January 24, 2013
Quick update from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
No issues getting the bags installed. Everything went smoothly and they held up great on an 11-hour all-dirt riding day yesterday from Honduras to Nicaragua, through La Moskitia. There is something really cool about designing something and then getting to actually use it in the exact context it was designed for.
My favorite features so far:
- The backpack straps and carry handles: This has been coming in handy every day since I hit the airport in Portland. I love being able to take my entire kit off the bike in one trip so I don’t leave anything unattended. When I pulled into Puerto Cabezas last night I popped of the panniers, clipped my tank bag and helmet to the duffle, put the duffle on my back, grabbed the two panniers by the handles and had everything in the room on one trip.
- Quick on/off: This is just awesome. I had to get across Rio Coco which separates Honduras from Nicaragua in a boat and it was great to snap the panniers off on one side of the river and snap them back on at the other side. No wrestling with straps.
- Water storage: This works exactly how I’d hoped it would. We put a hydration hose clip on the duffle next to the handle, so the hydration bladder behind me is accessible while I’m riding. It’s way better than wearing a hydration pack on a long day. The Dromedary on the pannier is great for getting water to brush teeth, wash face mask, etc. It’s handy to fill a cup with drinking water without having to squeeze it out of a camelback.
- Tool storage: No flats yet (and hopefully won’t get any thanks to the heavy duty tubes I just put in) but I have had to get at zip ties and tools throughout the day for various adjustments, especially since the bike was sitting for so long. It’s really nice to have the tools so accessible without having to pull a bunch of stuff out of the bag to get to them.
- Beavertail: I haven’t been putting jackets on/off like I would on a trip back home, but I have been using them for garbage. That’s one of those little things that always bugged me: where to put trash from lunch or camping when I’m riding offroad. I don’t want to put it in my bags, so I used to either put it in the beavertail of my hydration pack or put it in a plastic grocery bag and tied off to the bike, where it would flap around. The beavertails are quite handy for this.
- Solid attachment: having a hard surface on the bag (the HDPE) mounted to another hard surface on the bike (the steel rack) give a much more solid feeling than most of the soft bags I’ve ridden with or seen on my friends bikes. These feel more like riding with hard bags. The only movement is in the pannier rack itself not on the bags or the attachment points.
- Relative size: I love having larger panniers and a smaller duffle. The duffle has only my clothes and a laptop in it, so it’s really light. The lower center of gravity on the bike is noticeable.
- I’m really impressed with how well they hold their shape even fully loaded.
- I wish we hadn’t used orange pvc in the protos, since together with the orange on my bike it’s a more conspicuous-looking kit than I would normally pick for developing country travel. On the other hand, it does look kinda cool.
- No rattling or movement in the mounting system. Also the mounting brackets have not come lose, which is something we wanted to watch for. I used a threadlocker when I mounted them.
- My wolfman rack doesn’t have a crossbar in the back like some other pannier racks do. The steel flexes a lot, causing movement in the rack itself.
- I got rained on and nothing got wet. However these liners are just prototypes, they’re not welded like the final ones will be, so I’m not sure how they’ll hold up in a proper downpour.
- The pannier with the metal latch seems to be more stable than the one with the rubber latch, but I can’t tell yet if that’s due to the latches or something else. For obvious reasons it is kind of hard to watch the panniers while riding through a rough section. Though I’m trying.
- No crashes yet. After what happened last year I’m riding conservatively.
More next week!