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Commuter pannier with strap--advice sought

Old 03-16-10, 06:59 AM
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cubs1982
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Commuter pannier with strap--advice sought

I searched the forums for an appropriate answer, but found nothing that necessarily matched the scope of what I'm looking for.

Here is what I would like to use potential pannier for in order of importance:

1) Commuting (need to carry change of clothes, laptop, lunch, etc. 5 miles each way)

2) Groceries, farmer's market, etc.

3) Actual light touring (some weekend trips, the occasional tour up to a month long)

So one really important feature to me is that the potential pannier have a strap of some sort. Either a shoulder strap, or the potential to be a backpack, although I lean towards the former. I currently have the Arkel b 26's (which i'm looking to sell for 90 bucks for the set, btw). I hate the fact that the load from the front, so to speak, so loading from the top would be preferable, especially since I'll use them in the grocery store.

That being said, right now two different panniers I have on my radar are the Ortlieb backroller plus and the Arkel commuter. Does anyone have experience with either of these? Pros? Cons?

Let me know if there is some other pannier you've had a good experience with that fits the above criteria. Thanks a bunch!

***also as an addendum....I really like the looks of some of the carradice bags (even though most are strapless)....does anyone have first hand experience with these? Something about a more vintage look appeals to me. Thanks

Last edited by cubs1982; 03-16-10 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 03-16-10, 07:14 AM
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I use my panniers for all of that stuff. None have straps, that would be nice, and I did lots of research also. I had to adjust to not having them and am thinking you may have the same connundrum. But I'll be watching this post just in case, ya know.

Last edited by capejohn; 03-16-10 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 03-16-10, 07:27 AM
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The Carradice Bike Bureau has a shoulder strap, and is very roomy (26l). Jandd's got two commuter briefcases, one of which is big, and the other freakin' enormous(29l). All three are designed to take shoulder straps, and, just as importantly, have fabric flaps that cover the mounting hardware when off the bike. (Carradice's has a pocket built into it.)

The Jandd bags are nylon and require a rain cover. The Carradice is waterproof canvas.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:24 AM
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I've happily used a single Arkel Utility Basket for all my commuting. With a shoulder strap it carries quite well around campus, farmers markets and groceries. A pair of them would give a massive capacity for touring.

The Minnehaha Utilty Pannier might work well for you also, though you'd probably want to use some type of proofing wax on it, as it is not waterproofed from the factory.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:33 AM
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The backroller may have a shoulder strap, but it's not very convenient to use. Really, the only thing I dislike about them is the multiple-step opening/closing process. I've stopped using the straps in day-to-day life, because they add more steps to the already unwieldy process.
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Old 03-16-10, 09:02 AM
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+1 Ortlieb bags. I have back rollers plus.

I too stopped using the strap, but carry it in the bottom of the bag, just in case. The only time I use them is at farmer's markets, walking around. If I'm in the store, I just put my bags in the shopping cart and fill them up.

Ortlieb also sells an adapter, for the bag to clip onto, that converts it into a backpack.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:25 AM
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What I like about the ortlieb backroller for around town grocery runs is the fact that if you buy too many groceries you can just leave the bag open on the top and fit a TON of stuff in it, this is not possible with the arkel utility basket that I also have.

Yeah, the shoulder strap sucks if you want to carry it for long periods, but in a shop or at the farmer's market it is fine for me.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:27 AM
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BTW you also cannot beat the ortlieb for touring duty.

In fact, I have no cons to mention about them, as the closing procedure doesn't bother me really.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by barturtle View Post
I've happily used a single Arkel Utility Basket for all my commuting. With a shoulder strap it carries quite well around campus, farmers markets and groceries. A pair of them would give a massive capacity for touring.
X2 .. Those things can take some serious load ! Sometimes I get scared that my bike rack will break !
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Old 03-16-10, 11:33 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. Sounds like I shouldn't be too excited about the strap on the backroller.

I did look at the carradice bike bureau and I really like its vintage good looks, I just question whether it is the most practical for my needs. I think it would be perfect for the commuting aspect, maybe not as much for the light touring, grocery getting.

Maybe I'll have to bite the bullet and get one pannier more specific for commuting and a set more suitable for touring, like the backroller. I do really like the idea of the backroller for getting groceries. (the obvious idea of putting it in the cart never occurred to me
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Old 03-16-10, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by amit_shah25 View Post
X2 .. Those things can take some serious load ! Sometimes I get scared that my bike rack will break !
Hmm, I never considered that one. I looked on arkel's site, and that thing does look pretty sweet. A little expensive, but I guess it does have the capacity of both of my b 26's put together. Now I have a conundrum on my hands.......
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Old 03-16-10, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by barturtle View Post
I've happily used a single Arkel Utility Basket for all my commuting. With a shoulder strap it carries quite well around campus, farmers markets and groceries. A pair of them would give a massive capacity for touring.

The Minnehaha Utilty Pannier might work well for you also, though you'd probably want to use some type of proofing wax on it, as it is not waterproofed from the factory.
+1

I have two Arkel Utility Baskets, I've never used more than one. But I know I'm ready if I wanted to take a long tour or just go to the supermarket and buy two absolutely FULL shopping bags worth of groceries.

BTW, you can easily carry an 18-pack of Rolling Rock bottles in a single Arkel Utility Basket, so that should give you an idea of how sturdy they are.
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Old 03-16-10, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by RaleighComp View Post
+1

I have two Arkel Utility Baskets, I've never used more than one. But I know I'm ready if I wanted to take a long tour or just go to the supermarket and buy two absolutely FULL shopping bags worth of groceries.

BTW, you can easily carry an 18-pack of Rolling Rock bottles in a single Arkel Utility Basket, so that should give you an idea of how sturdy they are.

You know, I can take one of those utility baskets off your hands
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Old 03-16-10, 12:08 PM
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I have and use the Arkel commuter on a daily basis.

- 1) Commuting (need to carry change of clothes, laptop, lunch, etc. 5 miles each way)
Laptop carrying is excellent (shock absorption, etc.) and plenty of room for a change of clothes, towel, and shoes.

2) Groceries, farmer's market, etc.
- The Commuter will carry about 1 brown grocery bag full of food.

3) Actual light touring (some weekend trips, the occasional tour up to a month long)
- The Commuter by itself is too small IMO for longer touring. You could carry a small stove, change of bike clothes and a few small meals for a weekend style trip (tent and sleeping bag strapped onto your rack).

"Waterproofness" is excellent when you use the included rain cover. The included strap is fine for carrying your bag from a bike rack to your building but would suck for any kind of hiking with the bag. I do not even keep mine in the bag, it is easier to carry the bag by the handle. When I need to carry multiple items (work, clothes, and store items) I'll throw the Arkel tailrider on the bike + the Commuter.

I would contact Arkel and get their suggestions. It looks like the Dolphin or T-42 model may fit your needs?

Last edited by Greg_R; 03-16-10 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 03-16-10, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by cubs1982 View Post
You know, I can take one of those utility baskets off your hands
Sorry, I actually use both of them, but only one at a time. I have both 26" and 700c commuter bikes and I keep one set up for the left side of each (though with an allen wrench I could in a matter of minutes set up them both to go on either. It's a really ingenious and customizable mounting system).

BTW, as you may already know, both the shoulder strap and the rain cover are sold separately, but I heartily recommend both accessories.
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Old 03-16-10, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cubs1982 View Post
I searched the forums for an appropriate answer, but found nothing that necessarily matched the scope of what I'm looking for.

Here is what I would like to use potential pannier for in order of importance:

1) Commuting (need to carry change of clothes, laptop, lunch, etc. 5 miles each way)

2) Groceries, farmer's market, etc.

3) Actual light touring (some weekend trips, the occasional tour up to a month long)

So one really important feature to me is that the potential pannier have a strap of some sort. Either a shoulder strap, or the potential to be a backpack, although I lean towards the former. I currently have the Arkel b 26's (which i'm looking to sell for 90 bucks for the set, btw). I hate the fact that the load from the front, so to speak, so loading from the top would be preferable, especially since I'll use them in the grocery store.

That being said, right now two different panniers I have on my radar are the Ortlieb backroller plus and the Arkel commuter. Does anyone have experience with either of these? Pros? Cons?

Let me know if there is some other pannier you've had a good experience with that fits the above criteria. Thanks a bunch!

***also as an addendum....I really like the looks of some of the carradice bags (even though most are strapless)....does anyone have first hand experience with these? Something about a more vintage look appeals to me. Thanks
I have been using my Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic's almost every day for around 5 years. I thought they were very expensive at the time, but now I find them to be really good value for money because they have served me so well all these years.

Some comments about them:

I never take off the shoulder straps because they are so useful; it is great to have both hands free when locking doors etc. That means that I don't close them the "official way" as a dry-bag; I either roll the shoulder strap into the top and tighten with the outer compression strap (the fast and sloppy method), or I just roll the top and attach the shoulder strap to the "hook" on the bottom of the pannier. So there are several ways to close the Back-Roller, and even the "sloppy" methods described above have kept my stuff dry when raining.

As other have mentioned, the roll top means that one can carry much more stuff in them when it isn't raining. I think my record is 17 kg (37 pounds) in one bag, but I often have around 10-12 kg in in a single pannier (20-30 pounds).

When carrying my Back-Roller, I don't carry it as a shoulder bag. Instead I sling the strap across my shoulder and push the pannier around so it rests on my back/gluteus maximus like a messenger bag. It works much better that way.

It is trivial to ad extra padding to the shoulder straps (there are lots of options besides Ortlieb for that), or even another shoulder strap since AFAIK, the d-locks they are attached to are standard size.
Personally I haven't found it necessary for my use.

You can also buy a dedicated back-pack carrying system for the Back-Roller pannier, if you want to combine e.g. hiking and biking:
https://www.ortlieb.de/_prod.php?lang...arryingsystem#
The system have been updated, so get the 2010 version of it.
The system looks reasonable smart and light, but check the instructions:
https://www.ortlieb.de/_anleit/pannie...yingsystem.pdf

The Back-Rollers don't have an external pocket, but it is trivial to install an extra external pocket like this (pdf instruction): https://www.ortlieb.de/_anleit/aussentasche.pdf
I really mine for my keys and wallet.

The new expansible mesh-pocket for helmets looks like another add-on that is worth considering for some. Could be useful for touring for e.g. drying wet towels / base layers etc, when on the move.
Off the bike I just attach my helmet to the compression strap before swinging the pannier around onto my back. That works just fine too.

The Ortlieb quick lock system is IMHO the best on the market. it is very fast and very secure.
Spare parts for everything can be had at reasonable prices (at least here in Europe).
That they are water proof isn't just nice regarding keep stuff dry, it also makes them very fast and easy to clean both inside and outside. No folding seams where organic debris can hide and make dubious odors. No zippers that jams and break.

The Ortliebs aren't cheap, but they work very well and are very sturdy. I fully expect another 5 years of daily use and abuse for my set, so measured over 10 years they seem like a bargain to me.

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Old 03-16-10, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by cubs1982 View Post
Thanks for all the replies. Sounds like I shouldn't be too excited about the strap on the backroller.
I disagree; I find the shoulder strap useful and quite good. As described in another post, the trick is to carry the pannier on the back, not along your side. Even two bags carried bandolier-style isn't a problem when slung at your back. I often carry my pannier with heavy loads and don't find the strap a problem at all, and it is trivial to add padding to the strap if one wants to cushion and spread the load across the collar bone.

Originally Posted by cubs1982 View Post
Maybe I'll have to bite the bullet and get one pannier more specific for commuting and a set more suitable for touring, like the backroller. I do really like the idea of the backroller for getting groceries. (the obvious idea of putting it in the cart never occurred to me
Well, perhaps then start with the Back-Roller. I then doubt that you think you will need another pannier for commuting after having tried it for a while.

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Old 03-17-10, 02:22 AM
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yeah, the backroller may be expensive, but it is worth it IMO. The arkel utility basket is just overpriced for what it is, and the attachment mechanism isn't near as good as ortlieb, it's not work the price. I had the arkel bounce off my rack on an expansion joint of the golden gate bridge when i was heading off for an overnighter. Once I got the backrollers I hardly ever used the arkel again.
If you want a bag that is good for commuting and touring take the ortlieb.

BTW, I also carry the ortlieb the way described above, more like a messenger bag. I also have the backpack attachment, but most the time it's not worth carrying around.
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Old 03-17-10, 03:06 AM
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I use a Carradice Barley bag (the green version). One downside with these bags is that the leather straps make for slow attachment and removal. They're fine for commuting and touring, but if I had to lock my bike 10 times a day, I'd be annoyed. On the other hand, they look very classy and are quite functional. Most of them have side pockets. They also have light attachment points and D rings for strapping a jacket or sleeping pad to the lid. The cotton is not as waterproof as treated synthetics, but it's good enough that I can keep my camera (in its own case) inside in light rain. The problem is not with pooling water on the inside, but that the cotton gets damp after a while. These bags are also great for long day rides, because they're the perfect size for your tools, a bit of food, and a jacket; whereas a pannier is too big for this purpose.
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Old 03-17-10, 04:06 AM
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As another data point - I have a Detours Uptown that I use to schlep all of my office/commuter stuff (PC, lunch, spare tube, toolkit, books, lights, raingear &c), and a folding grocery pannier that lives on the bike full-time. It's great for making grocery/beer runs after work. Mine is a cordura jobbie with a removeable strap, but Wald makes a folding steel basket pannier that bolts to your rack.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:05 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. I think I'm going to check out the arkel utility basket at the LBS today.

Does anyone have experience with the backroller plus vs bikeroller classic? From a purely aesthetic standpoint I like the look of the cordura material of the plus better....any real functional differences? is vanity worth the price increase?

Also, I still am drawn in by the classic good looks of the carradice bike bureau. I know if will comfortably carry my laptop and some books, but will it also accommodate a change of clothes and a pair of shoes?? That seems like an awful lot (at least judging from the picture of it). Anyone with first hand knowledge?? Thanks again!!
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Old 03-17-10, 06:25 AM
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Aiight. I got one more thing to add that I forgot before. I've got big feet. Size 13 ! And I ride a trek portland. So, if I mount the arkel utility bag in center of the rack, my foot keeps hitting the bag, and I can't pedal comfortably. I have to "off center" the bag (it has settings for that), and mount the bag all the way to the rear end of the rack.

So, be careful with that thing. If your rear rack is very small, this could become an issue because even if you mount the pannier all the way to the rear end, it might not give you enough clearance between you pedal and the pannier. I wish I had pictures to explain this !
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Old 03-17-10, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by amit_shah25 View Post
If your rear rack is very small, this could become an issue because even if you mount the pannier all the way to the rear end, it might not give you enough clearance between you pedal and the pannier. I wish I had pictures to explain this !
I think you explained it just fine. Heel strike is a problem for all of us seal-flippered cyclists. I had to slide back my Backrollers for just that reason, and even more when I installed high-profile cantis. (It's easy to do with the Backrollers, BTW.) I've noticed no effect on the way my bike handles.
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Old 03-17-10, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by cubs1982 View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I think I'm going to check out the arkel utility basket at the LBS today.

Does anyone have experience with the backroller plus vs bikeroller classic? From a purely aesthetic standpoint I like the look of the cordura material of the plus better....any real functional differences? is vanity worth the price increase?

Also, I still am drawn in by the classic good looks of the carradice bike bureau. I know if will comfortably carry my laptop and some books, but will it also accommodate a change of clothes and a pair of shoes?? That seems like an awful lot (at least judging from the picture of it). Anyone with first hand knowledge?? Thanks again!!
The Back-Roller Classic set is around 220 grams heavier than the Back-Roller Plus. For many long distance tourers that alone is enough to choose the Plus model. For everyday commuting where only on pannier is used the weight difference is to small to matter.
The Plus model also have a slightly more advanced tool free mounting system. Whether these small improvements are worth the extra price is an individual thing, but if you really fancy the Cordura Plus model and can afford it, then why not? You will use it every day, so having the nagging feeling of "why didn't I get the other model" isn't worth it.

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Old 03-17-10, 02:33 PM
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I've used Carradice Super-C on a daily basis for about 15 years. They are strong, tough, pretty water repellant and surprisingly lightweight.
The attatchment is a modern quick-release system. They have a heel-cutout profile so you can mount them further forward than square-cut bags.
The large single compartment is good for groceries and the expanding collar is useful for bulky items. The rear external pocket is good for all the bits you need along the way.
Ive had to make a few repairs over the years, The mounting rail has been rivetted back, the corners and wear-lines have been reinforced with a Carradice repair kit. I expect to get another 15 years of service.
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