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Pannier Sizing... be conservative or force minimalism...

Old 08-10-12, 11:51 PM
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burbankbiker
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Pannier Sizing... be conservative or force minimalism...

I'm looking at getting a set of Arkel front and rear panniers for my first big tour in September (Portland to San Francisco). I've been looking at the GT-54 which is their flagship rear pannier model and the GT-18 which is their matching front. However, in looking at photos it just seems to me that GT-18s in the front and rear would be more than enough space. Am I crazy?

My worry is that the GT-54s will invite overpacking because, hey, I've got the space! Suddenly I'll find myself climbing through the Oregon coastal mountains wondering why I packed a backup sleeping bag, my George Forman grill, a block of modeling clay in case inspiration strikes, and my lucky bowling ball!

I wonder what other people think... especially if you've used the GT18 or GT54s. Is the extra space 1650cu vs 1100cu useful or is it just needless bulk for trips like I'm doing which won't really ever be more than a couple weeks at a time?

Input is greatly welcomed!
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Old 08-11-12, 06:20 AM
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I like to carry enough spare capacity that if I will need to carry a few more days of food or a few extra liters of water, that I have room for it. I carry a medium size duffel (about 30 liters) that I put on top of the rear rack and panniers, but that duffel is usually half empty.



If you load those Arkels up to only 80 percent full, do they have compression straps to take up the extra slack?
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Old 08-11-12, 06:37 AM
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Get all the stuff you absoutely must take, and then see what the volume is. Maybe you can do this with four grocery bags, and then calculate the volume. There are probably better ways, but this just came to mind.
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Old 08-11-12, 09:05 AM
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I like having extra capacity to carry more food and water just in case. The whole argument of "don't have bigger panniers, because you'll just end up packing more" is nonsense, because if you take care to plan out your load and use lists, and carefully consider everything those lists, it's a non-issue.

If you seriously cannot resist filling all the space in your bags when you roll out the door, then I guess maybe you need smaller bags, but anybody is capable of planning ahead, sticking to the "lay out everything you need, then get rid of half of it" plan, and minimizing their load. Look at some ultralight/minimalist touring packlists, and go easy on the extra clothes, and then just reserve space for spare food and water if you've got room left.
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Old 08-11-12, 09:12 AM
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An alternative is the GT42, which my wife uses. I have the GT54 as I like a lot of separate pockets. I don't use the tent pole piece, I had them make me a smaller piece. The 54's are heavier. The 54's are more than enough for me, and I would think that if you use front panniers as well they would be too much, hence maybe the 42's. I use a small handlebar bag for wallet, camera etc.
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Old 08-11-12, 09:17 AM
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I agree with Jude, if you plan carefully then it shouldn't be a problem. But what I also think is that large panniers particularly frilly ones with extra pockets and doo dahs, weight a ton by themselves. On the Arkel site I noticed that at least in the pictures I looked at, the owner seemed to do most of his touring with rear panniers only. The reality is that these days it is possible to do a trans at comfortably with all your gear weighing what a set of posh panniers and a front rack weigh empty. So there is that.
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Old 08-11-12, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
Get all the stuff you absoutely must take, and then see what the volume is. Maybe you can do this with four grocery bags, and then calculate the volume. There are probably better ways, but this just came to mind.
That's a cool idea, actually. I can't believe I've never thought of that or heard it mentioned before.

All of the input from everyone here is welcomed. I guess I'm on the fence because I was unsure of even taking front panniers until I read so many places about how loading up front helps stability and handling compared to rear-only. But it effectively doubles my carrying capacity and I already didn't expect I'd need much. I'm a fairly minimalist packer, at least on regular trips. I'll check out those GT42s, for sure.
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Old 08-11-12, 10:52 AM
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The GT53 and T28 (smaller than T18) pair is a HUGE amount of capacity. I hate my '54's they are way too big and needlessly heavy. I like the T28's. If I had it to do again and was wedded to Arkel, I would got T42 & T28.

I don't pack particularly light, by the way - full camping, cooking, lots of clothes - but I do strap the tent on the top of the rack.
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Old 08-11-12, 12:03 PM
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I'm getting by with two backroller plus, a 13L dry sack (for tent and sleeping bag) and a ortlieb handlebar bag.
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Old 08-11-12, 12:29 PM
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My wife rode across the U. S. with just a pair of Ortlieb Front Packers on the rear of her bike. She carried all her own camping gear, excluding stove and tent. For the last couple of years she has been using larger pair of Ortlieb Packer Plus on the rear.

for trips like I'm doing which won't really ever be more than a couple weeks at a time?
I've found that the load is about the same for 2 weeks as it is for 2 months, depending on the season.

]

This weight distribution has worked well for me. These are Ortlieb Classic Rollers and Front Rollers. I'm not pushing Ortliebn panniers. I mentioned them so you can get an idea of load comparisons.
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Old 08-11-12, 02:10 PM
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Not that I've done a lot of touring, but the best advice given to me here was to camp out with the gear overnight. I found out really quick that a lot of gear I didn't need, and that what I pack for 4 days, was the same amount I pack for 2 weeks. It was great advice. I use 20 liter bags on the back, 15 up front.
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Old 08-11-12, 02:40 PM
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I like to have some spare carrying space available in case there's something extra I want to take along at some point in the trip - maybe extra food/water supplies or a clothing item. Usually I just leave the top of the rack free and figure I can use that space but sometimes there's extra space inside the panniers as well. But the Arkel panniers are rather heavy even when empty so I'd be reluctant to take the GT54s unless there were really a need for that much capacity.

I agree with those who say the bike handles better with some of the weight up front, but still prefer to tour with just rear panniers when possible. The handling is still good enough and I'd rather not always be seeing my luggage while riding.
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Old 08-12-12, 12:36 PM
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The GT 54's are heavy. I was surprised to see that they don't weigh much more than the 42's, 6.6lbs vs 5 on the website. The different feels like more than that.

I only use rear panniers, with a handlebar bag. I can carry around 3 sets of street and cycling clothing, plus all other needs. Some things take up space but not a lot of weight, like rain jackets.

An advantage of rear only is when travelling off the bike. Such as taking a train, when usually rushing to find the bike coach and load the bike and bags, and just getting to the platform. Also flying, with baggage costs.

Riding with just the rear panniers is fine, but handling the bike when walking and leaning against something can be tricky.

I usually don't fill the whole 54's but leave the top pockets for food etc picked up during the day. I have used them for three week trips, staying at hotels. But I think the 42's are sufficient, especially if you are not anal about organizing things.
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Old 08-12-12, 12:57 PM
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And being Sewn together raincovers will be useful, if damp stuff
and/or lots of zip-lock plastic bags sealing everything is not your desire..

I have a sewn compartmentalized touring pannier set , they are not as useful between trips
as the big Dry Roller closed bags which I can take into the grocery check out as my
reusable shopping bag.. [hang them back on the bike and Go.. ]
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Old 08-12-12, 01:05 PM
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With experience, I've learned to pack all I need into two medium sized panniers and an 8x20 rack pack. 25 lbs vs 40. For civilization touring only. Handling is not quite as stable, but nothing significant. That is on an upright. On the bent, plenty of frame space for extra water and food when I do stray from civilization.

If I were going for 4 panniers, it would be 4 mid sized ones. The larger Axioms are too heavy to justify. Don't know about Arkel.
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Old 08-12-12, 06:08 PM
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Nature abhors a vacuum, and you will fill your packs. I see it all the time. I'm a minimalist in my packing and I raise a lot of eyebrows from the folks with five packs and a bungeed stack on top of every horizontal surface, not to mention trailers.

I challenged myself on my last tour to carry only two old rear panniers (no idea of the size). I convinced myself to pack for a cycling trip, not a camping trip. It was simple and the cycling was very enjoyable. I just sold my front panniers, rack, and handlebar bag.

The advice above about buying packs only for what you need to carry is very good. And do your best to carry less stuff. I found I didn't need three changes of clothes, for instance.
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Old 08-12-12, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Nature abhors a vacuum, and you will fill your packs. I see it all the time. I'm a minimalist in my packing and I raise a lot of eyebrows from the folks with five packs and a bungeed stack on top of every horizontal surface, not to mention trailers.
Meh, I still don't buy that this is really a problem - provided you plan your gear list carefully and are aware of what you're packing. The issue is really more about people who are inexperienced with living the nomadic lifestyle and are convinced they need more than they actually do. If you pick your gear list carefully, having extra space is a complete non-issue.
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Old 08-12-12, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
The advice above about buying packs only for what you need to carry is very good. And do your best to carry less stuff. I found I didn't need three changes of clothes, for instance.
+1.

IMO: At 6.6 pounds those GT54s are way too big & heavy, go with the GT18's and save two pounds.
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Old 08-12-12, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
+1.

IMO: At 6.6 pounds those GT54s are way too big & heavy, go with the GT18's and save two pounds.
I was just looking at thier site and saw that weight. I am wondering if that is a little optimistic. My old Jandd Mountaineering bags are almost five pounds for the pair, and have very little in the way of all the doodads the arkels have.(and at five bucks unused at a thrift store, worth every pound!)


As to the OPs question, I like to leave some room for a couple chocolate cakes and a fried turkey when I get peckish, but recently have been traveling with a light load and no extra room, so that that it is a challenge to carry extra food. Makes things interesting.

Extra room is fine, you can use it or not use it as your experience and or personal style dictate. But while I like pockets a lot, I think the arkels look to be way overkill. I can't imagine filling all those things, much less finding what I am looking for in anything but the last of what looks like 75 pockets to look in.
And an empty pocket on something I paid that much for would drive me nuts.
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Old 08-13-12, 05:06 AM
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It depends. I have both the GT-54 and the GT-18 bags myself and don't quite see all the fuss about weight. Its total weight, convenience and functionality that counts overall. I'm talking about the complete touring package - not just the bags. Personally I have absolutely no use for a laptop computer or GPS module or full kitchen setup myself but other people insist on bringing that along.

In most cases I can travel with just the GT-18's up front, a bar bag and a trunk bag. The GT -54's are better when (in addition to the rest) when travelling in areas with larger temperature variations, higher chances of heavy rain, and packing additional raingear, shoes, warmer clothing and a heavier weight tent is an advantage.

Rain covers are sold seperately for all these bags and recommended. Cinch straps are standard and well placed. Both the GT-18's and the GT-54's have internal aluminum frames. The GT-54's also have a rigid bottom support.

Cycletouring style is different for different people. Personally I tend to spend as much time off the bike as on it and lots of time exploring areas on foot, or just camping out at a beach or waterfall. So my 'requirements' are a little different from someone that just wants to cover a lot of miles and never really get off the bike except to eat or sleep.
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Old 08-13-12, 10:28 AM
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Another small but unsung plus to extra carrying capacity is that you don't have to pack very carefully. When space is tight, all of the gear has to be tightly packed before loading up, and then loaded up just so, every day. With extra room you can just stuff things in, tighten the straps and go. Like I said, it's a small thing. Whether that's worth the extra weight or not is the question.
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Old 08-13-12, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
I have both the GT-54 and the GT-18 bags myself and don't quite see all the fuss about weight.
Your bags & rain cover weigh 11.5 pounds before adding anything. That's more than my Ortlieb panniers AND my large (2.5 man) tent.
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Old 08-14-12, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted byBurton
I have both the GT-54 and the GT-18 bags myself anddon't quite see all the fuss about weight.
Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
Your bags & rain cover weigh 11.5 pounds before adding anything. That's more than my Ortlieb panniers AND my large (2.5 man) tent.
And your point is what exactly?

My bike probably weighs more than yours too. On the other hand I'm far more interested in having fun touring than counting how many grams of light weight equipment I'm carrying. And I'm sure that if you listed the complete contents of your panniers there would be a least a few items that several people would consider a complete waste of time. Its more important what you do with what you have than arguing about whats 'most' suitable.

And on that note - I've managed to cover just about every National Park in North America over the past thirty years myself - and some more than once. So you're wasting your time insinuating that my choice of equipment might be holding me back. The cyclists imagination and physical condition always have been and still are the key elements to sucessful touring.

If your own health or physical condition dictates that every little pound causes an anxiety attack - you have my sympathy. But there's always tour busses.

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Old 08-14-12, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
My bike probably weighs more than yours too. On the other hand I'm far more interested in having fun touring than counting how many grams of light weight equipment I'm carrying.
That is ultimately the point, if you aren't having fun, why do it. However, I'm a gram counter for two reasons; first of all, the gram counting is kind of fun in and of itself, but more importantly carrying less stuff allows me to have more fun while riding. I can cover more ground, if the cycling is kind of dull, I can afford myself more rest stops to see things along the way, and while riding, my bike feels more like a bike than a tank.

In my mind, things that should be as heavy as they need to be to fulfill their purpose, but no heavier; there is no reason to bring along a 15 pound tent if a 5 pound tent can do the exact same thing.

Of course, you don't really need to compromise between minimal panniers and extra space, get panniers just large enough for your load and a bit of food, and pack an extra stuff sack and a few bungee cords, just in case.

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Old 08-14-12, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
And your point is what exactly?
+1 to what fuzz said.

Originally Posted by Burton View Post
If your own health or physical condition dictates that every little pound causes an anxiety attack - you have my sympathy.
Carrying extra weight (gram or otherwise) that I don't use or need is waste of my time and energy, I therefore do pay attention to the weight of everything I carry.

BTW: My health is excellent, at 59. I just added 2,400 miles to my lifetime 15,000 touring miles.

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