By Mike Deme and Alex Strickland
When you're traveling by bike, it's advantageous to keep your gear and personal items as organized as possible. The Osprey Ultralight Roll Organizer is great for your personal items. It unrolls and can be hung by its hook allowing access to two mesh zippered pockets (one of which contains an attached mirror), two zippered micro pockets, and the main cargo compartment. The Roll's dimensions are 15 x 6 x 3 in., it's constructed of 40D ripstop nylon, and, unburdened, weighs 4.4 oz.
The Padded Organizer can also be used for personal items but I've been using it to store my ever-growing collection of “necessary” items like my iPod, a spare charger, a light, a mini pump, spare tube, mini speaker, bottle opener, corkscrew … you get the gist. It features a padded main cargo compartment with an internal zippered pocket and two unzipped mini pockets; Straightjacket compression clip closures; and a webbed handle. The Padded Organizer's dimensions are 6 x 8 x 5 in., it's constructed of 40D ripstop nylon, and, unburdened, weighs 2.5 oz. –MD
As the name suggests, this eye-catching pannier from Thule is designed for urban assault more than cross-country cycling, but shares some traits with its more touring-specific stable mates. Waterproof and burly construction is standard on Thule’s panniers and the roll-top closure bag was no exception. Translucent light pockets were a nice touch and the while a little finicky, the clasp on top of the bag did add an element of style. As with other bags in the line, the trick rotating attachment plate is an impressive piece of engineering that allows the bag’s back to go smooth when carrying it into the office or through the market with the included shoulder strap. This pannier also packs a laptop sleeve, but I confess that I was afraid to use it. See, while Thule’s upper rack mount has a clever mechanism to disguise it, the lower attachment is hidden entirely because it relies on magnets mounted to the rack and sewn into the back of the pannier. Though I’m pretty confident it would have been fine, I wasn’t willing to place my laptop’s hard drive in such close proximity to a magnet. –AS
A no-frills, high-vis value, the Rain Freighter from Seattle Sports is 21 liters of waterproof luggage space that won’t break the bank. Built from waterproof vinyl and employing welded seams throughout, the Rain Freighter uses straightforward hooks to mount to a rack and roll-top closure to keep the weather out. A front pocket for quick-access items was handy — and still protected thanks to a waterproof zipper.
Internal storage is confined to a single large compartment so you’ll have to figure out an organizational plan of choice, but at least there’s a blank canvas to start with. The panniers’ plastic backing adds stiffness to the structure but the small metal nuts holding the attachment rails to the bag created a number of bumps on the inside of the plate. Though protected with rounded plastic covers, I still found them mildly annoying as they’d snag items that I tried to dredge up from the bottom of the bag. Still, for the price, it’s a great option to move a lot of gear and keep it dry while you do it. –AS
Oh, how I wanted to love these bags unconditionally. They’re beautiful on the bike and off, handmade in the U.S. of A. and super functional with pockets, reflectors and straps galore. And on the right trip, I do love them. But the minimalist in me occasionally rears up and, realizing that I probably don’t need[ital] that stylish integrated backpack strap or supple U.S.-sourced fabric, reaches for a lighter, simpler option.
The convertible system employed by North St. to take the bag from pannier to backpack is clever, but I did futz with the various strap lengths and tensions quite a bit to get everything sturdily attached and stowed away on the bike. And when worn instead of hauled, the single strap was more comfortable than I would have suspected and the bag’s style cues are much appreciated.
That rare impulse for simplicity aside, if I was going to buy bags for someone special this season who wanted functionality for around town errands and light touring and wanted to look as good as possible doing it, I’d buy them these bags. And I’d buy myself a set too. –AS
Seems like everyone has a top tube bag these days, but after seeing Apidura’s at last year’s Interbike tradeshow I can’t say a better looking one has yet crossed my desk. Made of Dimension Polyant VX21, a popular choice among bike bag makers, and sporting a decidedly understated look, the Apidura bag is shorter and thinner than many of its competitors, which was perfect for me. I took the pack along for dozens of mountain bike rides with a stem that sits considerably lower than many dedicated touring setups and the low profile didn’t protruded above the top cap. A low stem height does make for more of a challenge when it comes time to attach the velcro strap, but I managed without issue on a few different bikes. The pack isn’t waterproof, but it’s nearly so and kept its contents dry through 12 hours of rain and drizzle in Washington’s San Juan Islands. And the bright yellow interior made it easy to pick out small items crammed in the bottom. The velcro straps for the head tube and top tube feature a nice--to-the-touch and grippy material, which worked well every time but one, when a poor job strapping the pack on caused a wiggle that relieved my top tube of a thumb-sized chunk of its paint. –AS