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smokeycanuck 03-15-21 05:55 AM

Touring Noob Pannier Question
So I picked up a new LHT last week with a Tubus Logo rear rack. This spring and summer I plan lots of day tripping and perhaps a few over-nighters/weekend trips around home (southern Ontario) just to get me feet wet touring and build up my fitness. Longer trips i'm hoping will be in my future.

I've been agonizing over panniers. Of course Ortlieb and (Canadian Made) Arkel are on the short list. I'm not looking for a debate on which is the better brand - there's plenty of reading on that topic here and all over touring forums.

My question is what is s good starting point volume wise? I will only be using the rear rack for starters with a Tubus Tara in the radar as a future purchase for the front. I see there are a few bags from each maker that can work as front or rear and then there is just dedicated (larger) rear bags. For my needs would it be wiser to buy the larger bags for rear knowing I wont be packing them too much yet? Or would it be a better to buy smaller at first and then when I buy bigger bags in the future, move the smaller ones up front?

The Ortlieb rollers/packers and Arkel Orca/Dolphins are my short list currently.

Thanks in advance for any comments/feedback.

Trevtassie 03-15-21 06:39 AM

Although it can be a bit of "if fits fill it full" bigger doesn't need to be filled but if they are too small it sucks. What you will find is you need nearly as much stuff for a weekend tour as you need for a month. Camping gear, clothes etc etc. Main difference is food, you tend to carry extra staples on long tours. So likely you'll need bigger rather than smaller bags anyway if you're just running rears..
I have back roller classics, they'd be too small by far on their own. On long trips I have full front and rears, plus a basket on the rack with assorted junk. If I had my time again I'd get Back Roller Pro Classics, for those times I need to carry extra water and food.

timdow 03-15-21 06:46 AM

Either way would work. With all the bikepacking solutions that have come out recently, there are so many different ways to carry your stuff.

I started with rear panniers with the intention of using fronts also, but instead ended up with a frame bag (Revelate Designs Tangle) and an Ortlieb Ultimate 6 handlebar bag because I really didn't need the extra volume. This does put more weight to the rear, but I also ride an LHT an get no instability with this setup.

To add another solution... On my bikepacking rig, I run small Ortlieb front panniers in the rear, a frame bag and bikepacking style handlebar bag and have been considering doing this on my road bike to make a light(er)-touring setup:

djb 03-15-21 06:52 AM

I would recommend getting the larger ones, both brands are well made. Also simply from the point of view that if you are someone who rides at all, or will ride regularly, the larger size are simply more practical for all kinds of day use, ie putting a few groceries in etc, so to me you can't go wrong with the larger size.
And yes, no need to fill them completely, but you will appreciate the space and ease of use.

pdlamb 03-15-21 07:20 AM

For day trips, you really don't need a pannier (unless you're riding somewhere hot, dry, and without a water source for 60 miles). A good bar bag will carry everything you need -- camera, phone, wallet, snack, multi-tool, spare tube and tire irons, light rain jacket, dry socks and gloves for after the rain.

Overnight or weekend, where are you spending the nights? B&B or motel, a Sportspacker will carry your clothes, and potentially a small stove and cook set. If you're camping, you might be able to get a compact bag and air mattress into the Sportspacker, and carry a small tent on the rear rack (cargo net is better than bungees!).

If you're carrying a larger synthetic bag and inflatable foam pad, you'll want the Bikepacker. Those'll also carry a spare tire, more tools, lots more clothes, towel, a couple days' food, etc.

Funny thing is, it really doesn't take much more to tour for weeks on end than it does for a weekend. If you start with the Sportspacker for "credit card" (B&B) touring, and you decide you want to carry a lot more volume, those bags work well as front panniers if you combine them with a set of Bikepackers (or similar Arkel size).

Tourist in MSN 03-15-21 07:46 AM

My rear Ortlieb rollers are 40 liters for the pair, the front rollers are 25 liters for the pair. I also use a handlebar bag. I often strap my rain gear on top of my front panniers where it is handy, thus the rain gear is not within that total volume.

In this photo, the only thing on top of the rear rack besides those bags is a tent pole bag.

In the photo below I have the Ortlieb 31 liter rack pack on top of the rear, this is a full 31 liter capacity increase over the above photo.

And in the photo below I have a much smaller dry bag on top of the rear rack as an in-between example of needing more than the panniers but not the full 31 liters.

For me for pannier volumes, 40 liters in back and 25 up front works well, plus the ability to put more on top in back. I have some bigger and some smaller panniers but the Ortliebs are a good size.

You want the rear panniers set as far forward as practical so that you have adequate heel clearance when you pedal, but not a lot more clearance than that. If your center of gravity is too far back, that can lead to bad handling, especially if all weight is on back.

No two people are going to pack the same way, you might get by with a lot less or you might need more. I met this gal on Cape Breton Island, she had been traveling for weeks when I met her and she did not have front panniers, she was packed lighter than I was.

andrewclaus 03-15-21 08:45 AM

It's likely that whatever you buy, you're going to change it after a year or two. I bet most of us have done that. I've gone through several iterations of packs and racks, and will probably change again.

On my first tour in 1975, I'd never even heard the word "pannier" and I still managed to pack what I needed for a two-week trip around Lake Michigan, in a couple of duffel bags from gym class hung from an old steel book rack, the kind with the spring clamp on top. Eventually I geared up with the four panniers and handlebar bag for a couple of decades, and that just got too heavy. Now I'm with two small Arkel Drylite rear panniers and that's all. Notice the smile on the cyclist above with the light load?

Common wisdom is to gather your load first and buy the pack to fit it, but you probably don't even know what you want to carry, and it will change over the years. Thus the multiple iterations.

Brett A 03-15-21 09:30 AM

Originally Posted by andrewclaus (Post 21968042)
It's likely that whatever you buy, you're going to change it after a year or two. I bet most of us have done that.

I pretty strongly disagree with this; if you're careful with your initial purchase, there would never be need to change your setup. You may want to, but you'll never need to. This stuff is expensive, I doubt most of us would choose to spend more money than we need to. (That's money we could spend on campsites and peanut butter.)

I have a set or Ortlieb rollers, front and rear, on Tubus racks, with an Ortlieb handlebar bag. I've lived out of them for around 4,000 miles of loaded touring over four years. Including three, one month solo tours.
This set up carries everything I need to live on the bike for an open-ended amount of time without needing a stack (which is anything strapped on top of the rear rack; although it's good to have the option)

At the same time, the combination of small front bags and handlebar bag allow for a set-up to get me through smaller trips. Just going out for a long day? The handlebar bag and one front bag attached to the rear rack- allows me to carry everything I could possibly want or need. And overnight with no cooking? The two small bags and the handlebar bag suffice.

I would not recommend the larger rear rollers for general use, They are massive and don't close well without something in them.

So I'd recommend starting with a pair of front rollers or similar, and pick up the larger rear ones when you're ready to head out for an extend time.

This is such a versatile set up, I can't imagine needing or wanting anything different, Unless I decided to do more off road bikepacking. In which case, I'd want a different bike and different bags to put on it. Because bike packing is a totally different approach that requires different equipment.

boomhauer 03-15-21 12:06 PM

Originally Posted by smokeycanuck (Post 21967828)
For my needs would it be wiser to buy the larger bags for rear knowing I wont be packing them too much yet? Or would it be a better to buy smaller at first and then when I buy bigger bags in the future, move the smaller ones up front?

I would just buy the larger rear panniers first. If you are doing just a day trip at the beginning you could fit everything you need in ONE of the rear panniers and leave the other one at home. You might not every feel the need in the future for front panniers (and a front rack) if you don't cook while on tour or aren't 50+ miles away from a food source (rare).

gerryl 03-15-21 12:10 PM

I would go with the larger size. Like others have said you don't have to fill them up, but it's nice to have the flexibility. They might be the only panniers you'll ever need, However if you buy the smaller ones, you might one day find yourself buying a larger pair if your needs change. I have have the so far trouble free practically indestructible Arkel Orgas. Most of the time the panniers are barely have full, but when you do need the extract room i.e. winter time or very hot weather it's vital to have extract room.

Tourist in MSN 03-15-21 12:16 PM

One more quick note I forgot to mention in my previous post. Your Logo is a great rack for touring, the hold panniers very well.

For around home, I like a wider rack so I put my Logo in storage. But the Logo gets put back on the bike for my next tour.

If it is black, I bought some black fingernail polish to use to touch up wear spots where the paint gets rubbed off. Built in brush, very convenient way to touch up the rack.

smokeycanuck 03-16-21 04:51 AM

Thanks for the all the great feedback.

balto charlie 03-16-21 06:30 AM

I think you need to lay out all of your gear, tent, bag, clothes, cooking etc and see how much space you need. If you are an ultra-lite backpacker you can get away with minimal sized panniers but if you are not then you'll have to get larger panniers. I go relatively lightweight but I use a tarp not a tent, bag is down not poly, cook gear is small (boil water only) etc so I can get away with less space. Plus I dont mind wearing dirty clothes. Also what foods do you carry. Figure this out then buy some panniers

Doug64 03-16-21 12:49 PM

IMO buying the larger bags first is the most flexible. You can always put less in 40L bags, but it is hard to put more in bags that are too small for the load. Having said that, my wife did just the opposite. She used a set of front panniers on her rear rack to ride across the U.S. Her camping gear was carried on top of the rack. The ride took 74 days, and she carried everything she needed. I carried the tent, stove, etc.:)

She did go to larger rear panniers after that trip and has used them on longer tours for the last 14 years. She uses the Ortlieb Packer Plus series panniers. Our bikes are loaded in our normal configuration for a long self supported tour.

Our daughters use their mother's loading technique, but follow their dad's example and use Orlieb Back Rollers. They have them "stuffed for a 2-month ride. They carry all their camping gear, splitting the tent between them.

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