Ultralight bike luggage
This story is part of a series about ultralight touring, all the previous articles are available for free in the Voyage Voyage publication.
In the very first post “Le Vélo”, I went through what kind of bike I used, and how I set it up. Some people asked me if I could write more about the baggages, and especially how heavy they were, so… here you go.
There are a lot of different ways to carry baggage on a bike, a cycling backpack is one of them, the combination of classical heavy front and rear racks with waterproof paniers you see on trekking bikes is another.
Yet none of them are satisfying, backpacks can result in back pain when riding a road bike geometry for a very long time, and the traditional rack systems are very heavy, easily exceeding 2kg for a single pair, nowhere aerodynamic, and not minimal at all.
The good news is that there are many other ways to carry luggage on a bike, mostly so called “frame bags”, and it took me a looooot of time to figure out what I wanted to experiment with, my main goal was to distribute the weight as much as possible, and prevent any excess weight in the front.
For the front, I wanted something compact, lightweight and rapidly accessible to store accessories like sunscreen and smaller electronics that wouldn’t exceed 1kg in weight. The Wild Cat Lioness eventually filled this role, it is originally meant to be mounted on top of the Wild Cat Mountain Lion accessory, but I left it out. Because of that I had to daily re-adjust the height of it, otherwise it would start rubbing against the front tyre.
That’s something I was willing to do for the benefit of only weighing 160gr., it did the job well, containing my hygiene kit, small electronic accessories like a battery pack, USB cables, my cycling cap,… and sometimes I also stuffed my jacket and bike tools in it.
There might be better options these day though, I listed all the manufactures I researched at the end of this article so you can make up your own mind.
For the rear, I wanted a system where the bag remains an independent part, allowing me to cary it around if I have to take my belongings with me.
The Wild Cat Tiger saddle harness filled this role puuurfectly, it is extremely light, only weighing 195g, and can officially contain up to a 10L dry-bag (according to an email exchange with them).
I didn’t have a 10L bag, so I fitted a waterproof 12L dry-bag from Ortlieb in it. It contained my hammock and its rainfly to setup my wild-camping habitat, as-well as my light goose down sleeping bag (a Deuter Trek Lite +3), and some spare clothes.
The total weight of the rear was only about 2.5kg.
So far, the added weight on the bike is about 3.5kg. In addition to this, I also taped a few items on the frame with electrical tape: 2 spare tubes (115g ea.), in case I have a puncture I cannot patch, my crankbrothers multitool (168g), some zip ties, a bit of electrical-tape, and a piece of bubble wrap to use as a rudimentary mattress in the hammock.
This must have slightly exceeded 500g, but lets keep the numbers rounded.
We are now at ~4kg added weight on the bike for the baggages. If you compare this to more classical rack systems, you’d have easily gotten to this weight without even carrying anything in your paniers.
Knowing my bike weighs a little less than 11kg (not the lightest), and I need to hydrate, lets add 2kg for two full water bottles, the total weight of the bike including baggages (4kg), hydration, and everything else still does not exceed 17kg, this is pretty light. You could go way lighter, if you own a lighter road bike, or want to do so called “credit-card touring”, or if you take even less stuff than me.
If you compare this to a commercially available trekking/touring/commuting bike, their weight usually comes in around 17kg, without paniers, without racks, and without carrying any of what you need…
There are other available systems I am increasingly interested in, a friend of mine recently acquired a very strong and lightweight rear rack from Tubus, the Fly Classic, it only weighs 341g, about the same weight as all my frame bags, and can sustain up to 18kg, but you need to add the weight of a backpack, anywhere from 500g to 1kg. I might give this a shot next time and pack everything in a small backpack that I will attach on it, this will increase the overall weight, but improve flexibility off the bike to go on hikes, etc :)
In the end whatever system you go with, it needs to suit your hunger for adventure. I’d be happy to get feedback from other cyclists, and hear the reasons that led you to your choices.
There are more available ultralight touring stories about camping, bike equipement, etc., in the Voyage Voyage publication.
And here is a list of all the manufactures of frame bags I researched:
Go go gadget 🚲