I read somewhere that when riding with a single pannier, the pannier should be mounted on the left side (traffic side in the US). However, the article didn't give a reason behind that. It's been quite some time and I can't find the article again for reference.

I initially thought that it was so that the reflectors on the panniers wouldn't mislead motorists as to where on the road I, the cyclist, was positioned. However, after noticing this evening that a pannier mounted on the traffic side of the bike blocked the visibility of my girlfriend's seat post mounted light, I began to question this.

Is there any reason to ride with the pannier on one side or the other? Does it matter it all?

  • I've always thought the reason is because of the reflectors, but I'm not sure the pannier would have been intended to block out taillights, that sounds like a design flaw somewhere. I have one bike that I can fit panniers to, but they don't obscure the light.
    – PeteH
    Apr 19, 2014 at 6:42
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    Most people I see with one pannier have it on the traffic side. I (and they I suppose) think it forces car drivers to keep that much further away.
    – andy256
    Apr 19, 2014 at 6:46
  • I have a light that mounts on the back of my rack partly for this reason. The other reason is because I have another bag that goes under my saddle which doesn't fit if I have a light mounted there.
    – Kibbee
    Apr 19, 2014 at 13:37
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    In my opinion it makes no difference. Since I tend to dismount on the right side, I usually use the right pannier if using only one, since that's quicker to access. And if you lean the bike or put it in a rack somewhere, one side may work out better than the other. Apr 20, 2014 at 3:04
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    When there's a rack on the bike, any taillight should be mounted on the rear of the rack, or some other surface that's that far to the rear. Under the seat is not sufficient. Aug 24, 2015 at 22:16

6 Answers 6


I wasn't aware of a rule for this, but I would hang a single pannier on left because it's the non-drive side of the bike. I doubt it matters though.

When I was buying a new rear wheel a few months back, I found the spoke patterns in some rear wheels are different on one side to the other, so I don't know if this would make a difference.

(I'd have added this as a comment, but it informs me I'd need 50 rep for that, hence the "answer".)


I'm primarily a daytime rider; if I'm riding with two panniers I mount the one on the left first because that is the side with my kickstand, and putting weight on the left (kickstand) side of the bike is more stable for me than the right hand side.

If I'm riding with a single pannier I generally mount it on the left for most bicycles. It is:

  • more stable when resting on the kickstand
  • easier for me to swing a leg over
  • easily accessible for removal when I've parked the bike as I dismount to the left

Most people have their single pannier on the left side for balance reasons because they are using single-leg kick-stands, which usually mount on the non-drive-side.

I have a double-leg kickstand so it doesn't matter which side I mount the pannier -- at least for balance reasons.

So I mount it on the right (drive) side. The reason I do this is because when I'm walking the bike, I walk on the left (non-drive) side. Having the panniers on the drive side means that I am not bumping my legs/hips against the panniers.

Having the pannier on the right side also means that I have better visibility of the mounting points as I stand on the left side trying to attach and detach it. Some panniers have easy attachments that you could do blind, but my ones require just a tad of fussing.

Fine print: I should note that my office-bag pannier was not symmetrical so I had to flip the mounting points to mount it on the right -- i.e., it came from the factory (Ortlieb) designed to be mounted on the left (nds) side, but was easily reversible.


Firstly, your girlfriend has her light mounted incorrectly. If at all possible move it further back on the bike, so that the tyre and frame don't block the view of it. If the light is designed to be mounted there it's a poor design.

Having the big block of colour/reflectors on the road side sounds like a good idea. But the pannier will still be visible on the other side of the bike, so it's more a matter of having it slightly further out. That also means the clean side of the pannier is facing traffic turning from the other side of the road, helping potential T-bone drivers see you.

I think it depends on whether you're buying one pannier or a pair. Generally people buy panniers in pairs so they can use both when they want to carry more stuff. And you want the pair to wear evenly, so you don't end up with one ratty old worn-out pannier paired with a nearly new one. So it's best to alternate the panniers from time to time.

If you buy symmetrical panniers this isn't an issue - you can keep using your single pannier on the outside, just swap them over occasionally (so the former "left" side pannier now sits on the right, and vice versa). With larger rear panniers they're often asymmetric, though, so you can't do that. I'm not sure the advantage of having the pannier on the traffic side is so great that I'd be willing to wear that pannier out leaving the other side one much less worn. Maybe buy two of the traffic side one?

  • Nothing is mounted incorrectly. It's not the tire and frame that blocks it, it's the pannier. It's a seatpost mounted light with a Timbuk2 Shift pannier, which just sits high up on the rack. And the seatpost is a suspension seatpost, so the light has to be mounted low. You can see the light just fine from behind, but as you pass it just kind of disappears behind the pannier.
    – jimchristie
    Apr 19, 2014 at 13:57
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    Sounds like you're both kind-of right: it's an unlucky combination of pannier and light position. My solution would be to add an extra rear light, mounted on the pannier if necessary, and have the pannier wherever is most comfortable for her.
    – Chris H
    Apr 19, 2014 at 18:29
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    @jimirings the light might be mounted as designed, but if you can't see it from behind the bike it's mounted incorrectly.
    – Móż
    Apr 19, 2014 at 22:57

I put blinkies on my panniers (there's a little strap thing on them for that purpose), so if I'm only running one, I put it on the left partly so that the blinky blinks at traffic.


Are you sure the reason for the left side of the bike has to do with the side of the roads cars should hold?

I always mount my pannier on the left side, but I chose to do that just to better balance the bike: I would guess that the transmission with the chain, cogs, derailleur, etc.. all to the right of the wheel axis should even so slightly make the bike heavier on the right side.

The other practical reason why I chose to do that is that this way I am positive my pannier won't interfere with the gear mechanism (e.g.: the pannier pushing the derailleur towards the inside on a bump, a loose strap getting caught between cogs and chain, the chain itself smearing grease on the pannier...)

These are my reasons to mount it on the left, no guarantee they are the reasons behind the article you read! :)

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    I slightly prefer the right side because it protects my rear derailer from damage. Apr 20, 2014 at 22:23
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    @DanielRHicks whereas I (and many of the other users of the bike shed at work) prefer the left for the first pannier - it seems to be a matter of personal preference possibly associated with handedness. This is in the UK where we ride on the left, so it doesn't risk obscuring lights etc., but does mean anything hi-vis on the pannier itself is to the left.
    – Chris H
    Apr 21, 2014 at 10:29

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