Even before I added the rear rack, I already have the Biologic Tour Bag, which mounts on the front of the bike. It is a rainproof bag, which has a waterproof layer and has an overlapping cover that prevents rain from entering the bag. Not waterproof, as water can still enter if the water comes from the bottom (highly unlikely, unless you submerge the bike!) The capacity of the Biologic Tour Bag is about 7 litres.
Biologic Tour Bag
The Biologic Arclite Rack which I had bought previously has already proven itself to be very useful. Read about the rack here. However, in order to maximise the capacity of the rack, the best way is to add bags to it! I had thought about just getting a rack top bag, so that I can place things on top of the rack. Only when I started searching for rack top bags did I find that it is hard to actually get a good waterproof rack top bag.
Biologic Arclite Rack
In any case, a rack top bag such as those from Topeak does not have a large capacity. Although they have rain covers, it is very troublesome to have to stop and put on the rain cover when it starts raining. If you always put a rain cover on as a preventive measure, it is also troublesome when you want to get items from the bag. I would much prefer a rainproof bag where a separate rain cover is not needed.
Of course, no other company makes waterproof outdoor gear like Ortlieb! Ortlieb is a highly respected manufacturer of waterproof outdoor gear, and they also make panniers for bikes. By the way, panniers mean basket in French!
I was initially hesitant to get panniers, as I was afraid that it may cause heel strike when I put it on my bike. However, I know that many folding bike riders actually use Ortlieb panniers with no problems. The trick is to get the smaller Front Panniers, instead of the larger Rear Panniers. Together with the highly adjustable clips on the panniers, the bags should clear the heels when pedaling.
Shall let the pictures do the talking!
New Panniers! Arrived via Air Mail, cardboard box is a little dented, but no problem!
Grey and black colour scheme matches my bike! 790 grams each including shoulder strap.
Adjustable hook will hook onto your rack, preventing it from swinging outwards. The large black piece of plastic prevents sharp parts of your bike, such as the QR from wearing out the fabric.
Conveniently hooks onto the flat portion on the rack, which is originally used to hook the ends of the elastic cord that comes with the rack.
Simple but secure clip system for fixing the pannier onto the rack. Can adjust forward or backward to prevent heel strike!
See how I adjusted the clips so that the bag is all the way at the rear. Also, I clipped the panniers as far back on the rack as possible. No heel strike!
Roll top closure is virtually waterproof! Doubles as a carrying strap
Can also use this strap to close the top, if the clips at the two ends are used to connect the shoulder strap
Connect your shoulder strap to the end of the clip!
Spacious interior. 25 liters total capacity for the pair of panniers. In practical terms, I can fit a 1.5L bottle plus a pair of running shoes into one pannier with space to spare!
Bringing the panniers out for a field test! A full first aid kit on one side, a bike tool kit with lots of spare tubes and a 1.5L bottle on the other side.
Wide vehicle passing through! Actually it is not much wider than the handlebars, but you got to be careful when squeezing through narrow gaps.
Fits pretty well with the overall colour scheme of my bike. With the additional weight, and because the pannier is located all the way at the rear, the bike now tilts to the rear instead of the front when I put down my Pletscher kickstand.
1 set of uniform
1 set of T-shirt and jeans
1 pair of cycling shoes
1 set of showering stuff, including towel
and lots of smaller items such as umbrella, water bottle etc.
There is still some space left, can probably put in another 2 sets of clothes! Note that I did not even have to use my Biologic Tour Bag. I no longer have to plan in detail what to bring on the bike when I commute to work, just put in whatever you need!
With the panniers on and fully loaded, riding the bike seems a bit more difficult, as it feels heavier and steering is a bit laggy. When getting off the bike, got to be careful not to let the bike tilt to one side! Best is if the panniers are balanced on both sides. When riding into a headwind you will feel more drag as there are 2 big bags hanging off the side catching the wind!
In any case, I can easily transform from a speedy bike to a touring bike, just by removing or adding the panniers. In fact, it is so useful and the capacity so ample that I might consider retiring the Biologic Tour Bag up front...