Review: Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier
A pannier allows you to carry heavier loads without damaging your back; it lets you keep the weight low on the bike to increase stability; but, most of all, it avoids you turning up to work with a sweaty rucksack shaped patch on your back. It's the sensible option, in my opinion.
Thule has produced some great bicycle luggage in their foray into the market; I've previously reviewed the Thule Enroute Escort Daypack and the Thule Pack n Pedal Trunk Bag. Both bags impressed me with their quality and attention to detail in design. With the pannier still being my preferred commuting option though, I was keen to see how the Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier would fare in daily service.
Unlike the Ortlieb Classic Roller, which is my normal pannier option, the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier is designed specifically for weekday riding, to and fro between work and home. It is designed to be transportable off the bike, and it is designed to house your typical daily essentials like your laptop, lights, lunch and a change of clothes.
There are a few minor faults with the carry system, in my opinion. Namely, the inside face of a pannier tends to get a lot of road spray and grime, so slinging this over your shoulder after a damp ride, can leave you with a rather blackened patch on your back. The second, is that the shoulder strap, although easily clipped into place, does need to be removed and stowed before you can clip the pannier to the rack and use it for riding. This is because, you can’t really keep it from falling back onto the inside side of the pannier, and risking it getting caught in the rear wheel. The concept is good though, bar these minor faults, and it certainly overcomes the pannier clips annoyingly catching on your clothing, which they typically have a tendency to do as you walk from the bike shed to the office.
As well as the innovative flip-away ability of carrying system, the way the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter mounts to the pannier rack is also neat, and different from the norm. The upper mounts use a spring-loaded mechanism that rotates the clasps onto the top rack tube, and keeps the bag firmly in place. The lower part of the bag is kept in tight to the rack with a strong magnet, which works very well at holding the bag, even on rough-road ventures. It’s a unique and different way for a pannier bag to mount to a rack, and it seems to work well, and should fit pretty much any pannier rack out there.
Mounting and carry options are one part of this smart new Swedish design, but the overall quality and design is great elsewhere too. On the outside of the bag, there are two translucent pockets, which you can stash lights in to make you more visible. There is also a compression strap, which avoids loads spilling out and sinking to the bottom of the bag. The elasticated pocket on the front is also good for stashing the shoulder strap, or other easy-to-grab items like a waterproof.
Inside the bag, things are kept dry by the waterproof roll-top closure, and there is a dedicated padded laptop sleeve, and a reasonably generous 18 litre capacity. I don't take a laptop into work each day, but found the pocket good for housing smaller items, and the overall size is ideal for a lunchbox, change of clothes and other small essentials.
The way this pannier is designed, it has a taller, lower profile than some panniers that are typically created for touring. That's beneficial when you are carrying a smaller load, as they tend to sit closer to the centreline of the bike, therefore reducing the effect on stability. This is a smart design decision, and given you only get one of the panniers in a purchase (and should only really need one for commuting), it works well to keep things more balanced.
Overall, the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier is a well designed and thought-out piece of kit. Much like all of Thule's range, it demonstrates a great quality level, and a meticulous attention to detail. The flip-away rack mounts, and the ease of carrying off the bike, is a useful feature for anyone that has to walk a fair way after they've left their bike at the end of the commute; whilst the rack mounting system itself works well with its spring loaded clips and magnet. The size is ideal for daily service, and pocketing is great for keeping things organised and close to hand. It's a waterproof, well made and durable option, with minimal faults. I have enjoyed using it for daily commuting duty.