There’s nothing quite as annoying as the feeling of a wobbling saddle bag. Not only can the sway make pedaling more difficult, but it can also become very uncomfortable over a long bikepacking trip! Having been asked this question more times than I can remember, I thought it was finally time to explain all the ways I use to stop my saddle bag from swaying.
The most important step in tackling saddle bag sway is to ensure that you are packing the heaviest items first, making sure you are not overloading the bag, and tightening the straps as much as you can. These bring the weight of the bag close to the saddle, keeping it secure.
We’d suggest following the steps below in the order we discuss them, to ensure you aren’t wasting time or money on a solution that might not be necessary. If you’re considering if you can get away without taking a saddle bag, take a look at our article on how much bikepakcing bag space you actually need.
How to properly pack your saddle bag
Saddle bag sway is not only annoying, but it can also make your riding a lot less efficient. The movement of a saddle or seat bag can unbalance you, which can be the difference between successfully making it to the top of an especially tough hill.
Not only this, but the sway can cause excessive damage to the bag itself. As it sways from side to side it can rub and wear down the material over time, reducing the lifespan of an already expensive piece of gear.
We’ve established that the most important step to tackling a wobbling saddle bag is to ensure you are packing it correctly, but how do you actually do that? When packing a saddle bag it is important to understand some key principles. You want to pack the bag in such a way that the forces on the bag work with the saddle to help to triangulate the load, this will help to keep it from moving too much.
Firstly, make sure to place the heaviest items that you need to pack into the bag first (so they will sit nearest to your saddle). This helps to keep the weights close to the central attachment point for the bag and will reduce the sway.
It is also important to try and pack at least one long/stiff item into the seat bag, this will help the bag to keep its shape and be less prone to sagging. This step is more important in bags with less built-in support (typically the cheaper saddle bags).
When you’ve packed the bag, make sure to tighten it as much as possible, so it sits close to the saddle. This again works to triangulate the load and keep it close to the saddle. Each loose strap can be a cause of excess swing, and ensuring they are all done up evenly can also help with this.
Finally, it is important to note that even with the best packing in the world, if you pack your bag with too many heavy items, the bag is still prone to swinging or sagging.
How to reduce saddle bag sway
The first and most important step when it comes to reducing saddle bag sway is to properly pack the bag in the first place (See the section below for more details on how to properly pack your saddle bag).
If you’re already packing the bag properly, then you might need to try using a smaller saddle bag. Smaller seat bags will have less sway, as their central attachment point will be closer to the end of the bag and reduce the momentum they cause. Obviously, this won’t be possible in all cases, but if you can get away with a slightly smaller bag, this can help considerably.
If you’ve tried the steps above and things still aren’t better, you can take a look at the Alpkit Exo-Rail or the WOHO Anti Sway Saddle Bag Stabilizer, two pieces of gear that have both been designed to tackle the problem of a wobbling saddle bag.
These work by attaching directly to your saddle post and more securely holding the saddle bag in place. While these sound good in theory, and have other advantages such as having additional attachment points for water bottles etc, they do have some disadvantages.
These include the fact that they cannot fit standard-size water bottles, can add weight to your bike, and can increase the time it takes to remove your saddle bag from the bike itself. If not properly positioned they can also wear down the saddle at the point where they attach.
If you don’t want to invest in a specific piece of kit to hold your saddle bag more securely, consider a DIY option using velcro or ski straps wrapped through the bag and the saddle frames. This can sometimes be enough to help keep the bag in place.
How to stop your saddle bag from sagging or hitting your back wheel
Saddle bag sagging can often be as troublesome as bag sway, and in some cases worse. If the bag sagging is bad enough, it can even cause the bag to hit your back wheel.
Some bikepacking bags are specifically designed to have extra support built-in, the Mr Fusion Bag from porcelain rocket is a good example of this, however, it is very expensive!
In a similar method to saddle bag sway, you can also use velcro or bungee straps to hold the bag up so that it cannot sag enough to hit the back tire. Looping the cord through the bag and then up through the saddle post can work.
If doing this, then try to wrap the cord around the furthest end of the bag (the bit furthest from the saddle), as this is the area that will sag the most.
Another tip is to try and pack at least one straight, stiff object, into the saddle bag itself. In some cases, people use items such as their tent poles to help keep the bag straight, or if you aren’t carrying anything such as this, use a bamboo stick.
It may also be worth looking at the adjustment of your rear suspension if you have this on your bike. You may find that the bag itself is in the correct position, but that on your particular bike frame (specifically if you have a smaller frame), it is the suspension causing the wheel to come too close to the saddle for the bag to work properly. In this case, adjusting the suspension or removing the bag might be your only option.
As you can see, there are many steps you can take to try and reduce saddle sway or sag. I would suggest implementing these steps open by one to find out exactly how much effort, time, and money you should be putting in.
Some bags will be fine with simply a better focus on bag packing, whereas others may require the extra bike attachments we’ve looked at here.