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8 Best Bike Bags, Panniers, Saddlebags, and Totes for Commuter Dads

Get a workout while shuttling your kids around.

Being holed up indoors for the past year has turned most of us into paunchy, soft-bellied shells of our former selves. And with the world opening up more as we near herd immunity, coupled with warmer spring and summer weather, the bike beckons commuting parents. Schlepping kids from place to place is not only a solid workout, but it’s better for the planet. But having kids means having stuff, and to tote that stuff you need a bike bag. Whether you opt for a bike saddle bag, a bike frame bag, or a bike handlebar bag, you need a bike travel bag that’s big enough to fit toys, snacks, bottles, more snacks, and all the other supplies kids require.

These handy bike storage options, while novel to you, have been used for generations by adventurers who have carried their necessary gear with them like an inverted snail. Even messenger bags offer the bike commuter a more comfortable option that that old JanSport you’ve got lying around. But what’s the best bike bag for you? It depends how you use it.

Each bike travel bag system its pros and cons. Bike saddle bags, also called panniers, affix to the outsides of the front or back wheels. They generally offer the greatest volume of storage, but they require a metal mounting cage (read: extra money), and they can encourage you to carry more stuff than necessary. Trunk bags are generally smaller, affixing to the top of the rear or front metal rack, and they add padding and structure, which offers more protection for fragile items should you dump your bike. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that will hold a 15-inch laptop, so the design may be prohibitive if it’s necessary to carry larger objects.

Finally, there are the back-mounted designs like specialty backpacks and messenger bags. They’re great if you’re in a hurry to lock your bike up and get inside, as they don’t have to be removed from a thicket of steel and elastic when you reach your destination. However, they add weight to your back and may make you less nimble due to your raised center of gravity.

Frame bags are the best place on the bike to carry the heavy stuff. Load these up with water, food, tools and spares. As frame bags are intended to carry dense items like food and water, we emphasize durability and fast access in the design and features. Ranger bags can be loaded full and still accessed while riding. Something that is impossible with higher bulk, roll closure frame bags.

From roof racks to baby joggers, Thule makes standout gear for parents. The 17-liter bag is made from its IPX4-rated fabric that's so impervious to precipitation that the company has cleared you to store laptops and other delicate electronics in it. An external pocket, sealed with a waterproof zipper, and an internal divider keep your gear organized. You can securely attach and easily remove this bag from 8-16mm racks without having to use adapters.

This frame bag can carry six pounds' worth of gear. It has 3M reflectors for low visibility, and when the roll-closure is securely closed, this bag is waterproof. It's best for parents who don't have much stuff to tote, or do so on mountain bikes.

Rolltops, by design, help seal out water, making it a smart choice for a wet commute, and that goes doubly for Chrome's, which is made from a waterproof fabric. This three-to-five-liter bag, which expands based on how much you roll over, mounts to your handlebars for ease of access. It also has two mesh internal pockets for extra storage. But if you're not feeling it or want a difference center of gravity, it can also be lashed cross-body by design.

Ubiquitous in the '90s, the messenger bag grew in popularity in part because of its function in bike commutes. Timbuk2's iconic design, which is celebrating its 30th birthday, epitomizes the style's ease and convenience. The bag has interior pockets, as we as an internal water bottle pocket. Holding nine liters, it features a waterproof liner, rugged buckles, and an air-mesh strap for summertime slogs. A carrying handle allows you to grab and go when it's quittin' time.

At first glance, Everlane's ReNew looks like any other backpack. But looks can be deceiving, and this model is tailor-made for bike commuting. Generous exterior pockets and a magnetic closure let you stow gear quickly, while two easy-access water bottle holders let you sip while on the go. We like that it's cut from a recycled plastic fabric, which ensures your greener mode of transportation isn't offset by your gear's environmental footprint. And damn, this thing is roomy: It's got an 18 liter capacity and fits a 13 inch laptop.

Just like you, Ortlieb's bag is all business. The 25-liter pair features a generous open compartment that's waterproof when sealed, making it ideal for stowing away your actual work bag. On its sides, reflective accents help alert traffic to your presence, while an abrasion-resistant fabric ensures they'll be as resilient as you are.

Nothing beats the versatility of Bontrager's MIK. Is it a trunk bag? Yes. Panniers? Yes. Easy-access storage? Most certainly. Whatever you need, the MIK has inside, quickly revealed with the pull of a zipper. Stow as much as 36 liters within its compartments, and it includes a built-in rain cover to pull out when conditions deteriorate. It has tons of internal and external pockets, along with reflective hits to keep you safe.

While this is another bag that mounts to the front of your bike, its 20-liter size is one of the biggest we've seen in this orientation. Cut from a waterproof and durable 600-denier fabric, it could fall down a mountain without showing wear. We liked its versatility thanks to a removable shoulder strap, which allows it to be cross-bodied when in a rush.

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