We have reviewed a few pannier options in the past. I myself use panniers in the city on occasion and do enjoy not carrying things on my back. My main problem with panniers for day-to-day use however has always been off bike portage and usability.
I generally like my Ortlieb panniers and they each fit a lot more than an equivalent 20 litre backpack would. However, they are a pain to carry around off the bike (unless you get the rucksack adaptor) and you have to completely undo them to get your keys out when you get home.
Therefore, being the inquisitive soul that I am, I am always on the look out for panniers which remove these issues and was intrigued when Thule cropped up. I had been peripherally aware of them, but never really thought to check them out until they contacted us and asked if we wanted to review them. On closer inspection they seemed like a great option for commuting in London and solving all my pannier qualms so we jumped at the chance. *Thule did send us these panniers to review, but we are under no obligation to be nice about them – all opinions are, as ever, our own*
Thule attachment system
The panniers are a little different to those I have experienced in the past. They have two circular hooks at the top which twist into place to hug the rack tubes. The bottom is hook free, part of what makes them more comfortable to carry off the bike. Instead of a hook it relies on a magnet you attach to the rack which grabs onto a metal plate in the pannier.
The hook section can swivel and disappear. Meaning that the back of the bags can be completely flat and carrying friendly. This is a great feature if you are intending to carry the bag around on your back as much, if not more, as attaching it to your bike.
There are two downsides of this method of attachment: it makes the bags pretty heavy, and the magnet is not as effective as holding the bottom of the pannier in place as a hook. All the metal and mechanisms involved to hide the attachments make the empty bags rather weighty. When using them and riding more than a sedate pace (but still not fast) over bumps, I could feel the bags lifting a little. This was not enough to actually make the bike unstable, but it was a little unsettling.
Another concern I have is that the backs of panniers get kind of dirty in bad weather. Therefore, there will be times when you just don’t want to carry the bag on your back. The built in carry handle is excellent though so you can certainly carry the pannier with this for a bit until you can wipe the bag down.
Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Pannier – £100 single
This is a popular pannier – since getting one I keep seeing them around. The pannier is fairly svelte but still carries 18 litres of whatever stuff you wish to carry. It is fairly deep and narrow, which makes it great for documents and laptops and making sure you are not bulging sideways too much.
The pannier is completely waterproof, with welded seams, a lining and a roll top to keep everything dry. The fabric itself feels very robust and reassuring. It comes with a large padded strap that you can hook onto the bag and use to carry it around – this works well, although the pannier is quite long so it looks a little silly on my 5’4″ frame.
Other features of note are:
- large reflective patches on the sides
- a large, removable padded strap to carry the bag across your back
- external translucent pockets for lights and pump/tool/inner tube type items
- a small zip pocket in the closure flap for keys
- internal mesh pocket
- Carrying your things to an office
- Walking to meetings
- Keeping things dry
Not so good for:
- cycling along bumpy paths
- keeping weight down
Pack ‘n Pedal Tote – £75 single
This is more of a carry all style bag, great for grocery shopping or carrying bulkier items. It fits 26 litres of whatever you choose to carry – more than many other regular panniers on the market. It has a wide, zip opening as well, making it even more suited to carrying groceries.
The features of note are:
- large, single storage area
- small zip side pocket for keys and wallet
- comfy carry handles – one inside zip for stable carrying when full and open
- reflective pipping on sides
- external translucent pockets for extra light
- Carrying lots of stuff
- taking to the supermarket
- carrying things for small children
- easy entry
Not so good for:
- riding past lots of rough foliage – the pannier is not very robust feeling
- organisation – one large pocket blends everything together
I do quite like the two panniers, and they certainly have some great uses, but there are a few downsides which make them somewhat of a marmite product in my mind.
The way they completely smooth out on the back is great if you are going to have to walk a lot at you cycling destination. The commuter version looks pretty cool is very well built. The tote is less robust but feels like it should handle a weekly grocery shop just fine and the zip entry is great.
However, they are heavy and a it is a little cumbersome to convert them – the swivelling mechanism nipped me once or twice. They are also pretty expensive, particularly the commuter version, so you really have to know you are going to use it to justify the price – for £100 you can often pick up a pair of Ortlieb back rollers. If the extra features really seem like things that you will love, then the bag is totally worth it.
Get the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier for £99.99 on Tredz.com with free shipping
Get the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote for £74.99 on Tredz.com with free shipping
Do you have a Thule pannier? What do you think of it? How about a different pannier that is easy to access and carry around? Let us know!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.