Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: peterharris on September 09, 2010, 08:21:47 am

Title: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: peterharris on September 09, 2010, 08:21:47 am
I am embarking on my first ever tour at the end of October with several friends. It's a "credit card" tour over a weekend ... one day to ride to the destination (staying in a rented house), one day at the destination, then a day to return. I have NO touring gear and am totally undecided on what size panniers I should buy.

I "test packed" the things I think I'd need - clothes, toiletries, first aid kit, tool kit, and not much else - in a paper grocery bag so it would be easy to measure. I didn't tightly pack anything so I know I could squeeze in a little more but the total volume came to about 1,550 cu in. I do some hiking and backpacking so I know how to pack efficiently and I lean towards a pannier with compression straps, like my backpacks. I'm not necessarily ready to buy high-capacity panniers on the chance I may not ever want to do any long-distance touring but I realize if I buy panniers with a capacity more suited to a credit-card tour then I might have to buy additional panniers later if I do decide to do some long-distance touring.

So ... what should I do?  :) I could buy lower-capacity panniers in the 1,700-1,800 cu. in. range to allow room for error and with compression straps I could snug down a smaller load. Or I could buy a pair that is in the 2,500-2,800 cu. in. range, only use one of them for this trip, and have the option to use the other later, if that makes sense. If I were made of money, the decision would be easy!

I know I'll probably get a different opinion with every response to this post but I'm sort of in a quandary since this is all new to me. I value everyone's input and suggestions and I do have a few weeks before I must buy something. The retail cycling stores in my area carry practically nothing in the way of panniers so they're not much help. BTW, I think this touring business will resonate strongly with me (similar to my affinity for backpacking and kayaking trips) so I am totally willing to buy SOMETHING rather than borrowing someone else's gear. Plus, the friends I'm going with only have enough gear for their own use so that's not an option.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: staehpj1 on September 09, 2010, 09:56:59 am
Buy smallish ones intended for the front and put them on the back.  Then later you can use them on the front with some larger ones on the back if you require more space later.

Also remember that it is pretty easy to strap some items on top of the rack if need be..
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: rvklassen on September 09, 2010, 10:01:57 am
We're big fans of Arkel.  You may choose a different brand, but with reference to them, you can get a pair of GT-18s, and they'll be more than big enough.  You're looking at about 28 litres, and a pair of GT-18s will hold 36 together.   This will be fine for credit card touring and other light travel.  If you then want to do a more extended tour, get a pair of GT-54s, and move the 18s to the front.   For mid-weight travel you might be able to do with just the GT-54s.  That would be very light travel but equipped for camping, including tent, stove and sleeping bag - but very little in the line of off-bike clothing.

If you can afford it, get good ones, that can be used as front or rear.  (Arkel GT-18s being an example).  I replaced a 25 year old set of Cannondales with Arkels recently, having gone through an inexpensive pannier (Nashbar) in less than 2 years of commuting use.  You may pay twice as much, but get 5-10 times as much life out of them.

Whether it's Arkel, Ortlieb or something else of similar grade depends on your tastes in how you like to pack.
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: njkayaker on September 09, 2010, 06:10:11 pm
Note that having some extra unused space might be useful (eg, for carrying dinner) depending on the kind of touring you are doing,
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: geegee on September 09, 2010, 11:28:12 pm
My suggestion would be to buy a 30 litre dry bag (the kind used for canoe camping) and strap/bungie it on to your rack. 1,550 cu in is about 25 litres so you should have more than enough capacity. These bags go for about $40. should you decide to do longer tours, the bag will still be useful in addition to panniers. I use mine to hold my tent, sleeping mattress and tarp.
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: cyclocamping on September 10, 2010, 04:28:02 pm
The best brands for panniers are: Ortlieb, Arkel and Pacific Outdoor Equipment. POE is kind of new in the industry, so their panniers are not well known yet, but their quality and features are excellent. Ortlieb is by far the most popular brand. Arkel makes some excellent panniers but they are not waterproof and quite expensive. Topeak and Vaude also have some great panniers in their waterproof lines. I would agree with staehpj1, buy 2 small one first and 2 bigger one Later on.  I would buy some Ortlieb Front-Roller panniers (2x25L) and use them on the back for your credit card tour. And later on, if needed, get some Back-Roller (2x40l) and use the Front-Roller on the front. The "Roller" models close by rolling the top, so you can squeeze the air out and end up with a pretty small volume. On this link you can easily compare several brands and models by weight, size etc: bicycle touring panniers ( Remember that when you start to carry weight on your bike you need some decent bicycle touring racks (

Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: staehpj1 on September 10, 2010, 05:45:34 pm
Arkel makes some excellent panniers but they are not waterproof and quite expensive.
I would add that they are quite heavy for those who like me care about an extra couple pounds.

I think that one of the key things to decide is whether you like multiple compartments of one big pocket.  The one big pocket ones, my preference, are typically waterproof which I see as a bonus.  Rather than have stuff in a bunch of pockets I prefer to organize in one big pocket by using ziploc bags.  Just open one compartment and you can see what is in all of the bags.

Nashbar or Performance waterproof panniers are my choice.  Very inexpensive, waterproof, and durable enough.  Mine have a trans america and a couple other longish tours on them and are still pretty much like new.  I expect that they will last for many more longish tours, but if they don't they are often on sale at very reasonable prices.
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: Tourista829 on September 11, 2010, 03:20:46 am
I really liked my Nashbar Panniers, but they did not hold up. (I did over load them with groceries) I agree with the above, you can not go wrong with Arkels or Orliebs. We have friends that really like their Arkels. They went with the 18's and 42's. We have Ortlieb Roller Classics. They are very waterproof, they will actually float on water, and come in a wide selection of colors. For many years I used a side loaded compartment bags, however surprisingly, I adapted to a top loaded, single compartment pannier. I like the versatility of a big pocket, because I can carry longer items in them, especially if I keep the top open. I use my front ones, which I put on the back rack, to commute to work. I use all four to carry groceries, from the market. I use my rear ones (40 liter) to credit card tour and all four for loaded touring. The Ortlieb roller design allow you to change the size of the bag by the amount of contents you have by simply rolling or unrolling the top of the bag. I believe that you can also purchase a harness to use the bag as a back pack. The one negative is if used on the rear, and you have camping gear, on top of the rack, it is not as easy to access a top loaded bag. (you can add an outside pocket.) I would also consider a handle bar bag which you can use for snacks, camera, cell phone etc. (nice for credit card touring) Sometimes we use a, insulated trunk bag to keep a lunch or drinks cold. We like the Bike Bag Shop out of Flagstaff, Az. They are very nice,  knowledgeable, have very good prices, and offer a 5% discount on multiple purchases. Shipping is free over a certain amt. If I would have changed anything, I would have spent the extra money and purchased the plus material verses the classic. They were a little lighter and I believe in the long run would hold up better. Look at them as an investment and if you really don't like them, or get use out of them, you could probably sell them.  ???
Title: Re: Newbie has pannier capacity question
Post by: EnduroDoug on September 23, 2010, 03:34:48 am
Just throw my .02 in here, but for quick trips like this (which is what our limited experience entails) my wife and I have been pretty fond of the Tokpeak rack and Trunk bag w/fold out panniers. The rack and bag came to about $135 total and for trips that are just 2-3 days and don't require lots of gear, they're perfect.

We're not going to take them on a Northern Tier or anything like that, but I expect to use it paired with my Burly Nomad for a 9-day tour next spring as well as our 2 nighters this fall.