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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear on: August 28, 2009, 08:49:27 AM
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« on: August 28, 2009, 08:49:27 AM »

I'm considering attempting the CTR next year. Looks like fun. But I'm new to bikepacking, so I've got some gear questions that I'm hoping some more experienced riders will be kind enough to help me with.

First, I'm trying to figure out why almost no one uses panniers. I've always hated riding with a pack--the extra weight on my shoulders and back is uncomfortable and fatiguing. Seems like it would be easier to simply put everything on the bike in rear panniers (and maybe carry a small fanny pack for easy access to food, etc.) But I'm obviously wrong (or at least in the minority!), because everyone seems to be carrying packs. So, why do most of you avoid panniers?

Second, how many riders choose bivy bags versus ultra-light tents?

Thanks! I'm looking forward to learning over the course of the year, and then hopefully meeting many of you in August 2010!

Cheers,
Toby Gadd
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #1 on: August 28, 2009, 09:50:41 AM
DaveH
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2009, 09:50:41 AM »

Panniers are slow!  I used them on a training/scouting weekend with some buds and they shelled me bad.  Haven't used them since.  There was one guy I know that used them at CTR this year and he was doing quite well with them.  Drawbacks for CTR specifically are that extra weight on the bike really sucks for hike a bike of which there is a TON on the CT, even for the strongest riders.  They also get in the way when hiking, hit your legs etc.  Panniers require a rack, adding weight and durability issues.  Large, soft seatpacks are all the rage these days and worth every penny.

Most riders go with bivy/tarp setups.  A few nutcases go with only a bivy (no sleeping bag).  I had everything (bag, bivy, tarptent) which was comfy and overkill - but we had great weather this year.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #2 on: August 28, 2009, 10:04:49 AM
sherpaxc


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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2009, 10:04:49 AM »

Mike Brown did the whole CT with panniers.  It's more a matter of gear selection I think.  If you can get your gear down to a small amount you don't need panniers. 
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #3 on: August 28, 2009, 11:53:09 AM
Pivvay

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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2009, 11:53:09 AM »

The softbags are lighter, more balanced and haven't had major breakage issues, something that can't be said for the rack/panniers setup. Plus with all the weight on the rear wheel you slam through stuff much harder and rear wheels take a LOT more abuse. I could never run ultralight wheels with panniers.

With a big frame bag, seatpack, gas tank and handlebar bag you're well balanced and have enough room to carry only a very small pack or none at all. I'd probably start the CTR packless and carry a ~2 oz Z-pack for the food hauling segment. Water is generally everywhere for most of the route when traveling at a quick pace.

Most riders probably carry a bivy sack and sleeping bag but other than hard core racing, or even if I was and bad weather was predicted, a superlight tarp tent is probably a better setup. With the bivy only setup you're committed to riding through most bad weather as you can't stop without outside shelter (picnic table, bathroom, old shack, big trees, etc).
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #4 on: August 28, 2009, 11:55:19 AM
Mike Brown


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« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2009, 11:55:19 AM »

I'm really torn about this.  Check out my gear list/set-up options.  As you can see, there's very little I'd gotten rid of.  I do sleep very comfortably and warmly with a bag, pad, hammock, tarp combo- this makes my kit bigger than some but waaaay worth it in my opinion.  I've carried practically that same load in a backpack and thought it sucked.   The only way I could get by without the panniers would be frame bag, which I'm Ok with, a much bigger load on my back (not so OK) and a bigger bag on top of the rack- which leads to my next point- the big loads on the back of the rack- how do you get behind your bike to descend?  I am super happy to say I did not get  off my bike once while descending on my CT trip and there's a few points that would been impossible if I had not been able to get my arse behind the bike.  
I didn't notice them getting in the way while hike-a-biking.
They did almost totally prevent shouldering the bike, it was all push.
My biggest problem with them, and why I'm trying to consider other options right now, is their individual weight- damn things weigh a pound or two all on their won.  
It was really nice to have a little extra room- I carried beer a couple times, an entire sub sandwich, that kind of thing.

Is that enough babbling for you?  
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #5 on: August 28, 2009, 12:25:22 PM
Pivvay

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« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2009, 12:25:22 PM »

Mike's solution definitely can work but I urge you to read about all the racks that have broken out there and consider it carefully. Make sure you can fix your rack if it breaks or continue without it.

Off road trails seem to be hell on racks for some reason.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #6 on: August 28, 2009, 12:38:08 PM
Mike Brown


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« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2009, 12:38:08 PM »

Yeah, I'm not saying panniers are "the answer."  That's why I've been thinking ( a lot) about other options.  If wishes were fishes and money grew on trees, I'd have CDW or Epic Designs kit to try by now.  The rack breaking comment's important, and it's not necessarily the panniers that do it.  My OMM rack had the welds crack on the top tray from the SMALL dry bag bouncing around that was lashed to it.  OMM was awesome to deal with and I have a new rack now, but I'm glad it wasn't worse and I've learned to wrap my lashings all the way around the entire tubeset of the rack.

I just owned the bags already from road touring- that's why I went with them.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #7 on: August 28, 2009, 11:37:11 PM
Marshal


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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2009, 11:37:11 PM »

Panniers will and HAVE worked for serious off road bikepacking but:

Some pannier minuses:
Racks might break
They weigh more that a seat + frame bag
They usually put to much weight over the rear of the bike for ‘balanced’ handling
They tend to force you to ‘hike your bike’ with your navel close to your handle bar, any other position and your legs tend to hit the bag.  Note: with a seat bag you can ‘hike the bike’ in many for/aft positions

Some Pluses:
Easy to pack/unpack
Lots of storage room

I have used both panniers and the handlebar/frame/seat bag methods.
IMO there is no comparison for hard core trails, the handlebar/frame/seat combo wins hands down.  With some trial and error this method allows a totally neutral balance.  After a few hours riding they completely disappear from notice, even in the most tech stuff, not so with panniers.  Sometimes I do ‘feel’ the seat bag when I slide back past the seat on a steep descent.  However this is not a ‘hindrance’, I actually sink into the bag just a bit sometimes to maintain that ‘sweet spot’.  
However, as noted, in order to maintain a smallish backpack you do need to work on your gear you need/want.  Hey it aint that hard (just costly).

Big pack, Smaller pack


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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 06:38:16 AM
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 06:38:16 AM »

My experience:

I rode for a number of years on mixed surface rides, using a cyclocross-y bike but riding plenty of MTB terrain, using light front panniers and a partial frame bag. It worked OK, but once I got a proper set of bikepacking bags (CDW) I found them to be far superior - even for road/fireroad duty. I have found them to be lighter, quieter, less fiddly, and quite reliable. I suppose it all comes down to how much you really want to carry. I know that I will never use a rack/panniers again unless I have to haul a ton of stuff for comfort camping in benign terrain with my wife.

I am tall enough (6'2" with very long legs) that with a full front triangle bag + tail bag + sleeping pad lashed to the bars, I can carry a pretty conservative (read: warm) sleep system and enough water in most situations to not need a backpack. I too am anti-weight-on-the-back (I haven't bikepacked with a pack at all), but for really technical MTB terrain with a lot of portaging and hike-a-bike, I don't think it's wise to have all your gear on the bike unless you are really traveling light (i.e. "racing") and are OK with not having tons of water with you. Road wisdom doesn't really carry over to riding high altitude rock strewn terrain. I found that panniers really kind of sucked when climbing through deadfall and scrambling up super steeps, even with a pretty light kit.

I can understand though that smaller riders and folks wanting a few more camp comforts might find the bike load capacity a little limiting.

For doing things like the CTR and similar rough travel, bikepacking bags + a small pack if necessary are the ticket, IMO.   
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 05:58:27 AM
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« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 05:58:27 AM »

I've never had luck with a bag lashed to the bars.  With the brake cables looping around, I just can't figure out a clean way to get it to clear the cables.  I tried, but ended up lashing the bag to the top of the rack, and that's where I ended up keeping it.  The bike immediately felt lighter.  It was much easier to wheelie over logs and such and I never felt that the back wheel was too weighted.  So I ended up running a rack with sleeping bag, pad and tarp lashed on top (plus flip flops), a normal seat bag, and a Jandd frame bag that left room for two water bottles (barely).  That plus a reasonable sized pack were fine.  How folks (read pivvay) ride without have quick access to water (no visible bottle, no pack) is beyond me. 

I know the rack is extra weight, but stuff sacks are lighter than frame bags so I make up a bit there.  My rack is a Tubus which seems bomber.  I rode this setup for 3 days and 270 miles through North Georgia, and the only issue was stuff bouncing off down one hill.  I solved it with a tighter bungee.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #10 on: September 02, 2009, 06:47:57 AM
Pivvay

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« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2009, 06:47:57 AM »

I hate stuff on the bars too. I've found that if it's a sleeping bag or my pad and tools (total weight under 2lbs) then it's not a big deal. Of course the SS means I have less cables to worry about but it's worked okay on my Fuel a couple years ago when touring. I'd gladly put 2lbs of bulk (sleeping bag/bivy) on the front and be able to dump the pack when possible. For some races, AZT/CTR, for example, I'm not sure if dumping the pack vs keeping only water in it really matters.

Sounds like you don't have much weight on the rear rack which works out just fine. I admit the rack is handy to lash things too, I've used that setup in winter. The problem comes in with a rack, 2 panniers plus stuff. It may sound crazy but just the rack and 2 panniers *empty* has got to weigh at least 5 lbs right? That's the weight of the total of my gear pretty much (sans food/water). Everyone works out a different solution though and I'm not saying any particular one is bad, perhaps just suboptimal.

BTW I actually have 1 bottle easily accessible from my framebag, there is a cutout for it. I'm quite fond of the 1 cutout solution as you keep the bottle separate from the insides of the framebag for spills but don't lose much space. With 2 bottle cutouts you lose a lot more useable space. Plus with the tight fit between the bottle and the frame bag I can run wimpy carbon bottle cages and never lose a bottle! Smiley Not that I wouldn't run one of those nice ti King cages if someone gave me a couple. The bottle is super handy for filtering water, putting gatorade/lemonade/coffee in and keeping my only platypus or dromlite water only.


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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #11 on: September 02, 2009, 08:44:37 AM
DaveH
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« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2009, 08:44:37 AM »

Carrying stuff on the bars can have far reaching effects...the butterfly effect.  I carried a tent for CTR and now (still!) have some sore wrists. 

Seems odd that could happen, but to carry the tent on the bars I had to move the brake levers up a bit to allow room to tie it down.  This decreased my hand/forearm angle (look at the back of your hands then move your knuckles towards your nose for the visual), and coupled with ~ 300 miles of rough trail that was something the wrists were not ready for.

Moral of the story:  be it bar bags, seatbags, shoes, pedals, cleats, saddles, grips...concerning contact points if any ergonomic changes are required go with caution.  Us bikepackers ride a LOT and are prone to overuse issues.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #12 on: September 02, 2009, 06:51:01 PM
Marshal


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« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2009, 06:51:01 PM »

Handlebar bag comments:

Cables:
Took some ‘trial and test’ to get the bag straps and cables to mesh together. In one iteration, on a different bike, I had to use longer brake cables to add some ‘routing’ options before I found the right fit.

Balance:
With a handlebar, frame and seat bag there are many ways to distribute load weight.  All I can say is once its ‘right’ the bags just disappear from notice.  That said the handlebar bag is always ‘in view’ and is probably the most disruptive to overall handling in ‘max effort’ lunges and lifts during tech riding.  My solution is to just skip those type efforts after the 1st day, to beat down to do em anyway so the handlebar bag doesn’t really affect my handling all that much on a multi-day………..

Wrist angle:
My earliest attempts with handlebar bags also compromised my wrist angle.  So just kept doing trial & test till I got the bag/straps/cables positioned to allow for my preferred angle.  I do agree with Dave that this is a important thing to get ‘right’.  A compromise here can affect braking reaction time, standing for/aft position—ie: steep downhill handling and also cause discomfort/soreness.

Pics:
A Small bag option – nice, light compact but takes longer to pack/un-pack

A Medium bag option – expandable when needed, easy/quick access to either end of bag during a rest/rain/filter/food/etc stop and also easy pack/unpack during camp setup break down.


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« Last Edit: September 02, 2009, 07:08:32 PM by trail717 » Logged


  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #13 on: September 03, 2009, 05:49:31 AM
Mike Brown


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« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2009, 05:49:31 AM »

I've had my handlebar bag since I was 16 (that's 21 years, for those counting- I've done a lot of road touring). 
It's small and tucks nicely under the cables and angles back into the bike very very securely, like the first of trail717's pictures.  Works great!

FWIW- this whole thread has convinced me to order a frame bag, I think.  I'm goinig to try this, keeping the  rack and bag on top, for now andsee if I like it more.  Part of why I can do this is I bought a ProLite4, so my sleeping kit got a lot smaller- I was using a very old and much heavier/bigger  1" Therm-a-rest that I bought in 1995. 

I've enjoyed this thread... a lot.   


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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #14 on: August 20, 2010, 03:08:46 PM
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2010, 03:08:46 PM »

Well, I ended up completing the CTR with panniers and a trunk bag!

Pros:
1. I never had a problem with carrying capacity. While I didn't actually carry much more stuff than the average rider, I didn't have to fuss with compression straps, etc. I even rode out of BV with some bulky bagels and Popycock!
2. Organization was good. I never had to dig too far to find stuff that I needed.
3. No heavy pack required. I did carry a hydration pack, but that was it. Sure was nice to not have much weight on my back and shoulders.
4. Bike handling. Panniers ride pretty low, and I honestly didn't notice them much when I was riding.
5. Riding position was good--just like without gear, really. Nothing to get in the way of my hands or butt,

Cons:
1. Weight. Yep, a rack and panniers are heavy. Pushing extra weight up some of those passes was rough.
2. Weight distribution. Lifting my bike up some of the stupidly-steep sections was a bit tricky at times because the back was so heavy compared to the front. But I did get used to this after a bit, and found different places to grab & lift.
3. Puffy. Panniers are wide, and I bumped some trees, rocks, etc. Never badly, but I did feel like a fat guy squeezing into an elevator at times.
4. Loose. I needed to add a few extra straps to keep everything from shifting and bouncing around. Not a negative once I figured out how to tie things down a bit better.
5. Teasing. I did get teased a bit, but it was always kind-hearted.

Conclusion: would I ride with them again? Dunno, I need to do some thinking. Aside from the extra weight, I really liked panniers! I'm trying to figure out a way to eliminate most of the weight penalty before deciding what to use next year.

As for the hardtail '94 Cannondale, I think it's done with endurance racing. I want to finish the CTR in six days next year, and I think that full-suspension will help me descend more quickly and safely.


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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #15 on: August 21, 2010, 10:07:31 AM
Pivvay

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« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2010, 10:07:31 AM »

Toby if you haven't used a frame bag/seat bag setup before, feel free to come borrow mine. I have a couple different sizes of each and a front harness setup. Try them out and see how you like them comparatively.
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #16 on: August 21, 2010, 09:38:38 PM
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« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2010, 09:38:38 PM »

Thanks so much for the kind offer, Chris. I may take you up on it! I'm looking at bikes now, and my final choice will probably dictate, at least to some degree, what kind of gear system will fit and work best. I love the idea of trying a few different approaches--thanks again!
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  Topic Name: Questions about panniers and gear Reply #17 on: August 22, 2010, 05:26:43 PM
bradh


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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2010, 05:26:43 PM »

Nice job in the race,  even more so since you were carrying those clunky panniers  icon_biggrin
My experience, from several road tours, the panniers do add aero drag.  Not quite as important on a mtb race/tour but it's there.  The bigger thing for something like the CT is the weight, as someone pointed out the rack + panniers is at least 5 lbs, unless there are some ultra lite panniers out there which I haven't found.   
If you keep all or most of the water off of your back and put some gear on the handlebars and seat bag you can keep the pack under 10 lbs easy, even w/o a frame pack which is even nicer but harder in many full suspension frames.
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