A bike used for everyday transportation needs to have more carrying capacity than a bike used for recreation (other than touring). A simple seat bag or rack trunk doesn’t have the capacity for a typical errand run that might involve a bag of groceries, a couple of library books, and the day’s mail delivery. Standard panniers are one solution, though they tend to be a little bulky when not in use, and some models are overly complex with a number of unnecessary pockets and compartments. More appropriate for around town use are what are classified as “commuter” or “grocery bag” panniers. These are simple panniers with one main compartment and no lid, specifically sized to hold a grocery bag with a little room left over for other small items. Popular models include the Utility Basket from Arkel, the Grocery Bag Pannier from Jandd, and the Metro Basket from Inertia Designs. They are usually sold as individual panniers, though certainly a person can buy two if they need the extra carrying capacity.
I recently purchased a Metro Basket from Inertia Designs. It looks to be an excellent product. Like the other “grocery bag” panniers on the market, the Metro Basket is sized to roughly fit a standard grocery bag. It’s made from heavy-duty Cordura fabric and the stitching looks very good. The mounting system is all metal and is easily adjustable fore-and-aft for heel clearance. It has a metal internal frame that holds the pannier open while in use. When not in use, the pannier folds flat against the bike and is held closed with a clip; it’s a slick design. It comes with a padded shoulder strap in case you want to carry it in the store and use it as your shopping bag; with the Metro Basket no more “paper or plastic” is needed. All Inertia Designs’ products are made in the U.S.A. (Santa Barbara) and come with a full lifetime warranty.
My intention is to leave the folded Metro Basket on the bike at all times and just pop it open when needed. On the other side of the rack I’ll have an Arkel “Bug” convertible backpack/commuting pannier (review coming next week). In it I’ll carry all of my work related stuff: transit pass, papers, glasses, keys, wallet, DVDs, memory sticks, etc. Because it will function as a briefcase and house my valuables, the Bug will stay with me at all times and won’t be left on the bike like the Metro. Between these two very different bags, I should have all the bases covered for my weekday commuting and errand running. We’ll continue to use our larger Basil panniers (mounted on our Pashleys) for our big weekend restocking excursions to the grocery store, hardware store, and farmer’s market.