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Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers: Cram Away!

by Vanessa Marie Robinson

Vanessa Marie RobinsonVanessa Marie Robinson is a NYC-based industrial designer who’s blog For The Love Of Bikes covers her multifaceted interests in all things cycling. Having started commuting year-round by bike in Montreal, Canada 13 years ago, she currently enjoys here 22-mile, rain-or shine-commute along the Hudson River.


Whether you commute by bike or just ride a lot you end up having to haul a bunch of stuff, be it a change of clothes for work, groceries, or simply an extra jacket. For the most part I opt for the default: a backpack.

While there are lots of good options on the market these days for bags you can wear — the downside is comfort. The more you carry and the longer distance you go, the more strain it puts on your body. Any easy alternative to wearing a backpack or messenger bag is the pannier, which affixes to your bicycle and therefore allows you to no longer bear the weight on your body and distributes the weight on the bicycle.

Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers

Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers

I was excited to try out Banjo Brothers‘ bright red Saddlebag Panniers which offer two compartments that each expand to 14 x 4 x 14.5 inches (1500 cubic inch capacity) and can handle up to 30 pounds. The Saddlebag Pannier also comes in black and retails for $59.99.

I tested these panniers out on my Delta rear rack and found them easy to attach as well as remove. When you place the bag onto the rack there are two triangular clips on each side which hang over and hook over the dropout hooks on your rack. (In case your rack doesn’t come with dropouts, the bags come with two extra hooks that you can attach yourself.)

Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers

The drawback that I found was that since the strap with the triangular clips runs through the panniers but is not permanently attached it can cause some awkwardness if you are not clipping in each side simultaneously.

Banjo Brothers Saddlebag PanniersBut once clipped in, tightening the strap, and sliding an extra strap over the front of the rack to prevent the panniers from sliding back, the pannier was super secure. Riding around NYC I have yet to encounter any issues with them shifting.

As for capacity, I found these panniers to hold a great deal. The two sides/compartments make it nice and convenient to keep things organized.I’ve been keeping my change of clothes for work and a packed lunch separate which also keeps the weight evenly distributed. Alas, it is easy to get carried away and start cramming more stuff simply because you have the space!

Some additional features these panniers include is reflective piping on all sides for evening riding and the placement of two small exterior pockets which are easily accessible and the perfect size for keys on one side and cell phone on the other.Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers

I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to see how these panniers held up in the rain since we’re in the midst of drought warnings, but I did! After being caught in a steady light rain for about an hour the contents in the panniers were completely dry with the exception of a piece of paper that was at the very bottom next to the seam.

Banjo Brothers Saddlebag PanniersWhile the material held up remarkably well, Banjo Brothers does suggest on their Website that if you are looking for something that will stay dry in an “all-day ride in a downpour” you should consider their Waterproof Pannier instead.

A detail which I found a little frustrating was dealing with was the straps on the large compartments when I had few items in the panniers. Each time, after opening the buckle, I would find myself tying them up in order to prevent them from dangling and potentially get hooked on something while riding (loose straps is a pet peeve of mine). It also seems to me that since the main strap uses elastic bands to keep tension once you’ve secured the bags, they may eventually loose elasticity and may need to be replaced — though after having mine for a few weeks I see no indication or wear so far.

From my experience overall, these Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers are an excellent option — particularity for the price! They are simple, sturdy and reliable for recreational cyclists and commuters alike!

 
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11 Responses to “Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers: Cram Away!”

  1. BluesCat says:

    Any problem with your heel banging into the front of the pannier as the pedal swings up all the way to the back with the ‘up-stroke’?

    That’s been a problem with my 10½ size shoes with some panniers.

  2. Vanessa says:

    BluesCat: I had no problem with my heel hitting into the pannier — though wear a size 7 in shoes. As shown in the photo, these Saddlebag Panniers slightly taper/angle back which was plenty of space in my case.

    Possibly another factor that may be effecting your issue is the overall geometry or size of your frame. I have a good distance between my rear wheel and seat tube, and standard length cranks.

    I feel your pain though — panniers are an awesome option. Do post again if you find a solution!

  3. Graham says:

    I own a pair of these and have had a problem with them getting sucked into the back wheel and torn up a bit. This seems to happen if I have to stand to power through an intersection, which as you can imagine is the worst possible place because you can’t stop immediately to remove them from the wheel.

    I have switched racks to one with the bent rear support and I hope that’ll keep this from happening… we’ll see.

  4. Kevin Love says:

    The loose strap dangling and getting caught in a spoke issue would be solved with a proper skirtguard.

    I’ve got a coatguard on my bike and it has successfully kept all the danglies out of my spokes. Including my overcoat in winter.

  5. Phillip F. says:

    I have had these panniers for 3 yeras, and have had no problem with heel strikes. I wear 10.5-11 men’s shoes, and even with boots have had no problem (notice the shape of each side, it tapers on the front-edge of each side to reduce this problem, like Vanessa said).

    I have an Old Man Mountain Red Rock (discontinued) rack, and have had no problems with security and fitting. My wife’s Topeak Explorer rack, however, has some fit issues – the front “lip” on the rack (which would keep an item from shifting forward if it was on the rack) is not very rectangular. The top edge of this lip is shorter than the bottom lip, and the corners are very widely round (this picture shows it pretty well: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/NeWgCGn8xwg/0.jpg). The panniers have a nylon webbing strap that is supposed to wrap around this lip and add an extra degree of “don’t fall off the back of the rack” protection, but the tapered lip doesn’t provide a secure attachment. Our fix is to use a cheap dollar-store carabiner to clip to connect the lip of the rack to the pannier’s shoulder-strap attachment hardware.

    Aside from this, ther eis some minor superficial wear on the underside of my panniers from the webbing rubbing, but nothing that’s been concerning. I don’t ride in full-on rainstorms if I can help it, but when it’s happened, nothing has gotten wet.

    Also, there’s a simple clip-on point for a rear blinkie on the back end of the left-side pannier.

    For the low price of these panniers, I highly recommend them, particularly for commuting (my primary use. I do not tour) or day trips or grocery runs. I’ve handily fit a gallon of milk in a side. Each side is easily the size of a brown paper bag, if not bigger.

  6. Phillip F. says:

    @Graham
    What strap from the bike tends to get caught in the spokes? I don’t have any straps that could possibly be long enough with the exception of my shoulder strap, and that I tuck under the strap that cinches the bag to the dropout hooks.
    Otherwise, the flap cinches on each side have keepers to manage the excess strap, and the front strap that wraps around the “lip” of the rack is very short.

    Very curious to know, I would love to rectify your problem.

  7. BluesCat says:

    Phillip – Good info, thanks.

    On some panniers, I’ve noticed that you can adjust the top hooks so the bags can sit further back on the rack, and that helps a lot to avoid that heel strike. In looking at those attachment straps, with those triangular-ring-clips, on these bags, I wasn’t sure that was the case with these panniers.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Re: the dangling straps…

    They are not long enough to get caught in the spokes. Due to the environment I ride in (busy and tight NYC streets were I can often end up have to seriously squeeze by cars, people, etc.) I hate having anything hang off.

    These racks do come with a small clinch on the main pannier straps to keep the access part down but when you have little in the bag I still end up with 9″ hanging loose… hence the knot that I tie below the buckle. Hope that helps!

  9. Graham says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear. It isn’t the straps that get sucked into the rear wheel, it’s the bags themselves.

  10. Phillip F. says:

    @BluesCat

    Re: setting the panniers further on the rack to prevent heel strikes

    At the link below are the “instructions” for these. The “forward strap” (using their instructions’ words) that loops around the front of the rack can theoretically be loosened to allow the bag to slide back further on the rack, but that has the risk that the bag might slide forward, unlooping the “forward strap” from the front of the rack and having a risk of the panniers sliding backwards off the rack. A slim chance, but I keep that “forward strap” snug just to be sure.
    http://www.banjobrothers.com/products/manuals/Saddlebag_Panniers_Instructions_0811.PDF

    Since there are no top hooks, and the triangle-hardware’ed lower straps are at a fixed location horizontally (not length-wise, though), I imagine it’s *possible* that if your rack was really close to your seatpost it could cause an issue. That being said, though, my wife and I have very different bikes, and very different racks, and have no problems. Your mileage may vary. :)

  11. Bruce says:

    Vanessa, do you have any long term updates?
    I’m very interested in these panniers and was wondering how they are holding up.
    Thanks
    Bruce

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