as very stable and secure, even on rough (bumpy) terrain. It boils down to leaning the backpack against the saddle and securing it with a rubber bungee cord (Amazon affiliate link) to hold it in place.

Alternative to the shown method is laying backpack flat on “its back” and tying it up with bungee cords. For small and mid-sized backpacks, the method below is more convenient, faster and, if something is put in the “dividers” within the backpack, it won’t fall out of them on bumpy terrain. Let’s begin:

Start by placing the backpack straight up, leaning its back side against the saddle.

Placing a backpack onto the rack Picture 5
Placing a backpack onto the rack
Picture 5
If the rack has a spring, it can be lifted before placing the backpack, so that the spring holds it in place Picture 6
If the rack has a spring, it can be lifted before placing the backpack, so that the spring holds it in place
Picture 6

Next step is placing straps over the saddle – criss-crossed.

Placing the backpack straps over the saddle - first one, then the other, so they end up sort of criss-crossed Picture 7
Placing the backpack straps over the saddle – first one, then the other, so they end up sort of criss-crossed
Picture 7
Both straps crossed - this helps so they don't flap around Picture 8
Both straps crossed – this helps so they don’t flap around
Picture 8

All that’s left now is to secure the backpack with a bungee cord.

Backpack secured with a bungee cord Picture 9
Backpack secured with a bungee cord
Picture 9
Attaching bungee cord to the rack, so that the hooks point away from the backpack (and don't cut it) Picture 10
Attaching bungee cord to the rack, so that the hooks point away from the backpack (and don’t cut it)
Picture 10

That’s it – both the panniers and a backpack on a bicycle, securely attached. 🙂

Panniers and backpack on a bicycle Picture 11
Panniers and backpack on a bicycle
Picture 11

– T.O.C. –


3. How to mount Ortlieb Panniers and Rack-Pack – video

I’ve made two videos. The first one explains panniers (their pros and cons), and how to pick a good rack for mounting panniers:

Bicycle panniers 101 & How to mount (Ortlieb) panniers
Bicycle panniers explained – and how to adjust and mount Ortlieb panniers


The second video shows and explains how to mount (attach) Ortlieb Rack-Pack to Ortlieb panniers – and shows the bag’s features:

How to mount Ortlieb Rack-Pack to Ortlieb panniers
How to mount Ortlieb Rack-Pack to Ortlieb panniers

– T.O.C. –




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If you have any questions (or additions and corrections), please use the BikeGremlin forum:
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– T.O.C. –

8 thoughts on “How to mount a backpack and panniers on a bicycle?”

  1. i once cycled 4 miles with a 25kg bag of cement in a back pack worn on my back. wheelies not surprisingly, were very easy to do.

  2. My back sweats when I don’t carry a back pack on a bicycle. Come to think of it, just about everything sweats. What’s the problem?
    Personally I far prefer panniers. Why carry the weight on your shoulders when there’s a perfectly good bicycle? I’m already carrying plenty of weight. I have a thing that converts from a pannier to a backpack, making it a good deal easier to carry around when your not on the bike.

  3. This is really helpful thank you! I’m wondering what kind of rack you have with the spring that lifts up?

    • Hi Olivia,

      As far as I could tell (on their website) – Topeak no longer makes a rear rack with a spring, along with the pannier brackets on the sides.
      They may still have some models with a spring, but without the pannier brackets – and vice-versa.

      I find the extra spring/loaded “arm” to be super-practical for holding a backpack more securely, but it can be improvised with an extra bungee cord on racks that don’t have that.

  4. I’m wondering how a laptop in the backpack would fair, standing on its edge on a bumpy road with the saddle pushing into its middle.

    • It’s definitely less than ideal, especially if the laptop has a hard disk (not an SSD).

      For shorter distances, I carry laptop on my back in a backpack, just to be on the safe side.

      For longer distances, to avoid a sweaty back, I use a pannier with some sponge/foam at the bottom and sides, and that’s usually on paved roads with not too many bumps.

      Child bicycle trailer with its own suspension (Thule makes some good ones) and wide tyres is also an option for hauling stuff, though it is less practical.

      Relja

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