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  1. #1
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    Overwhelmed on Rack and Pannier choices. Also, do leather saddles stain clothes?

    I'm about to start cycling to work. Previously I've been taking the bus, and then just cycling home. But since I'll be cycling to work now, I need to figure out how I'm going to carry my lunch, spare change of clothes, etc. I've already figured out that I don't like a backpack while riding. My messenger bag is falling apart and needs replacing. I don't enjoy that, either. So I'm thinking it's time to add a rack and use panniers.

    And that's where I get overwhelmed. There are so many different model racks out there, and the price is so varied I don't know what to think. Light/medium touring may be in my future, if that matters any. Just out to a campground for a few days and back, no cross continental expeditions(yet...but that'll be on a different bike). Are there brands to avoid? Features to require? Brands to trust? I don't know. Help?

    I'm also not sure where to go with panniers. I'll be packing a change of clothing(possibly two, I might start working out after work and don't want to get back into smelly nasty ride clothes for it), shoes, two meals(I eat several small meals, not 2-3 big ones) and a snack or two. I'm thinking a pair of front panniers is probably a better choice than big huge rear panniers. I might end up using both, one for smelly clothing and one for food, iPad&miscellanity, unless everything fits in one bag comfortably. Trunk bags are also an option, too. But again, I don't know what to look for. Capacity, brand, I'm clueless. Advice? I will be commuting in rain, so waterproof is a must.

    Also, I'm going to be buying a new saddle soon-comfort bike super wide saddle doesn't work for long rides. I've read&heard that brooks leather saddles are the best. I've also heard that they stain clothes, so only wear black cycling shorts. I'm willing to try leather and put the effort into breaking it in, but not if it's going to stain my clothes. So should I avoid leather, or not worry about it?

    Thanks for reading, y'all.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Ok, relax and take a deep breath. There's nothing you're experiencing that others haven't. In terms of racks and panniers, you should be thinking in terms of how much total weight you think you'll be carrying. Base rack decision on just a bit more weight than that. While many will have their personal favorites, I've never been really unhappy with any rack I've had in the last 30 years, and I've had quite a few. In terms of panniers, I think the closer you yet to water proof the better. I'm also and advocate of splitting the load. That is if you're commuting you won't need really large bags. I've tried running just one large pannier and two smaller ones. I like the two smaller ones so that when the load is small, you just take one off. OK, yes leather saddles can bleed and stain clothes. At least that's been my experiences. However, that's never stopped me from using them. I generally wear dark (navy blue or black) pants and it hasn't been a problem.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  3. #3
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    Planet Bike Eco Rack. That's all you need to know. Black or Silver, the choice is yours.

    H

  4. #4
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    I agree with NOS88 that I've also had a number of racks on different bikes over the years and all have performed well (well, almost all - I did break a Pletscher rack back in the early '70s when I was moving and loaded it with over 100 lbs. and went over some curbs). The one issue I've had with some pannier and rack combinations is when using a rack with a straight rear support together with a relatively flexible pannier the lower back corner of the pannier could sometimes swing into the rear wheel. So I now prefer a rack where the rear support leg forms a dogleg to extend a little farther back.

    For commuting I usually used panniers designated as 'front' although I put them on the back - and on most days I only carried one of them. A pair that were the house brand from Performance have held up well for me over the years. For touring and larger grocery loads I've been using the Nashbar Waterproof Rear set.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rudz's Avatar
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    Ibera PakRack plus Ibera quick release trunk bag and Nashbar waterproof panniers also.

    Sometimes I use one pannier, sometimes just the trunk bag. But I try to leave them on because I always stop on the way home to shop for food and what not.

    The quick release bag is nice and has a shoulder strap. It isn't waterproof though so I bought a cheap Chinese cover for it.

    The Nashbar panniers are definitely waterproof and huge. I had my new Tiagra crankset with box, size 14 work boots, my lunch box, and all my work stuff in the panniers today
    Giant Rapid 3- COMMUTERIZED *IBERA*Nashbar*Tiagra*105*Velocity*Selle SMP*Gatorskin
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  6. #6
    Senior Member AusTexMurf's Avatar
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    Value point:
    Toba Racks
    RackTime Racks

    Pricier:
    Tubus
    Salsa

    In town panniers:
    one RackTime Workit Pro or Ortlieb Office

    And

    Ortlieb Shopper on the other side

    Best possible combo, for me, in town…..

  7. #7
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    Don't go cheap. It's something you'll be using every day to get yourself to work. A cheap pannier can fail and/or wear out fast.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
    Value point:
    Toba Racks
    RackTime Racks

    Pricier:
    Tubus
    Salsa

    In town panniers:
    one RackTime Workit Pro or Ortlieb Office

    And

    Ortlieb Shopper on the other side

    Best possible combo, for me, in town…..
    Note to any who may not be aware, Rack Time is the economy/value brand of Tubus/Ortlieb.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
    Community guidelines

  9. #9
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sullalto View Post
    .... There are so many different model racks out there, and the price is so varied I don't know what to think. Light/medium touring may be in my future, if that matters any. Just out to a campground for a few days and back, no cross continental expeditions(yet...but that'll be on a different bike). Are there brands to avoid? Features to require? Brands to trust? I don't know. Help?

    Capacity, brand, I'm clueless. Advice? I will be commuting in rain, so waterproof is a must.

    Thanks for reading, y'all.
    1. While it is true just about any rack will work for commuting purposes, all racks are not same- some are designed for just panniers, some are better suited for trunk bags, while others can handle both at once. Also something else to consider is the rack's length in conjunction with your chain stay length. Short stays + short rack = the greater likelihood of heel strike w/panniers.

    2. As for capacity, does all of your stuff fit in your messenger bag now? Room to spare or pretty much full? Let your mess bag size help you figure what size pannier(s) you need.

    3. Waterproof can be accomplished by either the whole bag being water tight (Ortlieb is well regarded) or you can do it on the cheap by using plastic shopping bags, trash bags, ziplock bags (they come in different sizes), or a combination thereof. I usually keep a ziplock bag in all of my bags to shove my wallet and phone in if/when it rains.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
    Community guidelines

  10. #10
    Senior Member Shahmatt's Avatar
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    I have a variety of perfectly good regular backpack and messenger bags, and each I use for different purposes. One I use for sports, another for the office etc. So rather than offload and reload a bag on the bicycle I thought it might be good to find a way to simply switch bags for the purpose.

    Maybe you can consider seatpost mounted racks like the Rixen Kaul Vario Rack, Xootr Crossrack or, what I have, the Basil Baseasy rack.

    With the Baseasy rack, (rated for 5kgs and mounted on my seatpost), I bought one bracket for the bike but two racks (on the cheap for $3.50 each). I've tied on the rack to my bag permanently in such a way that it does not interfere when wearing it. There's a quick release for easy removal and hence easy switching.
    Last edited by Shahmatt; 04-02-14 at 09:23 PM.

  11. #11
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    Didja's all miss in the o.p. where they said they were 'overwhelmed by choice'?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    1. While it is true just about any rack will work for commuting purposes, all racks are not same- some are designed for just panniers, some are better suited for trunk bags, while others can handle both at once. Also something else to consider is the rack's length in conjunction with your chain stay length. Short stays + short rack = the greater likelihood of heel strike w/panniers.

    2. As for capacity, does all of your stuff fit in your messenger bag now? Room to spare or pretty much full? Let your mess bag size help you figure what size pannier(s)
    How would you tell the difference in the rack design?

    Not really. Especially not since I'll be carrying more than I have been.

    and Leisesturm-well I wanted responses. Seems like there is some good information in here...

    I also need to decide if I'm going to spring for a dynamo and light system, or get a battery powered light. And then choose lights, too.

  13. #13
    J3L 2404 gbcb's Avatar
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    You need to decide what your priorities are. These were mine:
    - Waterproof
    - Reasonably stylish (would look at home in an office environment)
    - Not too huge
    - Easy to mount/unmount

    I ended up with an Ortlieb pannier like this one. It's probably a bit bigger than I need, but it works well.

    This week I've been comfortably carrying:
    - A laptop, work documents, pens, wallet and cards
    - A portable bike pump, multi-tool and patch kit
    - My stupidly heavy Kryptonite New York chain lock
    - A jacket and hat

    And there's still room for more stuff.

    Once I had a bag I liked, I went to my LBS and told them I wanted a rack to put it on. They gave me some no-name Chinese rack that looks and works just fine and cost me about 20 bucks, if that.

    Given the loads that you're talking about, I'd suggest a pair of rear panniers, possibly something like this. That way you can separate your work stuff from your clothes (stick your dirty clothes in a bag inside the pannier to keep them separated from your clean ones).

    My advice: Figure out how much volume you're going to need (prepare and measure an average day's load in case you're unsure), figure out your priorities, figure out how much you're comfortable spending, and go from there.

  14. #14
    J3L 2404 gbcb's Avatar
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    Also, I've never had a problem with my Brooks saddles, but then again I don't frequently wear light-coloured trousers

  15. #15
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    I've been really impressed with my Ortlieb panniers. I don't commute by bike so can't comment from that perspective but have used them to haul stuff through just about all conditions.

    They are waterproof. Seriously waterproof. On one ride my water bottle tipped over inside and leaked the contents. The outside remained dry. On another ride I rode through torrential rain and hailstorms, and the contents weren't even damp. On yet another ride I forded a river that came up to the reflective patches on the back, in the rain. Again, not a drop got in.

    If I were commuting to work, carrying my work clothes in a pannier and needing them to still be presentable when I arrived, I think I'd rank being waterproof as the highest priority. And the Ortliebs seriously shine in that regard.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  16. #16
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sullalto View Post
    How would you tell the difference in the rack design?

    Not really. Especially not since I'll be carrying more than I have been.

    and Leisesturm-well I wanted responses. Seems like there is some good information in here...

    I also need to decide if I'm going to spring for a dynamo and light system, or get a battery powered light. And then choose lights, too.
    A rack designed for a trunk bag will have a flat top. Some are designed for use with a specific trunk bag. Topeak comes to mind. Topeak.jpg

    Here's a Tubus rack that doesn't work well with a trunk bag, but is great for panniers. I can mount them high or low on this rack. Notice that the top is not wide enough to really deal with a trunk bag. Tubus-Carry-Rear-Rack.jpg

    My current setup uses the Tubus rack shown, and Ortlieb FRONT rollup panniers, but used on the rear. Ortlieb.jpg I like the rollup design, because it's simple, easy to use and there's no zipper to break. As others have mentioned the Ortliebs are very good in wet conditions.

    I've enough room for clothes, lunch, laptop, and shoes. In the winter extra gloves, hat and outer layer rain jacket are included.Most days, however, I only need one, because I don't always have to carry everything listed. There is no heel strikes with this setup and my rear chain stays are just a little over 16 inches.
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  17. #17
    Captain Big Ring tractorlegs's Avatar
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    Hi Sullalto, and welcome to the asylum we call Bikeforums. There's a reason it's a dot net lol -

    1. I have a black Brooks B-17 and wear street clothes on my commutes, and they have not been stained. I also use a pair of white shorts in the summer, no stain there either. Side note: I don't use it any more because it's not comfy for me.

    2. Another option, and I'm not trying to be flippant, is to use your current backpack that you said you already don't like - but instead of putting it on your back, put it in a coke crate. I have an inexpensive generic rack that I got over ten years ago (from Performance - it is their house brand, ran maybe $15.00) and zip-tied a Coke crate to it. It's as convenient as heck and not as complicated as panniers. It also doesn't look as good, I guess , if that's an issue. But it's easy when you go to work, just toss the backpack in the crate. Shopping? It carries 2 or 3 bags of vittles. Walgreens? Convenience store? Makes my bike easier to use in a utilitarian fashion. I'm not disagreeing with the "Pannier People" and not wishing to start a fight, just presenting another option. Picture:

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  18. #18
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
    For commuting I usually used panniers designated as 'front' although I put them on the back - and on most days I only carried one of them. A pair that were the house brand from Performance have held up well for me over the years. For touring and larger grocery loads I've been using the Nashbar Waterproof Rear set.
    For commuting, your needs are generally less than touring needs so I agree, smaller panniers, generally promoted as front panniers (even if you put them on the back rack), may meet your needs for commuting.

    I had used a cheap rear rack for many years, like the one shown below, and because my bike didn't have rack attachments, I used the attachment kit, like the one shown below. I always tended to put more than I needed in the panniers such as rain gear on sunny days, 2 spare tubes (not just 1) etc. I also carried a fair bit of stuff for my work day (sometimes up to 5 days worth of clothes and a couple of days of lunches). Sometimes, I would not be carrying much and load it all on one side. As a result of all this abuse, the connector from the bottom of the rack to the seatstay (one of those loopy things shown below) gave out on the way home and the extended part of the rack nearly went into my chain or spokes (I was fairly loaded at the time, sorry, I mean, my bike was fairly loaded at the time). Therefore, I recommend that, whatever you decide to spend on your rack, make sure that, not only the rack is strong enough for your needs, that the connections to the frame are strong too.

    Also, I recommend that, especially with a heavy load, that you carry some on each side of the rack.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    3. Waterproof can be accomplished by either the whole bag being water tight (Ortlieb is well regarded) or you can do it on the cheap by using plastic shopping bags, trash bags, ziplock bags (they come in different sizes), or a combination thereof. I usually keep a ziplock bag in all of my bags to shove my wallet and phone in if/when it rains.
    I purchased a couple of 10L waterproof dry bags from eBay for about $5 each. Once the bag is packed in your home, drop the bag in your pannier, ride through the pouring rain to work, grab the loop at the top of the bag and pull it out of your pannier and pull out your dry clothes. My old panniers may have been water resistant 15yrs ago but are not much more than spray proof now: $5/dry bag was a cheap solution.
    A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice. Bill Cosby

  20. #20
    Senior Member jdswitters's Avatar
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    economy version of the above, Delta mega rack and seattle sports panniers.

    Took the brooks off of my commuter, did not have a staining problem but it needed looking after when it rained or snowed. I went with a WTB speed V, which was on my touring bike.

    If you do go brooks you only need to proof the bottom not the top and keep it dry, you will be okay.
    Torker Graduate, 288 rods a day without pub detours.

  21. #21
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    I would also consider keeping sets of clothes at work if you have the option. On non-bike days I bring in whatever it is that I need to re-stock and use it as necessary. Some days I get caught running low so I bring it with me on the bike. You will still need your setup but you can reduce the days you use it.
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  22. #22
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    Never had a problem with my selle San Marco rolls saddle in years of commuting.I think the whole staining thing is only a problem if you treat your saddle with oil or what have you.

  23. #23
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Topeak Explorer rack and Topeak trunk bag with fold down panniers. Added capacity is nice for days when you need to carry extra stuff. Also use mine for light touring. Only issue is you need to use a separate rain cover. If waterproof is a requirement, check out Ortlieb panniers. I have a set of front rollers and back rollers for longer trips. They do add quite a bit of windage, so not ideal for commuting. With panniers, heel strike is possible, but using the smaller front rollers on the rear should eliminate any issues. Think about leaving as much at work as possible (shoes, lock).

  24. #24
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    Think about leaving as much at work as possible (shoes, lock).
    + belt (I have a reversible brown/black so it serves double duty).
    A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice. Bill Cosby

  25. #25
    Senior Member SlimAgainSoon's Avatar
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    There are a lot of good panniers out there, so you are likely to be happy with whatever you choose.

    I use the Ortlieb panniers, the Backroller Classic.

    These come in two sizes (the Backroller, the bigger one, and the Frontroller, the smaller). There are other versions, too.

    Waterproof, with a simple, clever and secure means of attaching to the rack.

    Can't recommend a rack the one I use I had made for my bike by a guy in town.

    I have two leather saddles, both Brooks. One is black, the other brown. I usually ride with dark shorts, but I did have the brown one leave a stain on a light pair of shorts one time (but only once).

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