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eBike Commuting: Front vs Rear Only Pannier at high speeds

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Old 12-22-17, 04:33 PM
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lmike6453
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eBike Commuting: Front vs Rear Only Pannier at high speeds

I just picked up an eBike (Trek Crossrip+) that is a speed pedelec, class 3 assist up to 28mph. In my initial commutes, I sustain 22+ mph speeds for most of my commute outside of traffic lights / intersections. There are multiple climbs on my commute. 16 miles, ~600 ft elevation - all smooth paved road.

It came with a rear rack, and I'll be converting my existing bike packing bags setup to a dedicated pannier setup.

I was thinking of buying Ortlieb Back Roller Classics, which are sold as a pair, and 20L each. I can fit all of my commuting gear (clothes, laptop, multiple meals, ebike charger, etc) in a single 20L bag and the total weight is somewhere ~15lbs.
https://ortliebusa.com/product/back-...-classic-pair/

However it had me thinking whether I should use a front or rear pannier and the pros and cons of each. In my situation, the bike itself is 46lbs base weight and it would be great to remove the rear rack and put one of the front for weight distribution and possibly better battery life.

But if I go with the rear 1 bag setup, it will probably be better for aerodynamic drag at that speed vs 2 bags up front? The difference in aero is crazy at these speeds!

Also, if I do use just one bag on the rear...should I put it on the non drive side of bike to balance weight, or on the drive side (right) to be out of the way of passing cars / traffic?


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Old 12-22-17, 10:38 PM
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Your bike looks nice and kitted out well for communing! My ebike commuter is now my dedicated winter icy weather bike, I keep the studs on all year long, about 325 miles this year. I use both rear panniers as I need room to carry everything I need.

I could suggest if you only have a few things I would carry one bag and keep it on the non drive (left) rear side. For safety reasons drivers may give you a little more room since the bag is sticking out where they are looking to get around you. If you carry more stuff add the extra rear bag, even more stuff start using the front bags.

Having sad that I have always used both rear bags regardless of how much I carry, I think it looks nicer and I may end up needing room to carry something unexpectedly. I also have Ortlieb rear bags (Bikepacker plus), they have been great!
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Old 12-23-17, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Bizman View Post
Your bike looks nice and kitted out well for communing! My ebike commuter is now my dedicated winter icy weather bike, I keep the studs on all year long, about 325 miles this year. I use both rear panniers as I need room to carry everything I need.

I could suggest if you only have a few things I would carry one bag and keep it on the non drive (left) rear side. For safety reasons drivers may give you a little more room since the bag is sticking out where they are looking to get around you. If you carry more stuff add the extra rear bag, even more stuff start using the front bags.

Having sad that I have always used both rear bags regardless of how much I carry, I think it looks nicer and I may end up needing room to carry something unexpectedly. I also have Ortlieb rear bags (Bikepacker plus), they have been great!
Thanks for the response. Thats not my bike though, just a pic I stole for reference.
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Old 12-23-17, 08:37 AM
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If you use one pannier on the rear, it really doesn't matter which side you use.

I use front panniers lately, and I like them more than I thought I would, but it depends a lot on the bike. Some bikes like weight in front; others don't. I've read you do want front panniers balanced roughly, which is probably true. I sometimes use only one, but in that case, I don't have much weight.
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Old 12-24-17, 05:03 PM
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Commute by bicycle averaging 22 mph for 20 miles? You must have showers at work. I have to take it easy on the way in for my 18.5 miles.
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Old 12-28-17, 11:37 AM
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Despite my Stromer (ST-1) being back heavy, I mostly ride with the rear pannies (I've got some small ones I can hang on the front, via a Thule rack). I keep one pannier full of bike stuff (tools, power pump, extra layers, rain kit, long security cable, etc.) and the other for my work stuff (clothes, computers, etc.). Has worked well for me. For me, the advantages of an ebike include speed (so the commute fits into the time I have) and frees me from worrying about a few extra pounds of cruft.

For me, front panniers are good for the ride (moving weight off the back is good on a stromer!) but hell when parked (probably due to the side stand). Indeed, the worst "crash" I've had was when I had front and back panniers in place, got off to pick up some road debris (a light I'd lost on the way in to work that day) and a gust of wind smashed my steed to the ground. So now I tend to reserve the front panniers for shopping trips and stuff where I need lots of storage ;>

There's no substitute for trying to find out what works for you. For me, the most critical thing for a pannier has proved to be the attachment. I've been meaning to work up a long term (7K+ miles) family of reviews. But in a nutshell, best to worst:

1) Arkel
2) Ortlieb
3) Thule
4) Timbuk2

If I had to do it all over again, I should have accepted advise and gone with arkel or ortlieb and then I'd not have so many bags ;> But I did pick up all of them heavily discounted or used, so it's not quite as sad as it sounds.

If I had to park outside, I'd probably reduce the load to fit in one bag so I could tote it all inside. Fortunately, my employer has allowed me to park inside ;>
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Old 12-31-17, 01:34 PM
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When I got my bike a couple years ago now, I bought front and rear panniers knowing that I was going to want to carry as much gear as possible. I even went so far as to get an additional trailer to carry more. I ride fully loaded from camp to camp and then strip her down to her normal riding configuration which is dual panniers in front and a bar bag. On the rear of the bike, I mount a 5 lb. Bluetooth speaker, whatever lock I am carrying and various odds and ends depending what I am doing or where I am going, e.g. fishing, kite flying etc. I like to ride as light as possible (like most all of us do) when I have camp set-up. However, when I ride I always carry a toolkit and spare tubes and tires, clothing and rain gear, pump, battery charger, water, snacks, etc. that can fit in the front left pannier and be around 20 lbs. Because I want her as well balanced as possible I also mount the right pannier. In the right, I carry my kitchen gear with food and personal hygiene bag. I have found that I always want to be able to take advantage of available power (electricity to charge the main batteries) and the opportunity of being able to wash-up somewhere (Denny's bathroom, offered shower or natural hot spring). When 1st experimenting I thought that the rear panniers would be the ones to carry all the time. What I learned is that my bike would start to shimmy at high speed with all the weight behind me. After playing around I found that carrying the front panniers and bar bag balanced her out and that has become my normal riding configuration. I have not tried carrying a single pannier and know that I would feel the imbalance. You need to experiment and ride with several different load set-ups to see how your bike handles and how you feel. Then start to fine tune things like you want. One additional note... don't let people tell you that it doesn't matter what pannier/gear you carry on which side of the bike. I always think worst case scenario and that is being brushed/hit by a moving vehicle while riding. I have been nudged, shoved and struck. I try and place everything fragile or breakable in the right side panniers. You are most likely to be struck on the left side panniers. I don't want to put a laptop/tablet or something as equally fragile, somewhere that it has a higher chance of taking a blow, something learned by experience and lots of miles. But don't do as I do, or as anybody else does. Ride, experiment, fine-tune and gets things the way you like and you will be a better rider for it.

Note - My front rack is fully suspended, meaning that the bags don't take a beating. Everything rides nice and smooth.
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Old 12-31-17, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
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Commute by bicycle averaging 22 mph for 20 miles? You must have showers at work. I have to take it easy on the way in for my 18.5 miles.
It's an ebike. Why would the battery need a shower?
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Old 01-05-18, 11:30 PM
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I commute most of the time with one pannier on the rear rack of my e-bike. It's a direct drive rear hub motor with the batter mounted on the down tube. I converted it from a touring bike to an e-bike. I don't notice the handling of the bike being much different than when I commuted with one pannier prior to the bike having a motor. Sure the bike is heavier now... I had to convert from cantilever brakes to disc brakes to get acceptable stopping power... but otherwise, I'm not noticing anything different. I must admit, I don't have a lot tricky handling that is necessary on my commute... pretty straight and I don't really have any turns or curves that require me to carve in at a higher speed.

I'm a single pannier on the non-drive side guy. I like the big reflective area on the back of my Ortlieb pannier to be on the side closest to drivers coming at me from behind.
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Old 01-08-18, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by gregjones View Post
It's an ebike. Why would the battery need a shower?
I ride an e-bike to work and still need a shower when I arrive, especially when the dewpoint is 70+ degrees in the morning.

On my bike I use a Topeak trunk bag with fold-out panniers, and lately I use just the left one, and then have a Wald fold-out basket on the right side when I need to carry more stuff.

I also have a spring steering stabilizer up front to help keep the front wheel from flopping around while on the double kick-stand, but with a loaded pannier it would still move around. If you really want to keep the front stable while loading and unloading, try one of these: https://steerstopper.com/
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Old 01-08-18, 10:50 AM
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For a direct answer, I believe that front panniers will have an aerodynamic penalty compared to the same bags as back panniers. I don't have any proof of that.

With just one bag, on top of your rack is more aero than the same bag on the side. Regarding left or right side for the bag, it's unclear which would give you better aerodynamics beside fast traffic. The wind from passing cars has more impact than most people suspect so it probably does have an effect but which side is better or how much is hard to say. None of this matters much at 15-18 mph, but can make a difference at 25+.
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Old 01-09-18, 01:45 PM
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I can’t wrap my head around front panniers – I need my bike to be nimble. But I ride pretty light. I do like being able to lift the front wheel over curbs and obstacles when needed.

Rear panniers on either side work OK for me, but I’m so devoted to light and nimble (and efficient and aero), that I just throw everything in a messenger bag and keep the bike lite.
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Old 01-09-18, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by PatrickGSR94 View Post
I ride an e-bike to work and still need a shower when I arrive, especially when the dewpoint is 70+ degrees in the morning.
Funny.
The folk I see riding motorized bikes on the MUP are really bundled up against the wind like I remember dressing to go snowmobiling. They might get a little warm too just sitting there.
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Old 01-10-18, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
For a direct answer, I believe that front panniers will have an aerodynamic penalty compared to the same bags as back panniers. I don't have any proof of that.

With just one bag, on top of your rack is more aero than the same bag on the side. Regarding left or right side for the bag, it's unclear which would give you better aerodynamics beside fast traffic. The wind from passing cars has more impact than most people suspect so it probably does have an effect but which side is better or how much is hard to say. None of this matters much at 15-18 mph, but can make a difference at 25+.
Aero is important, but not Most important I believe. You need to hang the weight on the bike and ride. See how it affects the balance and ride. I saw a rider that carried one front and one rear pannier. He swore that it balanced his bike better than having all the weight in front of back. If I don't ride with 4 panniers I carry two up front. Aero to me is trying to keep the mass or bulk down low to help with side winds.
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Old 01-10-18, 07:27 PM
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True, having the wind swing your front wheel hard is a bit harrowing. We often get heavy winds in NYC.
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