I’m a big fan of traditional English and Dutch utility bikes. They’re durable, practical, comfortable, and stylish, but they do have a few quirks that make them a bit more difficult to outfit and maintain than your garden variety comfort bike or commuter built for the U.S. market. Many have 700B (635mm) wheels (unusual in the U.S. but standard on Dutch/Chinese/Indian/British roadsters) and non-standard racks that may, or may not, accept panniers from mainstream manufacturers such as Arkel and Ortleib.
My Pashley Roadster Sovereign came outfitted with a non-standard rear rack as mentioned above. Fortunately, Basil Design of the Netherlands manufactures adjustable, strap-on panniers that, unlike most modern panniers, will fit nearly any rack, regardless of tubing diameter or fittings. I recently obtained a set of their Kavan II Natural panniers.
Kavan II Naturals come packaged folded flat. Each bag has 3 stiffeners: one is cloth covered and lays in the bottom of the pannier, and two slide into slots with velcro closures on the front and back (see photos below). The stiffeners are fairly difficult to insert, so I’m assuming the panniers are not designed to be collapsible. Once they’re in place, the bags hold their shape very well, even when fully loaded with groceries or everything needed for a day at the office. The lids are foam filled to give them structure and keep them from sagging as well.
Mounting the Kavan II Naturals is straightforward. The 4 straps at the top of the panniers use a simple sliding loop style fastener, and the single connectors at the base of each pannier use a belt-loop style fastener. The mounting system couldn’t be simpler or more effective, and it’s flexible enough to use on practically any rack made.
With a capacity of 45 liters, these are big bags. They’ll easily haul 4-5 days worth of groceries for 2 people. Some might complain that they’re a little heavy, but if you’re riding a roadster, weight should be the least of your concerns. Personally, I appreciate the fact that they’re overbuilt and should stand up to considerable abuse.
Basil Kavan II Naturals are beautifully constructed. They’re made from heavy weight, water-repellent canvas, with wide straps and brass hardware. They have a substantial feel and I suspect they’ll just improve over time as they take on a nice patina from regular use. They’re tough, yet stylish, with a look that’s fitting for classic euro-style utility bikes. The only drawback I can see is that they require more effort to remove from the bike than “quick-release” type panniers, so they’re not necessarily ideal for commuting if you need to take the bags inside with you. Even so, they’re attractive enough that I suspect many will choose to use them anyway, even on bikes with standard racks that don’t require a strap-on design. Highly recommended.
Available at Velo Orange