“Fully Loaded” Riding your bike to places for fun.

Wes on fully load tour across the USA

We do not suffer from choice, now. When I first started biking there was a lot of difficulty for something claimed to be a settled matter. Perhaps this is why few club members actually “loaded” the bike for a big tour in the years of past.

There are different concerns about which items that you would like to carry. Do you want to carry cooking tools? Camping gear? Hot food? I don’t carry all of those. I just like to stop at the B&B and eat at the local supermarket or a nice restaurant. Your equipment needs will determine how much carrying capacity that you require. Costs will also impact your equipment decisions.

The connections between the bike and the racks were not necessarily robust or rattle free. Many of the bikes in the last 20 years do not have mounts for the racks. To counter this 2 things happened.

Bike packs that could attach to the bicycle’s top-tube and the directly to the saddle emerged. New bags sans racks that mount to the saddle became vogue. These weigh less. You can also attach them to a MTB.

Now, racks are available that connect to the through axles and the seat post.

You can obtain a carbon fiber rack, which will be sturdy and weigh less! I’m not a fan of ChromeMoly (“steel”) tubular racks because they can and will break on the road while you carrying a load. The old trunk bags actually could not hold much. Many were not rainproof. Their carrying capacities were limited with a volume of 5L. So, you had to get the side bags ( panniers). Those could carry more. Did you need 35L between the three bags in the rear? Not necessarily. If you need more, then you could add front panniers.

Tailfan aeropack ($450) rack with trunk bag

The new style from Tailfan is a better system than the ones found in the 1990 era. The bag is 20L. There’s a lot of room to hold stuff when you could not put stuff into the old 5L trunk bags. You could do almost all with it. If you don’t have panniers, then you have less weight, more aero, and less likely to rub your legs into the bags. You might be able to fit a small notebook (PC) into the bag as well. You could carry sneakers. I have a hard time stuffing a laptop into my saddle bag. This system weights 725 grams, which is really good for a secure system with 20L of carrying capacity. The bag has 2 mounts for 2 separate rear flashing lights; this is a nice touch. Being locked to a frame, the bag won’t sway. Some of the saddle bags can sway. The Apidura bags have a different strap design than the Relevate bags. Plus, the tailfan bag is easy to remove from bike when you need to bring you back into the campsite or the hotel room.

Apidura 17L saddle bag and RockBros Top Tube Bag in the field (Co. Kildare Ireland)

On my recent 2023 tour, I relied upon an Apidura 17L bag. I have been using this bag for many years. You need to really fill this bag and have all of the compression straps tight. It won’t sway. Some of the other bags can sway. Carradice – which is famous for Audax touring in Britain – has a new bag with a nice rack that locks into your saddle rails to prevent sway. I stuck my large Topeak Frame Pump inside the RockBros Bag, but you could easily put your frame pump on your frame with one of the dedicated frame pumps. The larger your frame bag becomes then you limit access to your water bottles. My bag has a small “luggage” rack on the top. I keep my rain jacket handy, there. There is only one attachment mount for a flashing light in the rear. I have to be careful that this is properly aimed upon the road after closing the bag.

With the newer bike bags, you obtain a lot of storage room, but it is hard to access everything. There is a roll top closure, which ensures things stay dry. It’s hard to sort through all of the contents within a 17L enclosure. I try to modularize the clothing and items into easily removable sections to make it easier to empty the bag rapidly. I place things into polybags by section. Underwear into one poly blag. Pants into a second. Shirts into another. Bibs into another bag. Electric plugs into another.

I could put a rack on this bike, but I already had the bag. I used the bag originally on a bike without frame mounts that could receive a rack. Now, loading a lot on the rear does not help for transmission of power on the hills. You can distribute the load to a front bag, but this also affects the steering. You need the wider bars for a good bag. If you are using 42 or 40cm bars then you already have some issues with installing some of the bags.

Remember to have fun. Make it work for you. Carefully consider what you really need. Regardless of the weight distribution issues, the weight still weighs you down the hills. Pack the least amount of weight.

Wes’s bike fully loaded with modern Bikepacking gear

This shows the frame bag, handlebar bag, and the saddle bag from the new style of “bikepacking.” You can take a lot with you. It’s hard to reach the bottles in the traditional cages. So, Wes put a bag on the handlebar to hold a bottle.

You can always carry a backpack with a few things. This can be far from ideal, if you suffer from back issues, but it can work well. If you are only going for a short ride then you can carry the absolute essentials.

Peter from Hanson’s Real Estate Door with Matilda

Norm Abrams always said, “wear safety glasses.” Be safe. Make sure you put locktite on your screws. Check the tension in all of your bolts before the big tour. Plan your route before you go! Nothing is worse than pedaling a heavy load up an unnecessary grade.