Travelling light: No panniers for me

My previous trips have involved the normal setup of a rack with panniers. For my 2012 France trip I want to be able to cover larger distances, so weight reduction is a high priority.I have taken some inspiration from Iik’s blog at Iik is pretty ruthless when it comes to cutting weight, and I admire a man who can sleep on a sheet of bubble wrap, not wash for days on end and sleep under a tarp. But I cannot. There is a certain level of comfort and convenience that I will not do without, especially if I’m planning to be on the bike for over a month. I differ from Iik in the following ways:I want to be able to cook, even if just to boil eggs or make coffee.I want to sleep in comfort, not on bubble wrap.
I want to be able to get at my stuff during the day without dismantling the whole lot.

I want places to store stuff like camera, eWerk etc so that they can be easily accessed.

Iik dismisses the use of any normal bike bags and just straps a compression sack on his back rack. And he doesn’t use a handlebar bag. This is main way he saves weight, as not using panniers saves about a kilo for each pannier you leave at home.

I have tested out the compression sack technique on a previous short tour, and while it certainly does save weight, it is not convenient. The setup below weighs 600g for the rack, and 200g for the compression sack. Light and waterproof, but a bit of a pain in the arse because you can’t get at anything inside the sack unless you remove the bungees holding it to the rack and remove it so that you can rifle through it.

A previous test rig using a compression sack as main storage

So for a slight weight penalty I have decided to use a Carradice Super C saddlebag. It is quite a large saddlebag with a capacity of about twenty litres (almost as much as the compression sack above), but has the convenience of side pockets, small internal pockets, plastic buckles for fast entry, loops on top to allow easy tent strapping, and it is reasonably light at 800g. To support the bag and prevent it from crushing my rear mudguard I will be using a Nitto saddlebag rack, which weighs 350g. So 1150g for the pair, compared to 800g for the compression sack and cheap aluminium rack. I’m happy to sacrifice 350g for the added convenience.


Proposed touring load

In addition, the saddlebag doesn’t sway as much as the compression sack, resulting in less shimmy and frame flex. I’m using a pretty lightweight randonneur bike built with light gauge tubing and a low trail front end. So any wobbly weight at the back tends to make the bike handle very badly. The saddlebag is a big improvement over the compression sack.


Hilleberg Akto strapped on top of Carradice Super C

In the saddlebag I have managed to fit a three season down sleeping bag (850g), Thermarest pillow (200g), miniature Trangia (220g), some clothes (all in main compartment), Thermarest Neo Air mattress (400g in side pocket), and a lock and tools in the other side pocket (300g). Hilleberg Akto (1.5kg) straps neatly on top using webbing straps borrowed from an Ortlieb pannier set. The little doodads on the end of the Ortlieb straps prevent the straps from hanging down and tangling with my rear wheel. Ah those clever Germans.

And I’m also not prepared to do without a handlebar bag. My bike is built for it with an integrated custom front rack and decaleur, and the Berthoud bag that I use is just the right size for stuff frequently needed. The layout of the pockets also puts my camera at hand and holds the eWerk (53g) that I use to charge things. The front pocket will hold a mini pump, saddle cover, and few other odds and ends. The lid has a zippered compartment that will hold a Kindle. It’s pretty waterproof. At 600g, it’s well worth taking.


Berthoud handlebar bag

All up, my bike weighs 11.8kg without any bags attached. The total weight of the luggage and contents is close to 8kg. Having just done a test run up the biggest hills I could find close to home in the Royal National Park, this load is quite tolerable. On the flat I can maintain a good speed above 25kmh without too much effort, and while hill climbing is slow, it’s not too taxing.




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