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Panniers short list - help please

Old 06-03-12, 11:49 AM
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Panniers short list - help please

My wife and I are planning a 4-day ride on the Katy Trail in Missouri and I need to buy some panniers. I don't expect we'll use these often, maybe once or twice a year or the occassional overnight weekend trip. I'm looking for something that's more than one big cavity per side. It need not be too large for our short credit card touring trips. From backpacking experience, I plan to pack in zip lock bags so waterproof panniers aren't necessary. I already have a standard basic rack. My budget is "under $75" and I've narrowed the field to three that get good reviews:

Avenir Excursion Large - I read one comment that some of the outside pockets don't have any closures to keep things in.

Avenir Excursion Small - I read mention of six outside pockets but I only see two. Are the others tucked away such that they're more secure?

Axiom Seymour LX - Only two outside pockets but they might be made better.

Does anyone have any specific experience with these bags that would make one stand out as much better or worse than the others?

For the record, I've also looked at:

Nashbar ATB - Cheap with good reviews but I can't tell how they open and close from the pictures and descriptions.
Banjo Brothers Saddlebags - No outside pockets.
Bushwhacker Moab - No outside pockets.
Louis Garneau Beta BB-46 - Rather large at 2807 cubic inches.
Sunlite C-Sport Traveler 2 - Not very flattering reviews.
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Old 06-03-12, 01:36 PM
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I'm not sure what you're hoping to achieve with the extra pockets. You can't conveniently get at stuff in a pannier while it's on the bike, and especially not while you're riding. Panniers are not a whole lot like a backpacking backpack, even tho the materials are quite similar. Generally on a bike you would sort your gear into different bags rather than different pockets. In extreme cases, you might see someone with a handlebar bag, 2 front panniers, 2 rear panniers, and then some stuff on top of their rack and maybe some stuff in a saddlebag.

I'm a 5'6" woman. With the Axiom Seymour panniers, I basically couldn't fit my hand into the "small" pockets to get at things. They're smaller than a small glasses case, and not a very useful shape. So while on paper they have 2 pockets, I'd class them as 1 pocket panniers in practice. The small pockets also don't seal terribly well.

If I insisted on a multi-pocket pannier, I'd look at something more like REI's Gotham panniers. (yes, I know the reviews are horrible... REI is using a new version of the Rixen and Kaul attachment hardware, and apparently there are problems with the design) With this design, you can actually get at the extra pocket with the pannier on the bike. Not comfortably necessarily, but it does work. And stuff put in the pocket will be reachable again. REI doesn't currently sell any other panniers with a serious multipocket design, but they usually have something or other along this line. And no, those panniers likely wouldn't suit given what you want. But they do show the difference between a useful pocket design and a poor one.

If you're not set on lots of pockets, I'd just get the Nashbar panniers. IIRC they're cheap, light, and have held up well for quite a number of folks here for cross country trips or daily use.
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Old 06-03-12, 02:05 PM
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Personally I like one big pouch type panniers and find that Nashbar or Performance waterproof ones are a good value. It is east to organize the contents with stuff sacks or ziploc bags.

That said if you insist on more than one pocket, The Nashbar MTB ones are OK. They have a drawstring on the main compartment and the flap over that is a compartment itself. I will say that after they had 15k miles or so of touring on them I did manage to rip out a seam on the part with the drawstring. I was able to use them for the rest of the tour and it was easy to sew it back up.

I have not used any of the others on your list.
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Old 06-03-12, 03:26 PM
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You're overthinking this.

For short tours, you can get away with anything, as long as it's big enough.
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Old 06-03-12, 03:44 PM
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For credit card touring get the smallest available. Checkout Jandd saddlebag panniers.
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Old 06-03-12, 04:31 PM
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You have a long list of sewn bags, in fact you can sew some together yourself
on a home sewing machine..

the list gets shorter for the welded seam waterproof bags ..
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Old 06-03-12, 06:27 PM
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I would choose something without a "bungee" suspension. I also highly recommend panniers with adjustable-position hooks. They can be used to push the whole thing back a bit to avoid heel strike, and also can be useful depending on the strut spacing of your rack.

I've been very happy with my Inertia Designs panniers, which meet both of these recommendations and have been extremely durable. They are a middle-priced option.
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Old 06-03-12, 09:04 PM
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I would not get panniers with pockets. Rooting around 4 panniers to find my extra spoon is annoying enough - but if the question were in which of the 8 pockets I'd put it, it would be even more frustrating.
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Old 06-03-12, 09:43 PM
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I have a set of the "large" avenir excursion pannier. They are pretty decent for weekend trips. I use them for tent camping, and they would be pretty large for CC touring unless you like taking comfortable amounts of clothes. Here is a picture of them on a bike from a camping trip a few weeks ago. They look very overstuffed, but it was cold and rainy so I was carrying a comfortable amount of gear. If you don't overfill them they would be pretty good for a weekend. I like outside pockets, but these do only have a flap with some light velcro to secure it. I mostly use them for bug spray, sunblock, fruit and candy bars, bandanas, stuff that if it falls out it not that bad, but so far nothing ever has.

One thing, the metal clips that hold it steady on the rack need to be bent to a tighter angle. They were a 45 degree slope when I bought them. One of the clips worked off the rack on some rough roads, but the plastic clip held it on very well until I noticed and fixed things. These are not bags that I would take across country with any thing like a heavy load, but I do use them as front bags for clothing and light things with my Jandds in the back for fully loaded trips.
Even though I just told you a bit about the only bags I know about, I have heard good stuff about nashbars, and would seriously think about those if you don't think that you will be using them that much. The price is better, not sure I would have paid 65 bucks for the aveniers. I got them for 25 at a surplus goods store.
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Old 06-03-12, 09:56 PM
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Don't really see the need for multiple pockets if you're planning on packing things in ziplock bags anyway for water protection. I find it handy to have a handlebar bag for items I want accessible while riding (camera, phone, snacks) and a seatbag for tools that I always want to have on the bike even if the panniers aren't (spare tube(s), levers, patch kit, multi-tool). Everything else can go in single-compartment panniers. I've been putting my camping gear in one (tent, sleeping bag, pad) and everything else (clothes, personal items, food, cooking gear) in the other.

Since you're not sure how much you'll be touring, I'd get some basic and pretty inexpensive panniers. Just make sure they have as much capacity as you'll need. If you end up touring more often you'll undoubtedly develop some stronger ideas about what features you'd like to have. So wait until then before getting any more expensive bags.
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Old 06-03-12, 10:01 PM
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Good points all around. Yeah, I was thinking in terms of a backpack and using pockets to organize things. I was surprised to find so many options in my price range with good reviews. I suppose that's when I started thinking too hard about which one to choose. The only bags I've actually found in stock locally have been the Axiom Seymour and Appalachian, both of which I liked. I'll stop into one of those stores again tomorrow to have another look.

I don't see myself sewing my own panniers anytime soon (although I have made my own little stuff sacks in the past) , so I do appreciate the comments and opinions on the bags I'm thinking of buying.

Thanks!
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Old 06-04-12, 09:17 AM
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The Nashbar ATB are top loading and there is a big pocket in the lid. Sometimes they are on a good sale price, I think I paid $22 for a pair of them a couple years ago, that sale did not last very long. They have steel hooks to hang onto the rack and a bit of velcro strap to prevent them from bouncing off of the rack when you hit bumps. The velcro is necessary for that purpose. Also a bit of bunge on the bottom to hold them against the rack.

For a four day credit card tour, any of these would work.

I used the Nashbar ATB for front panniers but I was carrying a load of camping gear.
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Old 06-04-12, 10:19 AM
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I do have some Sunlite panniers although I can't remember the name. It's a bag on each side and large enough for two grocery bags (the bags "overflow" at the top but that's OK). The only thing about them is they're not waterproof but I suppose I could always try modifying them in some way like glueing some plastic inside the top part.
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Old 06-04-12, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Willy Wonka
The only bags I've actually found in stock locally have been the Axiom Seymour and Appalachian, both of which I liked. I'll stop into one of those stores again tomorrow to have another look.
It would be a good idea to bring your bike with rack in to see if they will work as far as heel strike, or at least make sure you can bring them back if necessary after trying them at home.
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Old 06-05-12, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr
I do have some Sunlite panniers although I can't remember the name. It's a bag on each side and large enough for two grocery bags (the bags "overflow" at the top but that's OK). The only thing about them is they're not waterproof but I suppose I could always try modifying them in some way like glueing some plastic inside the top part.
Maybe get some drybags?

A couple years ago I talked to some bike tourists going the opposite direction that I was going. One had no panniers, instead he had those giant steel wire mesh baskets.
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Old 06-05-12, 11:14 AM
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I've been using the Nashbar ATB bags. Each bag has two zippered pockets: one in the lid that allows the whole top flap to hold extra items, and one that goes along one end from top to bottom. The side pocket can easily hold a water bottle with plenty of room to spare, the top one is better with flat items.

I don't have a handlebar bag, so those top pockets on the front panniers become my storage for items I might need during the day. I find it helpful for organizing, but I do understand where one, giant, waterproof bag would have its own benefits.

Nashbar's attachment system is so-so. I don't think I've had a bag tumble off yet, but I have had to stop and put the hooks back in place after a bumpy ride. They hold a lot, maybe too much if you're trying to go light. For the money, I think they're a great deal. I can't comment on the other bags you're looking at, because so far the Nashbar ones do the job for me, and I haven't been inspired to shell out more money on another option. I know there are better panniers out there, but the price difference between "great" and "workable" is more than I'm willing to spend for the amount of time I use them.
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Old 06-05-12, 12:18 PM
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I've had the Axiom Seymores for a few years now,I've put them thru Hell and back,no complaints.Nothing fancy but well made and are holding up well.I added zippers to the pockets and some net pockets on the outside.....Well worth the $30 a pair I paid for them.
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Old 06-07-12, 03:13 PM
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I always hate it when someone posts on a forum, a lot of people respond and the OP never returns. So, to put a wrap on this:

I looked closely at the Axiom Appalachian panniers and found that I didn't like the saddlebag design. The fabric "bridge" between the two bags that lays over the rack completely blocks the rack from any other use. Other saddlebag systems have slots or other openings that allow trunk bags, etc. to still be attached to the rack. Not these.

The next options were the Axiom Seymour LX or the Avenir Expedition Small. I went with the Avenirs and really like the way they look, fit and work. The Axiom may have been made with slightly heavier material but both manufacturers claim it's the same weight nylon and I never found both brands in one place to compare them. To be honest, if the Avenirs didn't have such a positive following, I might have tried the Seymours and may have liked them as much.

I'm a little confused by Torrilin's comment about the small size of the Seymour pockets. I could get my hand in all the way to the bottom.

Thanks to everyone for your input and guidance away from so many outside pockets. That was probably a non-necessity and I'm happy with where I landed.
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Old 06-08-12, 06:26 AM
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When are you doing the Katy, Wily? We are heading out there in September, so please report back. To get back on topic, I plan to use my new commuter pannier, and my (smaller) older commuter. Small tour, not buying anything new. Or at least that's what I say right now.
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Old 06-09-12, 03:59 PM
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I have the Nashbar bags which I purchased due to a decent review from, I believe it was 10 Wheels. They are near the size I calculated I needed and have no un-needed features, (weight 2.8 pounds for two). I can fit 30 to 35 lbs of gear so they are actually a tiny bit larger than calculated. The main compartment closes with a draw string. Outside the main compartment, the lid has a zippered compartment with useful storage and there are two additional zippered compartments on the rear side of the bags (4 outside pockets total), thus a good selection of auxiliary pockets for the things that one might need quick access to. The fabric is heavy duty and waterproof. Workmanship seems to be excellent compared to my backpacks. I feel sure these bags would provide good service for thousands of touring miles.
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Old 06-15-12, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Boudicca
When are you doing the Katy, Wily? We are heading out there in September, so please report back. To get back on topic, I plan to use my new commuter pannier, and my (smaller) older commuter. Small tour, not buying anything new. Or at least that's what I say right now.
We've BEEN doing the Katy for awhile. . We're new to cycling, having bought out first bikes in 40 years just last summer. A 30 mile day on gravel is still a lot for me. As much as I respect those who can do it, doing the entire trail in one shot is not in my immediate future. So far, we've covered 117 miles of the trail but we've actually ridden 189 miles with doubling back to the car. The last time out, we took a train to Hermann, rode to Jefferson City, then took the train back to Kirkwood. Our trips are more liesurely than most.

We're planning to take a train to Jefferson City, ride to Sedalia and come back on a train from there. We were going to do that this week but with heat and storms in the forecast, we decided to postpone. Our next opportunity for more than a day at a time won't be until fall. We'd like to make it to the western end of the trail, time and weather permitting, before the end of the year.

Good luck with your ride. Are you planning to ride the whole length? East to west or west to east? How long are you planning to take?
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Old 06-15-12, 08:55 AM
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One week, west to east, maybe 40 miles a day, variable, most of the trail but not the whole thing. Biking buddy is doing the planning. I just pays my share.
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