A good quality pannier bag that functions well and looks just as good on and off the bike.
The holy grail of commuter cycling, to me, is a really good pannier bag. Too often pannier designs are aimed at touring cyclists, who value capacity, lightness and waterproofing – but these bags don’t look great, and are often difficult to carry, once you take them off the bike.
There’s also a growing range of panniers aimed at women, many with flowers or kitch patterns on them. But where are the products aimed at men? Where are the panniers that look ‘normal’ and non-sporty, and that have a shoulder strap, and handy pockets for bike lights and things – but are still waterproof and attach well to a rack?
Well, after years of using bags from Basil and others, I think I’ve finally found my bag, in the shape of a Carradice Bike Bureau.
Carradice have been manufacturing saddlebags and panniers from the former mill town of Nelson in Lancashire, England for about 80 years – and have been exported around the world. They make their bags out of cotton duck, which is highly durable and also waterproof, and the leather straps give their bags a timeless style.
The Bike Bureau is designed for the commuter market, and has some well thought out features. There is an innovative fold-over flap, that when used off the bike protects you from the pannier hooks and any dirt that may splashed on the bag.
The pannier hooks are very good quality and keep your bag safely attached. Their position can be adjusted depending on the length of your rack. And as you can see from the photo, the hooks are also mounted at an angle, so as to keep the bag away from your heels.
When you order the bag, you need to specify whether you’re going to use it on the left or right hand side of your bike, as the angle of the hooks will be different. My bag is the left version.
When taken off the bike (and that top flap folded back) the bag has a nice leather carry handle, and metal buckles on the front. But don’t worry about having to fiddle with those buckles every time you want to get into the bag, because there are quick-release plastic clips hidden under the straps.
On the sides of the bag there are also metal rings where you can attach the included shoulder strap. And inside the bag is a detachable laptop sleeve.
I’ve been using the bag every day for the last couple of weeks, and so far I’m very impressed. The duck cotton seems very hard wearing and stiff, but that’ll probably soften over time. I haven’t been able to test how waterproof it is, because Ireland’s been gripped by a mini heatwave for the last few weeks. The pannier clips work well, and feel secure. The bag also has a larger than expected capacity (26 litres) for all of the stuff I carry around with me.
The fold-over flap works very well, and generally the attention to detail is very good. I also love the fact that each and every bag is ‘signed’ on the label by the person who made it, which is a nice personal touch.
My only slight criticism of the bag is that it doesn’t have quite enough pockets for my liking. I would prefer to keep some items (such a lights, bike tools, my work pass, and so on) within quick reach in a pocket, rather than having to delve around for them in the bottom of the bag. But apart from that, I’m delighted with the bag.