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Panniers (pronounced "pan-ears") are bags that attach to rear or front racks. Larger panniers go on the rear rack while smaller ones go in front. Mid-size panniers can be used in either the front or rear. They are typically used by touring cyclists for carrying their camping equipment. Commuting cyclists use them for carrying all sorts of items.
There are a number of things to look at when selecting panniers:
- The first thing to look at is the fabric used in its construction. It should be strong with some abrasion resistance.
- Stitching is very important. Cheap panniers can have stitching that unravels.
- Features such as waterproofing, pockets, or functioning as a backpack off the bike. These features may or may not be important to you
- Size - Make sure the volume (usually measured in cubic inches) is large enough to carry all your gear.
A lot of our customers prefer black panniers because they look nice with their bikes. We urge you to consider your safety when choosing a color for your panniers. Arkel offers high visibility colors like red and yellow. Ortlieb has even more bright colors such as orange and a bright blue. Both also have reflective patches on them as well. Although most touring cyclists don't plan on riding after dark, sometimes it is unavoidable. Also keep in mind that sometimes you may be difficult to see even during the day, especially if you are in shade and an automobile driver is in bright sunlight.
Your Webmaster Touring with Arkel Panniers
Karl Steegman & Ed Pope (with Arkel GT-18 & GT-54 panniers) touring southern Indiana in 2005
There's nothing like packing your camping equipment into your panniers and onto your bike and going touring. Years ago, an oil company promoted their product with the slogan "See America Best by Car." I think the cycling commuting should promote bicycle touring with the slogan "See America Best by Bicycle." There is just isn't anything like the freedom of riding your bike on the open road. When you travel by bike, you are moving at a slower speed, and you see a lot more. It's amazing what you come across while bicycling through the countryside. Who would guess that the photo above was taken in a small town in southern Indiana? That is the Monastery of Immaculate Conception in the background, located in Ferdinand (population 2,157 in 2010)
When you are out traveling by bike, your equipment needs to perform. Failure out on the road is a big problem. We recommend the higher end panniers if you do extensive touring, either Arkel or Ortlieb. Both are high quality, but they have slightly different design philosophies. Most of the Arkel panniers have a number of pockets, with the main pocket containing an integral dry bag. Ortlieb panniers generally have one big compartment, with a roll-top closure. This provides great waterproofing, but it is a little less convenient to get things out when you need them. As you can tell from the photo above, I prefer Arkel, but there are a lot of touring cyclists who go with Ortlieb.