Saddle bags are the standard for cyclists looking to carry the bare minimum: tools, spare tubes, tire inflation kits, keys, and the like. Saddle bags offer convenient access, easy mounting, and an out-of-the-way position underneath your saddle. They are an economical choice, both financially and physically, as their small size and self-mounting capabilities make them light-weight and affordable. Here at Bike Bag Shop, bike saddle bags are not to be confused with bike panniers, which mount to a bike rack. Saddle bags, in this context, refer to small bags that are mounted on the rails of your bicycle's saddle.
Saddle bags are small and sleek and don't call much attention to themselves. They are an important item for a multiplicity of cycling styles, from the weekend warrior to the hardcore commuter to the bike touring expert, both on-road and off-road, as they generally accommodate all of the necessary items you would need to change a flat tire, make minor repairs on your bicycle, or stash your spare cash, phone, wallet, or maybe a small snack. Not to mention, saddle bags are located conveniently underneath the rails of your saddle, where you have easy access to your tools and other small necessities, while their mounting systems prevent them from bouncing off your bike no matter how bumpy things get. They are very easy to mount with either integrated velco and buckle systems or brand-specific mounting hardware. Last but certainly not least, saddle bags generally don't impede your leg movement or the mounting of other bags or accessories to your seat post or above your bicycle's rear wheel.
Bike saddle bags come in a range of sizes to accommodate your needs, from the very small to the rather large. On the smaller end, bike saddle bags such as the Ortlieb Micro might only be able to carry a single tube, patch kit, CO2 air inflator, tire lever, and a small multi-tool. On the larger end, a bike saddle bag such as the Vaude Tool Saddle Bag, which comes in sizes small to extra-large, could accommodate the previous items, as well as an additional tube, a wallet, phone, and perhaps an energy bar or two. Saddle bags also come in a variety of materials, which provide different levels of water-resistance. Ortlieb has a number of waterproof saddle bags made from soft foam that keep your tools from getting wet and rusting. Standard saddle bags are generally constructed from canvas and are lighter-weight and more pliable than their foam or plastic counterparts but are only water resistant.
Beyond carrying the bare necessities, saddle bags are convenient to use in combination with a variety of other bags. They also provide a great option for cyclists who are looking to add a little cargo capacity on their bicycles without having to install a bike rack. For even more "rackless" capacity, the combination of a handlebar bag and saddle bag provides a good amount of easy-access space. You can also pair a bike saddle bag with a bike backpack or bike messenger bag if you prefer to keep your tools separated and organized in the small, toolbox-like bags that are bike saddle bags. Even when using panniers, a saddle bag is a handy place to keep your tools and flat kit separated from your other stuff. So whether you are commuting to work, out for a short ride, or on a long bike tour, be prepared for the unexpected flat tire or broken chain by carrying all the small tools you need to get rolling again in a bike saddle bag.
Features to Consider
- Hard or soft: When selecting the right saddle bag to meet your cycling needs, it is important to consider what conditions you plan to use the bag in, as that can dictate the saddle bag case material you might want. Soft saddle bags, like the Ortlieb Micro, Plus, or Classic, or any of the Vaude saddle bags, are great for daily riding in good to moderate weather conditions where the bag won't be exposed to a lot of water or mud. Remember that your saddle bag is in the direct stream of any water or mud thrown up from your rear tire, so if you will be riding in wet conditions relatively often, a hard saddle bag, such as the Ortlieb Mud Racer or Ortlieb Mud Racer LED, is a good choice.
- Mounting system and ease of removal: Saddle bags are easy to mount and remove from your bicycle's saddle. Some saddle bags use mounting systems that are meant to be permanently installed on your saddle, while other bags use a velcro or buckle style mounting system that is integrated into the bag itself. The Vaude Tool Saddle Bag features a twist adapter mounting system, one piece of which left on your saddle when you remove the bag. Ortlieb saddle bags also feature a more permanent mounting system that provides a great deal of security when the bag is installed on your bicycle's saddle. Many other saddle bags have mounting straps with buckle or velcro closures that are integrated into the bag itself and are very easy to use. Both systems are generally very easy to remove, so you can quickly access the contents of the bag. Lastly, most saddle bags have a small, round velco strap that goes around your seat post to keep the bag from bouncing around.
- Closure: There are two common types of closure systems for saddle bags, which include zipper closures and roll-top closures. The most common type of closure system is a zipper closure. Ortlieb's Mud Racer and Mud Racer LED feature covered zippers, which are extra waterproof. Ortlieb's soft case bags feature a roll-top closure system, which also helps keep water out of the bag.
- Waterproof or water resistant?: When selecting the right saddle bag, think about how often it will be exposed to lots of water and mud. If you answered weekly or even daily, you should probably opt for a waterproof saddle bag, of which Ortlieb has a great selection. However, if you answered only monthly or less, you can probably opt for a water resistant saddle bag. Many saddle bags have an interior lining, which will keep your gear protected in light or occasional water or mud.
- Expandability: If you want a saddle bag that can wear many hats, depending on what you demand from it and what your riding plans are, then an expandable saddle bag might be right for you. Vaude's Tool Saddle Bag and Tool Stick have great expandability when you need more carrying capacity.
- Other features: Although simple and efficient, saddle bags are not featureless! Many saddlebags offer an attachment point for a tail light. For example, the Ortlieb Mud Racer LED comes with a light built in. Other saddle bags have reflective logos and piping for added visibility, as well. Additionally, many saddle bags feature small organizational features such as mesh pockets or separate pockets to keep your stuff in its place.
Micro to macro? Which saddle bag is right for you?
- Small: A small saddle bag carries just the bare essentials and is generally good for a situations in which you don't need to carry very much or have other bags to carry the things that won't fit in the saddle bag. The Vaude Race Light (size small) and the Ortlieb Micro are our smallest saddle bags and are perfect for a tube, C02 canister and inflator, tire lever, and small multi-tool.
- Medium: If you want a little extra space to carry the bare essentials, as well as a few other not-so-bare essentials, then you should check out a medium-sized saddle bag. Medium-sized saddle bags can carry every thing you need to fix one or two flat tires, do minor bike repairs, and hide a snack or extra money to buy one.
- Large: Carry the whole tool chest with you in a large saddle bag! Ok, maybe not the whole tool chest, but a large saddle bag offers a ton of carrying capacity so that you can be prepared for anything when you are on the road or the trail. Large saddle bags are also great for cyclists who use thorn-resistant tubes, which don't fold down as small as regular tubes and may not fit in a small or medium size saddle bag along with your other essentials.
- Size Options: Most of the saddle bags we offer come in a range of sizes. So if you are really keen on a particular bag, check to see what size options it offers. Additionally, both the Vaude Tool Saddle Bag and Tool Stick are expandable.
*For further information on bike saddle bags, please review our Bike Bag FAQ's and our Bike Bag & Rack Comparison Chart.
Ortlieb: Ortlieb bags are famous for their rugged, durable, waterproof quality, and their lineup of saddle bags is no different. Ortlieb bags are superior for riding in wet and muddy conditions, as the waterproof fabric or soft foam saddle bag options keep your gear and tools from getting wet and rusting. Ortlieb saddle bags feature snap-on and velcro mounting systems, which are easy to install, and roll-top or covered zipper closures, which are waterproof, as well as a wide range of sizes to fit your needs.
Vaude: German-engineered and designed bags by Vaude can withstand all of your adventuring and daily commuting with style. Vaude's line of saddle bags are made from high quality materials and come in a range of sizes and levels of expandability to accommodate all the tools and other small items you need. The velcro and twist adapter mounting systems make Vaude saddle bags easy to install and use.