While the jury’s out on saddle bags’ style credentials, there’s a unanimous verdict on their practicality. Saddle bags come in handy on longer rides in particular and are ideal for storing essentials such as spare tubes, CO2 cylinders, multi-tools and tyre levers.
Running the tubeless tyres may cut out the need for inner tubes but, in order to repair a tubeless puncture, you’ll still need tyre levers, tubeless repair tool plugs, tubeless repair plugs and tubeless sealant. All this paraphernalia will easily fit in a commodious saddle bag.
The humble pump is also essential to fix a punctured clincher or tubeless tyre. Although the best mini pumps are small, they’re too big for most saddle bags. Stowing smaller items in a saddle bag saves room to carry a pump in your pocket.
Even on shorter spins, a saddle bag declutters the pockets of your best cycling jersey. On long rides, a saddle bag frees up space for things you’ll reach for often, such as energy gels or energy bars.
For really long distances, consider a bigger saddle bag. Our picks of this variety are in the second half of the best list.
Come shine, as anyone who’s suffered a sweaty back on a summer’s day knows, the less you carry in your back pockets the better. And if you like to take photos of your ride, a saddle bag allows you to keep your phone at hand.
Best saddle bags in 2023
Thule Shield seat bag (small)
- Weight: 141g
- Price: £25 as tested
The smaller of Thule’s two Shield bags still has a capacity of 0.7l – which is enough for a wide 27.5in inner tube, multi-tool and CO2 cartridge – and is impressively waterproofed, thanks to its welded seams and roll-top closure.
It attaches to the saddle and seatpost with the usual Velcro straps, one of which is reflective, as is the rear light loop.
Carradice CarraDura Mini
- Weight: 97g
- Price: £11 as tested
This is a dinky little 0.5l bag with a small opening that will just about take the essential tube, tool, tyre levers and CO2 – but nothing more! The polyester material is tough, the zip is waterproofed and there are reflective details in addition to the reflective rear light loop.
Carradice has also managed a couple of wide elastic straps to secure a mini pump. The CarraDura is a well-priced, fully featured saddle pack if you’re travelling light.
Deuter Bag 1
- Weight: 98g
- Price: £15 / AU$25 as tested
With a rigid top and bottom, and sides that concertina, this 98g bag feels larger than its 0.8l capacity. It easily takes a couple of tubes and all the usual kit.
It’s very tidily made, has a loop zip-pull, and our experience of Deuter bags suggests it should last for years. Velcro straps secure it to your seatpost and saddle, and there are reflective details.
Evoc Saddle Bag
- Weight: 78g
- Price: £17 / $20 as tested
Evoc’s little bag is a weight weenie-friendly 78g, with a 0.7-litre volume that’ll take a pair of inner tubes at a push, tyre levers and a multi-tool. There’s a small elasticated pocket inside too, which is ideal for keys.
Fitting is the usual Velcro straps affair, and there are reflective details and a rear light loop, for what is a very nifty, tough-feeling bag.
Fizik Lin:k medium
- Weight: 79g
- Price: £19 / $30 / €23 as tested
This may only have a 0.5l volume, but the side opening – with a waterproof zip around most of the length – makes it easier to load and use than some of the other similar-sized bags.
It also means it’ll take a wide 27.5in inner tube, tool, levers and canister. The three Velcro straps keep it tight, and reflective logos and piping encircle both sides of this effective seat pack.
Lezyne Caddy (medium)
- Weight: 140g
- Price: £25 / $26 / AU$43 as tested
The 0.5-litre Caddy weighs 98g with an extra 42g for the saddle attachment. It’s a doddle to unclip the Caddy, which is chock-full of features for such a small bag: external multi-tool pocket, internal dividers and a water-resistant zip.
There’s enough room for the essentials – tube, tools, CO2 – and it boasts good build quality and easy carry-and-go portability.
Ortlieb Micro Two
- Weight: 156g
- Price: £25 / $35 / €25 as tested
Unlike the other packs on test, this has a mounting bracket that attaches to your saddle – spare brackets are available. The 0.8l pack will take a wide inner tube and more besides, but the end opening can make it slightly awkward to access.
The flipside is that the roll-top design with elastic drawstrings keeps everything inside bone dry. It’s easy to clip and unclip, and there’s a large rear reflective patch.
These bags scored fewer than four stars, but they are still worth considering if they suit your riding…
Birzman Zyklop Gike
- Weight: 66g
- Price: £16 as tested
The Gike is secure on the bike, light and small, and one for the more minimalist rider – but even with just 0.5l capacity there is still room for a road inner tube, a couple of tyre levers and a CO2 canister.
It’s the usual three Velcro straps attachment and there’s a small Velcro mesh pocket inside. The water-repellent polyester lived up to its name, although we’d have liked reflective details as well as a light loop.
Lezyne Aero Caddy
- Weight: 141g
- Price: £32 / $35 as tested
If you like to carry more than the bare minimum – perhaps adding an energy bar or two to the usual tools, tube and CO2 cannisters – then the Aero Caddy’s 1.1-litre capacity might be for you. It’ll take wider inner tubes, has a Velcro-secured inner pocket, a mesh pocket and an internal key loop.
The zip is waterproof, it has reflective logos and a light loop, and it appears tough and well made.
Topeak Aero Wedge (small)
- Weight: 98g
- Price: £14 / $20 / AU$30 as tested
The Wedge comes in three different sizes and with clip-on or buckle fittings. Our small 98g buckle-on bag has a 0.66-litre capacity and is made from tough Cordura coated with Teflon.
We’d have appreciated reflective details on the sides as well as the rear, but that’s the only downside on a sturdy bag that’ll take two tubes, a multi-tool and more.
Buyer’s guide to saddle bags: how to choose the best saddle bag for your riding
How do I choose a saddle bag?
Unless you’ve got a support crew or team car following behind, the longer the ride the more stuff you need to carry.
For example, on a weeknight club run, you won’t need loads of spares and tools, and you could go without a saddle bag.
But venture further on Sunday, solo or in a group, and a saddle bag becomes nearly essential unless you want to ram your pockets.
It’s best to save these for nutrition and spare layers.
Gravel riding requires more kit than road outings, and the same goes for long day trips on any surface.
Here, larger saddle bags and seat packs come into their own because having the right tool to fix a mechanical or extra layer for a change of weather take precedence over bulk and aerodynamics.
What do I put in a saddle bag?
Our expert bike testers reveal what they put in a saddle bag in this video.
A short, far from exhaustive list is: multiple inner tubes, gas canisters, tyre levers and, if you’ve ditched clinchers, a tubeless puncture repair kit.
You can put a pump in your pocket or strap it to your bike, but a multitool will also fit in a saddle bag.
Are saddle bags secure?
Yes, they are. The best saddle bags have sturdy straps to attach to your bike and reliable zips to hold their contents.
That makes them much more secure than the alternative. By no means do all jerseys have a zipped pocket, and many riders reserve this for valuables, such as a mobile phone.