Finding the Right Bag for your Cargo Bike

Most people who purchase a cargo bike are excited about the promise of a much easier way to run errands that involve carrying lots of stuff and people. Easy grocery shopping, fast school commute, etc etc. And while some bikes have bags that are purpose-built for them, like the Haul a Day and various Yuba models, others don’t. So what bags will work on these other bikes — and, ideally, your other bike(s), too, that will help you realize your vision of a life of easy errands?

Quick note: You might be surprised by how much the rails on the back racks of cargo bikes can vary in size. In fact, we recommend that you avoid purchasing panniers site unseen. Always test them out on your bike rack first.

But enough of the boring stuff. What you really want to know is which bags can fit a full bag of groceries plus your laptop, right? Below are examples of some of the bags we have in stock, how they fit on a fairly standard Axiom back rack and their pros and cons.

It goes without saying that we’ve chosen these bags because they combine function and design. Looking good matters!

Bags that Stay on Your Bike

I love the Clarijs bags. (Check out this great tour by the good people of JC Lind of their factory in Holland.) The Clarijs bags are simple, high quality and road tested by people who really know bikes. And they come in a variety of unusually fun colors and patterns. My family has used the same XL full pannier to carry groceries galore, blankets, backpacks, Halloween pumpkins, swim bags, balloons, our personal briefcases, dolls and a variety of kid debris in rain and intense shine for a few years, and the bag is still in great shape.

XL Full Pannier

The full panniers attach to your rack with four velcro straps, as shown in the bottom photo.

  • Capacity: Easily fits a very full bag of groceries on each side without any effort. Just open and plop the bag in. You’ll still have room for a bit more. It also fits a middle schooler backpack in one pocket plus an adult briefcase and preschooler backpack in the other. The other nice thing about these panniers is that they leave the top of the rack free so if you also need to carry some other, bulky stuff, like an infant car seat, you can still lash it on top using a sturdy strap; you get the most of the bags and the rack.
  • Bump Resistance: They might bounce a bit on the bigger bumps, but these bags never fly off. You basically don’t notice them at all while you ride.
  • Yepp Compatibility: These bags do not work with a Yepp Easyfit seat. But they do work with a Yepp Seatpost that skims over the top of your back rack.
  • Theft: Keep the buckles closed when you’re parked to avoid theft and people throwing their trash in your bag. And of course don’t leave valuables in the bags while you’re parked. These are bags that you mostly put other bags into to carry.
  • Ease of Use: Super simple. I love not having to take these on and off my bike each time I park (huge, huge, huge)! My kids have learned how to open and close the buckles, so they can help getting their stuff in and out of the bags.

Purchase this bag here.

 

Large Full Pannier

This bag is identical to the XL, but just a bit more narrow.

  • Capacity: Fits a bag of groceries but takes a tiny bit of shimmy to get the especially full bags in the pocket. Fits elementary or preschool kid backpacks and adult briefcases (but not combined without some super squishing).
  • Bump Resistance: Same as the XL.
  • Yepp Compatibility: Same as the XL.
  • Theft: Same as the XL
  • Ease of Use: Same as the XL.

Purchase this bag here.

Briefcase Style

This one-side-of-the-rack bag has a stiffer bag than the full panniers and comes with a removable shoulder strap. The bag attaches with non-clip hooks and one piece of velcro.

  • Capacity: Quite slim compared to the full panniers. This style is better suited to functioning as your personal work bag. Great for your laptop and a few other items, like files and a banana. But not your best bet for groceries and backpacks.
  • Bump Resistance: Good chance of falling off your rack if you hit a big bump and your velcro breaks off. So either avoid the bumps or keep your eye on your velcro periodically to ensure it stays in good shape.
  • Yepp Compatibility: The profile of the bag rises a bit above the rack which makes this bag incompatible with all Yepp styles.
  • Theft: You don’t leave these bags on the bike when you park, so theft risk is relatively low.
  • Ease of Use: Medium. Getting the bag on and off the rack every time you park and stuffing the strap in and out takes a moment. Wearing the bag with the clips exposed can catch on finer fabrics.

We carry a variety of used versions of this type of bag. Text us (415-841-2746) to arrange a time to try them out.

 

Bags that Clip on and Off

Convertible Pannier/Backpack/Shoulder Bag

These one-side-of-the-rack bags use sturdy clips to attach on and off the rack. The clips are easily zipped away so they’re not in your way when you’re wearing the bag in the world. This bag also can convert into a backpack or a shoulder bag. I personally own one of these bags and have used it most days for at least three years. Once I got over the dork-factor of wearing a backpack, I found that I love that the backpack function leaves both my hands free to wrangle my kids and their stuff until they’re safely buckled into the bike and I’m ready to clip this back onto my bike. It gives me more freedom than the shoulder bag setting. All in all it’s been a surprisingly and deeply useful bag. I’ve tried to start using other bags but just kept coming back to this one because it works. Note: this bag is also compatible with the Boda Boda v2 back rack.

  • Capacity: A laptop, helmet and jacket. Or a medium full bag of groceries (though for this bag I’ve found it easier just to skip the separate bag and instead place the groceries into this bag directly). The bag has a bit of extra capacity on its top which allows you to overstuff it and still get away with it. I find that I am less inclined to use this for grocery shopping save a smaller shop of random stuff.
  • Bump Resistance: The bottom of the bag can slap the rack if you hit large bumps but the clips work very well to keep your bag firmly attached to your bike.
  • Yepp Compatibility: This bag should fit on the XL Yepp adapter behind your Yepp Easyfit seat. It is not compatible with the Yepp Seatpost because it rises above the rack profile.
  • Theft: You don’t leave these bags on the bike, so risk is low.
  • Ease of Use: Clipping on and off is super easy. Just be aware of the straps to ensure they remain opposite the rack and wheel. Using the bag as a shoulder bag is super simple. It took me a couple of minutes initially to figure out how to convert the bag to a backpack, but once I learned it’s become super simple for me to swing it on and go.

Purchase this bag here.

 

Convertible Pannier/Shoulder Bag – Full

This bag works the same way as the backpack style (same great company). Note: this bag is also compatible with the Boda Boda v2 back rack.

  • Capacity: Slightly wider and roomier than the backpack version. It has a dedicated laptop pocket. You can fit a laptop and medium bag of groceries in here no problem.
  • Bump Resistance: Same as above.
  • Yepp Compatibility: Not compatible with any Yepp rear seats.
  • Theft: Same as above.
  • Ease of Use: Very straightforward getting on and off the bike. It takes a second to extract the shoulder strap and go, but you get used to it. It can also just be carried by the handle. The bag fully zips on the top and folds over so it functions unusually well for rainy weather.

Purchase this bag here.

Convertible Pannier/Shoulder Bag – Slim

This slimmer-profile bag can either hook onto your rack or be locked onto your rack. The one-side-of-the-rack bag comes with a shoulder strap, so it also functions well as a shoulder or messenger-style bag. This is likely the slimmest pannier available, so if you’re extremely tight for space on your rack, this bag is a great option.

  • Capacity: Very tight for laptops but can work if you shimmy it a bit. The bag is deep but not wide so you can pile a fair amount in but you won’t be stuffing other bags into this pannier. Does not fit an adult helmet. I ended up using this bag mostly for locks and other odds and ends like spare clothing and small grocery purchases.
  • Bump Resistance: Keep your eye on the hooks to ensure they stay in good shape, or lock this bag onto the rack using the included lock. Otherwise big bumps can send this bag flying.
  • Yepp Compatibility: Fits on the Yepp XL adapter with a Yepp Easyfit seat.
  • Theft: The included lock keeps the bag secure if you leave it on the bike, but you still shouldn’t leave valuables in the bag. If you take it on and off, it’ll of course be even more theft resistant.
  • Ease of Use: The hooks are pretty stiff so taking the bag on and off at first can be a pain. But as they wear in, you get more used to it and it’s an easy little bag to bring into a store with you for picking up lunch groceries. I’ve used this bag as a shoulder bag and as a locked-on bag and both setups worked well.

Purchase this bag in our store.

 

Contact us to help you get set up with the right bag!