Friday, August 14, 2009

Product Review: Axiom LaSalle Panniers

I bought my Axiom LaSalle panniers in May 2008, after having recurrent bad luck with my Banjo Brothers Saddlebag panniers, requiring re-stitching of seams on a regular basis.

I paid $99.99 for these from a local bike shop in downtown Kansas City, MO. They're now going for $119.99 from the same shop, but they can be found online for less than $90 and upwards of $120 depending on where you're looking. This is quite a bit of flux in pricing. Shop around. It might be worth your while to buy these online if shipping prices are reasonable. At this point, you may be asking if these could possibly be worth $100. That's a good chunk of cash for some of us. I'll answer that at the end. For now, let's take a gander at the panniers themselves and what comes with them.




Features:

  • Cavernous 40 Liter capacity (2440 cubic inches)
  • Compression strap system adjusts for variable load sizes
  • Outer zipper pocket on side, mesh pocket on back for easy access
  • Adjustable shock cord webbing on top for extra storage
  • Adjustable bungee-attached hook for quick installation and removal
  • Reflective piping on seams
  • Rugged, rubberized bottom panels
  • Lock-down toggle to secure panniers to your rack rails

Accessories Included:
  • Extra hardware (mounting brackets, bolts, nuts, Lock-down toggle)
  • Shoulder strap
  • Two rain covers (with included zipper storage on the top flap)

Pros

With more than a year of all-seasons abuse, I've rarely felt let-down by the LaSalle panniers. For the utility cyclist and commuter that carries a load, these are a great balance of form, function and price. With occasional re-treating, the bags alone will repel light rain for about 10 minutes before it begins permeating the seams. The rain covers add about 15 more minutes to this process. The rain covers tuck away nicely into a zipper pouch within the top flap. This area is also a nice place to stash other small, thin, or rarely-used items. I keep an emergency poncho in one and some CitraWipes in the other.


Since the drawstring-closure area at the top adds a few extra inches of capacity, each bag can carry a nearly-full paper grocery sack and still manage to snap closed over the top of it, although the taper at the bottom clearly separates the LaSalle from being a bona-fide "grocery pannier" which is okay for me, as the taper means that I don't smack the bags with my foot every pedal rotation.


The mesh rear pockets are the perfect size to carry extra water bottles for touring or long, summer rides but they easily hold other things you may want easy access to. The side zipper pockets are great for things like your house keys, wallet, and phone, but they can be difficult to get into without opening the main flap if you have the compression straps pulled down tightly.
The adjustable shock cord tie-downs on the top of the panniers are good for carrying a rolled-up jacket or anything else that can be tied town: like eggs, so they don't get crushed.


On back: adjustable bungee for the rack hook (pull the cord a bit and it will shorten the bungee as shown) and the black plastic toggle keeps the panniers from bouncing off of the rack rail. Note it's mounted off-center to accommodate different styles of racks. The upper mounting brackets are covered in rubber, supposedly to keep the bags from marring the rack, or maybe to keep them from sliding around much. This rubber got torn up the first few times I used the panniers, but there's still some of it there. Also visible, the handle on top. They snap together to make them a bit easier to carry around. Both bags have plastic loops on back to latch the shoulder-strap to. Only one shoulder strap is included. I'm not sure why.


Cons
In a heavy downpour, or riding through frequent deep puddles, there will inevitably be water flooding the lower part of the panniers within just a few minutes. The rain covers don't seem to help much, either, as they, too, help trap the water. Although there's a brass "drain" grommet at the base of the vibrant yellow rain covers, water manages to pool in them. If carrying sensitive stuff (good work clothes, electronics, etc) in heavy rain, you will most definitely want to make sure to place them into a water-resistant or waterproof container before they go in the panniers. Double-bagging things in plastic grocery sacks is usually sufficient for my needs.

Like almost all panniers, the LaSalle has a tendency to lurk eerily close to the wheel's spokes. This isn't so much a flaw with panniers, but I'd recommend a rack with some extra rear-support like the SunLite rack I have, the Tubus Cargo, or Topeak OS.

The long compression straps are nice because they allow you to cram an insane amount of stuff into each bag. When you don't need all that room, though, the straps tend to flail around. They look messy and I fear that they'll get pulled into the chain sometimes. To clean them up, I cut small rubber-bands from an old inner tube and used them to tame the straps.



Also, the QR skewers on both my mountain bike and road bike often dig into the bottom of the pannier on the non-drive side, especially during removal. For those with adjustable racks, this might be avoidable or may be a non-issue entirely. My non-drive-side pannier has gotten a little torn up on the bottom, though, where the skewer has rubbed away parts of the thick rubber covering. Note: you can see how much room these panniers have in this photo. I stuffed it full to take this photo.


In closing
Axiom sells an entire line of smaller waterproof panniers such as the Typhoon and Monsoon models, so if you commute in wet climates often, take a look at those. According to friends of mine, they work well enough, but I don't know anyone who's put a whole year of daily use on them to really put the "waterproof" claims to the test once regular wear-and-tear gets involved. I personally wouldn't mind a set to use ONLY during the wet seasons.

Regardless, the LaSalle seemed like the more appropriate choice for my daily, year-round commute and errands due to its size and price. Overall, the workmanship and construction of these bags seems very good. In over a year, they are only showing minimal wear down where the QR skewers have caused some damage. I have seen similar Axiom panniers (not sure of the model, but all part of the Journey Series) in use by other commuters and tourers and they're still going strong after several years of use. I'd definitely buy these again, if I had a chance. I'm just not sure I'd pay the full $120 MSRP for the privilege with cheaper options available.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

While these really look like nice panniers, I went with the Arkel Commuter. After almost a year it still looks brand new, it holds everything including my laptop VERY securely and has not had a leak yet. i am definitely impressed with them and will definitely look at the rest of the Arkel line when I need another bag.

Daniel said...

You bought them for $120? Your Amazon link shows that they are $83. I'm assuming its $83 for a pair which is an excellent price. Am I correct?

commuterDude said...

Monsoon and Typhoon: sure you know someone that's used these for more than a year! Well, I'm just coming up upon my one-year mark on using these bags, so I'm more than happy to contribute a review, or at least write one and have you link to it as a follow-up. In short, with a year of use: yes. They are still waterproof, with one small exception. More to come... Let me know if you'd like me to write something up.... kG

Noah said...

Daniel, I paid $99.99 but the same place now sells them for $120. Not sure why. When I got them, they were $95 on amazon, so it was worth just getting them locally. Now, $83 for the pair is A SMOKING DEAL!

c'Dude, if you put up a solid review on your site, I'll link to it from here and BikeCommuters.com - I didn't realize you'd had them for so long.

Rantwick said...

I've been using Ortlieb front rollr classics on the back rack for almost 6 months now in some really heavy rain, for longish periods (over an hour, anyway) without a drop of water getting in.

If we're gonna talk waterproofness, Ortlieb should be on your list. If memory serves, they make back rollers that are as big or nearly...

GhostRider said...

I've had good success with the Seattle Sports waterproof pannier...pretty generic looking, but in Florida where extreme waterproofness is paramount, these have held up well:

http://www.bikecommuters.com/2008/05/30/seattle-sports-waterproof-pannier-long-term-update/

J. Ryan said...

Living in Florida and having to deal with the heavy summer rains I considered the Seattle Sorts water proof panniers but ended up ordering the Ortlieb backroller classics. They seemed to get the best reviews of all the waterproof panniers. They just came in today though so I haven't had a chance to put them through the ringers yet.

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