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I'm curious - why frame bags versus water bottle cages?

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I'm curious - why frame bags versus water bottle cages?

Old 07-31-23, 02:09 PM
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mams99
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I'm curious - why frame bags versus water bottle cages?

One thing I'm noticing more and more are people putting frame bags instead of putting water bottles on the frame


. More and more people are putting water bottles on the forks. Why is that? Wouldn't a bag in the center rub against the leg? Wouldn't water on only one fork make it feel unbalanced? Is it a fad? Or is there some value to this trend? I have absolutely no idea.
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Old 07-31-23, 02:15 PM
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keeps the weight between the wheels, relatively low, protected from impact, extremely sturdy, doesn’t turn when you turn the bars, accommodates larger objects than the sides of the fork would, whereas the sides of the fork accommodate water bottles fairly well?

i think they look great i’m too crosswind averse.
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Old 07-31-23, 03:36 PM
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Fashion, I guess. Once I got a bike that had water bottle cages, I was hooked.

I guess if someone's riding in cooler weather, a hydration pack wouldn't be so bad. Eight months of the year where I live, that's a non-starter for me.
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Old 07-31-23, 04:52 PM
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I can see frame bags being useful for offroad singletrack in that it can create a narrower bike width. A side-mounted bag could get caught by a tree snag or other nearby object (such as cactus in our neighborhood). As for me, I'll stick with my bottles - but then again my mountain bike's frame geometry isn't friendly to either bottles or bags.
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Old 07-31-23, 06:10 PM
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Bikepacking is kind of free form when it comes to packing. The pictures below are all different packing orientations depending on how many days I was planning on being out. I will say, first and foremost, that when I bikepacking, I don’t cook. I use freeze-dried so I only have to boil water. Most bikepacking trips for me are 3 to 5 days maximum. The one exception is the last picture which I’ll get to later.

Second, even when pannier touring, I don’t depend on my water bottles as my primary source of water. The bottles are usually filled with Gatorade for electrolytes. Water is carried in my Camelback, even when road touring. Even when bikepacking, I try to pack my Camelbak with as much ice as it will hold. That keeps the water cold for about 6 hours.


First up, is one of my earlier trips. The small triangle bag holds my teapot and cup. The water bottle is for use if I run out of water on the route and will be added to the Camelbak if needed.


Longer trip that was a bit more remote. Water filter in fork bags as well as stove and fuel.


Excuse the NDS out. This was an aborted trip that took a lot longer to ride then I thought it would because the trail was a single track that is more of a suggestion than actually exists. The trail is, I kid you not, poles with the top 6” painted white. In between the poles is southern Colorado grassland that is difficult to ride. I spent about 5 hours going less than 15 miles. It was also on this trip that I found the limitations of the fork bags on really rugged terrain. One of them has a hole in the bottom even now.



I got a full triangle bag which negated the need for the fork leg bags for the most part. Everything in the fork leg bags fit in the triangle. Again, I don’t need the water bottle because I use a Camelback. No ice this trip.



A bit longer trip with how it is packed. The micropanniers (handlebar bags really) were added to carry the food that I would have carried in the frame bag to make room for utensils and pots.



This was my packing for an aborted longer trip. As I was planning on being out for 10 days, I couldn’t do freeze dried so I had to plan on actual cooking which meant a pot and more fuel. This meant 3 “fork leg” bags…2 on the fork legs and one under the down tube. Honestly, this was not a pleasure to ride. It had as much weight as my loaded touring bike but was much less organized and wasn’t carried in a manner that was conducive to handling. Way too much weight, way too high on the bike. It made for a very squirrelly ride. I needed the wide tires and suspension for a soft rail trail but it was not much fun. Hence the “aborted” part.




Camelback in action on the C&O.

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Old 07-31-23, 10:09 PM
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The bike packing craze. Using racks and panniers makes you look old.
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Old 08-01-23, 03:33 AM
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When I have seen people using bikepacking gear with no racks on the bike, that often meant that they put their luggage anywhere they could and ended up wearing a small backpack for water and other overflow stuff that did not fit on the bike. Or, they put a bladder of water in the frame bag. Some people appear to not mind wearing a backpack while on a bike, I prefer all my weight on the bike instead of on my body.

But I am seeing more bottle cages on front forks too.

I prefer water bottles, I know how many bottles I have used and how many I still have full. If I had a big bladder of water, I would have no clue how much remains.

Sometimes I use the one liter Smartwater or Life WTR brand water bottles instead of bike water bottles, although they are intended to be disposable they work well in a standard water bottle cage. But if mounted below a downtube, it is best to use a piece of velcro or elastic to hold it to the downtube. Only their one liter size fit cages, but occasionally I see a different brand that has a smaller bottle that also fits cages well.

One advantage of these disposable bottles is that they are less likely to leak and get your other stuff wet if in a pannier than standard bike water bottles. If I am in a hot weather environment, I might carry extra bottles of water in a pannier or rack top bag.

Some frames you can put a full liter under the downtube, but most bikes you can only put a smaller bottle down there.

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Old 08-01-23, 06:16 AM
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For multi day tours (road/path/gravel, no real mountain biking) credit card style (no camping/cooking) I found this set up with a small frame bag let me move away from panniers. I had to switch to side load water bottle holders and use my smaller water bottles but on the riding/tours I do that is not an issue. I can add a third water bottle under the down tube but it gets filthy very quickly! If I really need, there are fork brazeons where I could carry more water.

The top tube hanging frame bag carries heavy tools and cable/lock on one side, meal bars on the other. On tours where I'm putting the bike on a train (like Amtrak) this approach has worked out much better than my old pannier setup.

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Old 08-01-23, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
The bike packing craze. Using racks and panniers makes you look old.
Nope, it doesn’t. Using bikepacking bags where you would normally use panniers makes you look silly. I use both…look at my pictures…but I use them for different applications. My aborted trip was a prime example of why I don’t like using bikepacking bags unless I have to. The bike wasn’t particularly stable nor a joy to ride. There is just too much weight too high on the bike for good handling. While panniers carry much the same load (and perhaps more) low down, bikepacking bags carry the weight much higher. I have to be much more aware of this weight distribution while off-reading using bikepacking bags because I’m much more likely to go over the bars because of the higher load and the general type of riding off-road I experience. I’ve gone over the bars several times…usually about once per trip.

For illustration here are 3 comparisons of ride loads on bikepacking and panniers. The panniers are estimates while the bikepacking loads have actually been measured.

First up, a rugged bikepacking trip done over 4 days. You can see that all of the weight is above the axle. 16.4 lbs (70%) of the load plus the 13.7 lb of my Camelback is above the already high center of gravity of the bike.


Since I had to do more “real” cooking and camping on a longer trip, I had to carry more load for this trip. 17.6 lb (50%) of the load is carried near the center of gravity and there is actually some weight…8.3 lb (23%)…was carried near the axles. It was still a handful.



Traditional pannier load. You could say that 10lb (22%) was carried near the center of gravity. But the bulk of the load…35lb (77%)… was carried near the axles. Handling is much more predictable.



Also note that the bulk of the bikepacking load is carried 12” to nearly 24” higher than the pannier load.

All that said, the reason I don’t use panniers off-road are many. Bikepacking bags are attached to the bike better. I’ve had panniers fly off while off-road touring. Lowrider panniers would suffer from the same problem that my fork bags did on one of my trips. Pannier hardware is more prone to breakage because they have only 2 attachment points per bag.

The reasons that I don’t use bikepacking bags on-road are equally many. If you have to take the bags off the bike, there are 6 to 9 bags of various sizes and shapes to deal with. The bags aren’t easy to carry since they don’t mate together well. There are also dozens of nooks and crannies in the bags. Where panniers can be organized into specific uses per bag…food, cooking, clothing, etc…bikepacking bags have to carry gear where it can be carried. Your stove fits in one bag but your fuel fits in another. Food might be in several different bags. Setting up camp is usually an exercise in unpacking all the bags (9 of them!) and repacking the every morning. It’s a pain.

But, just like I use the right bike for the ride, I use the right bags for the ride. I don’t look on it as an “one or the other” choice. I looking on it as a “right tool for the job” choice.
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Old 08-01-23, 10:38 AM
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I'm glad I asked the question. For myself, I plan to ride on rail trails and not oft used roads for touring (for now), but I got a bike that can do it all to give me options (Small Surly Ogre). I plan to camp and carry my gear for 2-10 days depending on the trip. For me, panniers are just easier to organize and take on and off the bike. So, that is what I'll be doing.

I did 4 days last fall when it got quite cold (nights were 38degrees) so I had a pretty heavy sleeping bag. Since then I've upgraded to a lighter down quilt.

I like the look of a frame bag, but that is hardly a reason to use one. But I do need to find a better solution for carrying bike tubes/tools while out for a long ride. That stuff needs to be readily accessible no matter the ride I will want much of that with me.
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Old 08-01-23, 11:26 AM
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Bike travel as with backpacking it is a common tendency to take way too much stuff. Novice backpackers are encouraged to use a smaller backpack as they will inevitably fill the large one and it will weigh a lot more as a result. Going uphill I want as little weight on the bike as possible and quickly learned that less was more. I have known people who took this to extremes and would go hundreds of miles into wilderness areas with tennis shoes and cut their toothbrush handle to save a few grams but they also covered twice as many miles each days as those with heavy boots and tents and other "necessary" gear.
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Old 08-01-23, 11:26 AM
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Frame bags are a common sense way to carry stuff where panniers may be a hindrance like short chainstay bikes. It’s not an either/or proposition nor are all frame bags occupying the entire triangle. This is why I suggested starting riding the bike stripped down then experimenting incrementally with gear carrying solutions.
Tools/tubes really don’t have to be readily accessible just remember where they are.
It looks like you got large Ortlieb panniers. They are good but you might consider smaller sizes. Just beacause the bike, racks and panniers can carry large amounts of gear doesn’t mean you have to start there.
Have fun.
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Old 08-01-23, 11:48 AM
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The piece I don't get - on a bike intended for bike packing, why the sloped top tube? Horizontal or close gives you room for the same top tube bag and much better access to both water bottles. This just strikes me as a no-brainer. Not that this is an issue for me. I stay on pavement and reserve my top tube for the pump. (As important as water is for me, air is more so for the bike.)
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Old 08-01-23, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
The bike packing craze. Using racks and panniers makes you look old.
When you have to carry all of your supplies with you on your bike, it quickly becomes about much more practical factors than appearance.
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Old 08-01-23, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by mams99
...
I like the look of a frame bag, but that is hardly a reason to use one. But I do need to find a better solution for carrying bike tubes/tools while out for a long ride. ....
There are many options. And one good option is to split it into two groups, frequently used and rarely used. I posted this photo in a previous post, repeating it here:



The small triangular bag above my top tube and attached to the seatpost has two tubes, a self adhesive patch kit, and a small multi-tool.

The handlebar bag (not in photo) has my chain lube.

The pump is on the left side of the seat tube.

The rest of my tools and spares are very rarely used on a tour, those are buried in the bottom of a rear pannier. On this tour, I also had a spare tire, that was in the bottom of the other rear pannier.

I always pack the most dense stuff that I do not plan to use during the day in the bottoms of panniers, least dense stuff up on top. That will lower center of gravity slightly. I can only remember one occasion where I had to stop on the side of a road and empty out a pannier to get my tool bag and spares out. This system has worked well for me.

Roadies often use a small saddlebag for the spare tube and maybe some other stuff like a multi-tool, that is an option too.
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Old 08-01-23, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
The piece I don't get - on a bike intended for bike packing, why the sloped top tube? Horizontal or close gives you room for the same top tube bag and much better access to both water bottles. This just strikes me as a no-brainer. Not that this is an issue for me. I stay on pavement and reserve my top tube for the pump. (As important as water is for me, air is more so for the bike.)
At this point in bicycle evolution, finding a bike without a sloping top tube is probably a fool’s errand. For the original intention of using bikepacking bags for off-road use, few modern (post about 1995) mountain bikes have horizontal top tubes for rather obvious reasons. Not many road bikes have horizontal top tubes any more as well. Road bikes have sloping top tubes for performance reasons.
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Old 08-01-23, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by mams99
I did 4 days last fall when it got quite cold (nights were 38degrees) so I had a pretty heavy sleeping bag. Since then I've upgraded to a lighter down quilt.
Oh, to have a 38°F overnight temperature! With the exception of the bike in front of the giant arrows (a Dean Colonel) and the road touring bike, all of the bike set ups are carrying a 20°F bag. In most cases, that’s pushing the limit in the Colorado mountains even in July.

I like the look of a frame bag, but that is hardly a reason to use one. But I do need to find a better solution for carrying bike tubes/tools while out for a long ride. That stuff needs to be readily accessible no matter the ride I will want much of that with me.
This is my general tool kit that I carry all the time. For touring, the only change I make is to carry two tubes of the same size. I carry all this is my Camelback along with my water.
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Old 08-01-23, 02:10 PM
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Is it a fad?
Pretty much. It'll die out.

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Old 08-01-23, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
When you have to carry all of your supplies with you on your bike, it quickly becomes about much more practical factors than appearance.
With a bikepacking bag setup, vs. a rack and pannier setup, you need the storage space for gear and food and really have no choice but to install a frame bag in addition to the bar bag and under seat bag. Those 3 bags do not allow you as much capacity as a traditional front and rear pannier with rack setup. Thus water goes elsewhere, fork or stem mount carriers plus Camelback,
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Old 08-01-23, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
With a bikepacking bag setup, vs. a rack and pannier setup, you need the storage space for gear and food and really have no choice but to install a frame bag in addition to the bar bag and under seat bag. Those 3 bags do not allow you as much capacity as a traditional front and rear pannier with rack setup. Thus water goes elsewhere, fork or stem mount carriers plus Camelback,
Understood. My comment was related to looking "old". Granted I'm not speaking from experience, but seems pretty clear that practical/functional considerations are a much higher priority than whether a particular configuration makes you look "old" or not.
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Old 08-01-23, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
...
This is my general tool kit that I carry all the time. For touring, the only change I make is to carry two tubes of the same size. I carry all this is my Camelback along with my water.
I thought you carried a cassette tool, but I could not recall which one. I do not see one there.
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Old 08-01-23, 05:22 PM
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With a large frame and a top bag, I have room for both. The top bag doesn't have much in it, but is useful for my pump, tools, spare tube, etc. I am not reaching down while riding to grab a bottle to drink from so that also isn't an issue.

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Old 08-01-23, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I thought you carried a cassette tool, but I could not recall which one. I do not see one there.
I haven’t carried one for a while. I have Phil Wood hubs on my touring bike and the whole freehub comes out with the cassette. No need to remove the cassette at all. I do have a Pamir Hypercracker but I don’t carry it.
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Old 08-01-23, 07:39 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
The bike packing craze. Using racks and panniers makes you look old.
And totally square.
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Old 08-01-23, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
When you have to carry all of your supplies with you on your bike, it quickly becomes about much more practical factors than appearance.
Does this bike make me look old? (Notice the color coordination.)


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