Can You Ride With Just One Pannier?

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Can you and should you ride with just one pannier attached to the rear rack of your bike? Using a single pannier can be a very practical way to carry your stuff while commuting to work or riding around an urban environment. Unless you plan on doing bicycle touring and need to carry lots of stuff, a single pannier on the left side of your bike can be a great option. It allows you to carry the right amount of personal belongings without adding to much weight to your bicycle while commuting.

You can use a single pannier while commuting to work if you don’t need to carry too many items. Using one pannier will make your bicycle lighter, and allow you to use a single pannier thats easy to attach and remove. Most single panniers are attached to the left side of your bicycles rear rack. What makes single panniers more popular than double panniers is that they are easier to remove, and some even turn into backpacks when not attached to your bike.

One vs double pannier

Double panniers do allow you to carry double the items that you may need. And also doesn’t unbalance your bike when using the kickstand, or while putting your foot down when stopping at red lights. Depending on how much you carry, too much weight on the right side when putting your foot down can cause your back wheel to slip out from under you.

With a single pannier, the problem can be even worse, because you don’t have a second pannier on the left side with weight to balance it out.

To solve this problem, put your single pannier on the left side of your bike, opposite of your drivetrain. It’s also helpful to pull over and put your left foot on the curb. This keep your bicycle from leaning over too much, and helps prevent it from kicking out from under you.

Another helpful tip is to use your right foot to get your bike moving forward by kicking back against the curb. This helps greatly, especially while carrying heavy loads up hills.

For those that put their foot down while riding in the road

If you’re the type of cyclist that prefers to ride in the road with traffic, using the curb to help keep your bicycle balanced isn’t an option. In this situation what you want to do is stop completely, put your foot down on the opposite side you have your pannier. Then get off the seat. And then put your other foot down while holding your bicycle completely straight upward.

When starting again from a complete stop, put one foot on the pedal. Start pedaling with that foot to get the bicycle moving. Then put the other foot on the opposite pedal. And then sit back down on your seat.

Using clip less pedals

For those using clip less pedals while commuting with a single pannier, things will be a little trickier. If you unclip your left foot when stopping at red lights, make sure your single pannier is mounted on that same side.

Why would you use just one pannier while riding?

There’s a few reasons why you would choose to use a single pannier over a double pannier. Unlike bike touring, you don’t need to carry a tent, bicycle tools, extra water, food, etc. Your daily commute doesn’t require you to be away from civilization for many days at a time.

Most likely you’re going to need to carry at most, extra clothes to change into once you arrive at work. Regular shoes if you ride clip less into work. Some wipes to quickly clean up. And of course your lunch.

Using a single pannier to commute will make your bicycle feel much lighter while starting from a complete stop. It will also make hill climbing and wind resistance much easier to deal with. If your pannier is light enough, you might not even notice the weight difference compared to when it’s not attached to your bicycle. Just make sure you don’t pack your pannier with too much weight or it can cause your bicycle to become unbalanced and tip over.

Benefits of using a single pannier

Many double panniers use straps to attach to the back rack of your bicycle. These straps can be time consuming to undue, especially if you’re pressed for time. Then once you remove them, they can be very awkward to carry. If you have to carry other things in your hands also, this can make it extremely challenging.

What makes single panniers much better for commuting is that they are usually easier to remove. High quality panniers usually have clips that attach to your rack, with straps on the bottom to keep them from swinging all over while riding.

Then once you arrive at your destination, you can easily remove your pannier and carry it into work, coffee shops, stores, etc.

What I recommend

My personal preference when it comes to single panniers is the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible.

This pannier can be installed or removed from the rack of your bike in seconds. And then becomes a backpack, leaving your hands free to carry other items or perform tasks.

The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible also has tons of pockets, reflective material, and a reflective rain cover for those rainy days.



The problem with a single pannier

A bicycle with a fully loaded pannier can be very awkward to handle. Add enough weight and it can feel like a workout trying to keep it straight while lifting. It’s harder to maneuver through doors because the backend keeps twisting to one side. And the pannier also adds extra width.

Walking up or down steps are extremely challenging. That’s because it’s difficult to keep the backend high enough to prevent the back wheel from hitting the steps.

Pedaling up hills or through wind can also be more challenging. The extra weight makes the bike harder to get moving from a complete stop. The weight can make the bike less stable while turning around corners. And the wind can catch the pannier, making it act like a sail. It can also make it harder to stop, so be more aware of what’s going on around you. And give yourself more time to stop in case of an emergency.

Do you usually ride a heavy bike or a road bike?

If you’re use to riding a heavy bike such as a touring bicycle that’s fully loaded, then a heavy single pannier shouldn’t be much of a problem. Most likely you’re use to riding a heavy bike and know exactly how to handle it.

On the other hand, if you usually commute on a road bike, it can present a few problems. The extra weight can cause you to tire out much quicker. Dramatically reduce your speed. And even cause the bike to feel unstable or about to do a wheely on occasion. This is very obvious when carrying a single pannier that weighs over 6kg.


Using a single pannier for urban commuting can be a great option when you don’t need to carry too much stuff. It is much lighter than a double pannier, and usually much easier to install and remove. And if you get one that turns into a backpack while not on your bike, can be a very convenient option.

Of course it can be harder to keep your bicycle from falling over at times. And can make your bike harder to walk with or carry. But once you get use to carrying one, you’ll ask yourself why you haven’t tried one sooner.


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