Peformance Transit Epic Pannier vs. REI Novara Keystone
I am looking for budget panniers and have isolated these two as likely candidates. The volume of the Performance pannier is 2860 cubic inches and seems divided into 2 primary sections plus 2 outside pockets while the volume of the REI ones is 3,288 and it seems to have a larger primary section plus its compartments and pockets. What is the functional difference between these two volumes? For example, if I loaded one of each of these volumes entirely, what kind of weight would that represent? More like 20 lbs or more like 40 lbs? I'm looking to have them only half full, hopefully, but I'm curious about hand/back-carry-ability when I'm not on the bike. I would love to hear anybody's comments about each of these panniers. I have read all the back threads, as well.
I don't have direct experience with either one of those, but wow! the REI Keystones sound big! It's tempting to go bang-for-the-buck and get the biggest ones available, but there's drawbacks.... You tend to fill all available cubic inches, and end up carrying way too much weight.
If you're planning on getting both front and rear panniers, and need all that carrying capacity (e.g., you're heading south to Patagonia), then get 'em. But if not -- if you're planning to load up the rear rack and have nothing in front -- you'll find the load horribly balanced. Better to get small panniers for the front to carry some weight, approx. 40/60 split, front/rear. Makes the bike much more stable.
Check these out from Nashbar: Nashbar ATB panniers . They're slightly smaller than the Performance ones, and definitely 'budget'. My wife got a pair of these a few years ago and we've used them on several tours. Never had a problem with them. Not top-of-the-line, and not waterproof (never mattered because we pack everything in plastic bags). But they're a good value -- on sale, too!
Wow - I went to the store today and looked at Cannondale Overlands, which have a capacity of 2912, and they look so small! Is it really possible to have enough things for 3 weeks in there!? This would be about the same size as the Transit Epics. I also saw a Jannd Expedition pannier which had a capacity of 6800 cubic inches, expandable to 9950!!! Ultra-wow! Just picking it up empty was exhausting!
Oh yes, it's possible.... the trick is packing light. Also, half of what you carry is "on top": sleeping bag, tent, pad, plus handlebar bag.
We did a 5-week tour a couple years ago, my wife (with the Nashbar bags) carried about 25-30 lbs (fully packed, her bike+gear weighed about 60, I'm guessing her bike alone is about 30 lbs). She didn't have front panniers; this isn't ideal, but she simply refused to carry anymore weight I had front/rear panniers and carried about 45-50 lbs. Of course, I carried the heavy stuff, and the "shared" gear: tent, stove, food, tools, spare parts -- that's one of the benefits of touring in a small group.
When we went on one of our 4-day tours last summer, we used the same setup, but since we needed less gear, there was room in the panniers for sleeping bags, tent, etc.
If you can't fit 3 weeks of stuff in average-size front/rear panniers, re-pack. Ruthlessly...
Still, when you're on the road you'll need extra space once in a while: new maps, a souvenir, a watermelon for dinner, ... There are two solutions to this: mail stuff home every once in a while. And carry a stuff sack you can strap to the rack. The one I have, I carry my sleeping bag in, but it can expand large enough to carry dinner (including the watermelon) to the next campground.
Because I thought I could
I'll toss in another budget candidate - Axiom Champlains. They are in the same big category - mfg spec claims 3667 cu in/65L. I can say they are HUGE. More info here: http://www.axiomgear.com/bags_panniers/champlain.php
Mine arrived today so these are first impressions with NO riding time. Construction quality appears to be better than my Performance Transit Pros. Similar heavy material with what appears to be better water resistant coating. Bungee on top for external gear and compression straps. Mounting is better - large hooks (fit 10mm racks), a thick bungee (knotted in place but looks solid enough). There is a twisting rubber block that is used to lock the panneir in place. Interestingly, it looks based on 5 minuted fiddling with it that this twist lock block doesn't work well on my Axiom Odysee panniers (go figure - so much for design configuration control).
Comes with rain covers and set of replacement hardware. Price at aebike.com was quite good but I can't find it now in their online catalog (no idea what happened - out of stock?). Lasalle model is a little saner in size and shows up in the aebike catalog at $60 a pair.
I'll post pix and a better report when I get the chance.