The Chainlink

I'm taking Amtrak to Michigan this afternoon, so I packed an extra small bag. I'm getting on my bike to come to work today with my backpack and my workout bag slung over my shoulders, and I think, "This is just dumb. I have a couple racks sitting in my workshop. I should put one of them on my commuter and get some panniers."

So, I think I'm in the market for some panniers suitable for commuting. On most days I will just have my usual change of clothes, but on occasion will pack more. Nothing monstrous. Recommendations?

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Ortlieb. They're lightweight and mount securely. The mounting brackets are adjustable so they'll fit most if not all racks. Most importantly they're waterproof. I was caught in a huge downpour on Sheridan about a month ago. Rode 5-6 miles before I hit the Harris Bank drive-thru for shelter. Opened my bag and everything inside was bone dry. 

This past year I bought this Banjo Brothers Pannier rack top bag.  I am amazed at what I can get in it.  The one problem with it is that it is not waterproof and only somewhat water resistant.

I've been using the Banjo Brothers panniers for years.  The larger model.  It carries a lot or a little, and it works well for going for groceries as well.

I like the Ironweed panniers. I like that they hold their shape even when empty. The one I bought is a rectangular shape and thus easy to pack. I like that they are made in Iowa. I think they look better than most panniers without making you look like a historical re-enactor. And I like that you don't have to fumble with a roll-top closure, which I've always found inconvenient.

I'm sure the canvas is not as waterproof as Ortliebs, but it is surprisingly waterproof all the same; water beads up on it and rolls off, and while I've never ridden for days at a time in pouring rain with the pannier, in showers during city rides nothing inside has ever gotten wet. More than that, I once had a six pack of beer in mine (the Alyce model fits one perfectly) when I crashed and shattered all of the bottles. There were several inches of a very pungent porter pooled in the bottom of the pannier. I took it home and rinsed it out under a faucet for about 30 seconds. The next day I could not smell the beer at all no matter how hard I tried, and there was no staining or any other sign of the spill. Whatever treatment they use on that canvas is pretty impressive.

Ortlieb. Expensive, but worth it. Nice to know that in the heaviest downpour, my stuff'll still stay dry. They're really fast to attach, detach to the bike and really secure once on it. I've been using a classic backroller for over a year now with no complaints.

I usually commute with a single Ortlieb backroller with an Eagle Creek Pack-It folder inside to keep my work clothes wrinkle free. It's a good combo. 

Thanks for the suggestions. (Kevin, I appreciate the Pack-It referral, but I work in a blue jeans-friendly workplace. Wrinkle-free packing isn't terribly important here. :-) I have seen those before. If you have to pack nice, they would be a godsend.) I think this gives me something to work with/think about/investigate on the Internet.

I do have one question so far:


Eli said:

And I like that you don't have to fumble with a roll-top closure, which I've always found inconvenient.

Inexperienced as I am with panniers, I have no idea what a "roll-top closure" is, the name doesn't suggest to me how it operates. The Googling I've done so far seems to suggest everyone (but me) knows what it is, and the pictures I've seen haven't been all that helpful either. Can you elaborate?

Rather than simply having a flap with a buckle that folds over to close the top of the bag, most (all?) Ortlieb panniers have a sleeve at the top of the bag that you roll to close it, like a paper lunch bag. (Then you secure it with a strap.) This blog post has some pictures that show it pretty clearly.

The roll-top closure is definitely the way to go for maximum water resistance (it's what dry-bags use). But for me the water-resistance of the flap closure is entirely adequate, and less fiddly to open and close.

Ortlieb's Shopper bag (the one I've used for years) has a zip-top closure, which I quite like. Granted, when my first Shopper finally had to be retired after about 6 years, it was because the zipper finally failed.

David

So, after hemming, hawing, and hunting around for nearly a month, I just sprung for an upcycled Swiss messenger bag sort of thing:

http://outyourbackdoor.com/article.php?id=443

I'm acquainted with the guy who makes these things (Jeff Potter), through the internet-BOB mailing list/Google Group. I feel like I'm supporting a small business and a bikie (which would have also been true if I'd purchased an Ironweed). Jeff makes them as orders arrive. I'm sure it won't be as perfect as an Ortlieb or an Ironweed, but it suits my sensibilities. It will be Nikwax coated for water repellency. And you should be able to easily recognize me. I doubt anyone else around will have a bag quite like it. Once I've received it and given it a try, I will report back.

Skip

Skip, I look forward to your report. I would LOVE to support local or even domestic manufacturers, but nothing I've seen comes close to the Ortlieb overall - waterproof, flexible and  as Rich S mentioned that they "mount securely". That last feature is huge for me having had two different panniers

FALL OFF

my bike and not be noticed as missing until it was too late to recover them. Chicago streets make for some bumpy riding. The traditional hooks on top with an elastic (or not) hook on the bottom attachment systems are not sufficient.


Swift Industries makes panniers in Seattle, WA. You can choose between stock, Ortlieb, or Arkel hardware.
Tony Adams 4 mi said:

Skip, I look forward to your report. I would LOVE to support local or even domestic manufacturers, but nothing I've seen comes close to the Ortlieb overall - waterproof, flexible and  as Rich S mentioned that they "mount securely". That last feature is huge for me having had two different panniers

FALL OFF

my bike and not be noticed as missing until it was too late to recover them. Chicago streets make for some bumpy riding. The traditional hooks on top with an elastic (or not) hook on the bottom attachment systems are not sufficient.

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