Author Topic: Questions about panniers and weight distribution  (Read 3103 times)

Rylito

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Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« on: August 06, 2016, 11:57:18 PM »
Hello experienced bike commuters,

I bike commute but will sometimes take a ferry if I'm pressed for time (still having to bike to and from the ferry and work/home).  I am usually transporting laptop, wallet, phone, keys, lunch, sometimes paperwork, all in a backpack, so figure that's 5-10 lbs plus the weight of the backpack.  My current set up is to bungee cord the back pack to my rear bike rack.  I've never used a pannier but am wondering about switching to them because the bungee system is time consuming and occasionally the backpack slips of the rack.  My questions are:

--The reason I've always used a backpack is that there is no way I can carry my bike up and down the ferry stairs with the backpack bungeed to the rear rack--the added heft to the rear of the bike makes it impossible for me, I think because it screws up the center of gravity.  So I always wear my backpack when carrying my bike up or down the stairs.  (FWIW I'm pretty petite and have minimal upper body strength.)  Do you think it would be possible to keep the panniers on while carrying the bike up or down stairs?

--If panniers would work, it seems like everything I transport could fit in one pannier.  Would I feel off-balance with all that weight only on one side of the bike?  I'd rather not purchase two panniers if I didn't have to.

Thanks for your advice,

Rylito

misterhorsey

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2016, 06:59:31 AM »
Hi Rylito

I have panniers on my bike and they are an amazingly efficient way of carrying large loads.  In fact I finally sold my car when I discovered I could carry a case of beer in two panniers!

I use Ortlieb Panniers matched with a Tubus rack.  These are both expensive German brands of equipment but they are designed really well (well, expensive in Australia, possible cheaper in the US).  They are water proof with a very quick but secure attachment system that is designed to go together.

Because the weight is on the bike it makes handling a little less responsive, but it takes all the weight off your back so although you feel like you are driving a less responsive bike, you feel very free!  I personally don't mind the impact on the bike handling. And I love having a backpackless back in summer.

The panniers on the back of the bike make the bike considerably heavier and more difficult to carry when attached however.  I did spend a year carrying the bike, with pannier, up three flights of stairs to work but I did it as a pointless physical challenge to myself. So its not impossible.

On the plus side, the Ortlieb panniers can very easily be clipped off and carried via a shoulder strap to lift the bike without the additional weight.  Other pannier bags may have similar attachments.

Do you know how heavy your bike is?  I find the weight of the bike isn't always the problem, but its the way the weight is distributed awkwardly across a unwieldy bike.  In any event, my bike (a steel surly cross check) is about 11kgs without panniers, and sometimes 15kgs+ with panniers, or 24 and 33 pounds.

Interestingly a case of beer (24 x bottles) weighs around 15kg. So heavier than the bike that is carrying it!!

I don't notice the uneven weight distribution when only having one pannier loaded.  But often I have both pannier bags running with them half full, as i never know what I'll buy at the supermarket.  You'll most typically find they are sold in pairs anyway and the second bag does come in handy sometimes.

johnny847

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2016, 07:50:12 AM »
A lot of good advice. I just want to jump in and say that I do have a pair of panniers and try to load them evenly but of course, this is a not always possible. In that case I will make my left pannier heavier than the right, because I am in the habit of putting my left foot down when stopped and leaving my right foot clipped in.
While actually moving though I haven't noticed the effect of unevenly loaded panniers. I think my bike is 24 pounds but I'm not quite sure. I only weigh130 though so I should feel an uneven weight distribution more than the average man, but I still don't feel any unevenness.
Of course, I have a pair of panniers, not just one.

AnonymousCoward

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2016, 01:38:36 PM »
A bunch of weight on one side isn't an issue even for rather heavy loads (35+ lbs), the bike compensates. It's about the the same as riding with a slight crosswind, but easier than that because the imbalance is constant instead of gusty.

When I carry my bike with loaded panniers I hold it farther back than I would without panniers because the center of gravity is farther back. My bag also has a shoulder strap which is nice if I'm carrying the bike and something heavy upstairs. The bag goes on one side and I carry the bike on my other side so they balance.

PtboEliz

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2016, 02:05:57 PM »
You won't feel off-balance, just some pull when you get on/off bike.

mskyle

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2016, 10:50:25 AM »
I ride with panniers and usually only have one pannier on the bike at a time. The only time I have trouble with the un-balanced-ness is if I come to a very quick stop (like, where you can't put your foot down quickly enough); it's noticeable when I start pedaling but I'm so used to it it doesn't bother me.

I think it will be almost as hard to carry a bike with attached pannier(s) up and down stairs as your current setup. I do it occasionally (taking bike on subway) but I avoid it when I can.

But, if you get a pannier with a good quick-release system, you can unhook it from the bike much more quickly than you can undo the bungees. And there are panniers that double as backpacks, so you could just undo a snap or hook, put the whole pannier on your back, and get the bike on the ferry.

Another option might be something like a Wald folding basket pannier - you can just drop your backpack in and pull it out quickly if the bike is too heavy on the stairs.


JJsfr

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2016, 11:18:42 AM »
You may want to look at any of the paniers with shoulder straps. See if you can find a store that sells one, then take your normal commuting gear in there with you to see if it all fits.

Scandium

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2016, 08:27:05 AM »
Why don't you wear the backpack while biking? That's how I got to school and college as a kid, for something like 15 years, so it's clearly possible. Don't remember it being unstable.

I got panniers but kinda hate them. I constantly hit them with my heels while pedaling (yes I've tried to move then and the rack as far back as possible). Avoid them if you can.

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mskyle

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2016, 08:37:57 AM »
Why don't you wear the backpack while biking? That's how I got to school and college as a kid, for something like 15 years, so it's clearly possible. Don't remember it being unstable.

I got panniers but kinda hate them. I constantly hit them with my heels while pedaling (yes I've tried to move then and the rack as far back as possible). Avoid them if you can.

For me it's not an instability problem with a backpack, it's sweaty back. If I commuted in a bike jersey (or sweated less) I guess it wouldn't be a big deal, but I mostly ride in street clothes and I don't like to get to work with a backpack-sized sweat patch on my back. Plus the straps wear on my clothes.

You make a good point though - make sure you have good clearance on your panniers. Some panniers are just too big for some bike/rack combinations.

Rylito

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Re: Questions about panniers and weight distribution
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2016, 10:34:34 PM »
Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the great advice.  I have a lot of research to do now, between the various different panniers out there that can also be worn while climbing up or down stairs. (And to make sure they fit my bike rack.)  I also like the look of the folding basket pannier--didn't know those were out there. 

Wearing the backpack while riding won't work for me--I'd rather stay with the bungee system than do that.  Besides the back sweat, I find it uncomfortable while riding as it's a fairly large backpack to accommodate the laptop and forces my neck upwards at an awkward angle or else it slides forward (I'm on a road bike).  On the days I ride the whole way, each leg of my commute is about 75 min. so I'm looking to maximize comfort.