Liz Patek (above) is a New York City bicycle commuter and a passionate advocate whose twitter handle — @bikepeacenyc — says it all. The busy Pilates teacher, dancer and grad student, who rides a bicycle year-around, recently set out to find the perfect panniers to mount on the back rack of her Trek Allant. With 22 years of cycling experience, Patek brings an eye for detail and utility to shopping for bicycle accessories, and she’s shared some tips with us.
Panniers — the word derives from the Latin for bread baskets — are bags, usually bought as pairs, that mount to a rack on a bicycle. For city riding, they’re useful for commuting to work, trips to the gym and shopping, and for keeping bicycling accessories, such as lock, lights and rain gear close at hand. Front-mounted panniers add capacity for long-distance touring.
Patek was on the hunt for bags that are stylish, water-repellent and reasonably priced. Her choice: the Fastrider Deluxe Shopper, woven pine, 15.5 H x 14.5 W x 6.3 D, $80
But one size and style doesn’t fit all. The qualities, features and design you’ll choose relate to how you use your bike; what you carry and under what conditions; how you express your personality through cycling; and, finally, your budget. So here’s what to look for, plus 10 options to get you on the road to finding your ideal panniers.
Features to consider before you buy
- Capacity – Tally up what you need to carry. Some bags are sold as joined sets, others individually. Bag sizes vary considerably; some expand with collars or zippered extensions. Look for pockets or compartments to keep items like keys and cellphone easily accessible.
- Mount – How do the bags mount to your bicycle rack? Are they easily attached and detached? Some individual bags feature a cover over the mounts that help keep hardware from rubbing against clothing.
- Material – Do you require water-proof or water-repellent bags, or do you plan to ride in dry weather only? Check for gaps at the closures that could admit moisture. Are the hardware and fittings of good quality? Are reflective details added for night visibility?
- Access – Are the bags easy to open and close, load and unload? Do they hold their shape?
- Weight – Leaving your panniers on the bike is not recommended in urban areas. So choose a bag weight that you’re comfortable carrying.
- Portability – Do the bags come with handles or shoulder straps for easy toting off the bike?
Which is right for you?
Linus Market Bag unstructured waxed canvas with oil skin leather and solid brass hardware, 12.5 H x 11.5 W, 4.7 D, $129.
Lumpkin Cycle Works Cranbrook, leather, 11.8/13.4 H x 12.6 W x 7.5 D, $250
Clarijs (made in Holland), waterproof PVC, 12.75 H x 14.75 W x 5.5 D, $120
Rivendell SackVille TourSacks, ripstop cotton poly blend, leather and brass fittings, 12 H x 14 W (along top) x 5 D, $220
Arkel Foldable Shopper, Cordura nylon, 14 H x 13 W x 8 D, $85
Detours Toocan Utility Pannier, quilted nylon with waterproof rubber bottom, 15 H x 13 W x 7 D, $60
Ortlieb Backroller, PVC-coated Cordura nylon, waterproof, 16.5 H x 12.5 W x 9.1 D, $165 set
Ortlieb Classic Office Bag, coated polyester and Cordura nylon, waterproof, 11.8 H x 15.7 W x 6.7 D, $132
Timbuktu Tandem Panniers, non-PVC coated polyester, 14.4 H X 13 W x 1o.6 D, $120
Top photo: courtesy of amsterdamize