earlier, I am considering getting a custom commuter pannier made to accommodate all of my bikes, including those with short chainstays and small racks. And I've been looking at different quick-release mounting systems in attempts to determine which one would be most suitable for such a project. I'd already tried Basil and Fastrider panniers, but not many others. So I stopped by the Wheelworks, in Somerville, MA and asked to examine and photograph the panniers they had in stock, which they most graciously allowed me to do. I now bring you a comparison of several different mounting systems, which I hope you will find useful.
Ortlieb panniers are made in Germany. They are waterproof, rugged and distinctly utilitarian-looking. I found myself attracted to this neon-yellow pannier and I think it actually looks kind of good on my Gazelle. But still, overall the design is not really for me.
QL2 mounting system consists of a top rail with hooks and a lower support hook - both of which are adjustable without the need for tools.
length of the bike's chainstays, the adjustability allows you to control the pannier's positioning. While the top hooks alone are enough to secure the pannier to the rack, the lower hook will prevent it from moving altogether. If only this great system was attached to more classic-looking bags! How about an olive satchel with brown trim, Ortlieb?
Arkel panniers are made in Quebec, Canada. The look is similarly utilitarian, though the styling is distinctly different from that of Ortlieb. The design of the bags doesn't really speak to me, but again these things are a matter of taste. While Ortlieb makes it difficult to purchase their complete mounting kit, Arkel sells it readily - which makes it a good resource for those looking to make custom panniers with a reliable and well tested mounting system.
Cam-Lock attachment system works similarly to Ortlieb's QL2, in that there is a top rail with adjustable hooks that release via lifting the handle, and a lower hook added for stability. However, the hardware is aluminum (Ortlieb's is plastic), and the lower hook is attached via a bungee cord. Tools are required to adjust the position of the hooks on the track. To my eye, the Arkel system looks kind of rough in comparison to Ortlieb and takes a bit longer to figure out. Also, the aluminum hooks have sharp-ish edges and I could see them scratching up the paint on a rack.
Fastrider panniers work in my review of the one I own, but will reiterate here - as well as say that the more I use this pannier, the more I appreciate its design.
Bicycle Muse carries a few of the shopper panniers, but not the entire line.
Basil, on the other hand, is a Dutch manufacturer whose panniers are now easily available in North America. Their bags range from classic to utilitarian to quirky and they offer a great deal of choice.
here and here). To be fair, the majority of Basil owners I know are happy with their panniers. But I'd have a difficult time trusting my laptop to their mounting system.
Bontrager - an American manufacturer affiliated with Trek. Their city pannier (above) resembles the Basil Mirte model, and features a similar mounting system.
OYB (see review here). Swift Industries, Axiom, and Jandd use similar configurations, but with larger hooks.
Thank you again to the Wheelworks for allowing me to photograph the Ortlieb, Arkel, and Bontrager panniers.