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Student of Design looking for feedback of Bike commuting

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Student of Design looking for feedback of Bike commuting

Old 09-07-10, 06:17 PM
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HB.Watermelon
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Student of Design looking for feedback of Bike commuting

Hi!

So, I'm Helen, a student of Industrial design. For my senior project this semester I am looking at designing a pannier bag for commuting to work/gym/school. I was thinking of going in a multi-function direction. Please give me feedback on what is wanted and needed. As well as what you feel does and doesn't work. Like,

Is weight an issue when commuting to work?
Are you worried about your laptop?
How important is aesthetic to you? Or, is function more of a selling point?
How do you feel about the pannier bags currently available at stores?
Anyone worried about theft? of the stuff inside the panniers, or the panniers themselves?
Are there any commuters who don't use panniers? why?
For those using the multi-function pannier/backpack - how do they function at their separate tasks? Anyone worried about the straps getting into the wheel?
Anyone dead set on just using a backpack? Why? Do you think they are ergonomic for bike use?
Does anyone go to the gym/yoga after work on their ride home? ie is a 'sweaty cloths' compartment needed?

When I have a better idea of my design direction and have something on paper, is anyone wanting, willing, and able to critique the ideas?

Oh, and please re-visit from time to time. I'll continue to post on this thread additional questions, or to answer any of your questions.

I appreciate your time! Thank you for reading my post, and I hope to hear from you!

Helen
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Old 09-07-10, 09:17 PM
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I'm a 19 year bike commuter. A big issue for panniers is heel clearance so the pannier needs to have a tapered shape or a connection to the rack that allows it to be mounted high enough or far enough back to be out of the way of the heel. Also a quick but secure attachment mechanism to the rack. The ones that have open hooks at the top and a bungee cord hook at the bottom have a tendency to jump off the rack. The one I have now has hooks that go over the rack bar and a rotating wedge that comes up from below and it is much more secure but pretty easy to pop on and off. I don't like commuting with back pack since they make you top heavy. Also a big problem for back packs is back sweat. It would be great if that could be fixed - maybe with a egg carton type panel against your back that allowed air flow.
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Old 09-07-10, 09:21 PM
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A problem I have with panniers is that after I arrive at my worksite, I have to walk several hundred yards with two bags. Unfortunately the bags do not have a good system for walking, although they are fine on the bike. A solution I have created in the past is a DIY backpack to which I added pannier hooks. Unfortunately, I am waiting for someone to give me a good candidate bag, hopefully one without too many zippers (zippers are the weak point in most bags...); I suppose I could go out and buy a bag...
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Old 09-08-10, 01:53 AM
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Is weight an issue when commuting to work?
Being on the flat, no, not really, having heavier panniers/bike doesn't really bother me, being used to it. The only time it is ever a problem is if the lifts aren't working and I have to carry my bike up several flights of stairs.

Are you worried about your laptop?
I commute daily with my laptop. Yes I am worried about it, I use a padded laptop case inside the pannier, I see where you are going with this one maybe

How important is aesthetic to you? Or, is function more of a selling point?
Having it look good is a bonus, but it really doesn't bother me.

How do you feel about the pannier bags currently available at stores?
Can't comment, I use touring panniers (ortlieb backroller plus) which are basically just big bags which I shove everything into.

Anyone worried about theft? of the stuff inside the panniers, or the panniers themselves?
My biggest worry with panniers & commuting is if I happen to want to stop off @ the supermarket on the way home for example. Someone could very easily remove the panniers & walk off with my laptop & everything - tho I try & be as fast as I can & I lock my bike up. Some kind of very simple lock on the pannier lid/top would be very welcome

Are there any commuters who don't use panniers? why?
Being car free means I commute to work every day, but also use my panniers for many other things, so they carry all kinds of stuff. However sometimes I like riding a nice light bike and so I'll commute with a simple backpack & laptop in it.

For those using the multi-function pannier/backpack - how do they function at their separate tasks? Anyone worried about the straps getting into the wheel?
Well, dunno about multi-function but I guess my ortlieb's serve that purpose, they're just big bags so I can shove all kinds in there - commuting work stuff, groceries, plants, stuff I buy etc. I think if you started to make a pannier too suited for one task, you may lose the ability for it to do others. A good compromise may be a pannier with insertable compartments for various tasks, but the ability to remove them all & end up with just a big bag/box.

No I'm not concerned with straps getting into the wheel, they only time they do is when I undo them & walk the bike, which isn't a big deal as I only do that when I get to work.

Anyone dead set on just using a backpack? Why? Do you think they are ergonomic for bike use?
I don't generally use a backpack given that trying to cycle with one on of any weight is pretty hard going on the back. They're not that ergonomic for most bike setups. I will use one though if I'm going to the shop for something small, or commuting on a day where I just need to take my laptop because in those situations a pannier is a bit much.

Does anyone go to the gym/yoga after work on their ride home? ie is a 'sweaty cloths' compartment needed?
Good point here. No I don't go anywhere after work, but the commute to work is always a problem. I always get to work in some kind of sweat (worse in summer) and so normally have a shower & work, but it does leave the question of what to do with the clothes I cycled in on. Normally I may have to stuff them in the same pannier bag - or I may have to take 2 panniers to have one for the dirty/sweaty clothes. A worser situation is when I commute in the rain, I get to work with soaking wet rain gear. Normally putting them into the pannier is necessity but not ideal.


Sounds like a cool project, I look forward to following it.
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Old 09-08-10, 03:12 PM
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There are two factors that determine whether I'll use a backpack or panniers. One is the distance and the other is the size or bulk of the load I'm carrying. I personally prefer panniers as I want to keep the weight on my bike instead of on my back. This becomes more important as the distance increases. For three kilometres with a small load, it's easy enough to use a small backpack. For five or six kilometres or more, panniers are much more attractive. For heavy loads, panniers will win every time.

One of the biggest problems I have with some of the panniers available is the quality of the product. I'm willing to make some weight sacrifices and I'm willing to pay a little more in order to get durable bags. After all, I'm going to depend on those bags to carry my gear on a regular basis. I can't afford to have the bags failing when I need them the most. This might sound like something quite basic, but I've dealt with various items that couldn't hold up. When cycling products are well-built, they quickly develop a good reputation. It's the reason some will rave about Ortleib panniers or Brooks saddles and it's why I speak quite highly of the products which bear the Mountain Equipment Co-op labels.


Functionality is also important to me, but style and appearance don't matter all that much.
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Old 09-08-10, 08:44 PM
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Thank you all for the great feedback! And, for you time in answering all of my questions.
I'll keep posting as I progress through the design process. Stay tuned!

Helen
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Old 09-09-10, 02:30 AM
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I have Ortlieb backroller plus bags. They are clearly designed for long tours, and if I was designing a bag for commuting, I would make many changes. Weight or looks would not be big factors for most commuters. It's mostly about function.

They should be waterproof; Ortliebs win on this one.

They should clip on and off the bike simply but securely; another win for the Ortliebs.

They should close simply and securely; fail for the Ortliebs.

They should travel well full or empty, as you may leave out empty to fill with groceries; fail for the Ortliebs.

There should be no loose straps; major safety fail for the Ortliebs.

They should be sturdy; possible fail for the Ortliebs.

An easy method for locking them to the bike would be a plus; Ortlieb does have a lock available.

Check out the Topeak MTX DXP rear back with panniers. It's a clever system with panniers that roll down when you need them, and store in the bag when not in use. It's a great idea, though it would be a lot more useful if the panniers were bigger and sturdier.

Lots of internal pockets for tools, tubes, cell phone and such would be a nice touch; at least one of them should be padded for cell phone, Ipod, etc. You could put things in the pockets that you want to carry on every ride, and keep them segregated from the groceries or clothes you loaded up that day. The pockets not much good unless they hold the items securely.

Reflective tape or paint on the outside of the bags is a smart touch.
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Old 09-09-10, 07:25 AM
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https://kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/bags.htm this might be an interesting read for you, Helena. It's more about touring, but it might give you some more ideas
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Old 09-09-10, 10:40 AM
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One of my issues with some panniers (and also some briefcases) that have a flap cover is that the carrying handle is offset because of the flap, and the thing hangs crookedly and bumps your leg when you walk holding it by the handle.
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Old 09-09-10, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
One of my issues with some panniers (and also some briefcases) that have a flap cover is that the carrying handle is offset because of the flap, and the thing hangs crookedly and bumps your leg when you walk holding it by the handle.
Can't you just carry it so that it hangs outward?
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Old 09-09-10, 12:50 PM
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Same thing - either the top or bottom bumps against your leg. A minor annoyance, but still annoying.
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Old 09-09-10, 06:23 PM
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I agree with most of the points made above. I rank visibility pretty important--yellow or light grey or lime green are great safety colors. Also, a problem with my Trek panniers is that they straps are easy to forget to fasten and they will rattle in my spokes. And the panniers are not comfortable to carry or keep set upright on the ground. Not even when the they are filled and bottom-heavy--panniers will fall sideways, which is SUPER COOL when you are transporting a dozen eggs. (I love being able to just fill rubbermaid containers and put them on my Xtracycle.)
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Old 09-09-10, 08:03 PM
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I use both a backpack and panniers depending on the load. Actually most of the time, my backpack is slung over the back of the seat of my recumbent, and I use the panniers for grocery and other shopping on my utility bike. But the panniers are a new item. For decades I used only a backpack on my standard bikes.

Aesthetic is of no concern to me. Function creates its own aesthetic. Panniers and backpacks are tools. Reflective is the word. Currently, I have a safety vest wrapped around my backpack so it flaps in the wind, and I think the motion makes it easier to see at night. My SunLite Shopping panniers are boxy and sit squarely on the ground.

I don't go to the gym, but in commuting, I'm usually carrying a shirt for work. So it's not sweaty clothes I'm concerned with, but professional clothes.

And yes, theft is a big concern. It would be cool if I could lock the pannier and backpack to avoid prying hands, and also lock the pannier/backpack to the bike.
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Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

Last edited by Artkansas; 09-09-10 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 09-09-10, 10:17 PM
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Thank you everyone, for taking the time to answer my questions!
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Old 09-10-10, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
my backpack is slung over the back of the seat of my recumbent,
When did you get a recumbent? I thought you rode a specialized MTB?
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Old 09-10-10, 04:52 PM
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These are pretty close to the touring panniers I use. They're great for touring but for commuting they have some advantages and disadvantages.

The bags have one huge waterproof compartment, a smaller detachable pouch under the top flap and a non-waterproof pocket at the rear.


ADVANTAGES

1. Everything stays dry, except for the few items in the rear pockets which are not waterproof. (I've had these panniers in water to within four centimetres of the top and the gear inside — including a computer — stayed completely dry. I've also been out in some drenching rains and again, nothing in the main compartments of the bags got wet.)

2. These have a capacity of around 46 litres, which is enough room for the gear I need for a one-week to two-week tour.

3. Durability is great. I've had my panniers for five or six years and in that time, I've given them a lot of hard use. They are not showing any noticeable signs of wear.

4. They clasp securely to the bike and do not let go, but they're easy to remove. My previous panniers did not hook to the bike as securely, which led to all sorts of messy problems.


DISADVANTAGES

1. The bags are at their best when they're at 60 to 100 per cent of capacity. They don't do as well when there's little to carry. My needs for commuting would call for around 30 litres of capacity at most.

2. When the bags are only partly full, I don't want to carry a computer in them. In a full bag, the clothing I carry will easily absorb bumps on the road but when the bags are only half full or less, the computer will bounce around every time I hit a bump on the road.

3. The bags have heel cutouts which are needed, but the bottom 10 to 20 centimetres of the bag are an awkward shape for commuters who have to carry paperwork.
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Old 09-11-10, 04:32 PM
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I would like panniers to be easy to clean and not show the dirt too much.
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Old 09-14-10, 03:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
When did you get a recumbent? I thought you rode a specialized MTB?
About 3 years ago. Since my commute shot up to 10 miles each way I use it for commuting and the Hard Rock has become my utility bike.
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 09-14-10, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by HB.Watermelon View Post
Hi!
Is weight an issue when commuting to work?
Not really, no. It's already full of textbooks, folders, etc.

Are you worried about your laptop?
Yes, Arkel makes a laptop pouch that attaches to the top of the bag (on the inside, obviously) so it has some give and isn't just bouncing around on the bottom of the bag. I'm thinking about getting one.

How important is aesthetic to you? Or, is function more of a selling point?
I'd say it's about 95% function. If a bag looks like it's from the 80s, I'd probably pick a similar model from a different brand. Aside from ridiculous graphics and color schemes, looks are not a big factor for me. Aesthetics to me usually revolve around the design being practical and engineered well.

How do you feel about the pannier bags currently available at stores?
Many of them seem like they are cheaply made and wouldn't last as long as I'd like given daily use and the occasional bike tour. I'm a big fan of the material Arkel uses.

Anyone worried about theft? of the stuff inside the panniers, or the panniers themselves?
My bags go with me when I get off the bike, so this is a non-issue for me.

Are there any commuters who don't use panniers? why?
I'm sure there are, can't comment on it though.

For those using the multi-function pannier/backpack - how do they function at their separate tasks? Anyone worried about the straps getting into the wheel?
One of my bags is an Arkel Bug. It works perfectly for what I use it for, which is mostly walking around campus between classes. I wouldn't want to use it as a backpack for a day hike or anything, but in a pinch it wouldn't be a big deal. The bag has two flaps on the back secured with velcro, when the bag goes on the bike, the straps go under the flaps and are secured nicely... so, no, not really worried about it.

Anyone dead set on just using a backpack? Why? Do you think they are ergonomic for bike use?
There is definitely a factor of wind resistance to consider between panniers vs backpacks, but the difference seems pretty minuscule. I don't like riding with backpacks because my back gets all sweaty.

Does anyone go to the gym/yoga after work on their ride home? ie is a 'sweaty cloths' compartment needed?
It might be a nice feature for some folks, but I would prefer to use a plastic bag, that way the pannier doesn't get nasty and require cleaning more often.

When I have a better idea of my design direction and have something on paper, is anyone wanting, willing, and able to critique the ideas?
Absolutely. I too am a student of engineering and I'd be happy to give comments/critique.
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