Utilitaire Curiosities: How We Carry What We Do

Boop bee doop. Reading through the utilitaire posts and tweets got me thinking about the various “bike and haul” setups people have chosen, and also prompted me to analyze my own.

I have two primary systems and bikes I use for hauling stuff around. For riding in the city, I generally use one of two bicycles: a Rivendell Quickbeam (single speed); or my Surly Long Haul Trucker (many speeds).

Setup 1: Rivendell Quickbeam with the Carradice College Saddlebag

Quickbeam, Carradice College, and Tubus Cargo Rack

This is the less robust of my carrying methods, but still works great for getting my work clothes and me to the office, and allows for a spur of the moment side trip to the grocery store to pick up dinner fixings.

My Rivendell Quickbeam is a steel frame single speed tourer with 700C wheels. I affixed a black Tubus Cargo rack that I found (for free!) in the Dining Room Bike Shop. (Felkerino had intended to use it on one of his bike projects, but changed his mind and then left it unattended one day.) The rack provides a sturdy base for the Carradice College saddlebag that I purchased several years ago from St. John Street Cycles.

The College is one of Carradice’s larger saddlebags. I call it my “magic hat” bag, as it has a great deal of carrying capacity, but it does not look bulky (to me, anyway). The saddlebag loops are looped through my Brooks B-17 “S” and the bag itself rests on the Tubus rack.

Pipsqueak front bag

In the front, I use a Rickshaw Pipsqueak bag. This little guy is perfect for carrying things I like to have at my fingertips, such as my work ID, a camera, and even my phone.

I could also use panniers with this setup, but usually the Carradice meets my needs. I don’t like carrying heavy loads on my single speed, as it puts additional stress on my knees, which I like to baby. For bigger hauls, I use Setup 2.

Setup 2: Surly Long Haul Trucker with a Carradice Pendle and Ortlieb

My Surly Long Haul Trucker is the bike I choose when I want gears and when I want to do things like run to the grocery store or drop stuff off at the dry cleaner’s. My Surly (size 54) is a heavy sturdy steel bike designed for loaded touring. Sizes 54 and smaller come with 26-inch wheels.

Surly LHT with Carradice, Ortlieb, and Rickshaw

In order to transport my panniers, I purchased a Nitto Campee rear rack.

I bought a Carradice Pendle, a mid-sized saddle bag, from St. John Street Cycles and belted it through the eyelets of my Brooks Flyer saddle.

Both the Tubus and the Nitto racks are awesome. They are sturdy and made to carry loads. Adding a pannier won’t throw off the balance of the bike, which has happened with other racks I have used. I also think the Tubus and Nitto are nice-looking, compared to a lot of others out there.

Summer Days with the Surly (and a view of the Nitto Campee rack)

Usually, when I ride the Surly I carry at least one pannier, sometimes two. My panniers of choice for town riding are the Ortlieb front-roller classics. I love love love them.

First, they are simple and come with no pockets. These Ortliebs are just solid waterproof pannier “sacks” that are easy to close. Second, the mounting system is adjustable and easy to attach and remove from the bike.

Ortlieb Attachment System

Third, they include a carrying strap you can attach to carry the pannier over your shoulder. I would not recommend carrying these panniers very far, as the hooks will grind uncomfortably into your legs, but to get in an out of a store, they are perfect.

As on the Quickbeam I use a Rickshaw Pipsqueak on the front.

Both the Surly and the Quickbeam have two bottle cages. One is a steel bottle cage from I don’t know where, and the other is a plastic Kleen Kanteen cage. I often use the steel cage to hold my coffee and I use the plastic cage for grocery store purchases, lately wine or almond butter. I don’t like to have glass rub directly against steel, which adds to the appeal of the plastic Kleen Kanteen cage. It has proven hardy, yet flexible, and is an excellent holster for a bottle of vino or a medium-sized jar.

Bottle Cages Close-Up

Those two setups are what I’ve found work best for me as a commuter and transportation cyclist. What kind of setup(s) do you use? I’d love to read a post about it or let me know directly in the comments.


  1. Hello, my name is Jesse, and I’m a recovering bag addict.

    Seriously, having gone through probably hundreds of backpacks, stuff sacks, bike bags, even fanny packs (the 90’s were unkind) over the years it’s been a struggle to keep the stable well equipped without going overboard. Currently, the set up is thus:

    When I commute on the Vaya, I either carry my daypack (Camelback Alpine Explorer), or I use my Ortlieb rear roller(s). For weekend rides and summer commutes, I just picked up a Swift Industries Rando bag that I’ll be getting mounted in the coming weeks.

    For the Trek (early 90’s lugged singletrack set up with sprung saddle, city bars, etc…) I’ve currently got a large Wald basket on the front and I add either the Ortliebs or a single Banjo Bros. grocery pannier for more unwieldy loads.

    See my last post for a shot of the Trek loaded down after the recent bike swap, where I found the grocery pannier and picked up the rando bag…


    • Ha ha! I see how easily people become bag addicts. I saw your post about the Swift bag… looking forward to seeing it in action and reading your thoughts on it.


  2. Great post, MG. I have both front and rear roll top Ortliebs. The rear ones get tons of use. i have never used the front ones. I bought them for last spring’s cancelled bike tour. It’s good to see that a medium size Carradice works with a rack and a flyer saddle because that’s what’s on my Sequoia. (Father’s Day is only a few months away.)

    As for water bottle cages, my Bike Friday has an unusual one. It’s made of flexible plastic (so that it doesn’t impede the fold) and it comes with an double allen wrench attached with a big thick rubber band.


  3. I started out with an Ortlieb “Office” which carries a lot and features the very nice QL 2 mounting system, but I didn’t like the tiny pockets, or the interior stiffener, which was always getting twisted around, and which would cause me to “lose” things in the bottom and sides.

    I have a pair of Fast rider “saddlebag” panniers in vinyl for carrying large loads on my DL-1, and a pair of Linus canvas “saddlebag” panniers for carrying large loads on my Sports.

    For everyday though I mostly use a coach briefcase, which I’ve modified for bike use by adding a set of Rixon and Kaul Klickfix hooks on the back ( I have a similar leather bag with Ortlieb hooks as well). It’s not “riding for hours in the rain” waterproof, but it’s drizzle proof, and I like the size and easy accessibility of the pockets.

    I have a small basket on the front of the sports, mounted on a front rack, not hung from the handlebars, and that’s invaluable for sunglasses, keys, discarded layers etc.


    • You have a nice array to pick from for rides. Cool that you did a DIY project for the Coach bag! It looks good. I tend to not have ability or patience for such endeavors.


  4. We live in our Carradice saddlebag when we are on our tandem. No matter the distance. Our Lowsaddle Longflap at 15 l keep our needs. But when we take single bicycles we take a Carradice on each bike: is it just something we have to have – a Carradice on our bicycles. Well we just like them very much. The balance position is perfect – we can´t feel we are carrying anything.


    • That’s how we feel, too! We usually use a Carradice Camper in the winter, and will switch to a slightly smaller one in the warmer months.


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