Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Linus Panniers Review

I received a very nice pair of Linus canvas "market" panniers for Christmas.  Since the first time they leapt out at me, in photos from Interbike a couple of years ago I've coveted them,  and after using them for a couple of weeks, I wanted to post a quick review of my thoughts so far.

The canvas is very heavy duty,  and was disconcertingly stiff at first.  They have limbered up a bit after some use.  The leather trim is nice and heavy, and has a nice feel to it.
The natural canvas "cream" color is very attractive on Gilbert with his cream tires and brown leather trim.

While Gilbert was "down"  and I was riding Minerva every day for transportation, I grew quite fond of using a pair of  "Fast rider" Dutch style double saddlebags.  Those saddlebags hold an enormous amount, but they're too long to fit comfortably on Gilberrt's smaller rack and shorter wheelbase.  The Linus panniers are shorter and more vertical,  and they fit nicely on Gilbert's rack.   I also appreciate the shoulder strap,  which is convenient for taking them into the store to fill with groceries.  I might leave them attached to the bike for a short time, but I'm not comfortable leaving them on for extended periods as the Dutch do.  They come with a small brass padlock which you could use to secure them to the rack if you were going to leave  them on all the time.

I was a bit worried about the carrying capacity at first, but I found them to be surprisingly capacious.  On my first trip with them, I did a fairly comprehensive shopping trip,  and you can see what fit in them:

Sunday NYTimes, cheese, cream cheese, 2 pounds of ground meat, and a package of pork chops, can of chopped clams, vice grips, 2 liter soda, box of pasta, package of mushrooms, bag of red peppers, dryer sheets,  dog food,  two packages of salad mix

Some small details:  there's a set of snaps to close them,  but there's additionally a magnetic closure that will keep them mostly closed without a full load, which is nice when you don't want to deal with the snaps.  Unfortunately there are no pockets for cell phone or keys etc.  That's not what I expect from a "shopper" style pannier like this or the Fastriders.  If I really wanted them, I could sew a cotton pocket inside to hold small things safe, but I don't anticipate doing that.

As I mentioned last week,  I put reflective patches on them for added visibility.  They don't seem to have a "front" or a "back"  so I put the patches on both sides.
Attaching them to the rack is more challenging than a single sided quick release pannier like my Ortlieb or Klick-Fix hardware bags,  but a bit better than the Fast-rider.   They're designed "specifically"  for the Linus rack  (they actually had a funny little insert that cautioned that using them with any other rack could cause serious accidents).   The bottom sides of the bag have a series of leather straps with nice brass snaps. You're supposed to fit the straps around the top tubes and struts of the rack, and snap them closed.  Unfortunately the top tubes on my rack are too large in diameter to fit the straps around.  I managed to fit them around the "rat trap" bars,  but that's not a great solution.

Fortunately the straps at the struts of the rack are much bigger and fit around fine, although it's a bit fiddly and clumsy to open and close them with gloves on.   The leather and brass is very classy and retro, but perhaps velcro would have been faster.   It wouldn't make much difference if you were going to leave the panniers on all the time though.

The only real problem I have is that the solid top piece interferes with using my rack straps, which is where I normally put my lock.   I can slide the lock under the solid fabric top,  but if I need to use the rack straps, I have to detach them at the axle (simple enough)  and bring them across the top of the rack diagonally, which works OK.  If I were going to leave them on all the time, I'd probably reinforce the top with leather, and make a slit for the straps to fit through on each side.

I don't think that they're waterproof, and I'm a little concerned about how the light color will wear. As you can see in the above photo, they're already showing a bit of black scuff- possibly from (a tiny bit of ) heel strike, or being leaned up against something dirty.  I could Scotch-guard them I suppose.  The other approach would be to wax them or treat them with a rub-on waterproofing somehow- I looked at the Barbour waterproofing stuff, but I don't know how chemical-y it is.   Has anyone out there done any DIY waxing of cotton?   Without treatment, I think that they could be hand-washed,  or even maybe machine washed if you treated the leather immediately after.  In any case, I'm not riding with them in the slush mess that the roads have been in the thaw after last weekend's storm.  That's made a bit of a mess of my leather bag, but at least it can be wiped down and oiled.

In sum:  these seem like a great set of "Saturday errands"  or CSA pickup panniers for Gilbert. They're  not super easy on and off,  or great to carry into a meeting, or for carrying a lot of small stuff like my phone or camera.  But to leave them on the bike, adding stuff at each stop, they'll work very well.  They hold an awful lot, look handsome on the bike, and are easy to carry into a store.  I suppose it's a weakness of mine that I have a bag for every occasion.  On one hand, I have a lot of very useful bike bags.  On the other, I'm constantly realizing that my lipstick or my hand sanitizer is in my "other" bag.  The perils of too much choice!


  1. I have DIY re-proofed my Barbour coat, and I would not undertake de novo waxing of cotton. It's a messy messy job and I think the light canvas would show all inconsistencies in a way that the universally dark Barbours do not.

    If you do decide to undertake it we've developed a new protocol that involves less hot wax - take your item and fold it up so it fits in a warmish oven (~250 F). Once it is good and hot, avoiding touching any zippers, pull it out and quickly rub on some Barbour proofing wax. It will melt into the canvas a bit like icing a cake too early. Work as long as your garment is warm, then reheat it as many times as necessary to get it totally re-waxed. This seems to waste less wax and make less of a mess than the Barbour protocol on the can.

    If you choose to wash your garment before re-waxing it, don't do it in my Mother In Law's bathtub. She was quite peeved with my husband when he left a ring of dirty waxy scum in her white tub.

  2. Those Linus panniers do look very smart on your bike....they go really well with that nice deep red...Very nice.


  3. Nikwax makes a nice product called Cotton Proof that I have had good luck with. It's wash-in, but it seems like you could probably put the panniers through the wash once with few problems...but I haven't tried that myself.

  4. The Panniers look great with your bike.
    I have a set of waterproof Ortliebs that are not as stylish but they get the job done. Especially since we get so many days of rain here in Vancouver. Great blog!

  5. I hope you will update us on how that light color of pannier fares over time. A honey brown would have complemented things with less worry about winter muck.

  6. We have Ortliebs also. They are not nearly as good-looking as yours but I like the easy on / easy off clips. I think it's entirely reasonable to have a few different bicycles for different jobs (commuting, cargo, racing) and or a few different bicycle bags for different jobs. All of it is cheaper than a car. Have you ever considered an Extracycle conversion kit for one of your bikes? Ours has been fantastic for Farmer's Market runs.

  7. These bags are already waxed, from the maker.

  8. So, I just got a pair of these as a gift myself this week. After this review I was a bit worried they wouldn't latch properly onto my bike's rack, as it also has some seriously fat tubing (when I use my ortliebs on it I have to remove the little downsizing insert), but it seems like in the time since this one was reviewed they've made some changes for it to be more universal. My pair didn't come with the odd little warning, and the leather mounting straps have all been replaced with canvas ones that are all adequately wide for even the very fat tubing on my rack. I am very impressed with the build quality and details in these, and think Linus have a really awesome product here, better even than the Brooks equivalents.