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I'm looking for panniers. I mostly just potter around town, and am not planning any cycle touring so my main criteria is that the panniers should be easy to carry around off the bike. Built in rucksack straps or a shoulder/cross-body strap would be good. Just a carry handle would not be enough for me.

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How big do they need to be? –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Sep 7 '10 at 16:04
    
@Tadeusz: standard daypack size would be fine. Enough space for getting fruit and veg from a market, or carrying a fleece, waterproof, waterbottle etc. The two suggestions you made seem to be a decent size for my purposes. –  Hamish Downer Sep 7 '10 at 17:19
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You might consider:

You might check other products of those two producers, if you need a bigger/smaller cargo capacity.

Both above paniers are very easy to attach to your bike. Perfect for your daily commuting needs and running errands.

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Also worth considering: Timbuk2 Bullitt (tries to be a pannier and messenger at once). Many panniers have a shoulder strap or at least rings that can be used to attach a shoulder strap. –  freiheit Sep 7 '10 at 17:28
    
With the new QL3 locking system Ortlieb looks more attractive than ever. There's a demo at youtube.com/watch?v=-whf3DMpV5A –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Aug 4 '11 at 11:52
    
These links are broken now. New ones: Bug, Downtown –  Damon May 17 '12 at 15:13
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I use an Altura pannier (or both if I'm caring a lot and need the full 46 capacity), and a detachable shoulder strap that I keep in the top pocket of the pannier. It's on the bike most of the time, but when I need to take it off and carry it round the strap is always there handy, and the rixen & kaul fittings make the pannier easy to attach/detach.

It's not quite as comfortable as a dedicated over-the-shoulder-bag (sometimes the pannier clips can get in the way as I'm walking about), but it's definitely good enough for what I need.

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I've tried several options here, including specialty options like Arkel's laptop bag with a shoulder strap. There are some things that I didn't like about carrying panniers off-bike. The attachment hardware adds extra weight that I'd prefer not to have. The hardware always seem to find a way to bump into my side, even when it's covered. And finally, sometimes I just don't to immediately be identified as a cyclist when I walk into room, based on the bags I'm carrying in. (Orange bags with reflective strips don't go great with formal attire and settings)

My recommendation is to choose a bag that works for you off-bike, and find a way to carry that bag on your bike.

For example, Clarijs makes some large size panniers that made to reside on the bike. The would be large enough to drop another bag into:

clarijs xl panniers black

Another option is a front rack. Workcycles has a giant, masculine box if that's your thing. It apparently isn't getting stolen while parked on the streets of Amsterdam, so it will likely survive live in your location as well:

Got myself a new bike crate. Correction: BIG ASS bike crate. No tourist can now use it as waste bin

Cargo bikes like the XtraCycle, Yuba Mundo and bakfiets also have permanent storage capacity in the form of standard bags or boxes, and this is what I'm used to using frequently myself now. Here's the giant Go-Getter bag, which as you can see can easily swallow several other bags with in it:

Unplanned cargo: a watermelon and a dozen ears of corn

Given all the above, my "off-bike pannier" is the Walking Bag by Courierware. It basically looks like a black shoulder bag. It's designed as a kind of small courier bag, but it doesn't scream "CYCLIST ACCESSORY" when you walk into a room due the smaller form factor. It is however basically waterproof and easy to fill and access.

For simple, shorter trips, I can cinch down the strap and where it over my shoulder like a courier bag. For heavier loads or longer trips, I currently drop it into my XtraCycle bag and go.

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I have an Arkel Bug and an Arkel Briefcase, and I think that they are great. Both have straps that can be used over the shoulders, in fact, a shoulder bag can be added to any pannier.

I use the Bug for my clothes, lunch, and tools, and the briefcase for my laptop and other work related items. They are convenient to use easy to carry around, and Arkel makes high quality panniers. They are pricey, but worth it. The way that the laptop holder in the briefcase is built provides shock absorption. It is worth noting that the backpack functionality of the bug is inferior to that of a regular backpack, there is always a metal bar on your back. Arkel has one of the best attachment systems, it keeps the bags secure even without the bungee cord.

Jandd also makes great panniers and some of the best racks, but I found that their briefcase was poorly made when I tried it out in 2006 (same year I purchased the Arkel bags above). They have changed the material and possibly the quality since then, so it might be worth checking out. Another drawback is that it hangs sideways rather than 'right side up'.

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I got a North St Bags Woodward Convertible Pannier/Backpack and use it all the time. It has hidden backpack straps which make it easy to wear on your back and quickly converts to a standard pannier for mounting on your rack.

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