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.