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 variety of Radical Design bags on hand, 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.
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.
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
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.