A Buying Guide For Bicycle Panniers
The first law of cycle touring states that the amount of essential kit you have always expands to be just slightly more than the what your panniers can hold!
However, for most touring - where a tent is not needed -two rear panniers should hold enough clothes and equipment. For more lengthy tours or camping trips, you might also look in to having some front panniers.
Panniers are saddle bags for bicycles, and they are the main piece of equipment needed to carry pretty much anything on a bicycle. There are many features to consider when buying panniers, so consider your needs and the conditions you will be riding in. You may find some aspects of the pannier to be more important than others. Personal preference plays an important part in choosing a pannier. However, there are certain features that simply make for good strong panniers.
Look for Panniers that:
Are made of good waterproof fabric or have waterproof coverings. Sometimes however, waterproof fabrics are not the best, as if you pack anything slightly damp in the pannier it wil end up very musty from lack of ventilaton. Some panniers are made of PVC, which is completely waterproof. You can always bag things up inside the pannier bag if needed but this isn’t always convenient. Arkel is a manufacturer of good strong panniers made of nylon cordura that sometimes include a waterproof bag you can slip over when it is raining.
Have Pockets that provide convenient access for items like wallet etc, good organisation in a bag is important. Some prople however prefer just one big compartment. Some types of Ortileb pannier have just one pocket. But Arkel Panniers generally have more.
Have reliable fixing mechanisms to the bike. Pannier attachment systems are a compromise between the need to hold the pannier securely to the rack so it stays securely attached and the need to also be able to quickly remove the pannier from the bike
Some companies, like Arkel and Orileb, have quick release designs to remove the pannier swiftly should you need to carry your bike or leave it someplace.
Have A Solid Closure mechanism. Some panniers have zips, some have straps, and some have rollers.This is a matter of personal preference, but bear in mind most zips will eventually break are not usually completely waterproof.
Weight:Ideally you want the lightest pannier possible - but heavier ones tend to be longer lasting.