Radical Design Pannier System

Radical Design bags on a Street Machine Gte in the Adirondacks
Radical Design bags with 100 liters of capacity on a Street Machine Gte in the Adirondacks. Requires only a single rear rack. Notice how the bags are behind the seat and mostly out of the air stream. Little Radical Design GPS Pouch on the front tube. I was carrying too much luggage on that trip; I didn’t need the dry clothes… because it rained every day.

Radical Design bags are a terrific solution for recumbent riders.

They’re designed to fit a wide range of recumbent bikes and recumbent seat shapes. Many designs require no rack. The bags are lightweight. And they’re aerodynamic.

I offer an in-depth explanation of Radical Design products here. If you want to view the full line-up and detailed descriptions, visit the Radical Design website.

I keep a large stock of Radical Design bags in stock, so please call me to order. This phone call is important because these bags are unique.  It’s helpful to have someone who uses them (me) explain how they work and the use-cases for the various models.

The key reason that Radical Design bags are a good choice for recumbent riders is, first of all, they’re designed specifically for recumbent bikes. Secondly, they use a strap system to hang from seats or racks instead of the fixed attachment system of other “standard” pannier and rack-top bags. Thirdly, many of the Radical Design bags do not require a rack or any special attachment system.

Three things are great about the fact that you may not need as many racks — or possibly no rack at all: you save money by not paying the cost of both a rack plus the pannier; you save weight (1-5 lbs.) by not adding the rack; with the size large side panniers (75 liters) you get the same amount of storage as two rear panniers (at 20 liters each) plus two small underseat panniers (at 10 liters each) without the additional weight and cost of the underseat rack and the second pair of panniers. Very cool.

The seat-back bags (10-12 liters capacity) hang securely from the back of the seat, the small “banana racer” panniers (25 liters capacity) hang from the bottom of the seat. The larger bags (40-75 liters capacity) do require a rear rack, but in some cases will work fine without a rack (e.g., the size medium works OK on a Cruzbike Quest without a rack but needs either a bungee or some clever knot-tying as well as a fairly relaxed notion of what is “good enough”). The size large requires a rear rack in all cases.

Notice how the Ortlieb panniers mounted here on a Grasshopper fx's a low-rider rack hang into the air stream. Great bags, but inefficient.
Notice how the Ortlieb panniers mounted here on a Grasshopper fx’s a low-rider rack hang into the air stream. Great bags, but inefficient. And that second low-rider rack adds cost and weight.

Radical Design bags are lightweight because they use nylon webbing and light nylon plastic buckles to attach to the seat and rack instead of the heavy metal hardware and stiffening materials required for traditional high quality panniers like Ortliebs. (I loved my Ortliebs, but I threw them over for Radical Design bags.) RD bags also use strong but light-weight heavy duty nylon fabric.

Radical Design panniers are highly aerodynamic, sitting almost entirely in the wind shadow of the rider. It’s not just the shape and design; it’s where they sit on the bike.  The seat back and rack-top bags attach directly to the back of the seat so they’re entirely out of the wind. The side panniers, even the huge 75-liter large size, sit mostly behind the rider. There is a small cross section that will hit the slipstream below the rider but the rest of the bag is entirely behind that cross-section and the seat.

It is an absolutely incredible experience the first time you load up for a tour with Radical Design bags. If you’ve toured with standard panniers, you’re used to the bike handling like a pig once it’s loaded and then being slower than heck when you catch a headwind or try to get some speed down a hill to help carry you partway up the next hill. With the Radical Design bags, the weight is distributed along the back of the rider, and then, when you have a headwind, there is very little added air resistance. It’s amazing. And fun.

Who the heck would put panniers on a Cruzbike Vendetta? This guy. These look like Radical Design's banana racers with 25 liters capacity. Notice they're entirely out of the slip stream.
Who the heck would put panniers on a Cruzbike Vendetta? An Englishman. These are Radical Design’s banana racers with 25 liters capacity. Notice they’re entirely out of the slip stream. I’d need at least another 10 liters to tour, but you see how he did it.

I personally use Radical Design bags on Cruzbikes and HP Velotechniks and can recommend which bags work with which models based on real world demands. Just ask. By the way, I use a Radical Design seat back bag as my “every day” bike bag. I love it.

Did I mention all their bags have 3M reflective bands on them? They do.

A very sensible product.

Capacity? In “liters”?

Here is another way to imagine the capacity of the Radical Design bags.

For me, 35 liters is enough carrying capacity for a daily commute or a light-load summer tour in a predictable environment. This is just shy of the capacity of two traditional rear panniers.

My pack list for light-load tours:

Shelter system: small 35 deg. 800-power down sleeping bag, minimalist backpacker bivvy and tarp with poles and stakes, small ground cloth, ultralight backpacker air mattress

Clothing system: top and bottom riding tights, thin high-viz top windproof insulating layer, 2 pr socks, glove liners, high-viz gloves, warm wind-proof skull cap, “cyclists” cap with short bill, high-viz helmet, 800-power down vest, ultra-light wind/rain layer for top, bottom and hands, riding-glasses, reading glasses

Cruzbike Quest 20 with Radical Design Banana Racer below seat, Solo Racer at mid-seat, and Solo Aero on back of seat, totaling 47 liters of carrying capacity. More than enough for a town-to-town tour, no matter how far or long.
Cruzbike Quest 20 with Radical Design Banana Racer below seat, Solo Racer at mid-seat, and Solo Aero on back of seat, totaling 47 liters of carrying capacity. More than enough for a town-to-town tour, no matter how far or long.About the capacity. I use the metric “liters” because it’s what the manufacturer uses and I’ve gotten in the habit of thinking in those terms. Four liters equals 1.05 gallons. A way to think about this is to imagine an empty one-gallon water or milk container and how much stuff you can shove in that space.

Tools: basic and minimal repair and first aid kits

Food/water/eating: 2-liter hydration bladder, baggies for food leftovers/day-snacks/breakfast; spork, cup/bowl, single-edge razor blade as knife

Misc: money, credit cards, smart phone with charger, maps, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, sunscreen, lip balm, headlamp

Lighting system: hub dynamo light system on bike

Shoes: walkable cleats

That’s basically it. I can load everything I’ll probably need, but I’m assuming moderate weather and the availability of shops. There’s no space for a cooking system. I anticipate eating no-cook meals and, otherwise, getting fresh food from grocery stores or restaurants. This is partly because, in a front-country — town-to-town — trip, I often stop at gas station markets to use the bathrooms and pick up water. I don’t like to take on water from streams next to roads. And I feel it’s rude not to buy something if I use the bathroom, so I end up getting a lot of my food on these stops.

The Radical Design rack top bag. It mounts on the rack and is also attached to the seat. It sits in the slipstream behind the rider.
The Radical Design rack top bag. It mounts on the rack and is also attached to the seat. It sits in the slipstream behind the rider.
The Radical Design Solo Aero bag. It mounts on the seat, in the slipstream behind the rider.
The Radical Design Universal Racer bag shown butterflied so you can see how the webbing works. It sits in the slipstream behind the rider.
The Radical Design Universal Racer bag shown butterflied so you can see how the webbing works. It sits in the slipstream behind the rider.