What are gravel bikes for?
A gravel bike is a type of road racing bicycle. They are supposed to be laid back and easy-going while at the same time fast on dirt roads and along bumpy trails. Gravel bikes typically have slightly wider gear ratios than usual which makes them good for riding long distances but they can also be used for light off-road biking (e.g. forest paths).
Why do I need a bag on my gravel bike?
If you are confident that there will be no rain on your trip to the woods, then you do not need a bag. However, if you would like to bring some water or other stuff with you (e.g. tools, food ....) then it is advisable to get yourself a bag.
What features should I look for?
There are several features that every good bike bag should have. First of all, it needs to be waterproof so that your stuff doesn't get wet during a ride. Secondly, you might want a bag where you can place at least minimal tools for getting yourself out of trouble in case anything happens on the road. Thirdly, some bags come with additional pockets for storing money or mobile phone as well as mesh pockets which you can use for packing smaller items such as keys or energy bars.
Of course, if you're going on a longer bike trip then larger may be more suitable depending on how much stuff you need to carry.
Remember that traditional backpacks aren't the best choice for riding your bike on trails, gravel roads, or even normal roads. They tend to get in the way of steering and can be pretty uncomfortable especially when riding longer distances. These problems are solved by using special bike bags which come with different designs so you can choose one depending on your needs.
Most bags attach to your bike via two straps each (front and back). The straps usually came with the bag so make sure they fit well with your gravel bike before buying one. Also, pay attention to how much weight the bag can carry as this is an indication of its quality. On our list, all of them have been tested by us personally so rest assured about their quality!
How many liters do I need?
The size is a good indicator of how much stuff you can carry. If you have a smaller bag, then it will be less comfortable to carry but on the other hand, its weight will be lower. We recommend choosing about 20-30 liters for your first gravel bike bag - this should be enough even if you are planning for a longer trip.
What material should the bag be made of?
If you wish to keep your items dry and at the same time want something resistant, choose a waterproof material such as coated nylon. This would also prevent scratches on your belongings. As for the inside material, we recommend using some soft fabric on which no metallic objects will rust or leave any stains.
What are the best bags for my gravel bike?
These are the five bags that we recommend to our readers for their gravel bikes:
- iXS Trail 20
iXS Trail 20 bag is made of durable waterproof material which makes it resistant enough even in prolonged rains (or if you want to go swimming with your bike, like some of us do ). It has a main compartment for storing things and two additional pockets on the side where you can keep smaller items. There is nothing special about fastening straps but they seem sturdy. We haven't tested its resistance underweight yet but it should be good enough unless you plan on carrying really heavy stuff.
- Topeak Universal DryBag
Topeak Universal DryBag has a simple design but is made of really high-quality materials (won't mention them here). It can fit not only your gravel bike frame but also your children's bikes or scooters. It is waterproof and comes with nicely designed straps that are comfortable to carry even if you have it for several hours. This bag has enough space for storing the most common things you would need when biking, including some tools.
- Achla Designs Saddle Bag
Achla Designs Saddle Bag seems perfect for carrying anything you need during a short bike trip, including a toolbox with tools. It is made of waterproof nylon and has a special pocket on the inside where you can keep your phone or other valuable things. The straps are sturdy and look quite comfortable to carry even if they don't have any extra padding.
- Jandd Gravel Pack (Large size)
Jandd Gravel Pack (Large size), like its name, says, comes in two sizes: small and large. We recommend the larger one as it gives much more space for keeping smaller objects that you might need during your bike ride (e.g. phone, wallet.. ). It is made of high-quality materials and comes with several pockets as well as special loops to attach extra items such as a helmet. The straps are large enough to fit around any bike frame and seem sturdy enough for carrying heavy loads.
- Bag Man Echelons Seat Pack
Bag Man Echelons Seat Pack has an interesting design that allows adjusting its tightness around the seat post so that it not only gravel bikes but also smaller city bikes. It is made of high-quality materials and can be mounted without using any extra straps.
How should I mount the bag on my bike?
It is important to find out which type of mount your gravel bike uses, there are three types: quick-release system, rack, and pinion system or bolt. If you have car tires, then it means that your bike probably has a rack and pinion system. You can attach the bags with either an extra set of straps (usually come in the package) or by using adhesive tape.
The quick-release system uses a plastic clip for attaching to the bicycle frame while pins are used to secure the bag into place. The most simple type is the bolt. It usually comes with a mounting base and bolts to the frame of your bike.
How should I secure my bag?
If you have a quick-release system, then there are plastic clips that attach to both the frame and the lower side of your bag. As for pinions or bolts, it simplifies things as all you need to do is pass some screws through the holes on the bottom of your bag and secure them using washers on top. For bags with adhesive tape, simply follow installation instructions from the manual.
The majority of bags come with their own installation manual which includes information about securing straps and fastening mechanisms. Please read it carefully before purchasing in order not to cause any inconvenience when trying to mount the bag yourself.
Generally speaking, most bags are pretty easy to mount and you shouldn't have any major problems if you follow instructions from the manual. However, if you consider buying a screw-on type of bag (e.g. Topeak Universal DryBag), then make sure that your bike frame has enough space for placing washers/nuts on top of the screws. Some bikes might lack such space, making it difficult or even impossible to secure your new bag properly.
On the other side, there is nothing complicated about attaching a quick-release system. All you need to do is remove the plastic cover (if there is any) and place clips in the appropriate places before clipping them into place using a special button mechanism. Now all that's left to do is secure bottom side of the bag to lower clips and the upper side with a top clip.
Bags for gravel bikes differ in a lot of ways. Some take more space while others have special compartments for keeping things organized. Choosing the best one comes down to personal preferences therefore we recommend you to decide which factors are most important for you and then pick a model that has at least one of them.