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Old 05-02-11, 05:06 AM   #1
luxlumis
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Isnít there a better solution than panniers?

After 3 loaded tours (2 short tours with 2 panniers and 1 long tour with 4 panniers), I wonder if traditional panniers are really the best solution.

I carry a lot of stuff (believe me, I know!) and I donít want this to be a discussion about why or what I could do to carry less. Just accept this part as a given.

I should also mention that I have been using Ortlieb panniers. I donít necessarily think that they are the best panniers. I donít have any comparison to render a judgement. The reason why I got them was simply, that they were the cheapest quality panniers available to me (Iím from Germany). Also for me the fact that theyíre water-proof is not a disadvantage. I didnít have problems with mouldy contents up to now, but I was often grateful that I didnít have to wrap everything in plastic bags individually. Also, as far as I could see (but feel free to tell me different), they were the panniers with the best volume/weight ratio. The rear panniers take 40l and weigh 2070g, the front panniers take 30l and weigh 1680g.

However, I would have liked more space. I also found that itís difficult not to waste space when packing. You can compress clothes and sleeping gear, but cooking gear and food is a different matter, as well as stuff thatís not be squashable. And I didnít want to mix everything to save space.

Although the Ortliebs have a good weight/volume ratio, I canít help but think that it could be a lot better. Every pannier has to be fixed to the bike, which requires some kind of hardware, which adds weight to the pannier. So my feeling is, each pannier should be as big as possible without creating problems like heel strike etc.

Another issue is that itís not easy to handle 4 individual pieces of luggage. I probably could have put the contents of the panniers into 2 medium sized duffle bags, which would be a lot easier to handle off the bike - plus airlines and bus services often have a ď2 piece limitĒ and charge extra if you have more then that. I had to rope the panniers together to comply with the limit - after all, I already had to pay extra for the bike.

The bottom line is: panniers are acceptable on the bike, but a PITA off the bike. They have a lot of self-weight. They are small. They are difficult to handle.

Isnít it possible to carry stuff on the bike in a better way?

I have been ogling the Big Dummy for the simple reason that it seems to be possible to use it with ďnormalĒ luggage - and load it a lot easier. Wouldnít it be possible to use a similar system on a normal touring bike? Has anybody ever tried something like this? Or - even better - are there commercial solutions that I simply donít know about?

I would go for a Big Dummy, but I think itís a lot more difficult to take on the plane or on the bus. I wonder why there are no touring bikes out there that simply offer a bit more rack space - somewhere in the middle of a normal bike and a long tail bike (the Arvon long tail seems to be almost as long as the BD). 10cm more on the rack would make a lot of difference when loading the bike, but would probably not make a huge difference when taking it on the plain/train/bus.
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Old 05-02-11, 05:39 AM   #2
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There are racks that extend back a little further. You could also have one made custom.

I use Deuter panniers. They go on in 2 seconds. At the end of the day you simply lift them off the bike.

Let's look at a couple options you may not have considered. We do credit card touring. A couple panniers in
the back weighing about 20 pounds loaded. That's not bad.

We also do day trip vacations. So we drive around, stay in hotels and B&B, and ride the nicest roads.

We went with a vacation company once (Ciclismo Classico) for a ride across Italy. That was nice.
They took care of the luggage. They also picked the hotels, restaurants and wines.

I used to backpack and do bicycle touring. Now that I am old, I take it a little easier, and it is ever so
nice to have a good bed and hot meal just waiting for us to show up.
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Old 05-02-11, 05:41 AM   #3
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Consider a trailer?
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Old 05-02-11, 05:47 AM   #4
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I agree, bunch of small bags gets old quickly if you frequently take a train for example. There's also a very good chance you accidentally leave something behind when you have umpteen little parcels to move from bike to train and back. But I still like to carry my gear relatively evenly distributed around the bike, and with low center of gravity. Panniers are a good way to achieve that, especially if you have a lot of stuff. A friend of mine rode some 40 kms with all his gear in a large hiking backpack. Think about it, just one bag, easy to carry off the bike, great ergonomics, fits in trains and buses, nice compartments etc. Sounds like a good idea. He says he's not going to do it again, ever.

Trailer is one option. You could theoretically stuff everything in one big drysack and tie it on a pair of wheels (or, just one wheel). I doubt it would make planes, trains and buses any easier, plus it would be a major PITA trying to find anything in there. And there's the weight question: right now your system weighs a bit under 4kg empty. Flatbed trailers are 6+kgs and upwards, plus the drysack.

As far as space goes, you can add to 4 Ortliebs by getting a handlebar back and/or the Ortlieb drysack that rides on top of rear panniers. This is apparently not a solution for you, if you dislike 4 bags already you'd probably hate having 6 of them. But it's doable.

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Old 05-02-11, 06:05 AM   #5
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A traditional touring bike needs to handle well with and without luggage, act as a normal, everyday commuting bike and a weekend fun bike and fit into normal bike-shaped spaces on trains etc.
These days, when people have more than one bike, tourers are becoming heavier-duty and more specialized. I can see a role for longer chainstays and long racks to accommodate more luggage. Simply adding a longer rack shifts too much weight behind the rear axle.

Unless you use a trailer, you need to distribute a heavy load around a bike so multiple bags are unavoidable.
When flying, I wrap them all in a plastic sheet and ductape it into one package. I try to keep all my luggage on the bike and just roll it along for as long as I can inside airports.
One of the great advantages of travelling by ferry from the UK to mainland Europe was the hassle-free handling of all my gear. It just stayed on the bike.

If you are carrying a load that exceeds 4 panniers then I would advise a trailer. They have disadvantages and can be tricky to manhandle over obstacles eg steps.
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Old 05-02-11, 06:49 AM   #6
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Luxlumis. I agree with you. I like the idea of a frame between touring and long tail size. If this is not produced by anyone, then a custom frrame is called for.
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Old 05-02-11, 07:01 AM   #7
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By this point, I'm pretty sure that just about every possible method for carrying luggage on a bike has been explored. No matter how you slice it, traveling with lots of stuff is going to be a hassle.

You should try using a trailer, it's much more affordable and versatile than a Big Dummy. Keep in mind that in terms of weight, a trailer is fairly close to the weight of panniers.

Another option is to carry less stuff. You may not want to hear it, but the reality is that everything has its trade-offs. The more creature comforts you carry, the more of a hassle it will be to lug it around.
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Old 05-02-11, 07:19 AM   #8
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Well, if you're in a DIY mood, you could try the following.

- replace your panniers with mesh netting (preferably woven from stretchy accessory rope; this is the DIY part).
- Permanently attach these to where your four panniers would normally go.
- Put everything into dry-sacs; put dry-sacs into mesh panniers.
- keep everything you would normally lash to the top rack in a large dry-sac with a shoulder strap.
- bring an extra 140l bag of some sort.
- when you want to unload: put all the dry-sacs into your 140l bag, and sling it plus the rear rack bag over your shoulder.

There are a lot of combinations here. You could bring an 95l backpack instead of a 140l bag and squeeze the extra 45l into the dry-sac from your rear rack when you're dismounted. Or, you could bring a rear dry-sac that is normally half empty, so when you dismount it'll take all but say 40l, which could go into a smaller carry-on backpack.
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Old 05-02-11, 07:34 AM   #9
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Isn't there?

There isn't.

think of easier ways to carry your stuff off the bike, the panniers are still the best way to distribute a load on a bike.

Use a large, WP duffel on top of your rack, partially filled when riding. Alternately, bring a large, frameless backpack (golite style), a lightweight travellng duffel designed for schlepping loads in, or a large sail bag folded up in your panniers.

Use one of these bags when your travelling with your bike as your one piece of luggage.

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Old 05-02-11, 07:38 AM   #10
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I'm still very new to touring, but I chose a trailer for this and many other reasons. I'm a real klutz and I didn't want to have to spend a lot of time trying to balance my weight. I once landed on my face because my bike was (badly) loaded. It's a trade-off, of course, because going uphill is slightly more difficult, but once moving, it's almost like the trailer isn't even there. One other downside is that it's easier to take too much "necessary" stuff!
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Old 05-02-11, 07:51 AM   #11
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When going to the start of my tour I have had good luck with packing my panniers in a cheap used suitcase from a thrift store ($6-8). I then discard the suitcase at my destination. If you are flying home from a large city you can find a thrift store and buy another.

I have also used a duffel bag that was within the allowable size for checked baggage. I can typically fit everything in one bag, but if it doesn't fit some can go in a carry on sized duffel. I founds some inexpensive ones that were the correct sizes and fold up very small at walmart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Expandable...i_sku=11069689
http://www.walmart.com/ip/20-Expanda...i_sku=11069683

The expandable duffel bags could be carried along, but I typically would mail them to or from my tour so as not to have to carry them the whole way.

Not sure how much you carry, but I find that with 4 smallish panniers I have more space than I could use. Maybe it would help is you picked gear that nested better or packed more stuff inside other items.
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Old 05-02-11, 08:01 AM   #12
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luxlumis, If I understand your point you've alot of stuff essential to you, you compartmentalize what you carry and use public transportation at least sometimes. The first two suggest a trailer would be helpful, the third suggests that a long tailed bike to be the answer.

Is that close?

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Old 05-02-11, 08:36 AM   #13
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In one breath you say you will take a lot and won't take less. In another breath, you complain about the extra weight of the "hardware" that is used to attach the panniers to the bike. The combined weight of two Ortlieb Sport Packer Plus panniers and two Bike Packer Plus panniers is roughly 8.5 lbs. according to Wayne at the Touring Store. How much of that do you think is attributable to the mounting system? More importantly, how much weight, on a percentage basis, does this hardware add to your total load? For example, I am 210 lbs. Let's say I am riding a Surly LHT that weighs a conservative 30 lbs. I am carrying 55 lbs. of gear in four panniers that weigh 8.5 lbs. Assumning the mounting hardware is 25% of the total pannier weight, that's only a hair over 2 lbs. That's a mere 0.7% of the 273 lbs noted above. If the hardware you are really referring to are the racks, 4 lbs. worth of racks is still only 1.5% of the total load.

As for size, I don't know which Ortliebs you are using, but I recently bought a set of Bike and Sport Packer Pluses. They are cavernous. I cannot imagine anyone thinking this setup is too small and also complaining about a few punds of hardware weight unless they are trying to transport as many feathers as possible.

Don't think a Big Dummy is ging to help you in the weight department.

As noted, get a duffel bag. Put everything in there. And you can always carry one pannier on a flight with you if not everything fits in the bag.
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Old 05-02-11, 11:37 AM   #14
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carry a large canvas duffle bag in a pannier pocket or up top, throw all the panniers in the bag. All my bags fit in a cheap duffle bag I bought over 20 years ago that folds up pretty small. Can't solve the weight problem for you.
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Old 05-02-11, 11:57 AM   #15
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On my most recent tour I carried two Walmart duffels. As it turned out I only needed one, as it was big enough to hold all of my gear + panniers (except handlebar bag which I carried separately with valuables), yet still met the airline's requirements for checked luggage size. When on the bike they fold up quite small and fit nicely at the bottom of one of the panniers. If you go that route, get the lightest and most basic one you can find. I didn't want any wheels or handles that would make it heavier or more bulky - just a light bag with a shoulder strap. I don't know what material it's made of, maybe polyester. I think they were ten bucks at Walmart.
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Old 05-02-11, 06:13 PM   #16
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Thanks for your input.

I donít think that Iíll go for a trailer just to avoid panniers. The only advantage of the trailer would be that I might be able to get rid of the panniers. But the disadvantages (even more weight than panniers, less enjoyable riding, more difficult to use with planes/trains/busses) outweigh that.

With regards to the added weight of the Big Dummy, I donít believe thereís a huge difference. My bike weighs 15.6kg without the panniers (itís a small framed touring bike with light racks). Add the empty panniers and the total weight is around 19.3kg. Which is pretty much what I read people say their Big Dummy weighs. As far as I understood, this includes the Xtracycle panniers and snapdeck etc. which is hard to believe - not sure if I got this right? I still have to put the stuff Iím carrying into something, like a duffel or the likes. But this doesnít add too much weight. The only real disadvantages the Big Dummy has for somebody carrying as much stuff as I do, would therefore be the price and the fact that it wouldnít be very easy to take on public transport. Travelling on the bus in New Zealand was a PITA with a normal bike already. They would only take you on board as the very last passenger, after everybody else was accommodated.

What I wanted to point out when I said that each pannier needs hardware is this: the panniers are very small compared to e.g. my hiking backpack (which by the way served as a bag strapped across the rack). One rear pannier only has a capacity of 20l. Even my hiking daypack has more capacity than that. I donít see why the panniers couldnít be 5-10l bigger. As I see it, it would even improve the stability of the bike, because it would probably mean that the center of gravity would be lower. Actually another disadvantage of the Ortliebs is how high they sit on a normal rack. I will probably get a Tubus rack which allows for lower mounting, and see if that improves things. Increasing the size of one pannier would of course mean that it weighs a bit more. But it would still weigh less than adding another pannier to get the same volume. Apologies if my explanation is a bit confusing.

late: I was considering a custom rack. But I think if you put the weight too far behind the rear axle, the bike wonít ride well anymore. If I were to get a custom rack, I would probably have to DIY panniers.

Credit Card touring is something I want to try. The downside is that itís expensive and youíre not very flexible. I should have said that Iím not the typical bicycle tourer - cycling is only a part of touring for me. I often spend more time off the bike than on. The daily average on my last 8 week tour was around 30-40km, on days that I rode. I had plenty of days that I spent in one place. I only cycled ~1.500km.

Juha: yes, I also found that itís no good to put all your stuff on top of the rack.

berner: Iím thinking about a custom frame. But seeing that it would be a very unusual request, it will probably be expensive and I would have to find a frame builder who has experience with tandems and/or long tails. I donít think that this is going to happen very soon.

Bacciagalupe: Iím working on my pack list. But I donít think Iíll ever be able to only travel with 2 panniers. As I said, Iím not your typical tourer. Bicycle touring is just a more enjoyable form of travelling. When travelling for weeks or months, I donít want to sacrifice everything. Most of my pack weight and volume comes from taking a camping hammock in addition to a small tent, and cooking gear plus food. I donít want to sacrifice either, although it would probably bring me down to 2 panniers, because this would take out too much of the joy of travelling for me. I think in this case Iíd rather give up cycling, or travel by car with a folding bike in the trunk.

seenloitering: This sounds similar to what I had in mind. I was more thinking along the lines of using a pack strap system. But mesh might be another option. I think I also want a closer look at the Xtracycle pack system to get some ideas.

staehpj1: I did exactly what you suggested for travelling on the plane. But that wonít help with boarding busses while on tour. And it adds more weight. If youíre not travelling from or to the US, most airlines have a total weight limit of ~20kg checked baggage. My bike weighs that much packed - without any other piece of equipment. Unfortunately, the times when bikes were treated not as checked baggage but as sports equipment with an extra weight allowance are gone. At least on long haul flights.

indyfabz: I didnít mean to complain. I realize that the average cycle tourer is fine with panniers. I still think that panniers could be designed better. By the way: I have the Bike Packer and Sport Packer Plus. I did not find them cavernous. My sleeping bag fills half of one Bike Packer pannier - or most of one Sport Packer. And this is already the lightest down sleeping bag that I could buy (I sleep very cold). I think the design of the Ortliebs wastes space - instead of being cut \_/ they could be cut|__/. I assume the reason for them not to do this is that you would have a fixed ďrightĒ and ďleftĒ pannier. Still, in reality, once you set up the panniers, you will have a fixed right and left one anyway.
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Old 05-02-11, 06:23 PM   #17
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Get a USAF Flyer's Kit Bag for less than $20. There are US Air Force bases in Germany so these will be available near them in used excellent condition. I think the Leftwaffe uses them too. They will hold my full 3 piece Bushwacker pannier set and the handlebar bag. You just stuff it all in there. They have huge zippers and weight about .5 Kg. I bought 12 used ones 20 years ago for $10. I'm still using the third one (the rest are in the shed).
For examples, see: http://www.vtarmynavy.com/air-force-crew-bag.htm

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Old 05-02-11, 07:22 PM   #18
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A Sailboat.




A Portage pack in a trailer will, by virtue of the shoulder straps on the pack,
canoe gear,
let you put the trailer on your back if need be..

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Old 05-02-11, 10:44 PM   #19
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The empty panniers go in the box with the bike and all the contents fit into our plane/train duffles. the contents of my 4 panniers fir into the large yellow duffle. That "just" leaves the rack pack, handle bar bag and the duffle to handle. I suspect that I don't carry near the load you do.


Two bikes, 2 duffles, 2rack packs, and 2 handlebar bags--Now all we need is a ride!

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Old 05-03-11, 03:21 AM   #20
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Unfortunately, adding more bags without throwing out something else is not going to work. As I said: the baggage allowance on most long haul flights (excepting those to and from the US) is ~20kg. Bike, bike box and panniers alone are more than that already. The additional "stuff" I take on the plane (camping & cooking equipment, clothes, laptop, hiking gear etc.) is another 15-20kg.

I envy you guys who can happily travel with just 10kg of stuff
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Old 05-03-11, 04:58 AM   #21
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I wish more panniers were designed like Panpacks.
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Old 05-03-11, 05:38 AM   #22
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i met an Argentinian guy touring on a bike, he basically had a big trekking bag sitting straight up on the rear rack, he attached it somehow to the saddle etc
as a result the bike was loaded very high up, which made the bike harder to keep in balance i guess, but it worked nonetheless
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Old 05-03-11, 06:10 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luxlumis View Post

I don’t think that I’ll go for a trailer just to avoid panniers. The only advantage of the trailer would be that I might be able to get rid of the panniers. But the disadvantages (even more weight than panniers, less enjoyable riding, more difficult to use with planes/trains/busses) outweigh that.
You've never tried a trailer, obviously.

A good trailer often weighs less than a full set of waterproof pans.

Less enjoyable? I almost stopped touring, years ago, because I was so sick of the way a fully loaded touring bike handled. Towing a trailer is almost like riding an unloaded bike, you just go a little slower.

If you're taking a lot of buses and trains/planes, it seems to me that you should just carry less stuff in general. How much cooking and camping gear do you really need when much of your traveling is on a plane? Still, some trailers break down pretty good and you can put the wheel/s and tow arm into the trailer and then have just one compact piece of luggage.
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Old 05-03-11, 07:40 AM   #24
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Just get a trailer.

A trailer will be more versatile, lighter, aerodynamically better, cheaper, easier to transport, and lighter than a Big Dummy. It won't have a significant weight penalty compared to four panniers and a backpack.

Also, you can probably just throw a good-sized backpack with all your stuff onto the trailer and you're done.

I'm also very confused about why you're worrying about a kg here and there, when you're apparently carrying a ton of gear. I suspect that if weight was a genuine concern, you'd start paring down your kit. It's like worrying about a dripping faucet while the sprinklers are going off.

While you should feel free to carry what you want, again it's a trade-off. More stuff = more hassle. If you want to bring the kitchen sink with you, go for it -- but don't blame your luggage system because it's inconvenient. The problem is not that panniers don't work, it's that you apparently do not want to pay the price for carrying all that stuff with you.
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Old 05-03-11, 09:39 AM   #25
sandulea
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I too was unsatisfied with touring using standard frames, racks and panniers, so I am currently in the process of building all of them mostly from scratch. I am a real DIY enthusiast, so you may not want to go my way, because there's a ton of work involved, but there is a middle ground to be found.

First of all, the frame. If you want a longer frame without reaching Big Dummy/Xtracycle total length, I would recommend the Kona Ute. The rack is a lot longer, it's built in the frame, but it's about 20cm longer overall than a standard bicycle, as far as I can tell from the pictures.

Some people suggested a trailer, but you really should try one before. I rode a bicycle with a loaded extrawheel-like trailer and didn't like it at all, it was always pulling to the sides, but the guy who had it really liked it. It may be practical, but it is strongly dependent on personal preferences.

As far as panniers go, you should really look into making your own or having some made for you. Commercial offerings are far too general in order to work with as many bicycles as possible. You could easily have panniers that are aerodynamic, as large as you need and are easy to get on and off the bike, but nobody makes them, so you have to do it. Also, the large rack of the Ute allows for some creative pannier design, and you could put a lot more weight on the rear rack because the longer wheelbase puts your weight closer to the front wheel than on a standard bike.

Bottom line: there are better ways to carry stuff, but the fact that you also want your bike to be car/plane/train friendly calls for some big compromises if you stick to the off-the-shelf panniers. You really have to go the custom or diy route in order to have a set of panniers that work for you, considering your rather conflicting requirements.
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