Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Product Review: Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers

I put a bit more thought and research into panniers than I did with the rack they sit on. Panniers come in all kinds of different kinds, shapes, sizes, and purposes. In general, most rear racks designed to carry panniers all have very similar dimensions. The panniers themselves, though? That's a different story! With many models to choose from, I had to look at dozens of different models, and narrow my choices down to about 3 models before purchasing anything.

I needed a set of panniers that would be able to carry my laptop bag, cable lock, work clothes, rain jacket, cell phone, and other gadgets. I also needed the panniers to be easy to remove and install, because I planned on taking them off the bike when I get to work. Furthermore, and most importantly, I needed them to not get in my way. Big panniers can hold a lot of stuff, but it doesn't do any good if your foot hits the bag with every pedal rotation.

Those were all "musts" on my list of features. I wanted something with reflective material (not hard to find, almost all the models I considered had this) as well as good water resistance. I don't need waterproof panniers, but they shouldn't turn into buckets of water when it rains. I also wanted something under the $60 price-point but was willing to pay more if the right deal came along.

As you can see, I definitelty found something with reflective material. :)



These saddlebag panniers attach to the "hooks" on the rack with a metal loop. The loop is attached to a nylon strap that goes up to the top of the bag, across the rack, and down the other side. There are pieces of elastic band that give the panniers' hook loop some stretch to make installation and/or removal a bit easier, while staying firmly on the rack. You can cinch these straps down with the adjuster on the top of the rack.

The inside (wheel facing) part of the saddlebags are lined with a hard plastic piece. The whole inner surface of the bag is lined with a rubbery water-resistant covering, and the zippers are covered when closed properly. Banjo Brothers says these saddlebags are water resistant but not waterproof. They've been through a few light rains and nothing has gotten damp inside yet.

The only gripe I have about these bags, is that if the load shifts inside the bag, it has a tendency to "poof" outward a bit. This is unsightly, inefficient and annoying. I have considered cutting out a chunk of corrugated plastic to make the outer wall just as sturdy as the wheel-facing inner wall. I think this would not only improve their aesthetics when carrying a bunch of stuff, but would also make it easier to "layer" things to stay more organized inside. It might reduce storage capacity just a little, though.

Overall, at about $50, I don't think I could have done any better. I shopped around at a lot of stores and saw a bunch of really nifty options for panniers. For my purposes, these fit the bill perfectly.

Update: I've had to get the seams re-stitched on the top part that joins the two bags together. This is almost certainly from carrying frequent loads that are probably heavier than these were designed to hold. If you're packing light stuff like clothes or a lunch, loading them full isn't much of a problem. When you pack denser items, you probably shouldn't fill them all the way up.

Pros:
* Competitively priced
* Durable
* Compact enough to stay out of the way
* Big enough to carry quite a load
* Water resistant
* Reflective!

Cons:
* Might be a little too big for some peoples' comfort or needs
* Cheaper options are out there
* Have a tendency to deform when loaded with a lot of stuff
* If heavily loaded too often, the seams get weak and need re-stitching

1 comment:

Jeff said...

panniers.

you're edging ever closer to "touring cyclist."

i did my first tour in 2004. i was living in st louis and said, "i want to do a state tour. what's a flat state? ...kansas! is there a bike across kansas?"

there is!

www.bak.org

too late for last year, but hop in next year's. you'll lower the average participant age by a few decades. and pack a little beer for the first few days--it's a little dry out west.

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