What Would The Ideal Bicycle Pannier Look Like?

After releasing the ultimate list of bicycle panniers, I got around to thinking, “What would the ideal bicycle pannier look like? What would it be made of? What features would it have?”

After a little thinking and a lot of experience using bike panniers in the past, I put together the following, which is a list of things I would want to see in my ideal bicycle pannier:

Waterproof – (Or nearly waterproof) When it rains or snows, you want to know that your possessions are safe inside your panniers. This is why having waterproof or nearly waterproof panniers is so important. With more and more cyclists now carrying computers, cell phones, MP3 players and other electronic devices, it’s more important than ever that your bags be waterproof.

Lightweight – A good pannier also needs to be lightweight. As cyclists, we are always trying to find ways to reduce the amount of weight on our bikes… and panniers should be no different. The lighter the pannier, the better!

Durable – Even if the pannier is lightweight, it’s still got to be able to live up to the demands of life on the road. Using panniers on a long roadtrip or as a daily messenger bag for your local errands, the bag itself has got to be able to handle whatever you throw at it. This means no broken zippers. No ripped cloth. No holes in the bottom. No broken hooks or straps. No leaks in the seams. The ideal bike panniers has got to be able to take a beating.

Secures To The Rack And Doesn’t Jiggle – A good pannier also needs to have a locking system that holds the bag in place on your bicycle’s front or rear rack. Some panniers use two single hooks at the top of the bag, while others have more complicated locking mechanism. Whatever the case may be, the ideal pannier has got to be secure when attached to the bike. This means it can’t jiggle and shake as we ride… and it certainly can’t pop off the bike entirely when we hit a big crack or pothole in the road.

Easy To Carry Off The Bike – Obviously the ideal pannier has to fit well on your bike, but it’s also got to be easy to carry off the bike. Whether you are using the pannier as your grocery bag for your daily shopping or as a daypack on a multi-day tour, the ability to comfortably carry the pannier off the bike is one feature many bike panniers are currently lacking.

Can Be Used For Touring Or For Commuting – Most people won’t want to invest in two separate sets of panniers – one for touring and one for commuting. For that reason, the ideal pannier should be able to be used for both activities.

Not Too Big… Or Too Small – If you have a pannier that is too big, then you are carrying excess material you don’t need to be carrying and you’ll be tempted to pack more stuff than you actually need. On the other hand, using a pannier that is too small means not being able to carry everything you need. So, the size of the pannier is very important. It can’t be too big… and it can’t be too small.

The Ability To Add More Stuff If Desired – The ideal bike pannier shouldn’t be too big or too small, but it should give you the ability of adding just a little bit more if you so desire. Many panniers are made with “expansion lids” which give you the ability to add just a little bit more stuff to your bag if you really need to get it in their. Using this feature typically makes the pannier a little less stylish, but it’s a great feature to have when you absolutely must carry a wee bit more.

Stylish – Talking about “stylish,” the ideal pannier needs to look good on your bike and in your hand. Current bicycle panniers seem to come in four main colors: black, blue, red and yellow. But imagine having a set of panniers that looked more like a Calvin Klein briefcase… or perhaps a Coach handbag? I’d like to see a pannier that makes my bike and I look more like a Range Rover and its owner than a bicyclist in bright yellow attire.

Environmentally Friendly – This is becoming more and more important. Consumers nowadays want to know that their purchases are, at the very least, not doing considerable damage to the environment. So, having a pannier that is made with recycled or environmentally friendly materials is extremely important. And if you can go one step further and ensure the bags weren’t made by children in sweat shops’s, that’s even better!

Easy To Access When On The Bike – A good pannier also has to be easy to access while you are riding. Often times you will want to grab your phone, map, keys, or other item out of your bag, but you don’t want to have to get entirely off the bike and create a big ordeal out of the situation. Instead, you want to simply lean back, reach into your pannier, pull out the desired item and continue on your way. If there is a set of straps, locks, belts or bungees that you have to navigate your way through each and every time you get something out of your panniers, then accessibility drops and getting items out of your bags suddenly becomes a chore.

Keeps Contents Cool – Whether you are carrying food, toiletries, or electronics, the ideal bicycle pannier will keep the contents of your bag at a safe temperature. The ideal bicycle pannier won’t get too hot (even in extreme heat), nor will it dew up with condensation caused by moisture in the air.

Can Be Used To Stand Out Or Blend In – Many of today’s bike panniers come standard with reflective tape and bright colors, which are useful for gaining attention out on the road or riding in the dark. But what if you want a set of panniers that doesn’t scream, “HERE COMES A BICYCLIST!”? I think the ideal bicycle pannier should be able to be used in such a way that the rider has the option of either standing out or blending in. You might want to stand out when cycling in heavy traffic or navigating your way along a narrow, windy road. But you might want to blend in when exploring a new city on foot or setting up a stealth campsite in the woods. Having a set of panniers than is, possibly, reversible would be a feature I’d like to see made available.

Lockable – Many bicycle travelers and daily commuters might also like the option of locking their panniers to their bike when they step inside a building or venture away from their two-wheeled vehichle. If there were a way to not only lock the panniers shut, but also secure the bags to your bicycle, then this too would be an excellent feature to have.

Safe To Take On A Plane – With more and more people traveling by bike nowadays, and airlines getting even more strict about their carry-on luggage requirements, it is important that panniers not have any sharp edges, hooks or other such materials that would make airline officials nervous about letting us (or our panniers) on the plane.

Organization Options – Finally, having some sort of way to organize your things inside the pannier would be nice. Many of today’s current panniers are designed with internal or external pockets to help in the organization process. These pockets, however, do add extra weight and usually use zippers of some kind, which are prone to breakage and wear as time rolls on. Other panniers avoid the organization option entirely with designs resembling that of a bucket – a giant hole, which everything is dropped into and dug out at a later point in time.

What About You? What Would You Like To See?

Okay, I’ve shared with you what I’d like to see in my ideal bicycle pannier. Now it’s up to you! What would you like to see in your ideal pannier? What would they be made out of? What colors would they be? What features/benefits would they have? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.


0 thoughts on “What Would The Ideal Bicycle Pannier Look Like?

  1. Mohammad says:

    Possibly a compartment on top to keep banana’s from getting squished in or a compartment to keep water in so that it doesn’t soak everything when condensation forms on the outside.

    great list.

  2. jase says:

    i have cheap panniers at the moment but im sure a lot of brands have this problem. when adding your rain covers in bad weather the excess water and dirt from the road runs down the back panel and collects in the bottom of the cover soaking the contents of the bottom of the bag. a combo of have water tight bottom and canvas top would be nice.

  3. ConnieD says:

    I like the Ortlieb-type pannier. It is waterproof. It is elegant.

    I do NOT like the reflective “patch” on those panniers.

    I think too much “reflectivity” confuses drivers on the road. It is far better, to have the connection “oh, it is a bicyclist riding” there. For that reason, I look at what other bicyclists are doing right.

    Around here, that is a flashing LED worn on the bicyclist or on the rear of the seat or where the rear reflector would be mounted. In front, they have a CatEye 3-LED white light mounted on the handlebar.

    They leave the reflectors in the spokes.

    I think the most I would add, is my stand out yellow-green bicycle vest and, maybe, a gray patterned, but luminous at night, helmet cover.

    I want motorists to have “recognition” that is a human being riding that bicycle.

    I find that, too much “reflective” tapes, odd-shapes, and such are “dazzling” and “confusing” to a sleepy motorist. I know I really hate all those stupid reflective “cans” “poles” and other nonsense Oregon uses on the state highways, when I drive thru Oregon at night.

    I would rather slip-over a reflective cover, in that stand out yellow-green used in bicycle clothing and road signs, if I do want that high visibility on a rainy and dark day.

    That would be much better than a reversible pannier, because giving the pannier reasonable rigidity, as well as, the method of securing the pannier on the bicycle has to be at the minimum on the inside surface.

    The only other “improvement” for Ortlieb panniers I can think, is to offer a “carbon-fiber-look” pannier. I wouldn’t have it, but many bicyclists would!

    I think, ideally, I would have a handlebar bag/waistpack with a secure place for my GPS, plus a flip over map case, one front pannier like that for the Bike Friday tikit-model bicycle, a top bag for the rear rack, and a SealLine messenger bag.

    I do not like panniers, vis-a-vis crosswinds.

    I think one pannier is more than enough, and my bicycle would still fold with that pannier in place. Now, if I can just get that rack for my folding bicycle.

  4. Bill Bruno says:

    I’m looking for Ortlieb Bike-Packer Classic panniers right now. The problem is I cannot find a seller. I’ve seen a description on the internet; but, would like to talk to a sales representative.

    Actually, I’d talk about other Ortlleb panniers, too. Can you help?

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