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  1. #1
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    Panniers for road bike commuter

    Hello. I was looking for some advice on panniers.

    I've been commuting a short distance (20-25 mins) at an easy pace for years. I used a backpack to carry workclothes and laptop, and could get to work without sweating.

    Now the route starts off with a long hill, and I almost always end up with a sweat on my back under the pack, unless I go very slow or dress so lightly it's uncomfortable. Soooo...thinking panniers may help.

    Anyhow, not to drone on too much, but any panniers that will fit an old steel road bike, and would have about 30-40L of space? The bike has some small eyelets that presently have fenders that will have to stay, as I live in the PNW...and it sometimes rains here. So I guess they should be waterproof to protect the computer, too.

    Thanks a lot.

    Edit to add: did a search, but couldn't narrow it down to less than 500 threads, and I gotta get to bed!

  2. #2
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Some panniers only work with some racks. It is like the chicken and egg question. Get a rack that works for your bike, and then get a bag that matches it and can hold what you truely need. After enough years I have found that what I need changes to fit the bag size. Monday and Friday, two bags to carry extra sets of work cloths to job, Tues, Wed, Thurs one bag with lunch. If your rear dropouts have two eyelet holes, no problem. One hole might handle fenders and a light rack/bag load. My tourer/commuter has only one eyelet hole. But the rack has a special eyelet hole for the fenders so the dropout area will not be cluttered. And the bottom connection on the rack has an offset to keep bags out of the wheel and make tire changes easier. See www.bgcycles.com and bring your platinum bankcard.
    This space open

  3. #3
    thunder in your heart.
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    I commute on my '76 Apollo with a rear rack and panniers. Most of the time I can get away with just one pannier, but if I do need some extra space, I can put the other one on too. I can say from experience that I don't want to ride with a backpack ever again! The loaded up rack makes the bike handle a bit differently - almost motorcyclish - but my back is no longer wet nor sore (was carrying over 20lb in my backpack). It was also a fairly inexpensive change: the rack was $15cdn; the panniers were $69cdn.

  4. #4
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC Dub
    I can say from experience that I don't want to ride with a backpack ever again!
    1+. For commuting, panniers are better than backpacks or messenger bags. Period. It's a fact. No one here will argue otherwise.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jarery's Avatar
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    I use a single pannier in the winter when i need to carry sweaters and such that are bulky and need the space.
    In the summer when my clothing to pack is a golf shirt, i can make due with a trunk bag.
    Both need a rack. i went with a cheap trek interchange rack and trunk bag, it pops off in a second and snaps back on.

    My trunk bag hasnt leaked in over an hours rain. My pannier has a built in rain cover that seems to work just as well. I always wrap my clothes in a plastic bag anyways just in case.

    You can go for Ortlieb or Arkel panniers. Both will outlast your family thru the next 5 generations. Both are also priced more than cheap ones. Cheap ones last a couple years. So if you want budget, i advise a topek or trek system, the almost instant removal is handy for commuting. If you want quality and longevity, I'd go for Arkel.
    Jarery

    -If you cant see it from space, its not a real hill
    -If two bikes are going in the same direction, ITS A RACE!

  6. #6
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarery
    So if you want budget, i advise a topek or trek system, the almost instant removal is handy for commuting. If you want quality and longevity, I'd go for Arkel.
    I commute with an Arkel T42 - the left one. Works great.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  7. #7
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Aero-panny's.

  8. #8
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    Thanks.

    That's exactly what I wanted to know. The Arkel site has tons of info.

    Anyone recommend any stuff from MEC? I don't think they carry Arkel. Which rack would you recommend from there? Mounting with the stay rubber clamps ok? I read here on another thread, most wouldn't carry their laptop in a pannier, but my ride is fairly smooth. Could I wrap it in clothes?

    Is Arkel sold around Vancouver anywhere? Thanks again.

  9. #9
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    Got the info I needed from the Arkel site. Thanks.

    One final question. Does one really need a waterproof pannier? Wrapping stuff in plastic has worked for a long time in a backpack...will a pannier soak through when the Nov. monsoons come?

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frail1
    Got the info I needed from the Arkel site. Thanks.

    One final question. Does one really need a waterproof pannier? Wrapping stuff in plastic has worked for a long time in a backpack...will a pannier soak through when the Nov. monsoons come?
    I guess you don't need a waterproof pannier, especially if you are going to wrap everything in plastic first. But a waterproof one does mean you don't have to worry about wrapping up delicates.
    Yeah, a pannier will soak through. Not only is rain falling on top of it, the wheels will spray water from the road all over them as well.
    Really, it's just a matter of money, The more expensive panniers tend to be made of sterner stuff/be more waterproof/ect. than the cheep ones. However, a pannier is nothing more than a sack. How nice of a bag do you need or can afford, go with that.

    --A

  11. #11
    One Hep Cat Joe Dog's Avatar
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    I gor some "Lone Peak" panniers from Sierra Designs on sale a long time ago. They have been great, have given me a lot of service and did not cost too much. You might check these out.

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    good to hear your moving on from back-packs! i always keep my gear/clothes in panniers (except when wearing or using them)!
    someone on this site displayed a concept that was/is really low cost and water-proof. he bought decent rack, but instead of panniers, he went to a lowles or homedepot home improvement store and got large, seal-able storage containers (+/- 5 x 10 x 14 inch) each (your choice). he used 2 stainless steel (ss) u-hooks for top mount, and i believe ss (2) bolts w/bungie for tension mount. use silicone sealer around ss fasteners.
    if you have the time to make these, you'll have a "water proof" pannier set for not so much cash as ortliebs, arkel, etc, for maybe $20.00 (total)!

  13. #13
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    I have a Radical Explorack ($45 Cdn) - it has side struts that keep the back of the pannier out of the wheel when making sudden swerves. I have cheep panniers that hook on at the top and have an elasticated hook at the bottom. This is not nearly as good as the ones that have a positive attachment latch to stop them bouncing off. I use a spring carabiner clip to hold the handles of the two bags together so if one bounces off it wont drop in the road.

  14. #14
    Specialized Crossroad XC xroader's Avatar
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    If you need to keep your work clothes need, I'll recommend the Two-Wheel Gear suit Pannier:
    http://www.twowheelgear.com/

    It is kind of a cross between a suit bag and bicycle panniers. I have been using mine for about three months with it and am very happy. They could have used better quality zippers, but a little chain lube fixed that up. They hold a lot (I carry my work clothes, boots, shower gear, lunch and coffee, to the tune of about 30lbs.) They ride well and have a good d-ring and velcro strap system that looks like it would adapt to just about any rack - I've never had a problem with it getting in the wheel, unlike my other set of sport panniers (depending on the rack, I can't put anything in the back pocket of it gets caught.)

    Good Luck

  15. #15
    thunder in your heart.
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    Quote Originally Posted by frail1
    Anyone recommend any stuff from MEC? I don't think they carry Arkel. Which rack would you recommend from there? Mounting with the stay rubber clamps ok? I read here on another thread, most wouldn't carry their laptop in a pannier, but my ride is fairly smooth. Could I wrap it in clothes?
    I've bought all my commuting related gear at MEC. For the panniers themselves, you have a few options there. I would suggest just heading down to check them out. As far as pricing goes, you won't really find anywhere cheaper than MEC.

    There are two rear racks at $15. I went with the stronger three support version which, in my opinion, looks better than the other choice as well. I saw an equivalent "name brand" rack at a bike shop for $35 yesterday.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682332283


    For panniers, I chose the basic 36L set in black. Looking at the site, they are $59 rather than the $69 I mentioned above. The 43L set is $69. I'd suggest taking your normal cargo in to MEC to fit it in the various panniers to see which ones are most suitable.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682143664

    While you're at it, pick up some Planet Bike Freddy Road Fenders to keep the majority of the water off your panniers etc.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682410543

    Good luck with commuting in Vancouver... I love it!

  16. #16
    Retro-nerd georgiaboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC Dub
    I've bought all my commuting related gear at MEC. For the panniers themselves, you have a few options there. I would suggest just heading down to check them out. As far as pricing goes, you won't really find anywhere cheaper than MEC.

    There are two rear racks at $15. I went with the stronger three support version which, in my opinion, looks better than the other choice as well. I saw an equivalent "name brand" rack at a bike shop for $35 yesterday.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682332283


    For panniers, I chose the basic 36L set in black. Looking at the site, they are $59 rather than the $69 I mentioned above. The 43L set is $69. I'd suggest taking your normal cargo in to MEC to fit it in the various panniers to see which ones are most suitable.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682143664

    While you're at it, pick up some Planet Bike Freddy Road Fenders to keep the majority of the water off your panniers etc.
    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1150682410543

    Good luck with commuting in Vancouver... I love it!
    Great posts, BChub,

    The internet links provide definite answers.

    The freddy fenders are for road bikes as I read the information. I ride a Bianchi with 23c tires. Could I install these fenders? Or is there a possibility the fenders need a certain amount of clearance?
    Would you like a dream with that?

  17. #17
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    I carry my laptop strapped to my rack in a computer backpack... it works really well as long as you remember to support the lower rear corner to keep it out of the tire!!!!

    I just bought a set of grocery panniers today... tomorrow I'm gonna just put the backpack in one of those with a strap across the top so I can put it on and off the bike faster. We'll see if the panniers hold up to the weight. (they SHOULD, they ARE made for hauling groceries, right? The laptop weighs about 8 lbs.)

    The only thing I did with the laptop is place a piece of shipping foam behind it (between the rack and the comp) for extra shock protection. The foam is black, fairly firm, but soft. Circuit city sent it with the box to ship my other laptop back to them in for repairs. After the laptop came back I reused the foam.

    Been carrying the laptop this way for 3 weeks with no problems at all.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  18. #18
    thunder in your heart.
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    Quote Originally Posted by georgiaboy
    Great posts, BChub,

    The internet links provide definite answers.

    The freddy fenders are for road bikes as I read the information. I ride a Bianchi with 23c tires. Could I install these fenders? Or is there a possibility the fenders need a certain amount of clearance?
    Right now I've got the Freddy fenders on my 27 x 1-1/4 tires (which is fairly large as far as road bikes go), and they fit fine. Any smaller tire, such as 23c (which, coincidentally, I am changing to tomorrow), you would have more toe clearance and a bit better protection from water splashing. In order to run the fenders, you need to have eyelets on the fork and the rear dropout. There are lots of threads about fenders if you search as well.

  19. #19
    Senior Member ch9862's Avatar
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    I went the same route as you - from backpack to panniers - when I lived in NoVA some 5-6 years ago. And I immediately loved not carrying anything on my back - felt more visible (colorful jerseys!), free and sweat-less .

    I bought the cheapest aluminum rack I could find, which served me well for commuting (it's still going strong on my beater bike). I also got very cheap panniers - I think from Nashbar. They're weather-proof (rode with a notebook in one in downpours; used plastic bags to protect clothing and computer, but there was no real need for it), and they served me well for ~3 years. I'm not saying that you'll mistake them for high-end panniers, but they worked well for me on ~20 miles r/t commute on paved roads.

    Others may know more though.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Neist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by newbojeff
    1+. For commuting, panniers are better than backpacks or messenger bags. Period. It's a fact. No one here will argue otherwise.
    I dunno. I kinda like my backpack.

    But I'm young and used to go hiking a lot. Maybe my back is more up to it than others.
    Quote Originally Posted by soze
    I would use something in addition to the U-lock. Like a guy named Tony with a baseball bat.

  21. #21
    genec genec's Avatar
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    The difference between backpaking and commute biking at least in the area of panniers and packing methods is something open to discussion.

    Backpackers and long term cyclo tourists tend to do things a certain way based on reaching a destination at the end of the day... so putting things into a large open bag with lots of smaller bags make sense.

    Day to day living with various stops becomes a bit more difficult. I have a set of very old Kirkland panniers with small pockets on the outside and a large center pocket. While less than waterproof, the accomodations of the smaller pockets for things like keys, wallet, cell phone, patch kit, locks and cable, toiletries, and even shoes or shoe covers makes all the difference in the world for taking care of commuting errands.

    The panniers I have looked at today generally go into the large single pocket variety, which require all these small moment by moment items to be in small bags in the larger inner bag.

    Has anybody seen a larger pannier that is organized with smaller outter pockets... much like a day book pack with all of its assorted pockets for items?

  22. #22
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neist
    I dunno. I kinda like my backpack.

    But I'm young and used to go hiking a lot. Maybe my back is more up to it than others.
    Of course I was being facetious. It is not a matter of your back being up to it. If you have a > 2 mile, stable, point-to-point commute (ie, aren't doing frequent stops or couriering) it will take a single hot day using panniers to convince you. You don't get a sweaty back and you will feel about 20 degrees cooler.

    Now, if I would just get around to trying full fenders...

  23. #23
    Senior Member Neist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    The difference between backpaking and commute biking at least in the area of panniers and packing methods is something open to discussion.

    Backpackers and long term cyclo tourists tend to do things a certain way based on reaching a destination at the end of the day... so putting things into a large open bag with lots of smaller bags make sense.

    Day to day living with various stops becomes a bit more difficult. I have a set of very old Kirkland panniers with small pockets on the outside and a large center pocket. While less than waterproof, the accomodations of the smaller pockets for things like keys, wallet, cell phone, patch kit, locks and cable, toiletries, and even shoes or shoe covers makes all the difference in the world for taking care of commuting errands.

    The panniers I have looked at today generally go into the large single pocket variety, which require all these small moment by moment items to be in small bags in the larger inner bag.

    Has anybody seen a larger pannier that is organized with smaller outter pockets... much like a day book pack with all of its assorted pockets for items?
    Something along this lines of thought but isnt really inclusive of it, is: Be sure to pack the heavier things on the bottom if you go with panniers. Its a pretty simple thing to think about, but often times its overlooked in all types of packing (camping, hiking, cycling).
    Quote Originally Posted by soze
    I would use something in addition to the U-lock. Like a guy named Tony with a baseball bat.

  24. #24
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neist
    Something along this lines of thought but isnt really inclusive of it, is: Be sure to pack the heavier things on the bottom if you go with panniers. Its a pretty simple thing to think about, but often times its overlooked in all types of packing (camping, hiking, cycling).
    Actually in day to day commuting, I tend to pack by use... there are no real heavy things except for shoes.

    The things I want easy access to would ideally be in an easy access pocket... the stuff I only need at a destination can be packed according to weight and in the deep pockets.

  25. #25
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    Aluminum Road Bike No Eyelets

    Is there any thing designed for people like me? I bought a alum road bike for weekend riding (did alllot of it) I am commuting to work with it now ala messenger style almost crashed twice due to weight shifting in the bag behind me. Is there anything I can do or am I out of luck

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