Tuesday, 21 July 2015

So many panniers, so little time ...

I looked in the garage, and I have quite a few panniers :-)
They are all mine (all mine!), and I have bought them at various times from various suppliers, paying the "normal" price for them - if I bought them on "clearance", you could have at that time as well!
So none of your dubious "infotainment" reviews here - just a normal chap with normal bike luggage!

I performed to "capacity" test on my pannier selection - first with the box from a pair of Caterpillar boots (US size 12, UK size 11, Euro size 46, i think. I'm not too good on Euro sizes!).
And it is a pair of boots (work boot style, not knee-boots!), rather than shoes, so it is quite a large shoe-box.
Then I did a test to see how my cycle helmet fitted. It is a large/extra-large size (I have a big head as well as big feet!, but hey, I am almost as tall as John Wayne, so I'm not a little guy!)

As I run through each pannier, I will highlight a few of the features of it, and how much I paid and stuff like that, and what I think is the best and worst features of each etc. etc.
So, off we go!

First up is our long-term favourite pannier - the rigid-sided Bike Bins Pannier.
I paid about 60 pounds (100 dollars, 86 euros) for these some years ago.
They are currently priced at 80 pounds (130 dollars, 115 euros).
The colour has faded a bit, and we have replaced one of the mounting bars, but apart from that they have been great.

A rigid plastic box with a hinged, lockable, lid. the lower bolt covers could damage some softer cargo, such as fruits.
You can see the heel cutouts take a bit of space out of the bottom.

The "Cat boots" test - hmm. Not sure if that counts as a "pass" or not.
There are a couple of loops at the ends of the pannier where string or a strap could be attached
to keep the load more secure/

There is a carry handle which is ideal for locking to a luggage
rack to deter casual theft. The (replaceable) mounts are also
shown - Rixen and Kaul Clickfix. These are the set I replaced
and were designed to fit an Altura pannier, but hey, they are
identical in every respect except colour to the ones that came
with the Bike Bins (Bike Bins have black twist clips, these
Altura ones have grey)

Only a "panel" lock, but it deters
casual theft!

Next up is the Pacific Outdoors Shopping pannier.
Here it is shown in the folded position, with the rigid Bike Bins pannier for comparison.
I got the Pacific Outdoor pannier for about 20 pounds, iirc (about 32 dollars, 28 euros) for the ONE pannier, but that price was in a "clearance" sale. The pannier is now listed as being "out of stock" at all the outlets I looked at. Its original prices was more in the 60 pounds (100 dollars, 84 euros) price range for ONE pannier (the rest of the panniers in the review I bought as pairs), but like I said, I got mine in an "end of line" clearance at a heavily reduced price.

Unfolded, it is rated at about 30 litres, and is
open-topped in design. The hole in the front
will hook over the "bag hook" on British
supermarket trolleys. too. But it makes for a
starngely lopsided carrying point - I usually
carry the pannier by the strap, or load the
contents into bags at the store, then just lift
the bags out of the pannier, leaving the pannier
on the bike. The "carry/trolley" hole also makes
a handy place to slip a lock through to secure
the pannier to the bike to deter casual theft.

A lining allows the inevitable spills to be wiped off, while padding
the carried goods from the mounts - no protruding bolt covers here!

Rixen and Kaul mounts again. But this time the mount is in
two parts - left, and right, rather than the single mounting bar
of the Bike Bins / Altura type.

The box goes in, and the strap does up, securing the load - a clear "pass"!

Actually, the Pacific Outdoor pannier is SO big that the box will go in lengthways as well as upright!
And there is still plenty of room to get my hand in as well!
The main down side to large panniers is that you have to mount them well back on the rack, as heel clip can be an issue.

The next contender is a "shopping bag" style pannier.
The bonus here is the pocket, and the carrying handles - this one is a lot nicer to carry round the town centre than the rigid Bike Bins pannier or the large Pacific Outdoor pannier.
I paid about 10 pounds (16 dollars, 14 euros) for a pair of these, so we are right down at the budget end here!
This is a "Crivit" pannier - a Lidl (a supermarket) own brand,

Inside is another pocket and a basic bag - but it has two stiffeners
at the bottom for extra rigidity. The back is a bit stiffer than the
other budget panniers in the review as well.

The box from the Cat boots just about goes in,
but the pannier won't zip up.

But wait, this pannier has a rain cover in another little pocket in the base, and the rain cover will stretch right over the top, securing the box nicely. A clear "pass".

The rain cover is big enough to go right over the pannier, and lives in a little pocket on the bottom of the pannier.
The retention strap is a nice touch, meaning the cover will always be there when you need it!

I paid about 10 pounds (16 dollars, 14 euros) for a pair of these, too. so we are still at the budget end.
This is another Crivit pannier, from Lidl.This one is shorter and wider, and has a shoulder strap - although if you leave it long, unless you secure it between the handles, it tends to swing right underneath the pannier and get caught up in the wheel!
A nice long pocket, too, I tend to use this pannier for taking letters to the mailbox (in the pocket) or books to the library.
It was my "spare water" pannier on the 100km Tour de Vale, too, with the shallow design meaning things are easily found, rather than being one on top of another. Obviously, the handles can be used to lock the pannier to the bike.

Fairly basic - wide and shallow for a small pannier.

The box goes maybe 3/4 of the way in ...

... and of course, the carrying strap could be improvised to make an adhoc load retention strap ...

But, even better, the raincover trick works with this one too!
A "pass". The raincover seems to be about the same size as the one for the blue pannier above, even though this pannier is quite a bit smaller!

The mounts are just a pair of clips riveted to the back of the pannier. No though of replaceability here!
These types of pannier clips work best on thin-tube racks, and come on and off pretty readily when given a good pull.
For securing the pannier a bit more permanently, there is also a pair of velcro bands, but I find them to be a lot of messing around, so I just ignore them.

And onto the type of pannier I use as my work bag. I paid about 15 pounds (24 dollars, 21 euros) for a pair of these BikeMate panniers from Aldi. the longer, narrower, design is more suited to when you want to stack stuff in layers.
My tools go in the bottom, then the waterproof trousers, then the first aid kit, then my lonch box, and then, on top, my lightweight cagoule if I am not wearing it. A small bottle of water and a small bike pump stand up at one end.
There is a mesh pocket on the outside for keeping a few bits, too.

same cheap mounts, same annoying velcro straps.

It's not going to fit!
Not even close.
A fail!

Same little raincover in the base, but as the box is not even going to get one end in the pannier, it won't help with the load!
And now the helmet test.
Remember, this is a large/XL sized adult helmet.
It i9s a Crivit model from Lidl.

Yep, it fits in the Bike Bins pannier.

Quite a bit of room on top, too - but not enough for another helmet.

The large blue Crivit pannier swallow the helmet easily.
Room for another one on top, too!

Here is the "test" helmet, still wearing a BHF London to Brighton sticker on the rear.
It has a little rear light, too.

This is all going very well - an easy fit in here, too.
with a bit of wriggling about, I reckon two would fit in this one, too!

Get a couple of helmets in the yellow BikeMate pannier, too, only you might need to stand them on their sides.

And what about the "helmet test" for the big, brown, Pacific Outdoor, pannier?
I didn't bother with that one, because we all know that quite a few helmets will go in there.
the question is not whether a helmet will fit, but just how many will fit!
(I estimate at least 4, but it could be 5 or even 6!).

So which pannier is best?
Well, they all are!
Anna and I use ALL of the panniers in the review for various purposes.

Anna keeps a Bike Bins pannier and the Pacific Outdoor Shopping pannier locked to her rear carrier, and uses them for shopping on a regular basis. Anna was a bit reluctant to try the Pacific Outdoor pannier, as she had got(ten) used to using a pair of BikeBins panniers, but quickly found the extra capacity of the much larger Pacific Outdoor pannier to be useful, whilst still kepping a locking Bike Bins pannier on the other side. A locking pannier is very handy when getting a few bits from several stores, or for visiting, say, the public library, then going to a store - it saves carrying the stuff with you all the time!

I use a yellow BikeMate pannier as my "work bag" on a daily basis. the "long" shape, allows me to stack stuff in layers, with the stuff I want regularly at the top, and the "back-up" stuff (like tools) at the bottom - the rain cover (in the bottom pocket, remember) also acts like padding to keep the tools from denting stuff! The mesh pocket on the side is where I keep a can of tyre repair foam. Took this pannier as my "tools and rainjacket" pannier on this years 100km Tour de Vale ride, and for the last two years on the 86km BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride.

The blue Crivit pannier (the largest of the "budget" panniers") is handy for the pocket inside and for carring a decent amount of stuff - the handles mean it is easy to carry.

The smaller, red, Crivit pannier, with its wider, shallower, design is almost like the yellow pannier turned sideways - instead of layers of stuff, with one layer on top of the other, there is a single, wide, layer. This pannier has a nice big pocket, too, that I use for carrying letters to the post box and suchlike. Handy for books, too, and the shoulder strap is handy if you are going to have your hands full. Like I said before, I also used this pannier for my "spare" food and water on the 100km Tour de Vale bike ride, with the shallow design making stuff easy to find quickly, and the zip keeping it all secure.

The two more expensive panniers (Bike Bins and Pacific Outdoor) have replaceable mounts in case they get damaged.
The three budget panniers (the yellow BikeMate, and the blue and red Crivit panniers) all have simple clip mounts that are riveted to the back of the pannier, and are not designed to be replaceable.
But when one can buy a pair of these budget panniers for about the same prices as a replacement Rixen and Kaul mounting strip (!!!), there is a certain logic to simply buying another pair of budget panniers if the mounts break.

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