Why You Only Need 2 Panniers On A Bicycle Tour 3


Johnny on Sulfur Mountain Road

Johnny on Sulfur Mountain Road

Besides a touring bicycle fitted with a rear rack, the next most popular accessory to go on bicycle tours are your panniers. Panniers are a necessity to carry everything with you on a multi-day or even multi-week bicycle tour. I have consistently used panniers for all of my bicycle tours thus far, and I’ve exclusively used a 2 pannier system to haul most of my things on a tour. Here are the reasons why you only need just 2 panniers.

It’s Affordable

Thule Pannier
One of the first thing you will notice when shopping for panniers is the starting price point is rather steep. A pair of bags run at least $120 or more. This is an additional expense of $120 you have to spend after shelling out beaucoup bucks for your touring bike and a rear rack. This doesn’t account for your food cost, your lodging cost, or even entertainment on your trip. For the first-timers reading this, buying just 1 pair of panniers is adequate to get started. Don’t jump the gun too soon and pick up another pair. Just remember to purchase the rear panniers for more cargo space versus front panniers.

It’s Easier to Carry

Silent Stairs
“Silent Stairs” by Julien Chalendard, on Flickr

Imagine you reach your hotel or your friend’s penthouse who lives on the 19th floor and their elevator is broken. You’ll need to lug around your entire touring rig up the stairs. This is definitely easier if you pull your rear panniers off and hand them over to your friend while you carry your bike up the flights of stairs. Just one trip and you’re done!

You’ll Blend In


Chances are, you’ll run into other bicycle tourists who are also riding with 2 rear panniers on their trip. Instead of standing out of the crowd as someone who has a lot of stuff (to steal), you will be part of the status quo – a simple bicycle tourist with just enough stuff to be comfortable and sustainable.

Less Weight to Travel With

Until we got to the top
“Until we got to the top” by fixedandfrailing, on Flickr

Having 2 panniers instead of 4 means you have fewer things to carry, which means less weight to push and pull around. Climbing a 18% grade hill with a fully loaded bicycle versus just the 2 rear panniers is a form of self-punishment. Why don’t you give yourself a break and ditch the other 2 panniers and enjoy your life on the fast lane?

Prevents You From Overpacking

All the things Johnny will be bringing for his week long #biketour #ltctraining #onvacation
Two panniers mean that you are forced to pack what is essential. That means clothes for on and off the bike, toiletries, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and some food. Nothing more, nothing less. This keeps you honest as you prepare for your trip, so that you don’t weigh yourself down on your tour (see “Less Weight to Travel With” above). Don’t forget that you also have the top part of the rack to strap things onto.

Easier to Find Things

It’s freezing and you need to dig for that pair of wool gloves located in one of your bags. With only 2 panniers, your odds are much better to quickly find what you’re looking for. Nothing is more frustrating than searching for a small item in all 4 bags. Let’s improve your odds by 25% and dump the 2 extra panniers.

It’s Your Own Preference

Gravel riding
I hope you understand why bicycle tourists will want to ride with 2 panniers instead of 4. My preference for 2 panniers is usually for shorter multi-day tours where I don’t need “everything and the kitchen sink” with me. This was my favorite configuration when I first started touring. What are your preferences? Do these reasons resonate with you? Are there any other reasons to use 2 panniers instead of 4? Please let me know in the comments below or get in touch with me through the various social media outlets.

RELATED: Why You Need 4 Panniers On A Bicycle Tour Instead of Just 2


About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.


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