Ok, so you’ve committed to riding to work, now how do you get your stuff there? When I worked at a bike shop, my “stuff” consisted of a wallet so I could buy lunch, or a cell phone, so I could ask my wife to bring me lunch. For my commute to an office job, I needed to carry lunch, water, a towel and a change of clothes, plus the usual patch kit, tube, and emergency tool kit. Today, that might be expanded to include a laptop and more.
While a backpack certainly works for short trips with light loads, there are limitations. Backpacks can only hold so much gear. And not everyone wants to carry all their stuff on their back due to the weight, and the fact that even the most well-designed backpack may not offer enough ventilation, meaning you end up with a damp shirt to go with your chafed shoulders. The solution is a rear rack and panniers or a trunk bag. Most racks are easy to install, and fairly inexpensive, so shopping for one is pretty straightforward. There are models designed to clear disc brakes, which are pretty common on MTB and commuter bikes these days. One thing to look for on smaller frames is heel clearance. You don’t want to smack your heel on a rack or bike luggage with each pedal stroke. Panniers vary in price, from inexpensive nylon models all the way up to spacious touring models that are fully waterproof. And like a good trunk bag, they are quickly removable, allowing you to take your cargo with you.
The following retailers offer racks, panniers, and trunk bags to suit most budgets, from tightwad commuters like myself, to hardcore touring cyclists with money to burn.