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Bike Pannier/Trunk Bag combo? Topeak? Other brands?

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Bike Pannier/Trunk Bag combo? Topeak? Other brands?

Old 06-17-15, 06:41 PM
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Bike Pannier/Trunk Bag combo? Topeak? Other brands?

Hey guys,

I was looking for a modular trunk and pannier bag combo system and it looks like the Topeak MTX Expandable collection might work out (DXP and EXP...not sure the differences). They are a bit pricey though. Has anyone had experience with other brands? And especially other brands that are cheaper? Looks like the Topeak panniers expand/unzip from the chest bag itself - are there other brands/models that are modular 3pc or 2pc even (e.g. pannier zips off of trunk bag)? Would I be better off just getting a separate trunk bag and separate panniers? Just want something relatively simple for my commute mainly. I'm not carrying a ton of stuff so probably don't need the panniers for that unless I bring my laptop back and forth. Also groceries too on occasion.
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Old 06-17-15, 06:51 PM
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I have the Topeak trunk bag without panniers. I love the mounting system. I sometimes wish I'd bought the bag with the panniers, but I have some old panniers and backpacks for the times when I need to carry big stuff.

I don't think anyone can touch them for a nice easy on/off mounting system. It's worth the extra bucks to me to be able to slide the bag on and off in a couple seconds.

The only real downside to a trunk bag is that it makes the seatpost a useless place for mounting lights and cameras.
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Old 06-17-15, 06:53 PM
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The trunk bag/pannier combo is a great piece of gear for those of us who commute but also like to take an overnighter once or twice a year. I didn't want to spend a lot on mine, so I bought a very inexpensive one ($25) sold at Walmart under the "Schwinn" brand. Essentially, this is a line of generic products marketed under a known and trusted brand name from yesteryear.

The first one was a clunker and I brought it back and exchanged it for another one of the same product. The second one has lasted me two seasons without any problems at all. The zippers are a little tempermental (cheap) and the bags are not water resistant, but I have to say that this product has served me very well for commuting and through about four overnight mini-tours.

I'm not recommending that a $25 trunk/pannier is good enough for EVERYONE, but if you're just fair-weather commuting and not stuffing it until the zippers pop, something in this price range may be all you need.
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Old 06-17-15, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
I have the Topeak trunk bag without panniers. I love the mounting system. I sometimes wish I'd bought the bag with the panniers, but I have some old panniers and backpacks for the times when I need to carry big stuff.

I don't think anyone can touch them for a nice easy on/off mounting system. It's worth the extra bucks to me to be able to slide the bag on and off in a couple seconds.

The only real downside to a trunk bag is that it makes the seatpost a useless place for mounting lights and cameras.
Thanks guys! I've heard great things about the Topeak bags *except* for the weak zippers - several people have reported broken zippers, etc. That's kind of a concern... as far as lights go, aren't there usually extra straps on the back of the trunk bags where you can attach a light? Or don't some racks have a little area that you can mount a taillight to? I just ordered a Topeak Explorer rack along with a set of new Gatorskins and tubes from Nashbar... they're having a 20% sale now so not too bad.

Last edited by jplee3; 06-17-15 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 06-17-15, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by jplee3
Hey guys,

I was looking for a modular trunk and pannier bag combo system and it looks like the Topeak MTX Expandable collection might work out (DXP and EXP...not sure the differences). They are a bit pricey though. Has anyone had experience with other brands? And especially other brands that are cheaper? Looks like the Topeak panniers expand/unzip from the chest bag itself - are there other brands/models that are modular 3pc or 2pc even (e.g. pannier zips off of trunk bag)? Would I be better off just getting a separate trunk bag and separate panniers? Just want something relatively simple for my commute mainly. I'm not carrying a ton of stuff so probably don't need the panniers for that unless I bring my laptop back and forth. Also groceries too on occasion.
I use Racktime racks and their trunk bag/pannier system and I really like them, they don't require as much space free behind the bike to remove the trunk bag like the Topeak system does (I have those too).

There are a number of cheaper combo options as both Topeak and Racktime are pretty pricey for what you get. Axiom is much more reasonably priced and Blackburn can be as well, plus they have a built in locking system available (although that rack is far from inexpensive).

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Old 06-17-15, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist
I use Racktime racks and their trunk bag/pannier system and I really like them, they don't require as much space free behind the bike to remove the trunk bag like the Topeak system does (I have those too).

There are a number of cheaper combo options as both Topeak and Racktime are pretty pricey for what you get. Axiom is much more reasonably priced and Blackburn can be as well, plus they have a built in locking system available (although that rack is far from inexpensive).


Thanks! Can the Axiom pannier fit a laptop in it?
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Old 06-18-15, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by jplee3
Thanks! Can the Axiom pannier fit a laptop in it?
See post #48 here https://www.bikeforums.net/commuting/...-please-2.html.
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Old 06-18-15, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by no motor?
Thanks! From the pics it doesn't seem like it would be able to fit a larger laptop (15" or more at least). And the foldout panniers don't seem to be too well-padded either. I read similarly about the Topeak in terms of not being able to [comfortably] fit a laptop in it. It seems like the better solution is to get a padded laptop case that sits on the rack in addition to the trunk/panniers? Or to just get larger panniers perhaps separately from the bike trunk... I'm also wondering if fenders would be a good thing to get now just because of all the gunk that will be getting kicked up.
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Old 06-18-15, 11:58 AM
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Really depends on your laptop size. I have a small (13.1" widescreen, I think) Lenovo T440, and the Topeak DXP. I use the fold-out pannier for my laptop. I also purchased a well-padded sleeve for the laptop, and I can pretty easily fit the sleeve inside the pannier. I wouldn't say you could get a much bigger laptop in there, but in my case this has been sufficient. I agree these panniers can't match the storage capacity of dedicated panniers, but the bag is super-convenient in my opinion after using it for six months or so. I recommend springing for the DXP if you like the extra bottle-holder on the back, I use it a fair amount and I think it might be the only difference between the EXP and DXP. I knew I needed something big enough to hold a laptop but wanted something easy to use like the Topeak rack system. Glad I didn't have to go with just a pannier or two but that's a very good option for most. Just make sure you get a rack that will keep them out of your spokes. Check out Ibera's system too. I really liked how the bag clipped in, just didn't think it was quite as nice as the Topeak so I returned it. Can't speak to the size of their panniers since I had the version without, but they did look like they might have been smaller. Don't think you can fit any laptop in the large compartment of a rack-mounted bag from anyone; I'm fairly confident they'll hold tablets or smaller only.

In closing, I'll say if you're going to use the rack A LOT then nothing available is expensive in terms of value; only in terms of the lost opportunity cost of the greater expense up front. Topeak stuff is really nice and works great.
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Old 06-18-15, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jplee3
Thanks! From the pics it doesn't seem like it would be able to fit a larger laptop (15" or more at least). And the foldout panniers don't seem to be too well-padded either. I read similarly about the Topeak in terms of not being able to [comfortably] fit a laptop in it. It seems like the better solution is to get a padded laptop case that sits on the rack in addition to the trunk/panniers? Or to just get larger panniers perhaps separately from the bike trunk... I'm also wondering if fenders would be a good thing to get now just because of all the gunk that will be getting kicked up.
Personally, with Seattle and Tacoma potholes, I would not under any circumstances place a laptop in a trunk bag, panniers or not. When I carry a laptop I carry it in an Osprey backpack.

The kind of things I keep in the trunk bag are layers of clothing including a rain jacket, a spare light in case I forgot to charge my headlight, CO2 pump with four spares, first aid kit, adjustable wrench, chain tool and moistened and dry wipes.

Then tire levers, patch kit, multi-tool, spare inner tube and emergency cash in a small seat bag as well.
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Old 06-18-15, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist
Personally, with Seattle and Tacoma potholes, I would not under any circumstances place a laptop in a trunk bag, panniers or not. When I carry a laptop I carry it in an Osprey backpack.
If you have a mechanical hard disk, sure. But if you have a solid state drive like many newer laptops (e.g. MacBook Air), then there are no moving parts for bumps and potholes to damage. In which case there's no benefit to leaving it out of a trunk bag or pannier.
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Old 06-18-15, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by sathomasga
If you have a mechanical hard disk, sure. But if you have a solid state drive like many newer laptops (e.g. MacBook Air), then there are no moving parts for bumps and potholes to damage. In which case there's no benefit to leaving it out of a trunk bag or pannier.
I embraced SSD's when they came out, but had two fail within two weeks, one Samsung and one Critical. Sad thing is that SSD data cannot be recovered when they fail, unlike magnetic hard disks where the data can sometimes be salvaged (though not inexpensively). Doesn't mean others shouldn't trust them, spinning hard drives can fail too. But SSD's are definitely not bombproof.

SSDs do die, as Linus Torvalds just discovered | Computerworld
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Old 06-18-15, 03:43 PM
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A coworker has the Topeak trunkbag with fold out pans.
I think as a trunk, its great. As pans, its woefully underwhelming. Its just some thin nylon that unrolls. Its a jack of all trades item that is therefore a master of none.

I went the other way and bought a cheap trunk bag for $15 to pair with a nice axiom rack and good axiom pans. The trunk bag has a lean to it since its soft and the bottom is larger than the rack is wide, but its hardly anything for me to care about. I can then use just that, or add a pannier, or add 2 panniers depending on what I need to do.
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Old 06-18-15, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by jplee3
Thanks! From the pics it doesn't seem like it would be able to fit a larger laptop (15" or more at least). And the foldout panniers don't seem to be too well-padded either. I read similarly about the Topeak in terms of not being able to [comfortably] fit a laptop in it. It seems like the better solution is to get a padded laptop case that sits on the rack in addition to the trunk/panniers? Or to just get larger panniers perhaps separately from the bike trunk... I'm also wondering if fenders would be a good thing to get now just because of all the gunk that will be getting kicked up.
The OP in the post I linked was looking to carry a laptop amongst other things, and seemed pretty happy with the bag even though his laptop didn't fit (or didn't fit like he thought it would).
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Old 06-18-15, 04:56 PM
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I use an IBERA Rack and Trunk bag. The Trunk bag clips onto the rack. And Avenir Panniers ($80) which has plenty of space for my Surface, these also clip to the rack as well. And waterproof!
Like a previous poster I'm not so worried about carrying the Surface in the panniers since is uses a SSD drive. But I would definitely not carry a laptop with a hard drive in these special with the conditions of roads in my area...

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Old 06-19-15, 08:04 AM
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Maybe you could get a laptop sleeve, which would provide the padding that you'd want. Ortlieb makes these for example, though note they are not waterproof, unlike Ortleib's waterproof panniers:
View the Notebook Sleeve at https://www.ortliebusa.com
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Old 06-19-15, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by GovernorSilver
Maybe you could get a laptop sleeve, which would provide the padding that you'd want. Ortlieb makes these for example, though note they are not waterproof, unlike Ortleib's waterproof panniers:
View the Notebook Sleeve at https://www.ortliebusa.com
That would add even more size to the room he needs for the laptop.

I'm not sure why you wouldn't just do what I do and carry the laptop in a slim backpack. There are very small backpacks that have dedicated padding and pockets for AC adapters, etc. and then your entire body is a shock absorber for the electronics.
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Old 06-19-15, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist
That would add even more size to the room he needs for the laptop.

I'm not sure why you wouldn't just do what I do and carry the laptop in a slim backpack. There are very small backpacks that have dedicated padding and pockets for AC adapters, etc. and then your entire body is a shock absorber for the electronics.
Just threw that idea out there, since he hasn't decided on panniers, trunk, backpack, etc. My Ortlieb panniers have a 40L capacity, more than enough to fit a 15" or even 17" laptop in a padded sleeve (they've carried a family-size pack of chicken drumsticks and other stuff), and also have adjustable hooks for securing to the rack at the sides so they don't swing around. Perhaps competing brand panniers have comparable capacity.

BTW if he goes with a backpack he'll probably want a waterproof one. In my area it's been raining every day, and the rain has been falling during evening rush hour.

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Old 06-19-15, 11:50 AM
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I've been using a Topeak trunk bag with fold-out panniers for about 1.5 years and it's really great. I love the mounting system. I put shirt, t-shirt, undies, socks in the trunk, and pants and belt in the left side pannier. I usually roll with the left side out only. If I have to carry other extra stuff I'll stick it in the right side.

Also I did confirm last week while on vacation in FL that the trunk portion will in fact fit a 6 pack of brew, though the top won't close, obviously.
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Old 06-19-15, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist
I embraced SSD's when they came out, but had two fail within two weeks, one Samsung and one Critical. Sad thing is that SSD data cannot be recovered when they fail, unlike magnetic hard disks where the data can sometimes be salvaged (though not inexpensively). Doesn't mean others shouldn't trust them, spinning hard drives can fail too. But SSD's are definitely not bombproof.

SSDs do die, as Linus Torvalds just discovered | Computerworld
Which is why you back up with an external drive. I do this with a Crucial SSD and external Seagate (?) 1tb HDD. As the article points out, the SSD failure rates are still "vastly better" than HDDs.
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