Ooops, typo, panniers I mean. Top 11 things to consider before purchasing panniers.
Another touchy point, POVs are a lot more diverse than the options available…. Here’s an analysis of top 11 things to consider:
While the broad options are soft and hard, there are some more categorisations possible, all options fall into one or the other of the 5 options below.
|Leather||Aluminium / metallic|
|Canvas (or similar no-so-waterproof material)|
The top 3 are some references for soft and the bottom two for the hard cases
I talked to a few adventure tourers for their opinion, (yes, yes, it was convenience sampling, topped up with my bias :D) and have put up the initial summary here. Would request you all to share your opinion as well in the comments below.
Here are the top 11 things to consider amongst a multitude of others:
- Security: Is it lockable? Is it safe from “slash-and-dash” kind of stealing?
- Rigidity: How rigidly is the pannier fixed on to the bike? Will it last the bumps and grinds of an off-road jaunt (or for that matter our pothole ridden roads)?
- Repairability: Can it be easily be repaired or fixed in case of minor problems?
- Convenience: Can it be left overnight on the bike without supervision? Also, are they modular, adding/removing parts or compartments to suit your needs?
- Weatherproof: Is it waterproof and dustproof, or do you have to get waterproof liners?
- Weight: How much does it weigh, and more importantly how significantly does it alter the centre-of-gravity of the bike?
- Size: How much does it add to the width of the bike? How much weight can they carry?
- Cost: How much does it cost? And the cost of repairs? In in some cases, will it damage the bike in case of falls, and the cost there-of?
- Life: How long is it likely to last?
- Personalisation & looks: How cool does it look and how amenable is it to personalisation (either cosmetic or functionally)?
- Universal v/s custom made for a bike: Some of the panniers need bike specific mounts and brackets to fix the custom made panniers for each bike, yet other are universal and can fit any bike.
Now to my experiences with the 5 options and how they fare on the 11 points above:
Leather Panniers: These look really classy, especially on the REs, the modern classics and most cruisers. They have the old-world charm about them and the smell of leather just adds to the whole experience. Usually, they do not offer too much of storage capacity. But they are not what one might call cheap and are not waterproof either. The contents are not usually safe enough to leave unsupervised. They are available as permeant fixture or as detachable ones, depending on the model. Finally they do not add too much to the bulk or width of the bike. Overall more for cosmetic purposes, not for hardcore, all weather and all terrain cruising. These usually are not universal, more so for the modern classics and cruisers.
Soft weatherproof panniers: There are a gazzilion options available on this genre of panniers from the very small to very large, not so expensive to the very expensive, direct mount on any bike to requirement of frames to mount, standard to modular flexibility. These are amongst also the most versatile of the lot, giving you modularity and flexibility (or not depending on the ones you choose) to carry stuff the way you want it wherever you may choose to. They tend to have a pretty long life and best part, no matter how old, you will never get creaks or rattle out of these panniers. The only thing that you need to look out for is the clearance from your mufflers. This would determine how big a pannier you can use and if there needs to be a frame to keep the panniers from fouling with the exhaust or wheel.
Soft canvas panniers: Everything that has been said for the waterproof ones above
holds for these as well, right from the range to size to versatility. The couple of points on which this differs from the former is in the fact that these are not weather proof so you may want to use some liners to protect important stuff, second, they may not be as durable as the former, and, finally, they are not as expensive. This would be the best choice to if you are not a frequent tourer or if you want to explore options before homing in on one or the other.
Plastic panniers: These are now seeming to be getting popular as an option for adventure tourers. It is aesthetically pleasing, can be moulded into any shape and colour, not many size options for a given bike, good all-round dust and water protection, lockable hence can be left unsupervised. There can be a bit of vibration noise over time. The side panniers do not alter the centre of gravity of the bike, but the rear top case is a cause of concern, it does raise the centre of gravity much higher. Aesthetically too the rear top-case is bit of a question-mark, it looks like the top-box of the fast-food delivery bikes, so you can start a side-business of pizza delivery. :). In case of the bike gets tipped over, these panniers prevent the bike from going all the way to 0°, a lot easier to pick the bike up from 20°. But plastic it is, so the parts that lock it on to the bike are also plastic. In case of big spills therefore, these plastic locking mechanisms break, you have to replace the whole pannier (and in some cases the lock on the bike as well) then. So not only is it costly to buy, but even costlier to repair. The mounts for these too are customised for each bike, hence more expensive. Finally, the good looks are all gone even with minor scratches, these do not like battle-scars as much.
Metallic panniers: This is by far the most popular choice, gives the bike a rugged look, while being weatherproof and durable. Some of the top end panniers intentionally allow for a small amount of play between the bike and panniers. It has been sort of a gold standard for adventure tourers, thanks to the GS. It looks awesome with or without battle-scars, with or without stickers. It incorporates the positive aspects of all of the options above, but has a couple of limitations as well. It is a bit bulky, so can impede hard core technical narrow trails or in a city ride. In case you are carrying delicate stuff inside, you need to pack them so that they do not get bounced around inside. Also, while the most rugged of the lot, they also are the heaviest, upwards of 15kgs, yes, when empty, also over time they also tend to pick up vibration noise. Finally, the mounts for these too are usually custom made for each bike so you can’t go on a pannier swapping spree.
So, go ahead chose you pick, do drop a comment on what you think works for you. Your final choice also depends a lot on which bike you ride, on which terrain, your wallet and finally your build.
As for me, I am all sold on the soft, modular, weather-proof panniers.
About the author:
A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover
Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.
- This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
- No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.