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I ride my bike as primary mode of transportation everyday. Recently, I decided to start using panniers for groceries, to spare my shoulders. I hooked them on to the rack on my bike, and rode to Trader Joe's just fine. Packed them up with my purchases, then rode home. I ALMOST made it all the way home, but about two blocks from my house I went up a ramp and the back corner of the bag on the left-hand side caught in my spokes! It sounded like my bike was exploding. I got off and started walking, but had to stop every few seconds to pull the pannier back out of the spokes. What is most likely to have caused this? It seemed like I had it installed correctly, and felt like the grocery weight was equally distributed in both bags. It also seemed like going up the ramp that led to the bike lane triggered it.

How can I prevent this from happening again, since I live in a neighborhood with lots of hills and don't want to deal with this every time there's an incline in the road?

  • I don't think you've mounted your saddle bags correctly (I'm guessing they're really panniers as most saddle bags are only small enough for some tools; this will depend on the bags and the rack you're using). – Batman May 12 '15 at 1:34
  • You fail to describe what you mean by "saddle bags", or how you have them mounted on the bike. Generally, any bags over the rear wheel must be supported by some sort of a rack, and the bags and rack should work together. And good quality panniers have a stiffener in the back to keep the corners of the panniers from flexing back into the wheel. – Daniel R Hicks May 12 '15 at 1:57
  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. A photo of your rick with your panniers mounted on it would be a big help in diagnosing your problem. Without that, any answers we give will be pure speculation. – jimchristie May 12 '15 at 17:30
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I once had this happen before by combining inexpensive saddle bags combined with a inexpensive rack. The bags were not stiff enough for things like groceries and the rack provided no support to keep the saddle bags from twisting. With the heavy weight the bags simply twist into the spokes while riding.

I now use higher quality expedition style panniers and racks (picture below). These have lots of side support to keep panniers/saddlebags from twisting. The panniers themselves also have stiff inserts to prevent twisting. I have put close to 120 lbs on the bike (front and back) after big grocery run with no such problems.

steel rack

Also a photo of the rack and bag setup will help diagnose the problem.

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    The rack wasn't cheap, but the saddle bags (which I've now learned are called panniers, thanks!) were an old cheap pair donated to my organization. They are very flimsy, so that's most likely the problem. :( – Lucy May 12 '15 at 7:28

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