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  1. #1
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    Anyone try mismatched panniers?

    In choosing a set of rear panniers, I think I've settled on Lone Peaks because of their lighter weight and adequate durability. I'm still torn between the panel-loading (P-400) and top-loading (P-340, P-500) types, more so after reading this thread on the matter.

    It occurred to me that it might make a lot of sense to split the difference and put, for instance, a P-400 on one side and a P-340 on the other. These have pretty much the same "footprint" against the side of the bike. Then you would have a bunch of pockets for organization, but also an expandable top-loader for large/bulky items, baguettes, whatever...

    I'm wondering if anyone else has tried this? There is the huge practical issue that nobody wants to sell single panniers or mismatched pannier sets, but is that the only reason this isn't more common?

    Anyone want to split an order with me

    (I should add that I'm setting up a Sirrus for light touring with rear panniers only, so I am losing some of the flexibility that a front rack and panniers would have afforded.)

  2. #2
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Personally I tend to prefer one big compartment, but sometimes I use a set of panniers with pockets. Remember that it is easy to organize with ziplocs and there are less pockets to search with one compartment. If I forget where something is I usually find that what I want is in the last compartment I check.

    That said my Trans America companions did exactly what you suggest because they each wanted a couple pockets. It worked out fine.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    I also prefer one big compartment. I find the big compartment is a much more efficient use of space than smaller pockets. I can balance out the load depending on the needs of a tour and on the needs of an individual day.

    Because I've always used the big compartment panniers, that's all I know and switching to a system of pockets would drastically change the way I pack.
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    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark03 View Post
    I'm wondering if anyone else has tried this? There is the huge practical issue that nobody wants to sell single panniers or mismatched pannier sets, but is that the only reason this isn't more common?
    I would guess that is mostly the reason. I am in the same mindset as you. Having one pannier with a couple of pockets is nice. I have three sets of panniers. My normal commute panniers, my waterproof panniers and my only for touring panniers.

    My normal commuting panniers are an old set by Madden. These are great. Both panniers have two external pockets. The bigger bottom pocket is for my extra tube and lock. The top pocket is for my tools, wallet, keys, tobacco and change. This allows me to have easy access to the things I need everyday (wallet, keys, tobacco), Things I hope to never use (tube) without getting in the way of the items I need to carry for work or coming home from the store. I much prefer this method over the one big bag organized with zip lock bags. I find I have to dig around for my wallet or tobacco. They seem to like to find their way to the bottom of the bag.

    My only for touring bags each have one kind of big outer pocket and one mesh pocket. This is acceptable, but not as nice as the Maddens. The waterproof bags get used on rainy days and for touring. Things that must stay dry go in them. They are essentially one big pocket. There is a small pocket built into each one, but it is very tough to use, especially when the bags are full.

    The combination of the one big pocket set and the only for touring set is a happy medium for me. I can still have my daily use items separated from the bigger compartments making it quick and easy to get.
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    Senior Member KDC1956's Avatar
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    I like the Carradice Panniers I have a full set both front and rear.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I think handling is better if the weight is evenly distributed between right and left. The size, shape, and brand of pannier wouldn't seem to matter - to me, anyway - just the weight of the load therein.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I think handling is better if the weight is evenly distributed between right and left. The size, shape, and brand of pannier wouldn't seem to matter - to me, anyway - just the weight of the load therein.
    I am curious. Have you actually noticed a problem due to mismatched weight from side to side? If so under what circumstances? Heavy load? Light load? How imbalanced?

    I ask because I never have notice any at all. I often read where folks advise taking care to balance the load and I do typically try to balance the load by not putting all the heavy stuff in one side. That said I have often had an extra liter or even two of water on one side and never seen a problem. My companions had 50 ounces of water in a camelback bladder in one front pannier and often emptied it during the day. They never mentioned any handling issue when doing so.

    I have gone as far as using a pannier on one side in the front when just riding for the day and didn't find it problematic. I probably never had much more than 5 pounds in it though.

    My experience makes me wonder if everyone just assumes that they never had a problem because they were always careful with balance when loading.

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    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I am curious. Have you actually noticed a problem due to mismatched weight from side to side? If so under what circumstances?
    I find my front panniers are more critical if they aren't somewhat balanced but I dont' fret over it if they aren't the exact same weight.

  9. #9
    Senior Member MNBikeCommuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I have gone as far as using a pannier on one side in the front when just riding for the day and didn't find it problematic. I probably never had much more than 5 pounds in it though.
    I commute about 5k miles a year with only one pannier, loaded up to 20 lbs of books and work gear. It's never been a problem. I've too wondered about all the hype of careful balancing of the load.

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    I've also often commuted or shopped with only a single pannier. If I buy some heavy groceries and load up with 30 lbs or more on one side then I do notice a slight lean, but it's never been objectionable or caused any handling issue.

    This guy's load is a little extreme with a refrigerator on one side. He is leaning a bit, but doesn't seem to have any problems with it.
    Refrigerator.jpg

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    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    I use the Ortlieb Back Roller on the back. The front low rider position has REI panniers hanging from it.

    I use the rear for water proof needs and the front has some pockets.

    BTW - Nylon bags of various size and colors really help organizing for me. I also have a cheat sheet that I keep in my front handle bar bag, (BTW, waterproof Ortlieb.) The cheat sheet has all items that you will find in a particular nylon bag & pannier. For me it works great if I always return items to the same nylon bag and stuff that into the correct pannier.
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    I do feel a difference when unbalanced, but only if it is fairly extreme in the back (say 20-30 lb difference) or in the front (I do feel a 3 lb difference). No reason (besides financial) to be afraid running two difference panniers; I do so fairly regularly around town, with no issues. I do agree, however, with the posters who like the big black hole. It has much more flexibility than pockets. YMMV

  13. #13
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I am curious. Have you actually noticed a problem due to mismatched weight from side to side? If so under what circumstances? Heavy load? Light load? How imbalanced?

    I ask because I never have notice any at all. I often read where folks advise taking care to balance the load and I do typically try to balance the load by not putting all the heavy stuff in one side. That said I have often had an extra liter or even two of water on one side and never seen a problem. My companions had 50 ounces of water in a camelback bladder in one front pannier and often emptied it during the day. They never mentioned any handling issue when doing so.

    I have gone as far as using a pannier on one side in the front when just riding for the day and didn't find it problematic. I probably never had much more than 5 pounds in it though.

    My experience makes me wonder if everyone just assumes that they never had a problem because they were always careful with balance when loading.
    I've run some really imbalanced loads recently and not noticed any issues whatsoever other than with having her stay up on the kickstand. I didn't think I'd be carrying all that much and left with a single Orlieb on my rear rack when I rolled from Olympia to Bremerton (almost a full century with the trip to the train station, my errands in Oly, and the ride home from the ferry). I ended up putting a fair amount in there (spare clothes, 1st Aid kit, etc) and then stopped at a nice fruit stand and ended up picking up several jars of pickled goods. That and an old-shcool bottle of Pepsi I bought from a lonely Mexican taco truck outside Shelton when they didn't have Horchata meant that overstuffed Ortlieb was pretty heavy and I had no load anywhere else.

    I also brought home a lead apron (x-ray shield) from work along with a heavy pair of work shoes and clothes, and three heavy books, all stuffed into a single Ortlieb again. On neither trip did I notice any issues with handling etc. It may help that I am a Clydesdale though.

    I will say that I like to have my load balanced when fully loaded for touring because:
    A) I like to be able to have the bike actually rest on the kickstand
    B) handling is a little shaky when taking off from a full stop as it is (front rack & pannier load), I figure no need to exacerbate that any!

    Around town or for short trips with nothing on the front rack though I am no longer concerned about balancing my load at all.
    Last edited by Medic Zero; 08-22-11 at 06:55 AM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I am curious. Have you actually noticed a problem due to mismatched weight from side to side? If so under what circumstances? Heavy load? Light load? How imbalanced?
    My first tourer was a Nashbar. It suffered from terrible shimmy problems when it was fully loaded and I got going fast. I discovered through trial and error that the shimmy was lessened (but still significant) when I had the load carefully balanced side to side.

    The bike had 1" round tubing throughout (except the stays, of course,) and was their XXL size, so I think it was just a really whippy bike. I think it was just a road bike with eyelets on the fork, a triple crank, and 36-spoke wheels. I don't think the geometry or tubing was designed to handle a load. It also had Blackburn racks that were strong enough, but not as solid as the Tubus set I have now.

    On my current tourer, a 62cm LHT, I've never had the slightest hint of shimmy. I still try and balance my loads side-to-side. Maybe I should do a horrible job of balancing and see if there's any shimmy.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark03 View Post
    ...
    It occurred to me that it might make a lot of sense to split the difference and put, for instance, a P-400 on one side and a P-340 on the other. These have pretty much the same "footprint" against the side of the bike. Then you would have a bunch of pockets for organization, but also an expandable top-loader for large/bulky items, baguettes, whatever...

    I'm wondering if anyone else has tried this?
    ...
    The front weight should be close to the same from one side to the other. If you have a robust rear rack and frame, the rear can have more variation in weight from side to side. Other than that, it really does not matter how you mix and match stuff.

    Pockets, everyone has personal preference. I like lots of small pockets when it is not raining, the single large drybag type of pannier (Ortlieb) when it is raining.

    So, do what you think works best for you based on your personal preferences. And if it was me, consider the forecast?

    On the pure "mismatched" pannier issue, the Arkel GT-54 rear panniers do not match from one side to the other. And they are made that way.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    If I forget where something is I usually find that what I want is in the last compartment I check.
    Usually? You mean you sometimes keep checking compartments after you have found what you want?

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    Thanks everyone for your feedback. I'm glad to hear I'm not crazy, and those Arkels are even "mismatched" by design. If they were 1/2 the price and 1/2 the weight, I would be considering them...

    So it's looking more and more like a pair of Lone Peak P-500s. Overkill on capacity for me, and not quite as lightweight as a P-340/P-400 mismatched set. OTOH, at least the "footprint" on the bike is about the same as their smaller rear panniers, and any unused thickness should compress down.

    Still, if anyone reading this wants to split an order for mismatched Lone Peaks, let me know!

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    Senior Member NVanHiker's Avatar
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    Baguettes?

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