Monday, September 04, 2006


Also known as "saddle bags", paniers are the classic tool for hauling stuff by bike. These are bags that attach to the rear rack of the bike. I routinely load my panniers up with a paper grocery bag or about 40lbs worth of stuff. Paniers are the best way to carry heavy loads that don't warrant a trailer because they keep the weight (and thus the center of gravity) low and off of the front wheel unlike handlebar baskets that make for unbalanced turning.

Contributed by: Ken Clark & Scott TenBrink

If you are feeling handy, Chuck pointed out DYI paniers made from plastic waste baskets.


Bruce Fields said...

So I left the farmer's market this morning, and just after turning left from Catherine onto Fourth, one of my panniers hopped off and spread miscellaneous produce and personal belongings across the road. Cars steered around the mess carefully and someone helped me gather my stuff back. The only permanent damage seems to be a torn fender, a bruised ego, and a mild case of road rash on my butternut squash.

But I'm losing faith in my panniers. And they're pretty ragged anyway--one of them's developing a nice hole in the bottom.

Any recommendations for replacements? I'm looking for capacity (every now and then I'll try to bring 40-50lbs from the grocery store), convenience (I make lots of short trips, so it's nice if they're easy to take on and off, and easy to carry around), and, err, reliability!

HomelessDave said...

Sorry to hear about your crappy morning, but the reference to "my butternut squash" put an extra bit of comedy in mine.

As far as recommendations for new bags, I've always wondered how the those so-called 'grocery panniers' actually perform. Structurally, they're basically big wire-frame boxes that can fold flat if they're not loaded. Some models include a cover, but the traditional ones are just open. Seems that they'd score very high on the volume scale. You could stand vertical objects (baguettes and the like) in them, too. But having never used them, I hesitate to say, Yeah, Bruce, go buy some, that's just what you need.

Here's a link to some grocery panniers, and if you scroll to the bottom, you'll see something for the true urban bike guerilla: grocery pannier

Aki said...

I have a pair of those grocery panniers, the REI ones, and they work well for me for shopping and general haulage. They're quite light, which means that even with just one on, you don't feel unbalanced, but the total volume of space is considerable. Mine have little snaps so that you can fix them in the flat position when not using them, but it's very easy to remove them, even one-handed. It is possible for them to come loose but I've never had both clips come free when I've knocked the bag with my heel, so it stays on even if it's askew til you can pull over. They're not great for carrying inside shops or market, just because the handles are on one side of each bag (tho you can put them together so the handles are in the middle), so I keep a couple of light fabric hangle bags inside, pull those out for the shopping, and pop 'em back in at the end rather than carrying the panniers with me. Oh, and you can also have something on the rack inbetween them if you need to, whether a rack bag or a bungee'd odd-shaped item. I can see why they're not good for people who want a closed bag but they're brilliant for shopping and just throwing things into for short trips.

Bruce Fields said...

My current panniers are trek grocery panniers. And, yep, that's probably the right genre for me.

I think they fall off for two reasons: first, the cord that attaches to the center of the wheel has stretched over time, so it no longer provides much tension; and second, it's hard to get them positioned in a way that leaves enough clearence for my heels. I don't remember bumping them yesterday, but I might have.

Maybe the clearance problem is the fault of my bike, I don't know.

Those Jandd panniers aren't cheap but they look a little higher quality. And they seem to have given some thought to adjusting them for heel clearance.

It looks like REI isn't selling their version any more. Amazon has a bunch of choices. Hm.

"if you scroll to the bottom, you'll see something for the true urban bike guerilla:"

Wow, yeah, the Oyster Buckets are something else. Looks like they'd be a little awkard to carry around, though.

Bruce Fields said...

By the way, I finally got myself some new panniers (over four months after the embarassing incident with the squash); a pair of these in glorious yellow.

The attachment mechanism is both more convenient and more secure than the bungee-and-hook arrangement on the grocery panniers. They look like they should be a lot more durable, and (based on a roughly 36lb grocery haul this evening), they seem more stable when loaded--the old ones wobbled a bit when full.

They also cost a lot more. Oh well.