Ditch the pack and strap your spares to your bike with the best saddle bags for mountain biking! Going on a ride is never as simple as just grabbing your bike and rolling out the door. Among other things, you’re going to need to bring a spare tube, CO2 and inflator, dyna-plug, tyre levers, multi-tool and a few other bits and pieces, all to make sure you aren’t left walking back to the trailhead or stuck on the side of a dirt road with no phone service.
If you’re like us you’ll do anything to avoid wearing a backpack, meaning you’ll be strapping as much gear as possible onto the bike itself — we’ve even been known to tape tubes under our saddles and on the bike frame in pursuit of a bagless ride.
Some bikes have integrated storage, which solves the brunt of the issue but most don't. For those who's bikes don't have an integrated storage cubby, and are of the opinion that tape has no place on a bike that probably out-values your car, a saddlebag or something similar is the solution.
Saddlebags come in all different shapes and sizes and are attached to your bike using simple velcro straps, Boa dials or more permanent clip-on attachments. Read on to discover everything you need to know to make the right choice when buying a saddlebag for your mountain bike.
What to look for in a saddle bag?
1. Size and shape
How much stuff are you going to need on a ride? Are you headed out for a few hours, or a week riding the entire Colorado Trail?
At the very least you’re going to want to carry a 29er tube, CO2 canisters and an inflator, a small multi-tool and some tyre levers which makes for a bit of a Tetris-like packing exercise. Why a 29er tube you ask? Because they can be made to fit any wheel and tyre size except for fat bikes.
Pro tip: re-roll your inner tubes with the valve in the middle (keep the valve cap on), it will be about half the size when you’re done with it.
Many saddlebags use basic velcro straps attached to your saddle rails. This is the lightest weight and arguably the most secure option. But, if you're using a dropper post, a bag that utilises a velcro strap around the seatpost to stabilise the bag may prevent your saddle from lowering all the way.
Of course, every brand in the bike industry is continually searching for a point of difference, and thus, options that use a bracket on the seatpost or saddle rails also exist. These are often a bit heavier and we have seen a few hit the eject button over drops and through rock gardens, but they make swaps between bikes painless.
Regardless of how they attach to your bike, most bags will utilise a zipper to keep everything inside, while others will be more of a roll type which may use buckles or even Boas.
When it comes to carrying spares, there is no reason to restrict yourself just to strapping a tube, multi-tool and a couple of CO2 canisters under your saddle; there are a heap of great options that utilise the front triangle of your bike for storage.
The best saddlebags for mountain biking and gravel riding
Available in a few different sizes, the Evoc saddle bag is the middle-volume version with 0.65L of internal capacity. The exterior is made from the same PU coated ripstop nylon used in the brand's backpacks, offering plenty of durability and a bit of weather resistance, too.
Inside, there are mesh pockets to keep your gear organised and the bag is held in place with three velcro straps, making for faff-free mounting. Beyond the quality finishing, we love the Evoc seat pack because it comes in bright colours rather than the stock standard black or flash yellow.
The Dakine Hot Laps gripper is a compact spares pack that uses a velcro strap to secure your emergency kit somewhere on the bike; whether that be under the saddle or inside the frame. The pouch itself is made from 600D polyester, so it’s not going to disintegrate after a single season of riding.
The main compartment comfortably engulfs a 29er tube, while separate elastic sleeves on the sides securely hold your tyre levers while also preventing them from rubbing a hole in your tube. There are slots for CO2 canisters and a small inflator which are protected from trail grit by a closing flap. It takes a bit of practice to pack the Hot Laps Gripper properly, but it securely hangs onto your spares and keeps them mostly dirt free.
Backcountry Research’s Mutherload is essentially a heavy-duty velcro strap, with integrated bungees. This means that the elastic attaches your tube and whatever else to the strap itself and the strap holds onto the bike, no more fiddling with rubber bands or awkward one handed cinching. The Mutherload is best used inside the front triangle and can grab onto a frame with tube circumferences ranging from 1-9in.
Made in Bozeman, Montana, the Mutherload will hang onto a tube, a couple of CO2 canisters or a mini pump, tyre levers and a multi-tool. Even better, the UV and rot-resistant webbing come in over 50 colours and patterns to match any frame.
Silca is known for its extremely high-quality (and expensive) gear and the Seat Roll Premio is no exception. Made from waxed canvas, the Silca Seat Roll has three internal pockets, with enough room for a tube, tyre levers, a mult-itool and a Dyna-Plug. Even with that amount, you’ll have to pack carefully to make it all fit.
The pack rolls up and is attached to your bike using a Boa dial, with the cable looping through the seat rails. Silca has also included a rail guard to protect lightweight carbon rails.
Bontrager’s range of seat bags extends from those which can carry an expedition's worth of gear down to those that only hold a single tube. The Elite bag leans towards the latter, with a capacity of .95l it can hold a couple of tubes and everything you need to change a flat one. On the inside, there are mesh pockets to keep your kit organised.
What we really love about this bag is the way it attaches to your seatpost using a rubber band instead of hook and loop. Not only is it easy on the finish of your seat-post, but it also won’t eat through shorts.
The Speedsleev is not your traditional saddle bag; instead, it's a velcro compression strap with slots for all your essentials. It’s actually made up of three velcro straps, with the innermost used to create a pocket for a tube, the middle strap complete with sleeves for tyre levers, CO2 canisters and the like and the third to secure the whole thing to your saddle rails.
It all lays out flat for easy access to everything and comes with a rain cover, to keep your spare tube grit-free. Because it attaches only to the saddle rails, it plays nicely with dropper posts.
Voile is actually a ski brand based in Utah and its trademark orange straps were invented more than thirty years ago as a unique way to keep skis together and attach glueless climbing skins. They are also this writer's preferred way to attach spare tyre kit to his bikes.
Along the same lines as the Backcountry Research strap, a Voile strap can be used under your saddle or inside the front triangle. How much stuff it can hold is only determined by the length you use. Made from UV-resistance tested rubber these things are tough, and neither the strap nor the glass-filled nylon buckle scratch carbon or paint work. They come in lengths from six to 32-inches, two widths and enough colours to match any bike.
Aussie outfit skingrowsback makes hard-wearing bags ranging from duffle bags and backpacks, down to the humble saddlebag. The Plan B is a compact nylon saddle pack with heavyweight 1000d nylon used for the exterior while a lighter fabric is used on the inside, and the zipper is PU coated to prevent water ingress.
The Plan B pack attaches with a single strip of webbing which runs through the saddle rails and wraps around the clamshell-style bag. Inside there are elastic straps to secure CO2 canisters and tyre levers. The bags are handmade in Australia and come in a massive range of colours and patterns