tell me about front panniers

Ben M

Senior Member
Location
Chester/Oxford
I've toured before with only (large) rear panniers. Now I'm looking into touring with the gf on a tandem. With two of us and a tent, having only two panniers probably won't be enough, so I'm trying to learn about front panniers.

I've seen mentioned that riding with front panniers doesn't have a large negative effect on the handling of the bike, and that touring bikes may even be better balanced with panniers on the front. So I'm not too worried about that side of things, but if you have any thoughts/comments/suggestions about that, especially tandem specific advice, theat'd be welcome.

My main question is: what panniers does one use on the front? When I've looked for panniers for the front I've only found one set of front-specific panniers. Are front specific panniers required or will small "ordinary" panniers suffice? I have altura drylines for the back, is there a front version of that? The other good panniers that I see mentioned are ortileb hi-rollers, do they do a front pannier pair? If so are they really expensive? I'm hoping not to have to spend a fortune, I'm quite happy to use cheaper panniers and binbags for water-proofing, as they aren't going to have particularly heavy use.

Also do you have any recommendations for racks to use? The tandem is likely to be a dawes of some description.

Thanks y'all.
 

Crankarm

Legendary Member
Location
Nr Cambridge
I've toured before with only (large) rear panniers. Now I'm looking into touring with the gf on a tandem. With two of us and a tent, having only two panniers probably won't be enough, so I'm trying to learn about front panniers.

I've seen mentioned that riding with front panniers doesn't have a large negative effect on the handling of the bike, and that touring bikes may even be better balanced with panniers on the front. So I'm not too worried about that side of things, but if you have any thoughts/comments/suggestions about that, especially tandem specific advice, theat'd be welcome.

My main question is: what panniers does one use on the front? When I've looked for panniers for the front I've only found one set of front-specific panniers. Are front specific panniers required or will small "ordinary" panniers suffice? I have altura drylines for the back, is there a front version of that? The other good panniers that I see mentioned are ortileb hi-rollers, do they do a front pannier pair? If so are they really expensive? I'm hoping not to have to spend a fortune, I'm quite happy to use cheaper panniers and binbags for water-proofing, as they aren't going to have particularly heavy use.

Also do you have any recommendations for racks to use? The tandem is likely to be a dawes of some description.

Thanks y'all.
The search facility is your friend. An absolute shed load has been written about front panniers and front racks recently. Do a search and you will find all you need to know.
 
OP
Ben M

Ben M

Senior Member
Location
Chester/Oxford
The search facility is your friend. An absolute shed load has been written about front panniers and front racks recently. Do a search and you will find all you need to know.
Right I've used the search function and not found any answers. Apparently my searching skills are weak. Care to point me in the right direction?
 

srw

It's a bit more complicated than that...
On the tandem-specific stability question - there is a noticeable difference between riding with and without front panniers. After three weeks with front panniers, riding without felt alarmingly twitchy.

Usual advice on a solo touring bike is to have a decent amount of weight in the front. That's because most of the weight of the bike (you and all your front panniers) is rear-end loaded. My advice on a tandem is to keep the front as light as you possibly can, and make sure the two panniers are extremely well balanced. That's because a lot of the weight (the pilot is usually heavier than the stoker) is already front-loaded, and steering a tandem requires noticeably more upper body strength than steering a solo bike. I wouldn't want to tour without them, though - there's something satisfying about looking down at a pair of panniers.

A pair of front panniers will take a decent amount of kit - our maps, jumpers, waterproofs and food ended up in the front in our recent cross-France expedition (www.ffortissimo.org.uk). We used Altura Orkneys, which were pretty nearly waterproof and have a useful outside pocket for odds and sods. They're also fully adjustable to fit more or less any rack, front or rear. Be warned, though - they get absolutely filthy in nasty weather. And "pretty nearly" waterproof doesn't extend to the very bottom of the pannier. If it's pouring, water from the road will get kicked straight up into the base of the bag. I suspect most of the panniers on the market will suffer much the same thing.
 
OP
Ben M

Ben M

Senior Member
Location
Chester/Oxford
A quick search finds this topic in the touring section of the forum: Front Rack & Panniers. I haven't read it but assume it'll be just the kind of thing you are looking for!
Thanks very much, I made the mistake of limiting the search to this subforum :doh:

On the tandem-specific stability question - there is a noticeable difference between riding with and without front panniers. After three weeks with front panniers, riding without felt alarmingly twitchy.

Usual advice on a solo touring bike is to have a decent amount of weight in the front. That's because most of the weight of the bike (you and all your front panniers) is rear-end loaded. My advice on a tandem is to keep the front as light as you possibly can, and make sure the two panniers are extremely well balanced. That's because a lot of the weight (the pilot is usually heavier than the stoker) is already front-loaded, and steering a tandem requires noticeably more upper body strength than steering a solo bike. I wouldn't want to tour without them, though - there's something satisfying about looking down at a pair of panniers.

A pair of front panniers will take a decent amount of kit - our maps, jumpers, waterproofs and food ended up in the front in our recent cross-France expedition (www.ffortissimo.org.uk). We used Altura Orkneys, which were pretty nearly waterproof and have a useful outside pocket for odds and sods. They're also fully adjustable to fit more or less any rack, front or rear. Be warned, though - they get absolutely filthy in nasty weather. And "pretty nearly" waterproof doesn't extend to the very bottom of the pannier. If it's pouring, water from the road will get kicked straight up into the base of the bag. I suspect most of the panniers on the market will suffer much the same thing.
Hi there. Cheers very much for a very helpful post :smile:
May I ask which front rack you use? It looks a bit like this one. Is that the case? How did you find it?

I've seen these panniers:
http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/cycle/7/Carradice_CarraDry_Universal_~_Front_Panniers_(pair)/5360050258/
Which attract me due to the low price and they look good quality, they might just be a bit small perhaps? Although I have the utterly massive altura dryline 56s for the back.

Also, which tyres do you use on your tandem? I'm going to need to put some new ones on the tandem when we pick it up, and was thinking of some schwalbe marathon (not +) in 32mm guise.
 

srw

It's a bit more complicated than that...
Hi there. Cheers very much for a very helpful post :smile:
May I ask which front rack you use? It looks a bit like this one. Is that the case? How did you find it?
It's probably this one as it was supplied with the bike by Thorn. It's very, very robust. The only (mildly) annoying thing is that the top tube is a little too wide for the clips on our Orkney panniers, so getting them on and off is a bit of a performance.
Also, which tyres do you use on your tandem? I'm going to need to put some new ones on the tandem when we pick it up, and was thinking of some schwalbe marathon (not +) in 32mm guise.
For preference, we use Schwalbe Marathon plus 35mm (26" wheel). They really are fit-and-forget (although the fitting isn't easy). There are a number of threads discussing this too...
 
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