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

Fastrider Delux Shopper

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

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.

cranbrook pannier - lumpkin cycle works

Lumpkin Cycle Works Cranbrook, leather, 11.8/13.4 H x 12.6 W x 7.5 D, $250

Clarijs Panniers

Clarijs (made in Holland), waterproof PVC, 12.75 H x 14.75 W x 5.5 D, $120
Rivendell Panniers

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

Arkel Foldable Shopper, Cordura nylon, 14 H x 13 W x 8 D, $85

Toocan Pannier

Detours Toocan Utility Pannier, quilted nylon with waterproof rubber bottom, 15 H x 13 W x 7 D, $60

Ortlieb Panniers

Ortlieb Backroller, PVC-coated Cordura nylon, waterproof, 16.5 H x 12.5 W x 9.1 D, $165 set

Ortlieb Office Bag

Ortlieb Classic Office Bag, coated polyester and Cordura nylon, waterproof, 11.8 H x 15.7 W x  6.7 D, $132

Timbuktu - Pannier

Timbuktu Tandem Panniers,  non-PVC coated polyester, 14.4 H X 13 W x 1o.6 D, $120

Top photo: courtesy of amsterdamize

13 Responses to 10 great bicycle panniers to suit your commute

  1. Jed says:

    You forgot the Caradice Shopper…. 32L with the roll top open, which makes it, I believe, considerably larger than any of the single panniers in this review. Its also super-durable, I’ve been hauling groceries and everything else in mine around manhattan for a decade. Waxed canvas duck is also environmentally friendly compared to synthetics. Sold through Peter White Cycles.

  2. Dr. M says:

    Great article! Practical advice for those thinking about entering the realm of the cycling commuter. Your lead photo Panniers are fab as are the Lumpkin’s which I have in faux alligator.
    Thank you again for your article which I am retweeting!

  3. Maureen says:

    Great reviews. I still need to buy panniers. I have some ideas in mind, but now you’ve opened my mind to more possibilities. As always, thanks for being so informative!

  4. Selena says:

    Thanks for the advice on selecting panniers; I’ve started my search for one recently and hadn’t thought through some of the features.

    I’ve fallen in love with the FastRider Deluxe Shopper. I’m trying to decide whether to keep searching for it (I can’t find it online anywhere) or to try my hand at making a more water-resistant version of the Brooks leather roll-up pannier…

  5. Julie says:

    These are all so masculine. I think you should add a feminine Basil selection for the Ladies out there.

  6. Gabrielle says:

    I have been trying to track down the fastrider woven pine pannier with no luck. I have looked online and on the fastrider site. Any suggestions?

    • Susi says:

      Gabrielle, it seems that the woven pine Fastrider bags will be distributed as part of the new Bobbin Bicycles line per this link: http://www.bobbinbicycles.co.uk/cycling-accessories.html I’ll see if I can get you some more information. In the mean time, you might check with Bobbin re existing stock in their London retail shop (they ship). I checked Hudson Urban Bicycles here in NYC, where the bags have been available in the past, but they’re sold out.

  7. chance says:

    What is the wicker basket on the front of the bike ?

    http://velojoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/LizPatekBike.jpg

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