20/10/2013

Is it worth paying extra for expensive panniers? (Updated 2+yr Later...)

Note: Updates to the blog are at the bottom if you like to get up to date if you have read the original blog already.

As a young cyclist, I used to go around with a backpack to carry whatever I needed. But now I'm a lot older, I have to carry a lot more as I now do my own shopping, get supplies for pets, DIY goods for the flat, etc, etc, etc... You get the drift, it means having a rucksack to carry this lot in from time to time isn't really advisable with all that weight on the back & so high up it makes you top heavy when cycling.

So the other choices are trailers & panniers, to which I now use both.


So as I have had a few years of using panniers, I have found them not quite adequate to the job. Well, the ones I have bought over the years. The first pannier I got was only a low budget £10 one to see how I go & to be honest wasn't expecting it to last.


It was small, simple to use & affordable for most. But in a matter of weeks I found it wasn't as waterproof as claimed, definitely not robust & after a month I was already sewing back on bits & new Velcro straps to hold it on as the old ones frayed to bits & I have been doing this regularly for a couple years.

In the end it was used as a tool bag for my longer rides than a shopping bag, I started using the trailer more until something else came up. Eventually I decided it was time to get another, this time go for a more expensive brand. When you have a look at what is about, the prices vary a lot. Definitely wasn't prepared to pay around £100 for a pair or even for 1 bag as I didn't know how good they are if at all.

Next one I tried a pair from Aldi, still below £20. They were of a reasonable size, each clipped on individually & for shopping they did ok.


Unfortunately the clips failed & rendered 1 side useless & as Aldi only gets them in from time to time the only option was a refund. So off I go again hunting yet another set & this time I did go for mid range & I bought bigger too at 47L in size that was almost double my last set.


Now when I got these, they looked great. Looked sturdier, thicker material & definitely right size to do the job or so I thought. On 1st load of shopping I found them awkward to strap down to the panniers & when lifting them onto the bike, this happened...


And why, well the next picture clearly shows the strain it takes & getting straps onto the pannier just adds to it as you had to lift them to gain access to straps. Clearly wasn't designed to come off the bike often, more like not at all. I guess as a Dutch brand, they don't worry about leaving them on the bike when shopping. Where as here, not a chance will I leave them on bike.


Warranty was useless too as seller wasn't of any help & passed the buck, so I decided to modify & strengthen the panniers instead as I needed them. But no matter how I set it up, modified the strapping, it just wasn't an easy set to use & would've been better as 2 separate panniers at that size. Also I kept kicking them when pedalling as strapping put them too far forward, they just wasn't working out but all I had.


As I paid quite a bit for them, I sure wasn't gonna throw them away & didn't have the finance to go any further up the price range. Plus the fact I was getting reluctant too after the messing around with these ones.

Well recently an online cycle shop Wiggle did a Twitter competition, just a simple Retweet one (My fav sort of competition). It was for a set of Ortlieb panniers, not a cheap set to get at £100 a pair. But I thought what the Hell, worth a go.


And would you believe it, I won! Woohoo!! Yes, that was my response & as soon as I got them I was like a kid at Christmas. Opening it up & couldn't put it down until it was put together & on the bike. Oh and Tweeted about it to all too as they sure did look good! lol


They were so easy to fit onto the bike, they just slide on & click into place & that is it. No fiddly straps, Velcro, rope etc. To take off is even easier, handle at the top which you lift up & panniers come off with it. Man, they are just so simple to use so why aren't ALL panniers aren't like these??

Size wise they are great too, nice contours so you don't kick them as you pedal & as I have found out I can carry as much as my previous 47L panniers & room for more. They are lighter on the bike when empty, something we all appreciate & also when it rains, they are totally waterproof (something none of my previous has ever been) & in our country is much needed.


So is it worth paying the cost of what these are going for? Even though I won them I now know what they are like, my answer will be YES!

They hold a lot of shopping quite well, not straining when it holds the heaviest of my shopping (20+kg so far) & I often have to check they're on the bike as I don't notice them on there when pedalling. It comes with a 5yr warranty, replacement parts & additional extras you can attached for more carrying. You can even turn them into rucksacks. lol

Now I know & if ever I need to get more of them (can fit them on front fork panniers too) or finally replace these tho not in a while. I will most definitely go for these again as so far they haven't come off my bike (except to fill with shopping) & unlikely too for quite some time.

There are a couple things to bear in mind tho when using them, firstly due to the mounting on panniers they do rattle a lil bit. Was disconcerting at first as I kept thinking I hadn't clicked it in place correctly. But when it has shopping, the rattling goes. Its just how they fit & nothing wrong with them.

The other which I say is important is careful how you pack the panniers, it doesn't like sharp corners pressing against the plastic fabric. I can see this could eventually tear it & not sure how easy it is to repair or if is even covered under the long warranty. So if packed sensibly, you won't have any problems & I for one am proud & glad to have these lovely if bright Ortlieb panniers.

Thankyou for taking time to read this & hope this is of use to those who're looking for a good set of panniers.

UPDATE

Since I had posted this a few days back, I have had the misfortune of a slide after coming off on a bend due to leaves. Thus the left hand pannier went scraping along the tarmac. All looked ok when I picked up the bike & pannier was covered in mud.

 

So after I get indoors with bike I took pannier off & gave it a wipe down & cleaned it up. I let the pictures show how it fared a slide on tarmac...



 Other than a few scrape marks on hard plastic parts, you wouldn't know it went for a slide. Another plus for the brand.

UPDATE (1yr later)

Well I thought I check to see when I posted this blog & would you believe it, its been a year already since I posted this blog.

So how have they faired over the year? Well for starters, they haven't come off my bike other than when sharing them with the other bike when I go out for rides & they're as much as part of the bike as my bell.

 


They still look almost new despite the 100s of miles I have done with them from around town to all around London & carrying God knows how much weight each time I cycle to the shops or just for a fun ride.

 

 

So I can happily say they are worth far more than what they cost to buy, if anything I am looking into buying the smaller version in White for my Roadrunner.

Update 18th June 2016

It's now been over 2yrs (almost 3) since I got my nice big yellow Ortlieb panniers, they've done a lot of rides with me & battled thru all sort of weather & road conditions. So how have they fared so far? Bloody well I say, I have now bought a 2nd smaller white set which gets used as much as the yellow ones & all still look almost as new. There's also been some changes to the bike collection to use them on too.

 

 

 

I have fitted the exact same Axiom rack on all my bikes so I can just clip whatever panniers I want for the ride onto whatever bike I choose to use, even the folding one which if you're asking doesn't effect the handling of the bike but actually improves it as all these racks move the panniers further back & help give clearance to pedalling.

They're so good they're even a feature on my wall with the bikes. :)


And that concludes my blog. The Ortlieb panniers have proved their value in money & in my opinion are worth paying for to get many years & rides out of them. I hope this has helped you in your search for a good quality panniers.

16/09/2013

Gear Ratios

Now most people who buys a bicycle when they look at the specs, they look at the No. of gears it has. I know as I do it too, whether it has 3, 5, 6, 15, 18 or more. But do you actually look into the details of the gear ratios, again I don't. All you want is the 1st gear to easily to pull away from stand still & go up the gears gradually to increase the speed with less effort, again that's all I expected too.

So as most know I rebuilt a bike called 'The Beast', it has 18 gears. 3 at the front & 6 at the back, rather old school in tech as is a 1 piece crank so haven't really touched it.


But on my rides due to my increase of speeds I can achieve in each gear as my health improves, I have noticed an odd thing when I change from 6th to 7th & 12th to 13th. Every time I do this I have to change up a gear on the front chainwheel, when going to 7th & 13th I feel like I'm actually going down a gear or 2 not up. So I found it easier to just go from 6th to 12th & then straight to 18th & miss all the other gears.

Now I know this can't be right, so after a few weeks of this I decided its time to sit down & work out why. So to start with I counted all the gears on the front & rear, then work out the gear ratios etc using an app I installed on my mobile. Here's the results:


Now looking at this, its just a load of numbers & showing it in this layout its not easy to see a pattern, but I could see something strange in the gear ratios. So I did a table to put them in gear order, as shown to make it easier to see:


Now it made it clear, I was right in how the gears were handling. When I go from 6th to 7th, I do indeed go down in gear as in by gear ratios. 7th gear ratio is in between 2nd & 3rd & same happens with 12th to 13th, where 13th gear ratio is between 8th & 9th gear. The chart below shows it even clearer...


So what doe this mean, well it means my gear ratios are wrong. What can I do, that is something I have to sit & work out as I havent found any chainwheels to fit this old 1 piece crank & probably means an upgrade of the bottom bracket & find the right chainwheels to get a steady increase of the gear ratios without any dips. After all any dip in the chart like shown above will affect performance of the riding.

I know this hasn't shown any "how to's" or "fix it's", but is an interesting observation which I thought I would share. It's something I have now learnt & can use in the building of my new bike 'Roadrunner' & now know to not just take the gearing on a bike for granted.

02/05/2013

30 Days of Biking - The Summary


If you are new to me or not seen it in my Facebook & Twitter posts, I have been blogging daily throughout April about #30daysofbiking, but this isn't my 1st one as I did it in April & September last year too. See 30-days-of-biking & 'Autumn' 30-days-of-biking for my previous blogs under Wolfies Blog.


Now if you haven't heard of it then here’s the site which tells more about this global event '30 days of biking story', quite simply it’s a pledge: Ride somewhere every day for 30 days then share your adventures online.


So why did I do this 30 days of biking? Well I've done it a few times now & they were a struggle at the time, so thought I do it again to see if I can better myself from the previous 30 Days of Biking as I know in the past 6 months I have improved both me & my bike (now known as The Beast). So I decided this time I had to go further distances & not just around Chelmsford, I have to get myself to travel further out of the City. But as I now have a helmet cam, I thought I try do a blog with video every day too...


So how did I do? Well, obviously the shorter trips I found easier now but with improved times cycling to town & back. But the main things I excelled in was I finally managed to cycle more than 10 - 15 miles, hell I beat that twice by miles as maps below will show...


This was partly coz of changes I had done to The Beast to improve performance & comfort, but also I am still improving the strength & stamina in my legs. I also managed to do a blog every day with video, even if it was a day later due to slow uploading to YouTube. All blogs can be found on the right hand column under April in Archives.


Now for the stats, they really show a difference:


As you can clearly see I not only beaten my previous 30 Days of Biking in September, I did more than double the mileage & in less than double the time. So it shows I am getting faster & more stamina in the past year, but I feel I have hit the limit with my Beast. As nice as the bike is, its a heavy bike from an age gone by.


So until I can get another more suitable & lighter road bike, I doubt I will beat these sort of stats. But I won't replace The Beast, its got me here & it is a nice bike to ride now as I have moulded it to suit me. So when I do get another, The Beast will be the Alpha.


But as for the 30 Days of Biking, the highlight of the whole month was on day 28. I rode in a charity ride Pedal for the J's where I cycled the furthest I ever have done in my life of 35 miles excluding the cycling to & from the Admirals Park & raised money for The J's hospice of over £150 now. A bonus really as I did it more as a challenge to me in doing the miles & no doubt will do more charity rides in years to come as it was fun to do.



01/05/2013

Day 30 of 30 Days of Biking


Well it is now the final day & I have done all 30 days, filmed & blogged all 30 & that was hard work to do but well worth it. I know so far from looking back at my progress I have achieved so much in the past month, but I will go into that in a summary blog later once I've collated the stats.



Here's a clip of my ride today:


30/04/2013

Day 29 of 30 Days of Biking


Well I amazed myself today after yesterdays Charity Ride, I woke up feeling slightly achy & tired but a lot better than I expected. My knee was grumbling a bit but done well after yesterday so looking hopeful to losing the stick.

So I thought, as weather was holding out to be an OK day I better go do my next 30 Days of Biking & see how far & I did better than I thought there too. :D


Here's a clip of my ride today:


28/04/2013

Day 28 of 30 Days of Biking

Well this was the day I have been working up to, Pedal for the J's 35 mile cycle ride. Up nice & early to a cold Sunny morning & was the best weather we could have for a long ride. Got to the Registration point at 8.30am & left at 9am.


Wasn't long by time I got to 1st refuelling stop 15 miles along, 1 hr 20 mins.


A few mins for a drink, a bite to eat then off again & the route was a scenic one.


Wasn't long before I got to 25 mile mark where & stopped & had a cuppa at High Easter.



Next stop was at around 30 miles in Pleshey to meet up with my beloved Jules at a lovely lil pub & had a good coffee there.



Saw plenty of cyclist pass at that point.



Stopped for a lil while & enjoyed spending some time with Jules before I was off again, the next stop was a few miles later in Great Waltham to refuel for the last bit of the ride.


By this point I had ridden 31 miles, I knew I've now gone further than I've ever done before & I've still got a few more miles to go. So off I went to finish the ride... And I did! :D



Was a fantastic if tiring event I won't forget, I do ache but in a good way. 8 yrs ago I wouldn't have thought I would do this, hell I didn't think I would ever cycle again ever in my life. I have again surpassed myself & I know I will again when I can.


I like to thank my beloved Jules, who took the pictures & videos of me cycling today. I finally now have pics/video of me & my Beast working together.

Here's a clip of my ride today:

Whole ride at 3x speed:


Highlights:


Short clip of me cycling: