There is an art to packing your cycle panniers for any length trip from weekend to three months. As with anything it does get easier packing your cycle panniers each day of the trip.
Some friends of mine even do a trial run about a week prior to the trip to make sure everything fits but I never have found this necessary although I find the start of each journey interesting as I cycle with a loaded bicycle and try not to bump into my colleagues.
Instead, a key to packing your cycle panniers is to work from a packing list to ensure you do not forget any items. After each bike tour I revise the list and now seldom encounter problems.
What you carry – as with anyone travelling the best thing is to lay out everything you plan on taking with you and cut it in half. And remember you only require two sets of cycling clothing plus laundry soap. One of the most common mistakes of beginners is to pack too much.
If bicycle touring in a group some items such as the guidebooks, heavy bike tools and the first aid kit can be shared as there is no purpose in everyone carrying these.
Weight distribution – your heavy items should split amongst each of your panniers and placed in the bottom. The goal is to balance each of the panniers weight otherwise your bicycle can be hard to control. Some European models feature two rear panniers with a suitcase like pannier across the top and these typically can be hard to balance.
Also if you have front and rear bicycle panniers be sure to watch the weight balance, remembering your tent and other camping gear will be at the rear.
Daily items – such as bike route maps, snacks, camera, tools and rain wear should be placed where you can reach them easily. I place them in my handlebar bags or in the pockets of the main pannier.
Packing each morning – packing your cycle panniers in same way each morning so you can quickly locate items and notice when something is missing really helps.
Inside the main compartment – place items in a bunch of plastic bags for example one bag containing your toiletries, another your extra cycling shorts. The advantage of having a series of plastic bags is ability to pack quickly and it also provides another layer to keep everything dry.
Also pad any hard or shape items using clothing in plastic bags.
Check out this selection of bicycle touring panniers.
Planning prior to departure is essential when it comes to packing your cycle panniers.