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Nashbar Garment Bag Pannier Review

by Bike Shop Girl
A wonderful reader, Phil, shot us an email last week about a garment bag review he did.  Thank you for the okay to post it on Commute By Bike!
Garment Bag

Nashbar Garment Bag Pannier

I bought this garment bag pannier in October of 2008 when I decided that I wanted to commute by bike to work instead of taking the bus.  I’ve been using it now for about .  year and a half and figured it’d be useful to put a review out onto the interwebs.  It’s gotten a good amount of use: I’d guess that at a rate of about 4 days per week for about a year and a half, that’s about 280 uses.  With a relatively short 6-mile round-trip commute, that’s about 1680 miles of use.

This bag was the cheapest one that I could find at the time.  I saw it at nashbar.com and also in-store at performance bike.  They’re basically the same product.  The only difference is that the performance bag has the “Trans-it” logo sewn on.

Loading the bag on your rack

Loading the bag is a little tough.  The hooks are metal, covered with a soft vinyl-like plastic.  this plastic wears away pretty quickly and you’ll end up scratching up your rack.  this isn’t too big of a deal, but the hooks definitely aren’t as nice as, say an Ortlieb pannier with the quick release system and a more secure mounting.

Top Rack
Nashbar Garment Bag: top hooks, worn.

The pannier is secured to the bottom of your rack with a stretchy elastic cord and another set of plastic-coated metal hooks.  I’ve found that the plastic on these hooks wears away pretty quickly as well.  You can also really hurt yourself with these.  the elastic cord can generate a lot of tension, and if these hooks go flying when you unlatch them from the bottom of your rack, you can cut your fingers or hand.  It’s happened to me a couple of times.  The hooks also get caught on just about everything when you remove the bag.  These hooks can also fall off of the elastic cord and get lost (see the photo below.)

Garment bottom hooks
Nashbar garment bag bottom hooks: slightly dangerous.

There’s a hole in the hard plastic for stowing the hooks, but it doesn’t work so well in practice for me.  This hole is higher than where I attach the bottom hooks to my bike rack and there isn’t enough tension in the elastic cord to keep the hooks engaged.

There are two more clips that secure the bag even more on the front of the bag and the rear of the bag.  I’ve found that they’re very helpful in securing the bag.

On the bike:

Garment bag back
Nashbar garment bag: on the bike, rear view

garment bag
Nashbar garment bag: on the bike, side view

Riding with the bag is usually not bad at all.  It’s well balanced (in a side-to-side sense – the bike+bag is of course top-heavy, so it’s hard to keep upright when you’re not riding) because it covers both sides of the rack.  I had a lot of problems when I first started using the bag with parts of the bag rubbing against the tire.  One time, one of the hooks came off and got caught on a spoke.  after a couple of revolutions, it locked up my rear wheel and my bike skidded to a stop.  scary.

There’s hard plastic on the insides of the bag (facing either side of the rear tire when mounted) .  This seems to help prevent water and grit from soaking the inside of your bag when it’s raining.  It also serves as abrasion protection if somehow the inside of your bag rubs against your tire.  tire rub is of course rack-dependent.

Garment bag
Nashbar garment bag: tire rub on the inner side of the bag.

It’s not in focus here, but the bottom hooks on this side have been sharpened by many cycles on loading and unloading the bag. kind of dangerous!

I have to make sure that I place the bag far enough back on the rack so that the clasp doesn’t rub against the back of the rear tire.  This also helps prevent your heel from hitting the bag when you pedal.

the two clips prevent the sides of the bag from bouncing around too much if you hit a bump.  the back clip’s gotten a little frayed from rubbing against the rear wheel from times when I’ve been sloppy in placing the bag onto the rack.

The bag has two reflective strips on the back side..  There’s also reflective piping around the side and top pockets.  I’m not sure how visible it is, but I think it is a good thing to have.  I put a makeshift tail light into the carrying handle on the top of the bag.  it seems to work.

garment bag

Nashbar garment bag: reflective strips and piping. Also note the clip for keeping the two sides close to the wheel.

Unloading:

Sometimes unloading the bag is a breeze – you just unhook the bottom hooks and pull straight up.  Sometimes it sucks a lot – the hooks can stubbornly attach themselves to your back rack (I mentioned getting cut on them above!) and then they can catch onto just about EVERY part of your back rack as you lift the bag from the rack.

The fact that this bag is attached to both sides of your rack makes it a little harder remove the bag.  If you’re using just a regular (single sided) pannier, you can lean the opposite side of your bike against something.  that doesn’t work so well in this case.

Carrying it while walking:

The bag’s generally pretty heavy and bulky when loaded, so it sucks a bit to carry while walking.  I bought a Crumpler velcro shoulder pad (item SP01A) to help distribute the load in a more comfortable way.

It’s kind of big, so it might bump against your legs as you walk as any other bag this size would.

How does the bag carry your clothes?

I’m pretty happy with how the bag carries your clothes.  Typically, I can fit in a shirt, slacks and shoes into the bag.  It’s a bit smaller than other garment bags I’ve used (but of course, those bags don’t mount onto your bike..) so there’s a bit of folding that you have to do to get your pants and shirt to fit.  My shirts get to work with a couple of wrinkles, but it’s not nearly bad enough for me to care.

garment bag
Nashbar garment bag: open and loaded

There are two side pockets on the outside of the bag, each with a smaller separate compartment for fitting even more stuff..  Each side pocket can fit about 3 bottles of beer.  (though if you do choose to load your pockets this way, your bag will be considerably harder to carry) There’s also a pocket on top that I probably underutilize.

Garment bag
Nashbar garment bag: side pockets

If you’ve got clothes already in your bag, there’s not too much more carrying capacity.  I typically have tools and a bike lock in one side pocket and lunch or other miscellany on the other side pocket.  You can stuff more things into the main compartment, but after a certain point, it gets hard to fold the bag over onto your rack.

In the rain:

The bag’s not bad in the rain.  Some parts of the bag have a waterproof inner coating, but other parts (especially near the zipper of the main compartment) don’t.  In mild rain, nothing inside gets wet.  When it’s raining heavily, though, I can expect parts of my shirt and pants to get wet.  Overall, it’s decent.

General comments on build quality:

The bag feels kind of cheap.  I think the mounting system kind of sucks.  I’ve used other nashbar bags that use the same mounting system, and I dislike those as well.  I’ve found that you can use a carabiner or something similar (google search: “oval screw link”.  in place of the bottom hooks.  this prevents injury and also doesn’t catch on as much as you remove the bag.  I haven’t “upgraded” my bag yet, but I really should.

Price/value:

As of today, the bag is selling for $59.99 at nashbar.com.  It’s performance bike equivalent is $99.99.  That’s $40 extra for the “Trans-it” brand (which in my mind doesn’t hold much equity)..  I think I paid $79.99 for it in 2008.  It was an okay deal for what I paid, probably a good deal for $59.99 despite its shortcomings.  It’s significantly cheaper than similar products:

  • Knog Neat Dog Rackless pannier (about $140 according to google shopping, and it gets kind of bad reviews)
  • Two Wheel Gear Bag ($150 on their website, www.twowheelgear.com, not sure how well-received it is)

Overall thoughts:

I don’t really enjoy using it, but I use the bag nearly every weekday out of necessity.  It does its job without too many problems.  The main problems are the annoyances in loading and unloading the bag and the fact that walking around with the bag is awkward.  It’s a good value at its current price on Nashbar, but if you’ve more money to spend, I’d recommend finding something where more attention has been paid to ease of use and quality in general.  I’ll probably upgrade at some point, but I haven’t found another bag that serves the same purpose at a better level of quality.
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13 Responses to “Nashbar Garment Bag Pannier Review”

  1. Matt says:

    I frequently bike to work bringing my work clothes (dress pants, button down shirt + tie) in the side pockets of my Topeak trunk bag (with fold-down panniers). I fold them carefully, and put my shoes on the opposite side as everything else (there’s room in the “trunk” portion for stuff like lunch). My clothes generally arrive at work with a minimum of wrinkling.

    It wouldn’t work for a suit, so I have to either plan ahead or not bike on days I need one (rare), but the bag has a quick-mount system… and I have never been stabbed by it!

  2. yangmusa says:

    I have the Nashbar single-sided waterproof panniers, with the same mounting system.
    1) tie the hooks to the elastic – it isn’t hard!
    2) when mounting, put the lower hook on first, then fit the top hooks to the rack. To remove, take the top hooks off first, lower to reduce tension in the bungee, and take the lower hook off. This way, you won’t be in danger of the hook hurting you.

    Whether or not that works with your two-sided garment bag I don’t know, but give it a try!

  3. Ken says:

    I also use the Topeak MTX DXP trunkbag. Very versatile in that it can be just a trunk or can be a trunk with small panniers on one side or both sides. The rain cover for it works and is holding up well after a year of use.

    I’ve taken to leaving a pants and shoes at work and then wearing my work shirt in the mornings. (My commute is only 4.5 miles and relatively flat…) Lunch in the trunk and my laptop on one side.

    One benefit of the Topeak bag is that it rides higher, which is good for people with smaller bikes. There aren’t as many heel-strikes as there would be with bags that ride lower on the rack’s rails.

    One downside to the Topeak is that it REALLY sucks carrying it around off the bike. I used the shoulder strap for a while but found it to be too awkward. But for door-to-door trips from home to work, it is ok and the handle on top is holding up well.

  4. Sam says:

    I use a single rear pannier in combination with an Eagle Creek “Pack-It” Folder (http://www.eaglecreek.com/packing_solutions/packing_folders/Pack-It-Folder-15-41068/). My lock, a pair of shoes, pants & a shirt all fit in the pannier. You might think it throws the side-to-side balance off but it doesn’t really (I don’t notice it.)

    (I recently switched to using 2 smaller front-mounted panniers, mostly because I can’t use the rear rack when the child seat is on. This combo also works fine.)

  5. James says:

    I had this bag for about a year, using it every day on mile 20-mile round trip commute. It was cheap, and I needed a solution.

    After about a year, the zippers just started failing, to the point where I couldn’t zip the bag together anymore, rendering it useless.

    I splurged and bought a Jandd Commuter Garment Bag (http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FCGBP) and couldn’t be happier!

  6. Cap'n Thunderchunk says:

    Also gonna pipe up on the Eagle Creek Pack-It folders. The small one (15″) can fit one Cap’n Thunderchunk-size shirt and chinos, and slide into a commuter pannier. (In my case, a Detours Uptown).

    It can probably accommodate two sets of dockers and three shirts for cyclists of mere mortal proportion. The larger Pack-It folders (18″ and 20″) hold more with fewer wrinkles, and can be ferried in an open-top grocery pannier or Wald basket, but they’re not in the slightest weatherproof. The Jandd Commuter =might= be able to swing the 18 incher, otherwise stick with a pair of 15″ folders if you want to bring in a week’s worth of Wage Slave attire in a pannier or messenger bag/backpack.

    Unless you need to haul in a suit coat, give the garment bag a pass. I’ve never had good success with keeping my stuff wrinkle-free in the non-bicycle varieties.

  7. Cap'n Thunderchunk says:

    Becaaaause…

    1) Not weather-proof or mud proof
    2) Does not offer abrasion or impact protection to cargo in a crash.
    3) No support for floppy objects wider than the rack (like a garment bag).
    4) Center of gravity is too high for heavy stuff.
    5) We got these things called “bungie nets” and “sleeping bag straps.”
    6) Their PR guy thinks overpromoting and picking fights in the comments section is a good idea.

    All snark aside, it’s a neat product that will be the answer to somebody’s problem. Just not mine.

  8. Matt says:

    @ Aphirath –

    Overselling drives away potential customers.

    The first comment was fine. The 2nd and 3rd were annoying. The 4th makes it so I will never buy your product because I don’t like to support annoying people who spam blog discussions.

  9. ~ditto on the hard sell, Aphirath. Won’t even look at ur product.

    I just got a Banjo Brothers Grocery Pannier and like that I can just pull my backpack or groceries out and go. It’s not made for rain, but a little plastic stowed in the bottom has worked for me.

    I also have a Topeak MTK Trunk bag that has worked well. It folds up easy into a carrying case. I don’t like the Topeak rack so much, because the mouse trap rattles all the time, when the bag isn’t on.

    Last thought. When you buy something that you are going to use a lot, why go cheap, if you end up with a bunch of hassles?

  10. KC says:

    I have this bag as well. I agree with most of this review, except that my overall impression is I like it. I can imagine it will fall apart within 12 month (been using it 6 months), but for $60 who cares?

    I would, however, add 2 IMPORTANT comments, both negatives:

    1. The lack of a place to attach a rear blinky light is so egregious as to render the entire product almost unbearable. Every time I hook my blinky light to my double-looped zip ties workaround, it makes me ANGRY that the designers of this bag did not have the foresight to realize that bicycle commuters might need a place for a light. I don’t know what the reviewer is talking about when he says he attaches his light to the carry handle – those handles are several inches inboard of the rear of the bag, making a light there less useful – his pic looks good, but I personally don’t see a way to strap a light there and have it stay there. Seriously, that is so stupid I’m angry again just writing this. One little strap would suffice. Aaaarrrggghhhhhh$@^!~
    2. It’s not just big and bulky – those things should be expected. However, think about how you’re actually going to be using this bag — i.e., where are you going to change? I load the bag on a bed at home – plenty of room. Then I unload it at the gym at work on a bench – if no ones in the locker room, no problem – if the locker room’s crowded, BIG problem. There’s no where to lay the bag out and unload my clothes when I have 1-2 feet of bench to use. There is a large general use clothes rack, so I can use that in that case – but if your gym has less space, you’ll be very frustrated – I’ve been there before.

  11. Alison says:

    I am currently documenting the final zipper breakdown on my Trans It pannier garment bag. Little did I know that my bag’s disappointing 18 month lifespan seems to be better than average! First the side compartment zippers separated, and now inch by inch the main zipper is going. I only have a 10-mile/day commute on bike, 10 more with bike on transit, but I typically haul a lot of stuff and run errands or go to the gym on the way home. I need a heavier-duty bag!

  12. Dave says:

    I’ve commuted 20 mi/day 3-4 days a week for three years now, the first year with a borrowed Performance Products bag as described here and the last two with a TwoWheelGear bag. I stuff a dress suit, dress shirt, dress shoes, tie, plus occasional laptop in them, which is feasible in both. Despite a hefty cost for the TWG bag, it has now worn out and I’ve just ordered the Nashbar bag again. I agree with all of the comments above, but have found the following: 1. With that much weight inside, I never ever had a problem with the PP bag bouncing off of the rack, so I just pulled the straps out of the way and never used them. 2. One of the reasons I paid more for the TWG bag was because it appeared to be more water resistant than the PP bag, which it was not. In fact, I’d say those rigid inside panels in the PP bag made it a step better. 3. The PP bag completely covers your rack-mounted tail light and has no good alternatives. The TWG bag was similar, so I now have a rear light on the back of my helmet, which turns out to actually be more visible anyway. 4. The internal hanger and over the door hanger capability of the PP bag is not available on the TWG bag, but I have gotten used to just folding my suit jacket and shirts vertically (sleeve to sleeve) in the TWG bag, so fine without hangers, and then opening the TWG bag on the floor, which also works fine. 5. After an estimated 250 uses, the TWG bag has worn out, with several wear through holes and the shoulder strap stitches ripping out. It seems premature to have to replace it already, but maybe not in light of other’s experiences. 6. The TWG bag is a little larger capacity than the PP bag, but in order to achieve that, it’s designed with the rack mounts to hold it cocked up at about a 30 degree angle rearward in order to not have heel strike problems. However, that allows the bag to bounce more and despite using the tie down straps, which are not elastic, the bag will bounce off of the rack about 1-2 times a month, which leads to immediate heel strike and stopping to re-secure. So, in my experience, I didn’t really gain much with the more expensive TWG bag, so moving back to the Nashbar bag, which for $59, I can feel better about replacing every two years, if needed.

  13. Andrew says:

    I’m going on 4 years with the same Performance (TransIt) garment bag (cannot see any difference from the Nashbar bag, based on the pics posted here). Commuting to work 5 days a week, all year, every year, 14 miles per day (about 14,000 miles). I think my experience with the bag has been the most positive out of all those of the riders who have posted here so far. Biggest problem has been the side bag zippers. Seeing these are admittedly fragile, I’ve avoided stressing them, but in fact both of them have problems now. For me, the hooks latching to the bike have always worked okay. I find the bag as waterproof as expected. I never experienced issues with lights on the bag because I use Reelights instead – look’em up; they’re the coolest. Thanks though to all posters for your tips.

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