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My 3 kids ride their bikes to school and carry 20 pound back packs stuffed quite large. They won't fit in any pannier I can find.

I've considered hanging them off the side of the pannier with bungies to keep them from shifting, and perhaps a sheet of stiff plastic to keep them out of the spokes.

Side baskets are too large for them to fit their bike @ the bike rack @ school. I've also considered a very narrow basket on top of the rack but puts the center of gravity high, makes it harder to swing their leg over the bike, etc.

Looking for better ideas.

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    Talk to the school about it. Seriously. Kids shouldn't be required to carry such heavy loads just to get to school. The kids should be able to carry their own backpack on their back. Try to get something good with a waist strap to get the weight off the shoulders. – Kibbee Apr 19 '16 at 19:27
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    @Kibee a waist strap steadies the bag but doesn't take much weight. A hip strap takes weight but if I'm riding to a hike I undo it or it presses on my stomach. I find a chest strap very helpful riding with a backpack, to stop it swinging around. – Chris H Apr 19 '16 at 19:51
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    They're carrying too much stuff. What do they carry - all their textbooks, a laptop, gym gear, lunchbox and water bottles? Leave stuff at school in their lockers. – Criggie Apr 20 '16 at 3:07
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    Wald has folding baskets. Have you considered these? I believe they also offer liners for them as well for small things. Another question, do you escort your kids to school as well? – BPugh Apr 20 '16 at 13:55
  • You can buy copies of books used in school so the kids can avoid carrying textbooks home. 20 lbs is a lot for a kid to carry in a backpack. – Batman Oct 31 '16 at 15:40

10 Answers 10

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I too had this problem and found a somewhat unique solution. I explored using a pannier, but since I carry a laptop daily, I was worried about what would happen if the bike slipped on the ice and crushed my laptop bag (something that actually happened to me as a teenager)

Like you stated, baskets are too tall and cumbersome, so instead I found a 19 by 13 inch metal serving tray and mounted it with heavy duty rubber straps. It even matches the color of my bike panniers so I think it's a good solution. It's very freeing to be able to carry so much on my bike without the constant weight on my shoulders.

Backpack strapped into 19 by 13 inch metal serving tray

Since the laptop sits at the bottom of the backpack, I feel like the metal walls of the tray should absorb the shock of a slip or fall and protect it inside. So far I've received multiple compliments on this design. It's been over a year now on my bike and has held up well.

  • Looks decent - the main risks are if the back of your thighs or heel of foot touches the tray while riding, plus that your overall mass is now higher up and further back which changes the balance/tippiness somewhat. Overall, good solution. – Criggie Sep 8 at 4:33
  • @Criggie Legs touching hasn't been an issue for me. Bike racks are designed to hold a crate far enough back to avoid that. – Benjamin Sep 8 at 14:57
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I have this challenge with my elementary school bike rider.

The posters who advise you to have kids take less stuff are shifting the blame away from answering your question, because what should they leave behind? They are all necessities: a lunchbox (reusable, because that's the better school choice), a water bottle (lead in school pipes), a folder, a writing journal, and a library book or two. You just can't find a kid backpack under $80 that will fit a folder and be durable.

One option: grocery panniers. I have an Arkel similar to this Banjo Brothers pannier. It's decent enough and fits the daughter's backpack, although it's tight.

My friend's daughter has the Ballard Market bag from Detours. It's a nice bag, but pricey ($90), and a bit small if your child carries a lunch.

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Visit some grocery stores and dollar stores find a place that will donate a milk crate. Use heavy duty zip strips to attach milk crate to the bike rack. Throw backpack into milk crate on the way to school. If back pack comes out, you're riding too crazy. If backpack doesnt fit, you have too much crap in backpack. Have a good day.

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    Or buy something similar from an office supply store legitimately... the assorted things I carried there in college ranged from the sane to the insane. – Chris Stratton May 12 at 3:44
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I know this is late, but I've found a couple of possibilities.

1) The Arkel "Bug" converts quickly from backpack to pannier, and holds a lot of stuff. (Downside: It doesn't stand up by itself.) The Vaude Cycle 22 and Cycle 28 are also good convertibles.

2) Not to sound like an Arkel ad, but I generally put a backpack into an Arkel shopping bag pannier, and that works out really well. It even protects the backpack from rain and mud while riding. I have several packs that fit into it ... I think anything up to about 12" wide.

3) I just got one of these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00521GWDQ/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3AXSEGOILU14U As is, the straps are a little short for a big backpack, but I think I can fit an extra piece in to lengthen the main strap. Then I have to attach it to the bike's rack somehow, but I think the end result will be worth it.

  • Its hard to avoid but we prefer not to make specific product recommendations. Consider focusing more on the features of the item rather than the brand. – Criggie Oct 28 '16 at 21:22
  • Thanks, @Criggie. I would make more generic recommendations, but in this case, I've tested and re-tested many different brands and models, and have very specific differences. See, for example, here: humanpoweredvehicles.net/2016/09/… – Tech Curmudgeon Oct 31 '16 at 15:33
  • I'm not saying that last link (vario rack) isn't nice -- in fact I want one. But the Q asks about large backpacks, and with a weight limit of 7kg that doesn't fit my definition of large (though it's closer to the OP's at ~9kg). This limit is probably realistic as the klickfix mount is only plastic and tends to rotate round the bars anyway. If you could put a large (for me) backpack on that rack, you wouldn't be able to see over the top of it! – Chris H Oct 31 '16 at 16:25
  • I agree, Chris H. I'm not planning to use the rack with a Klickfix mount at all. The rack itself is tubular aluminum, and seems very sturdy. I suspect the weight limit is more for the Klickfix part than for the rack itself. – Tech Curmudgeon Nov 2 '16 at 14:37
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I use a large, open pannier whenever I want to carry a large backpack or duffel bag on my bike (it is similar to a grocery pannier, but it's not really meant for carrying stuff without the bike). Since it's wide and doesn't have a top, large items usually fit in without problems (they may stick out, but they can be made secure with tightening straps on the pannier). The pannier is meant to stay on the bike (I have mine secured with cable ties to prevent someone from walking away with it). This is what it looks like (but I'm sure there are other similar products out there):

https://www.greengurugear.com/collections/bike-gear/products/freerider-31l-pannier

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You might want to look into convertible backpack panniers. Mine is a little small by your standards but comes in a bigger version. It's cheap and not hard wearing so I wouldn't recommend it, but when I was looking there were proper bike luggage brands selling comparable bags with better mounting hardware.

Since I posted this a year ago, the options for convertible panniers have got better.

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20lbs on one side of the rack is probably going to be a problem anyway. I would look at a fixed pannier on one side of the bike with a hook on the top of the rack to allow the backpack to hang opposite the pannier. Put a sheet of plastic or plywood to stop the backpack going into the wheel :) The take some of the heavy stuff and put it in the pannier.

My reckoning when I was hiking a lot was that the limit is 1/4 their weight in their backpack for an adult (if they're fit and strong), or 1/5th for a kid. So you're looking at 100lb+ kids, I hope. The kids I see struggling round with oversize backpacks worry me, most of them seem to be carrying far too much weight. And I too have not seen a pannier that would take one of those backpacks.

The problem with all the backpack-panniers I've seen is that they're not very scuff-resistant, and they're not really designed to survive what kids backpacks go through.

  • Have you looked at the Arkel Bug? I've had one for several years (daily commuting use) and found it to be very scuff-resistant. That being said though, the backpack straps are not the most comfortable. – newenglander Apr 18 '17 at 13:31
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I would think smaller panniers and maybe a trunk in conjunction with the backpack. Say, ~5 lbs of books in each pannier, and the balance in the backpack (probably the notebooks... as they'll not fit in smaller panniers anyway)... then the lunch in the trunk-- unpack books from panniers into backpack at school and then pop-off the lunch-trunk on separate straps

For panniers, something like the nashbar daytrekkers or something similarly inexpensive (less than $50 and easily mended)... The idea with these is that they stay on the bike--empty when the child is away.

The trunk can be hard or soft-sided... soft-sided trunks will need rigid lunchboxes, hard-sided not so much... however... soft-sided are easier to throw in the wash to clean when the inevitable spills happen.... or it gets smelly...Also, some lunchboxes could be bungie-ed down, so may not need a trunk...

Overall the budget for such an endeavor, for three riders, would be (excluding labor, bikes, lunchboxes, backpacks--all you should already have) at least $25 for a rack, $50 for the daytrekkers, and another $40 for a trunk... that's around $115 per rider... best case.. in reality, I'd expect it to be somewhere closer to $150 per rider... that's about $450 for the three. Keep in mind that you'll need support for the panniers on the racks if you get seatpost style racks as well... to keep the panniers out of the rear wheels. It is also possible to get some 'water proofing' shower cap style covers that will fit the panniers to keep them dry while transiting and while the bike is parked. Fenders should also be considered. Although, some bikes are provided with proper fenders...

If the lunchbox can be retained with the daytrekker's provisions, and the rack+fenders are already present... the budget falls to just the cost of the daytrekkers...

  • Another bonus is that when the kids are at school, they have the same single-backpack look that the other kids do. And, if they don't want to, they can leave the panniers empty. Using smaller panniers means there is less chance of the pannier interfering with the rider's heel on smaller frame sizes. – david1024 Jul 26 '16 at 17:54
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I'd ask first what's wrong with just wearing the packs? If they were adventure racing long distances, I'd say get the bags on the bike for sure. But for commuting, I've always found a backpack to be superior. It's easier to balance a heavy load since the weight can be moved dynamically with you. Additionally there is not fiddling with a rack or panniers at your destination, and low likelihood of forgetting you pack on your bike. As long as the pack is not so large (above the shoulders) that a helmet can still be worn with the head upright, I've never had a problem riding short distances, even with fairly heavy backpack.

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    A backpack may work for a kilometer, and with a stretch for two kilometers. Once you get to commuting distances that actually allow your body to reach working temperature (anything further than five kilometers), you just sweat like hell under the backpack. One kilometer, however, is not what I would call a commuting distance. That's just going round the corner... – cmaster Feb 3 at 22:42
  • There are plenty of packs out there made with relief or airflow areas that prevent overheating. I commuted for years with various backpacks that didn't have that problem. – Deleted User Feb 4 at 14:49
  • While it's true that a backpack makes your back hotter and wetter, it's not impossible. And for a couple of casual miles as a child might ride to school, no big deal. Further, when you're doing serious miles you're going to be in constant sweat mode anyway; I wore one through a minimally supported century last summer, because the unusual type of frame I was using for that ride precluded any other option. – Chris Stratton May 12 at 3:47
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Best way is sidestep the problem altogether.

I take my kids on their bikes if I have time. If I don't take them they don't go by bike. I solve the bag problem by carrying all the bags myself. I have a home made pannier very cheap, very simple as you can see in the picture. It's quite wide and has two projections so I can hang a bag off each side at the back and they're kept out to the sides clear of the wheel. Where the shopping is hanging in the picture. Usually I have my laptop and tools where my little daughter is sitting as well.

I've had more stitches than frankenstein so I'm not going to look much worse with a few scrapes if something goes wrong. But I'm not interested in losing a kid or getting my girls scarred up.

enter image description here

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    Sitting your daughter there is a serious injury just waiting to happen. Please don't do that. – David Richerby Oct 31 '16 at 19:19
  • @DavidRicherby you must be kidding – Kilisi Nov 1 '16 at 4:00
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    No, I'm absolutely serious. For a start, what's protecting her from getting her feet minced by your rear wheel? Not those little sandals, that's for sure. – David Richerby Nov 1 '16 at 8:25
  • @DavidRicherby I'm not an idiot, her feet cannot reach the spokes or even get close, it's a wide rack and the front spreads her legs out. It's the same width as my laptop case. Not a great angle on the photo, but take my word for it. Also I ride extremely slowly and carefully when taking my kids. – Kilisi Nov 1 '16 at 10:11
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    I have a 2 inch scar on my left heel from when I was 5-6 riding on the back of my grandfather's bicycle, much the same way your daughter is. My heel went into the spokes, I went to the ER, my grandfather felt terrible. While your daughter might not "normally" be able to stick her heel into the spokes, consider what might happen if you swerved to avoid a hazard in the road and she nearly fell off, her body's rotation could easily cause her to tip and jam a foot into the spokes, turning a bruiser into permanent disability. – RoboKaren Sep 13 '17 at 18:29

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