Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brown Bagging it

Since Gilbert's "appointments"  (grips, basket, saddle)  are brown, I've been on the hunt for a brown leather bag to turn into a daily pannier.   After a lot of ebay trolling, I finally found what I was looking for- a dark brown leather bag with a handle, a shoulder strap and a pair of outside pockets.

Varying from my usual MO, I decided to try the "Klick-fix"  hardware from Rixen & Kaul.  The advantage of this hardware is that it has a bar on which the hooks are mounted, allowing them to slide back and forth to accommodate different racks and chainstay lengths.  Ortlieb offers a similar system,  which is actually simpler, but it's only available as part of an Ortlieb bag, not as a stand-alone part.  the Klickfix is actually a bit simpler than the Ortlieb to adjust to a variety of tubing diameters with a spring loaded system,  and accommodates the very oversized tubing of my two Steco racks.

As I did with my previous bag,  I added a 12" brass stabilizer bar inside the bag instead of just using the provided two washers to help distribute the weight and keep the bag from cupping inward.  

As you can see, the bag has two large outer pockets, a small inner zip pocket, and a large main compartment.  There is an open pocket on the "wheel side"  which might be a good place to slip a rain jacket.  I may add an interior button and elastic strap to keep the inner pocket a little more closed even if the top flaps aren't buckled down.

The Klick-fix system is a little more complicated to mount on the rack than the Ortlieb (or maybe I'm just still getting the hang of it.  you have to pivot the red tabs out, freeing the black hooks, and then lower it onto the rack.  

Once the black hooks are seated on the tube of the rack, you push down (and slightly in) on the red tabs, which are spring loaded.  Once you get them down far enough, they pop under the bottom of the tube,   where they are held in place by the springs.

Unlike the Ortlieb, removing the bag isn't just a matter of lifting up,  but is the reverse of the mounting process,  although it is a little simpler because you don't have to be as finicky about pivoting the red tabs out of the way.  Basically, you push down, and a bit out on the red tabs, and once they clear the tube, they pop up and away.

 I adjusted the pannier hooks based on pretty low heeled shoes, and I think I'm going to have to adjust them a tiny bit more to eliminate heel strike when wearing higher heels.

 Adjustment is simple- but does require a screwdriver.  You loosen the two screws on each hook,  and then they slide along the bar as needed, then tighten them back up again.

I put this together over the weekend, and have now used it a couple of days this week.  I'm getting a bit better with the Klick-fix,  although it's still not quite as smooth as the Ortlieb.  Unfortunately the first day I rode in, one of the toggles that hold the top flap to the pockets broke off somewhere along the road.   I'll go to the shoe repair store this weekend and see if they have anything that might replace it- otherwise I'm going to have to create a button-type closure for that side.  The pockets are very deep though, and I haven't had any fear that things might fall out of the pockets, even when unsecured- it's mainly that the bag tends to gap open in the middle if left completely unfastened.


  1. Cycler,

    "or maybe I'm just getting the hang of it",

    ...nice pun!

    I always thought your use of a fishing creel was clever and fun. I like your use of an old leather bag as a pannier as well. It's classy looking and I like the flexible functionality of the mounting system.

    I like to use both panniers and a trunk bag on my rear rack. With some panniers that stick up too high, it makes it difficult if not impossible to mount the trunk bag on top. The Klick-fix system seems to solve multiple issues when mounting custom bags.

    How will you protect it from the weather? Leather treatment, plastic rain cover, ...?

    Ride well and be safe out there.


  2. I wish I could say it was intentional :)
    I've never really used a trunk, but I do end up strapping bulky items on the top of the rack quite often, and neither the ortlieb or the Klick-fix seem to cause a problem with that.
    I will probably give it a coating of Obenauf's leather preservative in case of light rain, but if it's really rainy, I'll either not ride or use a more waterproof bag like my Ortlieb.

  3. ok ... minor nit: one "trawls" Ebay to search for items of interest. one "trolls" Ebay to start pointless, heated arguments with sellers about the unflattering lighting of their product photos.

    sorry, but I've been seeing that particular malapropism a lot lately and it's provoking a nerve twinge ... though feel free to clarify if you bought the bag after long nights fighting People On The Internet Who Are Wrong.

  4. Cris,

    Actually both trawling and trolling had an origin in fishing where you move slowly through a space (either with line or net) attempting to catch your goal. While current slang has "verbed" troll to describe the practice of being contrary on the internet, to search is one of the original definitions of the word, and is not an incorrect usage.

    But then again, here we are arguing on the internet :) and more importantly, how do you like my new bag?

  5. Thank you for posting this, Ive wanted to make a guitar case pannier and now i know how!

  6. I made my Deb a Gilbert of her own. Not the same but A 1953 Raleigh Superbe.

  7. Is that next to bottom photo shot as your heel gets as close as possible to the bag? In my last post, the bag clears my heel by a whole 1/4 inch when it is as far back on the rack as currently possible. I'll be able to get another 1/4 inch after I move my rear lights around. I expect I can dream up some pretext for a post involving a shot like your top one for comparison purposes. I guess this is "bag week," though I went back to my purse today...

  8. Love it! This has to be the nicest pannier I've ever seen!

  9. I like the mounting system. It reminds me of our L.L. Bean tent with clips attached to the fabric that snap around the poles. There are stress points that pull the tent upright and they use this same triangle-shaped plastic wedge that slides sideways to move the clip along the poll and slide it back to lock it in place.
    I do similar reclaim and re-use pannier projects, but with rattan or cloth bags.

  10. Once I got the hang of the sprung R&K hooks they became just as easy to use as the Ortlieb system, so I hope your experience is the same. Overall I prefer R&K because it adapts to racks with skinnier tubing without sliding around.

    Oh and if you leave the screws just a *tiny* bit loosened, you can move the hooks around without having to use the screwdriver. That's what I do on my bag, since I use it on several different bikes, and it works pretty well.

  11. re: 'trolling' and 'trawling' ... wow, that's minorly blowing my mind right now. Anyway, regarding the bag -- I think it's fine, though I was curious about whether the stabilizer bar and tabs impact comfort while walking around. That always seemed to be something that came up when trying to put a shoulder strap around a pannier, and one would just have to adjust the length of the strap so that the hardware would rest on a comfortable spot like a hip or love handle.

  12. Cris,
    The reinforcing bar doesn't cause a problem (esp. because the bag has its own bar across the top, however, the clips are a bit annoying. I've been carrying it "backwards" with the flaps against my body, but adjusting the strap is a good idea too.

    I've also seen "trolling" used in the context of prostitution or carneys working a crowd...

    Velouria- I'll try loosening the screws a bit- I found them pretty tough to move even when loosened a lot, so I'll have to find a happy medium.

  13. Love that bag - and I have a total crush on your basket, too.

  14. I've been wanting to do exactly this! So glad to find directions! Where did you buy the R&K hardware, and that brass bar?

  15. Brittney, I got the R&K hardware from Velo Fred. It was surprisingly hard to find online. The brass bar came from the local hardware store, although you can find something similar at a hobby shop. You want something fairly stiff to keep it from bending. I have tried using thinner bars to save weight, only to find they flex and permanently deform when loaded.

  16. Thanks for the info! I am very excited to try this.