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.