My wife and I have a plan to do multi-day cycle touring. It started with her dream of cycling through the Tuscan sunny uplands during the day, visiting off-the-beaten-track places to eat and by evening, doing the passagiata in the piazza dressed in a summery floaty dress. Of course you can do this with a car and bike carrier, but she wants the sense of adventure! Cycling from destination to destination. Piazza to Piazza. You get the picture.
What is crucial (among many things no doubt) in this desire for adventure are storage options on the bike. We’re right at the beginning of our journey with touring, so at this stage, all I can do is show you what we have bought and how well the panniers work in our test rides. After a lot of research, we came to the conclusion that the Ortlieb backroller (Amazon UK), Ortlieb backroller classic (Amazon DE) panniers were the best for our needs. A set of two of these can hold 40 litres. The construction borrows from seafaring bags which are made of canvas and the top is made waterproof by rolling the top several times over, a bit like what you do with a packet of open cornflakes to keep them fresh.
I found the locking and attachment system particularly impressive and easy to use. Each bag has a handle and when you lift the bag using the handle, it opens the locking mechanism. If the bag is affixed to the bicycle, then it comes away easily. And similarly, you hook on the bag to the carrier and it self locks. Voila! There are no fiddly bits to contend with. You may need to make sure the bags do not foul your heels as you pedal, and for that there is an additional hook that keeps the bag in place against the carrier struts or indeed angled away from the pedals.
We filled the bags with a day’s worth of clothes, pair of shoes and a lot of space left over and went for a 25km cycle ride to test the whole shooting match. I actually felt a little whoosh of exhilaration, knowing we are finally starting our touring experience.
I was expecting the bicycle to be unstable, but actually I was able to ride no hands with no perceptible sense of imbalance. You just don’t notice these bags! Of course, on the climbs you do notice the additional weight; I probably had to drop one gear to compensate. Over 500m of climbing my climbing times were perhaps a minute or two slower versus carrying nothing.
Specifications: each bag can hold 20 litres, so together that’s 40 litres. If you compare that to your carry on bag allowance on an aircraft, it’s about the same amount. Therefore, there is more than enough capacity for a long weekend. The bags come with reflective material on the rear as well as shoulder straps.
The trick now is to convince my wife to carry her fair share. I suspect she’ll sneak an extra pair of shoes into mine…