July 17, 2010
Panniers seem to be the most common option chosen by self-contained bicycle tourists for carrying their gear. I don't have a real strong preference for one pannier brand over another — but one rule I do follow is to always keep pannier rain covers on hand. And so should you (unless, of course, you have waterproof panniers, such as the Ortlieb Bike Packer or Axiom Typhoon).
Especially on long, extended tours, you can't predict the weather, and it only takes one hard downpour to soak your bag and many of your belongings. And nobody likes riding in a pre-soaked chamois!
My experience has been with the Arkel rain covers, which can be purchased in various sizes for a good fit, and usually run around $40 per pair. Even if the fit isn't dead on, these covers include a drawstring that allows you to cinch them down, preventing them from flapping in the wind, blowing off, and/or snagging on objects.
There are a lot of brand options out there for pannier rain covers, and one trait they all share is that they are quite light and packable. No matter which brand you choose, I recommend going with a bright color, and leaving them attached to your panniers even when the skies are clear, to help keep you and your bike visible to traffic.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.