Hot weather + biking with a backpack = sweaty back. Around this time last year, I started looking for panniers to carry my stuff to avoid the large, damp patch on my back when I arrived at work.
I decided that I needed some capacity in order for the panniers (aka those bags that attach to a bike’s back rack) to also be useful for grocery runs. They didn’t need to be huge since I didn’t foresee touring in my future. They did have to at least meet business casual standards for meetings. Cost was a concern, but I wanted a product that would see me through several years of riding.
I ended up picking the Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers. If had written this review six months ago, it would have been glowing. At this point, however, I wouldn’t recommend these bags to anyone.
What I like about this design:
Two sets of D-rings convert the panniers into a shoulder bag. The clips on the included shoulder strap seemed a bit flimsy at first but have held up well.
Each side has magnets inside it that grab onto each other as soon as the bags are removed from the rack, making for a slimmer bag that isn’t too awkward to carry, as long as both sides aren’t stuffed full.
With strips of Velcro that fasten over my rack and elasticized hooks that hold the bags to the bottom of the rack, these panniers are pretty fast to attach and detach – not as fast as my housemate’s Ortliebs, but not bad.
Style-wise I liked the simplicity of the design – plain black to go with both my bike and my wardrobe. There are some adorable, brightly colored floral panniers out there, but I just can’t picture them on my sporty bike.
When accompanied by a small backpack, I can shop for a week’s worth of groceries (for one person) with these bags, but not much more than that. I like that a certain amount of space limitation keeps me from going too crazy at the store.
What I don’t like:
The biggest negative is the elastic on the hooks that connect to the bottom of the rack, which is dangerous. This elastic couldn’t handle the ice and salt of half a mild winter’s riding. By February it was stretched out and the hooks were a bit loose. One of them jiggled itself free from my rack on a commute and latched onto my spokes, which was terrifying. Fortunately, I was on a bike path at the time and could stop immediately. I am so glad it didn’t happen while I was riding in heavy traffic and couldn’t stop. I assume that if it had, the hook would’ve snapped a spoke, possibly several of them.
I removed both hooks and have since fashioned Velcro loops to replace the hooks, but this makes attaching and detaching the panniers from my rack cumbersome and time-consuming.
Timbuk2 states that they guarantee all of their products, but the claims process was a pain. When they asked me to return my bag for inspection with no promise that it would meet their definition of a product failure, I decided not to bother since it is currently obnoxious to use but still serviceable. My only option for carrying stuff while my complaint made it through Timbuk2’s system would have been a falling-apart backpack that I didn’t trust, and funds for a new bag were non-existent. I also did not want to have my panniers replaced with the same model, as it would be a matter of months before the elastic became an issue again.
Besides the puny elastic, the bags are water-resistant but not water proof. Quick errands in light drizzle are OK, but an hour and a half ride in a steady downpour left everything inside the bags wet, and the bags themselves took two days to dry out afterwards.
Timbuk2 also noted that the internal pocket in the backpack fit most 15” laptops. I do not consider my 15” MacBook Pro to “fit.” I can buckle the strap with the laptop inside, but I can’t really put anything else in that side since the computer is pretty tall. With the laptop inside, there’s also a gap that welcomes precipitation into my bag and onto my precious cargo.
Bottom line: there are some cleaver features in this design, but the elastic is a huge and potentially dangerous flaw. Buy something else.