There might be something to this Pannier thing…

The other day I finally rode my bike with a pannier. The one in question is the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier. I’ve had this bag for over 2 years and the extent that of its use was to grab groceries or to carry heavy objects like a case of beer and melons.

When I was planning my commute the night before, rather than packing my backpack full of stuff, I grabbed the Market Pannier instead. The following morning I mounted the pannier on the rear rack and off I went. I arrived at my office sweat-free (my back)! Typically when I ride, I’ll bring a back pack, but that always guarantees me a sweaty back and at times aching shoulders. Personally I never liked the whole pannier look, I’ve always thought it was kinda “old” looking.

But after my ride with the pannier, I may have to eat my words…


  1. Rob October 29, 2010 4:51 am 

    I’ve stayed away from pannier for the same reason as you. I didn’t want to look like a fuddy-duddy.

    That was before I started riding for utility. Now, I’m thinking about eating some crow and getting a set too. I think a real big set would do. Big enough to carry a 5 year old.

  2. Ghost Rider October 29, 2010 5:00 am 

    It depends on the pannier…to me, certain styles scream “sandals and a beard!” (not that there’s anything wrong with that look; it’s just not my taste). But hey, utility trumps style any day.

  3. Rider October 29, 2010 5:46 am 

    Yes, I was the same way … but the backpack thing got to be tiresome.

    I slapped on a pair of Ortliebs … and have never used the backpack since.

    And the only way, really, to do any grocery shopping. Try sticking a melon in your backpack and then riding home!

  4. RANTWICK October 29, 2010 6:05 am 

    Welcome to the land of the pannier-enlightened. I won’t ever argue that panniers make you look cool, but I will argue that they are just plain smart. I posted on why recently, here.

    I’ve avoided some of that big honkin’ bag look by using a pair of Ortlieb front rollers on my rear rack. Plenty of room for work clothes and tools and stuff and I like the balanced look of 2 bags. Not exactly grocery haulers though.

  5. Dalton October 29, 2010 6:25 am 

    I finally got a rack and even though I don’t have panniers, I have started lashing my messenger bag to the top of my rack with some bungees. I have to say that I don’t plan to wear that messenger again. I love being sweat free on my back and just feeling lighter on the bike. Next step is to actually get a pannier bag or a set so that I don’t have to mess with three bungee cords on a bag that just doesn’t fit on the rack. More space would be nice too…. one side for tools and such and the other for clothing and a lunch. One day…… one day.

  6. Elizabeth October 29, 2010 6:27 am 

    Welcome to the world of the pannier… from a former backpack user, too. And I still love my Banjo Bros waterproof pannier. It’s showing some wear after years of use, but it’s holding up. This year I’m considering the Market Pannier, but I hear Banjo Bros recently added a shoulder strap to the waterproof pannier, too… should make carrying it off the bike that much easier, so I may just upgrade to that model.

  7. Noah October 29, 2010 6:45 am 

    Yes. Panniers can be filled with many things, but they are always full of win.

  8. Tom October 29, 2010 6:48 am 

    I find it amazing that anyone who wears a helmet worries about how they look. I see plenty of backpack riders but I always thought they were new to commuting and eventually would buy a rack and some panniers. Well now I know it was to look cool.

    There is a reason why the word dumb is often related to young, and wise to the word old.

  9. Eric Rogers October 29, 2010 6:54 am 

    These days you can find some great-looking panniers, from the leather satchel look to beautiful Dutch oil-cloth. Panniers… not just for graybeards anymore.

  10. Kit October 29, 2010 7:01 am 

    I have used Banjo Brothers since I started commuting. I have used the two versions of their saddle bag panniers and they are very rugged. I commute 20 miles a day in Portland and they have handled every weather related issue I have dealt with! I had an issue with my first set and dealing with Banjo Brothers on the phone was a great experience. Great customer service!

    PS: they might look “fuddy duddy” but that way everyone can see the back of your cool jersey (if you wear one)

  11. Apertome October 29, 2010 7:14 am 

    Frankly, I’m surprised that you haven’t discovered panniers sooner. Who cares how they look?

  12. Jay October 29, 2010 8:17 am 

    It’s probably pretty common when you first start using panniers to think “why didn’t I do this YEARS ago?” That was my reaction, definitely. With all the stuff I pack for work (change of clothes, lunch, sometimes shoes) and other “every day” stuff (locks, tools, pump, etc), my backpack started getting pretty heavy. For me it was never a matter of looking cool; it was more a matter of, well, I already had a decent backpack, and didn’t see a need to shell out for a rack and good panniers. Turns out that expense is totally worthwhile.

    Another “why didn’t I do this YEARS ago?” revelation I had which WAS related to “looking cool” was adding fenders to my bike. Maybe my bike doesn’t look as cool with fenders on it, but I sure look a lot cooler without a skunk stripe up my back.

  13. dukiebiddle October 29, 2010 8:31 am 

    What’s easier, pushing a 30 lb suitcase through an airport on rollers, or carrying a 30 lb bag through an airport on your back?

    Same physics involved. If the load is on your bike gravity and momentum do 95% of the work for you, and one lower gear erases that additional 5% and it only ends up costing you a half a miler per hour; but if you carry that weight on your back, your ass is carrying that weight and gravity and momentum aren’t doing a damn thing for you. Not to mention that your entire body is functioning as a shock absorber for dead weight on your back.

    I personally go full dork with a giant delivery basket over panniers. I just prefer the effect on balance when the load is over the turning mechanism to when it sits over the rear wheel. Also, I think the bike rides smoother when it is weighted down a bit over the front wheel. But I’ve seen the light. You could not pay me to carry weight on my back anymore.

  14. dukiebiddle October 29, 2010 8:32 am 

    Clarification edit:

    “I personally go full dork with a giant delivery basket in front over instead of panniers”

  15. Ted October 29, 2010 9:07 am 

    Congratulations on the breakthrough!

    I’m a marketing guy now in the cycling industry, but I have a huge uncool blind spot. I don’t see uncool. It’s probably a handicap in my profession.

    Help me out here, enlightened, pannier-using fashionistas. How can panniers be made cool?

    Or will panniers always be purchased in spite of, and never because of how they look?

  16. dukiebiddle October 29, 2010 9:14 am 

    “How can panniers be made cool?”

    Guerrilla marketing. Find a distributor that is willing to donate 100 or more sets of panniers. Scout the youngest and hippest neighborhood in an area, identify the best looking cyclists and when they’re not looking sneak up and attach panniers to their bicycles. Sure they may be upset at first, but after perhaps carrying their beautiful people stuff in their panniers they will never go back to the backpack.

  17. Rob October 29, 2010 10:27 am 

    All you fuddy-duddies must be on to something. I’m going to get pannier ASAP.

  18. David October 29, 2010 10:47 am 

    I never knew panniers where considered old? In fact I thought they were considered way cool. When I started bike commuting, it took me 3 days before I was like “I need a rack and panniers”. Couldn’t stand the sweat-soaked back.

    Then, I had to upgrade from some low cost Avenir bags. To some Axiom Storm front bags. Because I ride all weather, my old bags would get literally filled with water on a rain commute, nothing worse than that really. Nothing.

  19. Stan October 29, 2010 11:01 am 

    That’s how I roll. Drop my back pack in it, groceries, return a DVD, my lock is usually in there. They fold flat when not in use, but I don’t bother. I think it helps me be more visible to traffic, too. Cars won’t pass as close. I don’t like bringing it into the store with me though.

  20. Franky October 29, 2010 11:24 am 

    I do see the advantages of a pannier but I’ve got to stick with my backpack due to 3 different rack-less bikes I use … and looking cool is an added bonus. Take that you hippies!

  21. Murali October 29, 2010 12:18 pm 

    I tend to have my head full of work-related thoughts when I start my commute (both morning and evening), so I have accidentally left the backpack behind several times. No such problem with panniers.

    One less thing to think about means a better commuting solution for me.

  22. Adam12 October 29, 2010 12:18 pm 

    I don’t bike commute anymore. But when I did, I made my own bike rack with PVC and painted it blue. I put everything in the backpack and strapped it down. I think if bike panniers looked like motorcycle luggage style, it has a chance of being a hit. Of course, the cost might outweight the benefit significantly.

    Maybe someone could try a brief case style for papers and small items. Goodwill would be the best place for cost.

  23. BluesCat October 29, 2010 1:10 pm 

    What?! Panniers are fuddy-duddy and uncool? Heck, whenever people watch ME ride by on MY commuter bike, their jaws drop to their navels:

    BluesCats Main Commuter Bike:

    They GOTTA be all agog about how cool those panniers look, right?


  24. RL October 29, 2010 1:12 pm 


    Loved the visual…”whenever people watch ME ride by on MY commuter bike, their jaws drop to their navels:”


    BTW, nice bike!

  25. Jeremy Katz October 29, 2010 1:31 pm 

    My laptop pannier has a broken cam-lock (replacement on the way, thanks Arkel!) and I needed my laptop today, so ended up using the messenger bag for the first time in quite a while. And it was a good reminder of why I like being able to commute with the pannier or my trunk bag (for the even lighter weight days)

  26. PhilGE October 29, 2010 2:43 pm 

    I like what dukiebiddle said.

    I love my Xtracycle for this reason: I can stuff tons of stuff in the huge side bags and never have a sweaty back. We also have Banjo Brothers panniers for our other bike and make use of them frequently. I have no desire to ever use a backpack again when biking.

  27. BluesCat October 30, 2010 1:58 pm 

    Thanks, RL! I absolutely love that bike, and it is probably the principal reason I’m such a fan of bike commuting and the site.

  28. Mike Myers October 30, 2010 2:52 pm 

    Welcome to the cult, bro. Panniers are far superior.

  29. Carolyn October 30, 2010 4:57 pm 

    Oh! I used to be the same way. I always used a backpack on my other bicycle. But when I got my new one last year, I got some nice Basil bags for it as I heard good things about panniers. Who cares how you look? I think that panniers look pretty cool on a bike, and definitely not old school. And they are so much more practical then backpacks. You can hold a whole pile more of food and stuff in them then you ever could in a pack.

    @Rider, I want to get some Ortlieb waterproof paniers next Spring, I think they are totally worth the money!

  30. no1mad October 30, 2010 6:53 pm 

    I’ve got panniers and some old Nashbar Townies, but don’t use either of them. Since I’m multi-modal (bike/bus), a backpack just works better… and avoids the heel strike issues that I’ve had with the current bike/rack/bag combo. I’ll take a sweaty back over heel strike any day!

    That being said, I’ve been thinking about getting a different rack and possibly those Banjo Brothers Market Panniers. I’ve been happy with the Large Commuter ‘pack so far…

  31. manish October 31, 2010 8:53 pm 

    That being said, I’ve been thinking about getting a different rack and possibly those Banjo Brothers Market Panniers. I’ve been happy with the Large Commuter ‘pack so far…

  32. Kung Fu Sally November 1, 2010 5:18 am 

    The Pannier thing works well. I do miss my trusty old back pack, but the Ortliebs fit almost everything. Better work out also!

  33. rapps November 1, 2010 11:28 am 

    Oh wow I so love the look of them I would use several at one time! I have one of those old time Shwinn ones that doesn’t collapse but have drawn the line there, just too wide. Hum, I’ve never put it on a bike, maybe it’s not ?? Otherwise mine collapse or are front baskets or racks front/rear. I made the kitty litter bucket panniers to hang for extra room and the fun of making them. The backpack is too heavy on the back.

  34. Statrixbob November 2, 2010 4:04 pm 

    I have a little string sack I where (the Galfromdownunder’s Traffic Cone Bag) but other than that I avoid backpacks at all costs. The TCB doesn’t get me sweaty but anything else does here in Honolulu.

    I don’t use panniers on my Quickbeam though, I’ve got a big front rack and a huge saddlebag. My racks wouldn’t keep panniers out the wheels.


  35. John the Monkey November 9, 2010 7:25 am 

    I like a Carradice saddlebag for my commute.

    riding with one pannier always made my bike feel weird – and riding with two was a huge temptation to overpack!

    I think it looks nice on the bike too;

    When I’m properly multi-modal, I use a Brompton S6-L with a “C” Bag;

    And folded;

    I carry a messenger bag for short errands, but wouldn’t do so on a commute unless I had no other choice.

  36. Brandt November 18, 2010 5:29 pm 

    I wanted to get two of these. I ordered one on eBay for about $40, but these things sure are hard to find! If I do find a place where they are in stock, the shipping adds 10-15 dollars to the total, which I simply will not accept.

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