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  1. #1
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    Pannier(s) on a mountain bike

    I've been commuting to work on my 05 Rockhopper Comp for 2 years using a backpack. This year I'm looking at getting a rear rack and panniers. I'm looking for advice on what rack/pannier to get.

    My commute is pretty flat but I ride pretty hard, including some bumpy off-roading. So it has to hold on decently. I actually bring more stuff than you might expect for a commute. Some days (like today) it's 5F in the morning and 35F in the afternoon and I need a second pair of biking clothes, along with my work clothes, and lunch/beverages. I currently have a cheap, moderate-sized backpack (Outdoor Products Morph 8.0) that is about right.

    So some specific questions:

    1) On the back of the frame, by where the rear axle hooks in, there are no holes on the edge of the frame like previous bikes I've owned (there are two on the left side, zero on the right). However, on either side, there is a threaded hole in the frame with a rubber stopper in it. Is this for mounting a rear rack? If so, is there a special kind I need to look for? This isn't exactly a normal commuter bike so I'm willing to believe I can't mount a rack on here without modification.

    2) The rear fork of my bike isn't very long, so I am looking for a rear rack that sticks out pretty far back so I can prevent hitting the pannier with my heel. Any recommendations? This could factor into what pannier(s) I get as well.

    3) If I go the route of just getting one pannier bag and putting it on the left side, will this throw off my balance? Like I said, I ride decently hard for a commute.

    Given that I sometimes need to pack heavy for my commute, I find myself gravitation towards the "grocery-store" oriented ones. The one I'm looking at now is the Banjo Brothers Market Pannier, which is 1500 cubic inches and $50, which is around what I'd like to pay for the bag itself. But I'm still not sure, based on the heel-bumping and balance concerns above.

    Really I appreciate all advice, I feel like I'm in a bit over my head here.

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    1) On either side of what? How about a picture of your rear dropout? The area up by the seatstay bridge wouldn't hurt, while you're at it.

    2) A few brands have racks that cantilever back. Something to be aware of is that decent-quality panniers also give you some flexibility with the mounting hardware. I've been happy enough with Blackburn racks. Tubus are well-regarded but expensive. I have one, actually, because I bought my present commuter from a guy who spends months at a time in a nuclear submarine and doesn't have a girlfriend, so he's quite happy to throw money around when he's on land.

    Question: Do you have disc brakes?

    3) I haven't found it to be a problem. I wasn't clear on whether you were going off-road on your commute, however. A major problem with carrying a load on a rack is that it doesn't know to post when you do. I destroyed a rear wheel that way a while ago... won't stop me from using panniers now and then, but there's a reason you don't tend to see people with them out on the trail. So I think whether or not you're going off road during your commute, and how burly the off-road in question is are important to whether or not this will work out for you.

    The Banjo Brothers pannier appears to have two things I really hate, looking at the picture on their web site. Sheet metal clips - never found them to be that secure or that durable - and a fiddly hook at the bottom. It's also kinda tall. While I haven't found having a pannier on only one side to be a problem, I do notice the height of the load.

    I find the attachment hardware of the pannier to be very important. When I was in college, I had some that hooked on over the top of one of the side rails of the rack and then had a hook thing that I attached under the intersection of the stays at the bottom. They were a real pain to get on and off and I ended up not using them.

    I tried it again recently. Ortlieb are too pricey for me, but I bumped into a pretty good deal on the Seattle Sports Titan, which is basically a knockoff of Ortlieb. The fabric is very water resistant - never had moisture get in - and I get along well with the attachment hardware. It takes a sharp tug to lift the pannier off the rack, and the lower stabilizing connecting just slides on over the the rack stays. It can be adjusted to land in a good place for keeping the pannier in place. I actually still don't use them much - I typically commute a little over two miles and don't have to take a lot with me - but when I do have to go further or take a lot of stuff with me, I'm pretty happy with them.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Thanks AndrwSwitch.

    I will try and get pictures, but it probably will not be possible tonight. Hopefully tomorrow.

    I do not have disc brakes.

    I do go off-road on my commute but it is more or less a beaten trail so I guess we can take that for what it's worth.

    That's interesting about the mounting hardware, I was worried someone would say that. They don't look that secure to me, either.

    I agree that Ortlieb are probably too pricey as well. Given the price range I'm seeing I'm thinking I can find something in the $50 range.

    Thanks for all the help, keep it coming if there is more advice to be had!

  4. #4
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    No mounting spots on a frame is no issue...you can use clamps to attach a rack quite securely (though maybe not all the way up to the rated limit of the rack).

    About cheap panniers: the cheapest good pannier you are likely to find is made by Jandd. They make budget panniers from scraps under the 'Running Rabbit' line. Maybe weird colors, but good quality materials.

    You also didn't mention 'waterproof' as part of your desired characteristics...and I would certainly consider that as almost one of the most important things.

  5. #5
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Mine - the Seattle Sports Titan - looks like it's kicking around on the 'net for under $50. I'm not sure if that's single or a set.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  6. #6
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    Waterproof is definitely a plus, but I've gotten by so far by making sure I have a trash bag around in case I need it. If I had to, I could live with continuing that approach.

    Yeah that Seattle Sports Titan looks pretty cool, less bulky (ie less worry for the heel-bump) than the one I was looking at earlier... that's probably my front-runner now.

  7. #7
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    Ok, here are pictures of my bike for evaluating my rack mounting situation. Please excuse the crappiness, the lighting wasn't the best, but I think they do the job.

    Pannier(s) on a mountain bike-20130312_204201.jpg

    The first picture below isn't the greatest because it shows the two holes on the frame. The other side of the fork doesn't have these holes, but it does have the same in-frame threaded hole with the rubber plug.

    Pannier(s) on a mountain bike-20130312_204218.jpgPannier(s) on a mountain bike-20130312_204225.jpgPannier(s) on a mountain bike-20130312_204233.jpg

  8. #8
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    Looks like you've got all the necessary holes to mount a rack (that is if they're on both sides of the rear triangle). There are racks that mount to the axle itself and you can use clamps to attach to the seat stays.

    As for bags, I used the Banjo Brothers Waterproof pannier for about 18 months and while it did the trick I had issues with it staying attached due to the way it was attached and actually lost the bag off the rack when hitting a rough patch in the road at speed. It's mounting system is pretty much the same as the Market pannier so if you're looking to roll off-road odds are good it won't stay attached. I bought a pair of Ortliebs and while they are not cheap (got 'em during REI's annual sale one year) deals can be had. They've been worth every penny. 2+ years commuting in Portland, OR, now dealing with snow and summer monsoon on the mountains of AZ and never had a leak. So if staying dry is an issue its worth the investment.

    Mounting is simple and the latch system is such that accidental loss of the pannier is rare. I routinely ride fire roads after work and have yet to have an issue with them staying put. I wouldn't be going hard-core trail riding, but in relatively rough stuff they stay put.

    It's worth the extra $$$ to do it right the first time. Just my $0.02.

  9. #9
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    The uncovered holes on the left are a disc brake mount. Just for trivia's sake. I think you're right about the ones with plugs, especially since you mentioned that they're threaded.

    The bolts you photographed up on your seat stays are there for the forward stays on a rack. It's nice that you have them. I think two stays bolted to the seat stays are the best stabilizing connection going.

    I don't think you need one of the racks that cantilevers back from the dropouts. I think if you have adjustable mounting hardware on your pannier, and maybe even if you don't, you'll be fine. Those are more for people with super-short chainstays, like on a racier road bike.

    This should be a very straightforward install. Sometimes seems more like the exception lately...
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
    weirdo
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    I agree on the disc caliper mounts and on the top mounts for sure, but mystery hole (with rubber plug?) sounds kinda weird to me. Is that it circled in red in your second picture? For some reason, it looks like it`s oriented up and down rather than in towards the center of your hub, though that`s likely just because of the angle the picture was shot at. I really can`t imagine the manufacturer putting the top mounts on a frame and not putting a boss for a lower mount (the other way around, maybe), so you`re probably good to go for a traditional mount. Check and see if one of your water bottle bolts will screw into it.

    I don`t normally use panniers on my commute, but do drag in a 12 pack of soda every few months with a single pannier. It works, but I definitely notice the lopsidedness and wouldn`t care to ride like that every day, recommend a pair rather than a single.

    And "yes" to looking for a good mounting system if you`re going to be hopping curbs and potholes. A lot of them use various types of clips that include a rotating hook or barrel that locks completely around the tubing on the rack. I don`t know if you can find a pair like that for under $50, but they aren`t restricted to only the most expensive. A word of warning though, If you get some like that: be sure they`ll fit your rack- some racks use 5/16 or 8mm (pretty much equal to each other), and others use either 3/8 or 10mm (nearly equal to each other, but NOT equal to the smaller size). If your rack has fat tubes and the panniers only fit the skinny tubes, you`re SOL. If the pannier clips are for the big size and you have smaller tubing, you should be okay. Some Novara bags I looked at a few years ago came with a sleeve that you could either install in the clips or not, depending on what size tubing your rack was made from. I don`t know how common that is.
    Recalculating....

  11. #11
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    I've got rack and panniers on all my mountain bikes. I hit the trails on the way home - I'm not getting huge air, but there's plenty of hops and tech.

    My #1 recommendation is to get a rack that has an extra support brace at the rear.

    Something like this is good:
    Name:  5016-416_BK000_view1_150x150_v1_m56577569831257660.jpg
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    Compared to something like this:
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    The bottom one can be fine 99% of the time, but with the wrong panniers, or if you throw the bike around too much you can end up with panniers bouncing into the wheel. So you move them forward to fix that, and then you start having issues with heal rub. It was a constant battle on one of my bikes until I just gave up an bought a new rack.

    The racks with the rear brace are still cheap, and they're not much heavier, but they're totally worth it.

    I also only used a right-side pannier for the longest time, but have recently switched to doubles. Single worked fine - I didn't notice any lopsided handling. After a few years the right leg of my rack did develop a noticeable bend though, which is why I started splitting it into two bags.

    Also also, I have a set of 56L pannier (they were 50% off!) that are too big. They're great for the farmers market on the weekends, but for commuting/trails I'll still get the occasional bounce into the wheel. So I got a set of 40L panniers (also 50% off!) and they're pretty perfect. If you're thinking of getting something gigantic, I'd suggest loading it up and trying it out, and then taking it back if it doesn't work out.

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone. I bought the Seattle Sports one that AndrwSwift recommended. I'll give it a shot and see if it's what I'm looking for. As for a rack, a friend said he might have an extra. I'm sure it's cheap but it's worth a shot before I spend more money.

    Thanks again, I'll report back but it probably won't be soon. This is going on my main rider which won't go on the pavement until the salt gets off the roads... at this rate that won't be for awhile.

  13. #13
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    Okay, so I got my pannier bag and my rack in the mail. This Seattle Sports Titan is pretty cool. However, I think there might be a defect in the rack latch that I was wondering if you could look at.

    It seems like the right hook is missing a key part of the latch here. Would you agree?

    Pannier(s) on a mountain bike-left.jpg
    Pannier(s) on a mountain bike-right.jpg

    Thanks in advance.

  14. #14
    weirdo
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    If I`m seeing it right, my guess is that is is missing the end of that little clippy thing. Further guess is that it should work fine for keeping your pannier in place, but will be a bear to remove. If it were me, I`d send those pics to the vendor and ask about an exchange.
    Recalculating....

  15. #15
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Yeah, I agree. Sorry the bags didn't come through quite right.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    It's actually not that big of an inconvenience; The bag was enough to tell me that it's what I want, and I've got a few weeks before the salt's off the road (not putting a rack on my winter beater) so I have enough time to exchange it. This bag's design (and the rack I got) seems like exactly what I wanted, so I appreciate all the help from everyone.

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