April 29, 2010
One question I'm asked a lot about my bags is regarding the pannier hooks - Isn't it a problem that there's no hook at the bottom? This is understandable - we've all grown used to some sort of attachment at the bottom of the bag.
My answer is that for commuting, it's been fine. Myself and a few close friends who have been using my bags as commuter panniers for months (some of them every day) can attest that there is no problem with having hooks only at the top. The key to this success has been the use of Ortlieb hooks which have spring loaded clips which lock the bag in place. The hooks are adjustable and come with inserts which you pick out to fit your rack specifically. This creates a very secure connection between pannier and rack. The only way the bag can move is to actually swing away from the bike. I have found, after months of regular commuting, that this simply does not happen. Granted, Portland isn't very hilly, and the whole idea gets a lot more iffy when thinking about a convertible bag which you can also tour with.
Another problem with this is that using Ortlieb's system is not only costly, but also not ideal as a long term solution for my business. I don't want to depend on another company's thing, especially when(if) I expand.
To address these issues, I've decided to develop a new system. I've been using the standard hook and bungee setup for my grocery panniers, and I have an idea for modifying this so it would work for a convertible as well - Basically the bungee would detach from one side of the bag and stow elsewhere for use as a backpack - That way it isn't poking in to your back. The advantage to this is a more secure (and cost effective) pannier solution without compromising the backpack feature. The drawback is that there would be an extra step or two involved in converting the bag. (There's always a trade-off).
I've already had a request for this on an order, and hope to have a working prototype up within a few weeks when I will share my findings. In the meantime, I welcome ideas and comments. (If the comment section doesn't show up on this blog, feel free to use my facebook page - there's a link at the top of this page and here).