Commuting Pannier Guide

What is a pannier?

A pannier is a bicycle specific bag which attaches directly to a bike, usually via a rack. Panniers generally attach to the sides of a front or rear rack (next to the wheels).

Bags which attach to the top of the rear rack, behind the saddle are called rack-top bags. Bags can also be fastened to the front of the handlebars and are called (you guessed it) handlebar bags.

What’s wrong with a backpack?

Backpacks are great for walking but for cycling they are less than ideal. Rucksacks do not allow your back to breath. Backpacks also press down on your back and result in wasted energy, which could be put into pedalling! Finally, a backpack is high up on your bike which results in a high centre of gravity and instability on the bike.

How many bags do I need?

Be realistic, if you currently use a small backpack, then a rack-top bag may be all you need. If you want to bring a change of clothes, packed lunch and a laptop then a pair of panniers (on the rear) should be what you need. If you carry tools or files to work and go shopping on the way home then you could buy a pair for the front and another for the rear to maximise carrying capacity.

Can I get weatherproof panniers?

The level of weatherproofing a bag has come from a combination of fabric, closure design and covers. Weatherproof panniers have either waterproof fabric, or an external waterproof cover that can be quickly deployed, should the weather turn nasty. Different closure designs offer varying levels of weatherproofness.

What specs should I look for?

  • Material - Panniers should made of be tough, waterproof, breathable and lightweight fabric. This is a very tall order, but the more you spend, the less you will have to compromise between these factors.
  • Fastening mechanism - There are many varieties of clasp to fasten a pannier to a rack. They are usually a compromise between stability and ease of detachment. If more money is spent, proprietory fasteners become specced, such as Rixen-Kaul hooks that are very secure and yet incredibly fast to undo.
  • Size - Bigger isn’t always better! Think about what you realistically need. The larger the bag, the heavier it is, the bulkier it is and the more expensive it will be.
  • Closure - Keeping your stuff in and the elements out is the plan. Different closure mechanisms include roll-top, strap-up or zipped. Roll-top closure is the most waterproof and usually a bit more flexible if you want to squeeze a few extra items in. Strapped lids are faster to close and open but not as secure or resistant to weather. Zipped bags are cheap and convenient, but less water resistant and reliable.

Our pick of the best:

Basil Tour Rear Briefcase Double Pannier Heavy Duty Bag - £39.99

Great value rear double pannier set. Water resistant with clip closure, this bag is a good budget buy for summer riding.

Oxford Double Rear Panniers - From £80.99

Great value double rear pannier set from Oxford. Rubberised base and back panel help keep water out and the reflective strips and hi viz rain cover make sure you’re seen on the road.

  • Top grade adjustable quick release system
  • Rubberised base and back panel repel water and easy to clean
  • Draw string opening, weather flap and high visibility storm cover
  • LED Loop, Reflective strips

Topeak Office Bag MTX Laptop Pannier Bag - £89.99

A favourite with office workers, this single pannier is purpose built for carrying a laptop.

  • Divided main compartment
  • Constructed from 600 Denier and EVA foam. Skin is coated polyester for extra water repellence and stain resistance
  • Includes carrying handle and shoulder strap
  • 3M reflective strip
  • Capacity: 44.5 x 35.5 x 14cm (Fits 17 inch laptop)
  • 1400g

Altura Fuse 42 Panniers (Pair) - £109.99

Constructed using Altura’s proprietory Duratec fabric and seam welding techniques to achieve lightweight, durable, waterproof panniers.

  • Rixen-Kaul Klickfix fittings
  • Duratec 450 main fabric
  • Highly durable Duratec 1000 reinforced base
  • Welded front pocket with water repellent zip
  • Reflective trim

Brooks Brick Lane Roll-up Panniers - £164.99

If you’re willing to spend out big money, you can have a set of panniers that look great, work perfectly and will last an extremely long time.

Inspired by the Cyclists’ Hold Alls first featured in the 1890’s Brooks catalogue and made from water resistant cotton with leather finishing.

  • Crossed elastic straps allow additional items to be loaded
  • Single piece pannier set with leather carrying handle
  • Easy-to-use rollup design
  • Self-closing magnets hold flaps in place
  • Dimensions: Width: 34cm, Height: 36cm, Depth: 10cm, Volume: 281
  • Weight: 950g

So there you are, enjoy the ride to work and take all your cherished belongings and essential work gear with you!

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