What’s in My Pannier

What's in my pannier.

Inspired by MG’s post, which was inspired by this Lifehacker post, I thought it would be interesting to compare how much I carry on a given commute. This is typical for a multi-modal day, in which I bike and take the Metro. If I were riding to work, I’d also include some change of clothes.

My Arkel Switchback pannier/backpack has three compartments, and I have stuff in all of them.

Front compartment: flash drive, lip gloss (which I haven’t used), lip balm, extra ponytail holder, meds, sunscreen stick, mechanical pencil (leftover from practice– I don’t need this), antibacterial gel, keys, and earplugs (for drum practice), smartphone (not shown in photo because I’m using the camera function to take the photo above)

Middle compartment: wallet, small bag containing front and rear lights, badge for work (not shown in photo)

Large compartment: cardigan (because it is fricking cold at work), plastic container for breakfast (granola), notebook, datebook, book for reading on the Metro (because I rock it old school), u-lock (not shown because it is locked to the bike)

A certain bicyclist (I’m not naming names) had teased me once because I carried so much stuff to work. This doesn’t look like that much to me.

Cycling Clothing by the Numbers

winter kit
Fellow bicyclist Ricky had shared his tips for what clothes to wear when bicycling in various temperatures. I think it’s a good guide on what to wear. For what it’s worth, here’s my guide for outerwear for both commuting and recreational riding. I tend to run colder than he does, so I tend to start layering earlier.

Fahrenheit/Celsius
70+/21+ Short-sleeved jersey/shirt, shorts, crew socks, half-fingered gloves, shoes, helmet.
65-70/18-21 Add armwarmers, swap shorts for capri tights/skinny pants.
50-65/10-18 Add light jacket, swap short-sleeved shirt for long-sleeved shirt.
40-50/4-10 Swap light jacket for medium-weight jacket, swap capri tights for full-length tights, add silk top baselayer, swap half-fingered gloves for full-length gloves, change to wool socks, add wool cap, neckwarmer, toe covers.
32-40/0-4 Swap medium-weight jacket for 3-in-1 jacket, add biking pants to tights/add long johns to pants, change to fleece neckwarmer, swap toe covers for booties.
20-32/-6-0 Swap full-length gloves for lobster gloves, swap shoes for hiking boots.
Below 20/-6 Swap silk top baselayer for medium-weight synthetic baselayer, add one more layer top and bottom (if in teens or below), consider chemical hand/toewarmers, face protector cream.

An Epic Ride: The Set-Up

bike with rear panniers, rack bag
One more preparatory post before I launch into our journey. We planned on a 7-day bike ride in the beginning of October, staying in hotels along the way. My friends and I thought it would be useful to provide a checklist of things we brought for the trip. These are suggestions– depending on how long your trip will be, the time of year you travel, and your accommodations, the items will vary.

I’ve also included in the list things I brought that I ended up not needing, and things I wished I had brought. Some annotations are included. Brand names supplied are not paid endorsements.
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Multi-Modal Gear: the Arkel Switchback 2.0


Here’s a bag that I’ve been using a lot. It’s the Arkel Switchback 2.0. This handy bag converts from a pannier to a backpack in seconds.


Underneath the hook-and-loop-secured flaps are comfortable, sturdy straps.

The cam-lock system at the top securely attaches to the bike’s rear rack, but doesn’t get caught in your clothes when using it as a backpack.

The three compartments hold a lot of stuff. On a normal workday, I have several notebooks, a paperback book, a lunch tote, a wallet, a cell phone, keys, and when going to work, a U-lock and cable. This bag can carry all of this. And today, I managed to fit my first CSA share into the bag, with some finagling.

It doesn’t have room to fit a helmet inside, as its cousin, the Arkel Bug, can. But I’m willing to sacrifice this for the Switchback’s slimmer profile.

It seems like a tough, well made bag. I like being able to take the weight off my back while riding my bike, and being able to carry it on my back when I’m walking. I’m really happy with the Switchback so far.

New Gear

I’m always on the lookout for gear that makes my bike riding easier!

Based on the recommendations of MG and Mike W., I got the Camelbak Aurora to help keep me hydrated throughout my ride.

This Camelbak holds 2 liters (~70 ounces) of water. It also has two zippered pouches in which I put my wallet and keys. I was a little concerned about the weight on my back, but I hardly even notice that it’s there, even when it’s filled to capacity. I think it has something to do with the fact that I typically carry ten times the weight with my backpack when I do my short commute!
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