Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I thought I would give you my opinions of panniers vs bike bags. AS most of you know, two weeks ago I finished a five day/four night self contained ride. I chose to use bike bags and my friend Kathy used Ortheib panniers.
From the bag perspective, here are the areas that I noticed rather quickly.I soon realized that although I'm organized in packing, from a time perspective panniers have the advantage in terms of simply throwing items in a bag and being done. Now that isn't to say that you don't have to be careful in terms of keeping the weight equal in both panniers... but overall a bit quicker to get moving. The other advantage is that while stopping to pick up food supplies, you generally don't have to worry quite as much about where you will put the items that you just purchased.
There are several companies out there producing some great quality bags, and lots of people taking on projects of their own. Relevate, Phantom Pack, Cleavelend Mountaineering and Jandd offer some great quality bags. With that said, one of the first things that I noticed was the quickness of the bike. What I mean by that is that one of the first downhills we encountered, we decided to let the bikes go and see which bike travelled the quickest without any effort from either of us. The winner was my Soma, but the truth is that the added width of the panniers seems to be a bit of an air drag. The Soma and its bags seemed to be a bit more streamlined... nice ! :) The other interesting tidbit, was that although we generally carried the same types of things, it was quite obvious that the bike bags are much lighter than panniers and racks. I carried a seatbag, harness for the handlebars, pocket that attached to the harness and a small frame type bag. That also meant that I was wearing a hydration system bag as well, and a very comfortable one at that... THANKS VAUDE!! With the muliple bags in various locations on the bike, the bike tended to handle very well and truly wasn't affected by high winds or rough roads. Overall, the difference in weight between the two systems was ten pounds!! Thats'a alot to think about getting up and over some of the hills at the end of a day.
I will say however, that you tend to be abit more limited with space with the bags, so if you're someone that likes to keep adding to their already full load... then perhaps panniers would better suit you.
My choice at the end of the trip.....bags. I liked the difference in the weight of the bike, and the way that the bike handled. And what's great about all of this is the freedom and independence that the bike gives you. And although perhaps this was an odd encounter, vehicles and people are much more friendly to a cyclist that is loaded down, rather than seeing a single solitary bike on the road. So whether you ride to a friends backyard, or state park, get yourself out there. And finally, if you're like me, although I love my job and home, it was indeed a bit sad to end the trip and go home.
One last comment for the border guard at the Cannan Vermont border... my pictures showed a very small corner of your customs building. It showed no windows, signs, doors or anything that would lead one to think that this was a customs building.. could have been a house, garage, etc... So although I apprecaite you doing your job, making me delete photos that showed the "Welcome to the United States" sign was a bit over the top....besides do you realize how many other photos I have at other border crossings?I actually took some other border crossing photos at the beginning of the trip. You did your job well, but I would dare say that you could leave the "ego" at home.