Pannier backpack convertibles are a smart, practical option for those who want to attach their bag to their bike and also be able to walk around with the bag on their back. These bags have pannier clips but could also be "converted" into a backpack.
What’s so good about pannier backpack convertibles?
Convertible pannier backpacks are a great addition to the cycling world, particularly if you want to get off your bike and walk or explore. You simply take the pannier bag off your bike and use a conversion mechanism to turn it into a backpack.
This is particularly useful for commuters who want the option to commute in either in pannier or backpack mode, or who want use the bag as a backpack throughout the day, for example if they have to travel for business during the day.
It is also fantastic for cycle tourers or bike packers who need the weight off their back during cycling, and who want to explore using a backpack once they have arrived their destination.
The performance criteria to consider when buying a pannier backpack?
From a technical and design perspective, here is what you need to think about when looking for a suitable pannier backpack:
- Is it durable in all conditions, in both form factors?
- If it’s muddy, how easy is the bag to clean?
- Are the hooks/clips sturdy and strongly fitted?
- Do the size and dimensions match your needs? For instance, would your laptop and valuables fit in it?
- How easy is it to convert between pannier and backpack?
- Is it comfortable on your back when used as a backpack?
- Is it waterproof and will it protect your valuables and items inside in the rain?
- How will the bag fit onto your current bike rack setup?
- How many pockets does the bag and does it have enough organisation?
In fact, this was the brief we set ourselves when we decided to work on our own backpack pannier convertible.
What you want to look for is a waterproof pannier backpack to keep your items safe, dry and easily accessible. External zip pockets are incredibly handy for safe access, while water bottle and d-lock holders are also valuable additions.
More commuters, features such as designated laptop sleeves for better internal organisation, padded foam shoulder straps for use as a backpack and reflective details are a plus.
But first and foremost - check that the rack mounting system is high quality and compatible with your rack. Most modern racks are 10.2mm in diameter, although it can range between 8mm to 18mm in diametre. A solid set rack system on a pannier will be adjustable to cater for different rack thicknesses, as well as the distance between the two clips to form the optimal gap for different rack sizes.
What to avoid in pannier backpacks
When it comes to what to avoid, here are some absolute no-go’s that people regularly complain about, and how we have addressed these in our product.
1) Cheap rack mounting system. This happens when a manufacturer uses a basic set of rack mount in pannier mode. For example, if the mount is not adjustable in width and distance between mounts, or if the mounts themselves are not solidly secured onto the bag itself. The most bombproof way is if the rack mounts are screwed onto the pannier and reinforced by a block of hard plastic like our bike rack mount below:
2) Inefficient conversion method. If the conversion between pannier to backpack and vice versa is overly complicated, time consuming or fiddly, it may put off the user from using the bag in both form factors, defeating the purpose of this style of product.
We use an unique “flip” mechanism which allows you to easily convert the pannier to a backpack, and vice versa within seconds.
For Pannier: Tuck backpack straps into the back pocket and pull down the flap to reveal the mounting system.
For Backpack: Pull the flap up to conceal the mounting system. Pull out backpack straps from the back pocket and secure backpack straps into the lower strap buckles.
3) The bag is uncomfortable in backpack mode. This occurs when the manufacturer 'skimps' on the quality of shoulder straps, for example it does not have adequate padding, or is oddly shaped. Also, there is not enough padding on the bag to protect the user's back in pannier mode.
Our unique "flap" is thickly padded to protect the wearer from mounting system while in backpack mode. In addition, when flap is pulled up, it reveals a large patch of foam padding underneath the mounting system to provide additional comfort for the lower back.
4) Not waterproof. As cyclists we should be accustomed to sudden changes in weather conditions. A bag that is not fully waterproof risks destroying your valuable and ruining your trip. So look for bags that can ensure peace of mind waterproofing.
Our pack is waterproof against all weather condition, and no "rain jacket" is necessary. This is made possible by high-quality TPU coated 600D polyester and innovative seam-welding technology.
While some backpacks are more stylish than others, other options will be more durable. There is a fine balance between choosing a bag that looks more like a backpack, and a secure and more sturdy pannier-first design.
What do you look for in a pannier backpack convertible?