The Grocery Pannier: A Utility Bicyclist’s Best Friend

We review a lot of bags. The fact is, if you’re going to replace a car with a bike, you have to figure out the best way to carry various things in various situations. Having the right mix of bags, and understanding how to best take advantage of their features, makes life a lot simpler for the utility bicyclist.

One of the most useful types of bags, and the one that we almost always keep on every bike around the house, is the ubiquitous “grocery pannier”. Grocery panniers are simple bags designed specifically to hold a normal-sized grocery bag. Most have an open top for easy loading, and they almost always fold flat against the bike when not in use. Many come with carrying handles so they can be taken into the store and used as a shopping bag. We like them because they function well as catch-alls for groceries, books, clothing, etc., but they quickly and completely collapse when not in use.

We’re currently using three grocery panniers, ranging from the most simple nylon bag with a bungee mount, up to a sophisticated model with features rivaling many bike briefcases and touring panniers.

Minnehaha Canvas Grocery Bag Pannier
The Minnehaha is a cotton canvas version of the more common nylon grocery pannier. It has a metal frame, a pair of carrying handles, a bungee-type mount, and it folds flat when not in use. The cotton canvas has a traditional look and feel that goes well with retro bikes. Made in China. Price: $45

Inertia Designs Metro Lite Pannier
The Metro Lite is a simple, distilled down version of the nylon grocery pannier. Like the Minnehaha, it has a metal frame, a pair of carrying handles, a bungee-type mount, and it folds flat when not in use. Inertia Designs uses a heavy-duty Cordura nylon in the construction of this bag and it should last a very long time (we’ve been using one of their older models for years). Made in U.S.A. Price: $55

Rixen & Kaul Klickfix Cargo
The Rixen & Kaul Cargo inhabits a place somewhere between a simple grocery pannier and a full-fledged urban briefcase such as those we’ve reviewed from Arkel and Ortlieb. It meets the basic requirements of a grocery pannier (flat bottom, square sides, folds flat), but it also features internal and external pockets, interior liner, alloy carrying handle, collapsible stiffener panels, rain fly, shoulder strap, and the excellent Klickfix mounting hardware. The Cargo is perhaps the ultimate hybrid grocery pannier/bike briefcase if you have the need for something more than a basic grocery pannier, but you still want to be able to carry a standard bag of groceries in the same bag. Made in Germany. Price: $150

(Note: This bag warrants its own detailed review which we’ll publish once we’ve spent more time using it. —ed.)

Whether we’re talking about a bare bones grocery pannier, or a more full-featured bag that doubles as a briefcase, just about any full-time utility bicyclist will benefit from having a grocery pannier mounted on their bike at all times.

Minnehaha
Inertia Designs
Rixen & Kaul

25 Responses to “The Grocery Pannier: A Utility Bicyclist’s Best Friend”

  • joe says:

    I agree, a good grocery pannier can be so useful, even for odd shaped boxes and such with the open top. I have been using the Axiom Dutch shopper panniers lately and love them. Each hold two canvas bags with east. I just wish they were more of a canvas bag replacement. Being able to take the bag in the store and use them as the grocery bag would be a bonus. I was eyeing up the Banjo Bros branded Minnehaha bag at the shop, and almost pulled the trigger. Maybe I’ll treat myself to an early birthday present, and move the dutch shoppers to the Mundo when it gets delivered.

  • Lisa says:

    I’m finding that I’m an absolute sucker for bags for my bike. Odd cause I’m not big into them in any other way, even purses:>. Thanks for the rundown.

  • dreamlet says:

    I find grocery panniers essential. I use them every time I ride my bike. Here’s a link to my brief review of the Bontrager Grocery Pannier.

    http://thisgirlsbike.blogspot.com/2010/05/product-review-bontrager-grocery-bag.html

  • bongobike says:

    Alan,

    I’m surprised to find out that the Minnehaha bag is made of nylon. I always thought it was made of cotton canvas.

  • bongobike says:

    Oops, sorry, I misread what you wrote. :(

  • Alan says:

    @bongobike

    The Minnehaha is made of nylon?

  • Alan says:

    No problem!! :-))

  • CTP says:

    but while we’re debating (and apparently misled somewhat by the article) cotton and nylon… cotton and nylon refer to the fabrication; canvas refers to the weave/construction of the fabric… so, when you say the minnehaha is a canvas version of the nylon grocery pannier, i think what you’re really meaning is it’s a cotton version; both the cotton and the nylon are probably canvas weave? certainly the one pictured is a canvas weave.

  • Alan says:

    @CTP

    I edited the OP by prefacing “canvas” with “cotton”. I didn’t know there such a thing as “nylon canvas”. Did a Google search and there it was. Learn something new everyday… LOL.

    Alan

  • Doug says:

    For errands and groceries I find I only need one set of panniers. The ones on my Xtracycle that can easily carry one grocery bag or as many as four fully loaded grocery bags, and then some. I can’t remember what I did before I had my Xtracycle.

    However, I agree that if you don’t have a cargo bicycle, the next best thing is a nice set of grocery panniers.

  • Sean in Calgary says:

    Grocery panniers are great for sure – but grocery baskets are a nice option too.

    Basil makes a couple models that are great – the Cardiff, Bottle, and Shoppers (many styles) are all super easy to use, are durable and inexpensive, and look great too!

    Cheers!

  • Maria says:

    I had some grocery panniers for awhile but I have to say, I find my Wald folders more useful for my day to day. I think I saw some reusable grocery bags that fit them like a perfect liner somewhere on the interwebs.

  • j. pierce says:

    I love my Wald folding baskets as well. I just moved to a new bike and need to get around to putting them on it. I have the “liner” type bags Wald sells that fit in the folding baskets as well, it works well. I only wish they were a little bit deeper.

    BTW, did you see Ecovelo got some love in the Soma Fab. blog?

  • Alan says:

    I’m with y’all… Wald folding baskets are super.

    @J. – Thanks for the heads up – hadn’t seen the mention. Now you’ve made my ears turn red… :-) BTW – that new Double Cross is a real beauty!

    Alan

  • Brent says:

    @Sean

    I have a pair of the Cardiffs, and I love them! The hooks that hang over the rack are really long, so they will not bounce off, the hooks are spaced perfectly so that they fit between the cross-bars on the rack and will not slide back and forth (Trek Allant.) I can use them as shopping baskets in the store where they will hang off of a grocery cart if needed. They hold a ton, and I can attach additional bags to them with caribiners if I need to. They are sturdy enough to carry my massive OnGuard chain without sagging or crumpling, and can serve as a platform to stabilize wider items like when I brought home a new large kitchen trash can, or or new pads for my swamp cooler. I’ve had them for about a year and use them constantly and they are still holding up extremely well. They were pretty cheap too!

  • j. pierce says:

    My Wald folding baskets were great as supports for wider loads as well, and the wider spaced wires of the cages held up well to using them as additional places to attach bungee cords for stabilizing those loads, which was an advantage over the finer mesh of the Cardiffs I’ve seen. Of course, the finer mesh of those baskets also means it’s easier to use them without liner bags.

  • Rene says:

    I use Ortlieb bags and any of them work well for even huge amounts of groceries. The only thing I am really missing is an isolated bag. Any ideas?

  • John says:

    The Rixen and Kaul pannier looks great. I especially like their hook system since it looks much more convenient and secure than the hook and bungee on most panniers. The design doesn’t look like it would accommodate an overstuffed grocery bag with stuff poking out the top, though.

    @dreamlet those Bontrager panniers look pretty darned awesome. I have pannier envy!

  • Alan says:

    @John

    “The design doesn’t look like it would accommodate an overstuffed grocery bag with stuff poking out the top, though.”

    Actually, it will take an overstuffed grocery bag just fine. The top is zippered, but it fully opens to accept a full grocery bag plus whatever is sticking out the top.

    Alan

  • Nanda says:

    I have some customer very pleased with these Summit Deluxe Grocery bags, which fold flat when not in use:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spincyclz/4436920267/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spincyclz/4436920471/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spincyclz/4103535171/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spincyclz/4242729115/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spincyclz/4243482450/

    Worth a look at $84/set eh.

  • Saddle Up says:

    Jandd makes a really well built grocery pannier also. I’ve been using a set for three years in all kinds of conditions.
    http://saddleupbike.blogspot.com/2010/02/she-aint-pretty-she-just-looks-that-way.html

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Bike Commuting 101: The Bare Necessities says:

    [...] A way to carry things. This could be as simple as a small backpack or as elaborate as a set of touring panniers. My favorite for everyday use is a simple grocery pannier. [...]

  • Pete says:

    I know this thread is a bit old, but Western Bike Works has a really good deal right now on Banjo Brothers Grocery Panniers – less than $35 each with a current promo.

    http://www.westernbikeworks.com

    These are not the really cool Market panniers with the top flap, but the basic, open top model. Still a great deal.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Rixen & Kaul KLICKfix Cargo says:

    [...] Panniers We’ve mentioned before that we’re big fans of “grocery” style panniers. These ubiquitous bags for [...]

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » A Few From the Archives says:

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