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Aero Touring

How to reduce drag with dry bags

Topic: Bicycle Touring  
Categories: Bags & Packing, Equipment lists
Keywords: aerodynamic


Copyright © 2013-2014 By Jim Wilcox - (contact)

Status: Completed Aug 2013
Last update: Wednesday August 7, 2013 15:55 (US/Pacific) (edited Sun 8 Sep 2013 08:28 (US/Pacific))
1,702 hits since August 6, 2013 (hitcounts updated nightly)
3 pics

Table of Contents

The system
Details The Genesis of the Idea

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The system

Having done a lot of touring many years ago using standard bike panniers, I became intrigued by the thought of reducing air drag with some other type of carrying arrangement.

I just completed a short 120 mile trip using dry bags and a Arkel Tailrider rack bag. The dry bags are to store all I need at the end of the day, while the Arkel contains the day use items.

I attached the dry bags to the racks using two sided Velcro. I got a little wear on the forks from abrasion, so I used some strapping tape to protect the paint. Some of the black paint from the rack came off on the rear bags, but you could use tape here too. I added the red duct tape for additional protection of the bags.

Since they are stuff sacks, you can put a lot into them. Total weight of all equpment including panniers but without food or water is 20 lbs.

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Everything ready for packing

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Captain America Fully Loaded (the cat stays home)

Details: The Genesis of the Idea

I have been intrigued by the idea of using more aerodynamic touring bags instead of bulky panniers. I decided to try dry bags from water sports. I use the bags to carry my equipment needed at night, and an Arkel Tailrider for things mostly needed in the day or which won't fit in a dry bag. The dry bags can be stuffed so you can carry a lot in them. They are attached to the racks with two sided Velcro. I got some paint from the rack on the orange bags but no other noticeable wear. I added some red duct tape for good measure. The front bags were wearing the paint on the forks, so I used strapping tape to cover the the forks. It all worked well on my first 120 mile three day trip. No rain testing yet.
My biggest surprise was using my Arkel under the mattress pad to make a pillow, and then placing the cloth stuff sack with clothes on top.

Using some online calculators I estimate that I save between 150 to 300 calories in a 50 mile day (depending on headwinds) over traditional panniers. The frontal area is about 40% less than an Ortlieb Front Roller (small bag) and the cylinder shape is about has about half the coefficient of drag. The bags are about $30 each and weigh about 40% less than panniers.

Here is my equipment list:

First Aid Kit:
tampon (for puncture wound)

bike hat
lightweight polyester pants
2 pr socks
1 knee warmer
bright cycling shirt
thermal shirt
short sleeve dress shirt
small towel
light jacket or rain jacket
1 pr. Shoes
two clothespins
small cloth sack for pillow

large pot with heat exchanger
small pot/pan
modified cat can alcohol burner
windscreen/cook stand
matches in waterproof case
micro can opener
telescoping wiener roaster fork
immersion heater (cook in motel)
folding plastic cup
salt/pepper/sugar/garlic powder in small round bait cans
6 oz denatured alcohol in plastic alcohol bottle (half pint)
nut/dried fruit mix
4 power bars


4, 5 liter stuff sacks
9 double sided velcro straps (one extra)
4 mini bungee cords (two extra)
6 lightweight small stakes
6 shock cords
mattress pad
sleeping bag
aero bento box for tube, patches, tire irons

3 allen wrenches
Leatherman Squirt multi tool with pliers
patch kit
presta/schrader adaptor
2 tire irons (metal core)
extra tire (optional long trip)
needle and thread

camera (charged)
shortwave radio (Tecsun PL200 Asian Market,charged
shortwave antenna (wire)
cable lock
headlamp with velcro attachment (quad duty: riding light, camp light, hands-free light, tent light)
2 water bottles
water bladder (optional)
phone (charged)
1 credit card/1 debit card/drivers license
$60 and change
insurance card
helmet/shower cap
partial toilet roll in zip lock
lightweight case for eye glasses, sun glasses

Equipment in top bag

lightweight jacket
knee warmer
telescoping wiener roaster fork
denatured alcohol
cat can cooker
cable lock
first aid kit
two power bars
glass case

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You might note the camera mount on the handlebars. This way the bike becomes a tripod for pics of me.

"Aero Touring" Copyright © 2013-2014 By Jim Wilcox - (contact). All rights reserved.
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