Panniers on Bikes with Short Chainstays

Since receiving the woven pine Fastrider pannier last summer, I have been using it as my main transportation bag. On the up side, it is enormous, waterproof, classic looking, easy to attach and detach, and secure. On the downside, it was designed for appropriately enormous Dutch bikes with long chainstays, and not for bicycles with road geometry. The pannier looks like it's ready to swallow the mixte whole, and ideally I would like something smaller. But for a bicycle with short chainstays finding the right pannier can be tricky. 

The chainstays on a bike are the skinny horizontal tubes between the crankset and the dropouts. In the picture above, it's the one with the strip of leather stuck to it. Different types of bikes have chainstays of different lengths. The more racy and aggressive the bicycle, the shorter the chainstays. The more relaxed and transport-oriented the bicycle, the longer the chainstays. For reference, the chainstays on my Bianchi roadbike are 410mm. The chainstays on my Rivendell touring bike are 445mm. And the chainstays on my Gazelle Dutch bike are 485mm. When chainstays are long, the rear wheel of the bicycle sits further away from the crankset, which means that whatever bag you've got mounted on the rear rack is a safe distance away from your heels while you pedal. That is why transport bicycles are designed with long chainstays: You can attach enormous shopper panniers to the rear rack and not worry about heel strike.

Now, my Royal H. mixte was not designed as a transportation bicycle. It was designed for light touring (not too much luggage), and it was designed to be ridden upright in hilly areas. The chainstays are 430mm, which is somewhere in between classic road and classic touring geometry and appropriate for what this bike was meant for. So in theory, all is as it should be. However, in practice I've been riding it for transportation more than I had anticipated - just because it's such a fun bike, and the dynamo lighting is so excellent.

If it were just the aesthetics alone, I'd keep using the Fastrider pannier on this bicycle and not bother looking for alternatives. I actually don't think it's that bad, though my helpful readers have suggested that it looks meh-ish on the mixte. But the real problem is that I do get borderline heel-strike with this set-up. Not enough for it to be dangerous, but once in a while my heel and the bag will not so much make contact as sense each other's presence. If the bag were just a tad further back or smaller, I'd feel more comfortable.

With this in mind, I ordered two panniers from the D'Azur line by Basil, in hopes that one of them would fit and I'd return the other. The Basil shopper pannier (above) is nearly 2" narrower than the Fastrider equivalent, which in theory should have been more than enough to eliminate any hint of heel strike. Unfortunately, the opposite was the case. Because of how the Basil attachment hooks are positioned, this bag actually sits further forward and lower than the Fastrider - resulting in an unridable degree of heel strike. If you scroll up and down between this and the previous picture, you can see how much closer the Basil bag is to the pedal, despite its slightly smaller size.

The messenger pannier did not work either. This bag is the same width as my Fastrider, but considerably shorter, so I was hoping it would sit higher up and my heel would not reach it. But again, the placement of the attachment hooks positioned it quite a bit lower than the Fastrider, as well as further forward, making the heel strike worse rather than better. And so, I will be returning both of the Basil panniers. They are well made and attractive, but I need a pannier small enough to work on this bike+rack combination. And I mention the rack, because I could solve this problem by replacing the existing VO Constructeur rack with a super long rack that would allow me to push the panniers further back... but I don't want to. I like how compact, light and elegant this bicycle is with the current rack, and after all it was not intended for commuting. There has to be a nice pannier out there somewhere that will fit a bike with 430mm chainstays and a constructeur rack, and I am determined to find it.

Well, technically I did find it: The OYB Swiss Army pannier is a perfect fit for the constructeur rack, and it goes nowhere near my heels when I pedal. Alas, it is about 1/2" too narrow to fit my laptop. I've tried stretching it, but it's just not sufficient, so I use it as a camera bag. I also tried (and returned) the Linus single Office pannier. While it did fit my laptop, the attachment system was difficult to use and did not feel secure: leather straps with snap closures.

It seems that the trick to designing panniers for bicycles with short chainstays, is to make the pannier vertical rather than horizontal, to mount the hooks lower on the bag (so that the bag itself will sit higher), and to keep the size as small as possible. But while some touring panniers are designed in this manner, I have not been able to find a suitable one for commuting - by which I mean a single pannier that attaches and detaches easily via strong and secure hooks, is large enough to fit a laptop, and looks classic, ideally made of canvas or leather in a grayish/greenish/brownish colour scheme. If you are an artisan who would like to give this a go, get in touch! And if you commute on a bicycle with short chainstays, what is your pannier solution?


  1. Replace the rack then get some front panniers.

  2. Having toured on racing bikes, I understand your problem well. The best solution, apart from getting bikes with longer chainstays, is to find panniers with a sort of teardrop shape, or that are cut away where the heel would otherwise strike. Of course, the latter feature makes individual panniers specific to the right or left side, as opposed to the boxier panniers that can be interchanged between right and left.

  3. cliff - what good would that do me if I want a commuter pannier that I could use both on the Dutch bike and on this bike? For touring this bicycle is not a problem, as it will accommodate a variety of semi-permanently fixed, double touring panniers without heel strike.

    Justine - You are right about the curved design making them side specific, I ought to cross that one out. It has to be boxy then, sit high and possibly be vertically oriented. Or else just like the OYB pannier but literally 1/2" wider.

  4. Out of desperation and need right away for a waterproof and secure pannier to hold my computer and other things, I opted for an ortlieb shopper. Not what you have in mind, I know (though it nicely avoids heel strike). However, I do really like how easy and secure their hardware is, so if you can find the perfect bag or have one made, you can purchase ortlieb hardware alone and add it to such a bag. This is what I would ideally like to do, for my future perfect bag, as I also cannot find the perfect, stylish solution. Do you yet have a sewing machine? Perhaps this might be a fun project?

  5. I think I can make what you need...e-mail me at "oneslowvehicle (at) gmail (dot) com".
    Talk with me about fabric, dimensions, and mounting.

  6. Have you thought of getting a full custom pannier? That way you can specify the dimensions you want and also how and where it would mount.

    Then again, most custom bag makers in that vein usually use cordura as the exterior material, which may not suit your aesthetic desires.

  7. adventure! - I contacted two makers who came recommended for such a project. One did not respond. The other told me that they were busy and would get in touch when they had more time.

    Slowvehicle - I'll email you. Am publishing your comment in case others want to contact you as well.

    Amanda - What colour is yours? The beige one looks kind of nice in pictures. How do you like the attachment system? I have a sewing machine, but it won't handle the kind of heavy canvas I'd like to use for this bag.

  8. I think the last bag is pretty, but it looks too small on the bike anyway. Sort of oddly out of proportion. I also think the gray color of the Basil bags is really nice on that bike. I'd agree that custom bags seem most appropriate, if you can find a good maker. I haven't solved the laptop issue either, as you know, with the Panasonic.

    Clearly, we all need those mini laptop thingies. Now, if I could only convince my work of this...

  9. Have you looked at Arkel's choices? Their Metropolitan might work. It sits higher than a lot of panniers and they have a matching handlebar bag. Last year's model; now on closeout, would complement your bike better than the new color. I have gotten one but haven't yet used it enough to report on.

  10. I forgot to mention - Brooks makes a pannier that uses Arkel attach hardware. Eye-poppingly expensive but VERY elegant.

  11. Steve - Not a fan of the Arkel Metropolitan. Even in the muted colours the styling is just to tech-y for me. I've seen those Brooks panniers in person and they are not as classic as they seem online. They're almost better suited for a mountain bike, or perhaps a Surley LHT than a classic bicycle. Also, the shape of the bag and the way it is organised inside is not ideal for a commuted bag; it is more like a suitcase. Nice pannier, but not for me.

    snarkypup - If only I could induce the Basil and the OYB to have a lovechild...

  12. I have the ziplock closure style type of shopper in silver and black, and I see now they have a newer bag they have called the city shopper, that is available in beige. I think it looks a little more visually appealing than mine.

    Why I like the attachment system: there is the small handle on the back which operates the spring loaded hooks, so you lift the bag by the handle and put it on the rack. Once you let go, it is not going to come off, no matter how much it bounces. Also, there is lateral adjustment to where the hooks are sitting on the back of the bag, so that is good too.

    As far as I know, the attachment system could be purchased separately and put on a bag of one's choosing. Hence my thinking of sewing my own.

    As for sewing machines. Mine is garden variety, but I have made it sew some pretty thick curtains (thick upholstery material) with liner, so I could probably make it sew canvas too, if I buy enough heavy duty needles. These I tend to break, when I ask too much of my machine.

  13. How about Swift Industries "Mini Short Stack" panniers? They will make them in waxed canvas and the bags are just lovely. You can customize all sorts of aspects of your bag's design at the time of purchase.

    -Davey Oil

  14. They're almost better suited for a mountain bike, or perhaps a Surley LHT than a classic bicycle.

    Velouria, I resemble that remark! Are you saying that we Long Haul Trucker riders can't have classy bags on our rides? Is it because we don't have lugs? And there ain't no "e" in Surly!

    And for the record, I have a Carradice saddle bag on my LHT. So there.

    Now ending my ridiculous and (somewhat?) tongue-in-cheek rant...

    I second the Swift panniers that Mr. Davey Oil from the Emerald City recommends. They definitely look nice.

    Myself, I am partial to North St. Bags here in Portland:
    But Curtis uses cordura, so might not be classy enough for a classic bike, but probably okay for a LHT.

    Yours in surly-ness,

  15. Amanda - check out this DIY project on Biking in Heels!

    adventure - I know you're joking, but I didn't mean the MTB/SurlY remark in a derogatory sense! I think that Surly occupies a somewhat unique position among bicycles and that's what makes it special. It is both versatile and has its own distinct persona. It can go classic or it can go modern or it can go all out weird - depending on how the owner outfits it. And those Brooks panniers match all of that very nicely.

    Davey - Thanks for the link. That bag looks excellent - wonder whether they could do the straps in green or brown!

  16. I can't imagine there's anyone out there who could design a better one than you Velouria. You just need to find a craftsman who can make it for you.I really like the color of the Basils with your bike.

  17. Thanks for the informative post! I was thinking of using the VO rack on my wife's bike, but it sounds like that's really the issue that you are working around, not just the short chainstays. I *love* the VO rack look, but I think that's what I will change on my build.

    Can I also ask where you ordered the Basil bags? I regret not picking some up when I was in amsterdam last summer!

  18. JPTwins - Actually noooo, and that's an important point. While the VO constructeur rack is smaller than a standard rear rack, the design positions the platform in such a way that it places the pannier in the same spot over the rear axel as a standard rack would. You'd need to find an extra long rack that is specifically designed to solve the problem and not just a rack that appears larger than this one. Hope that makes sense. Of course, the drawback to that solution is that placing a rack & bag that far back on a bike with short chainstays can obscure the side view of the tail light. So you really can't win with that geometry unless you find a smaller pannier.

  19. Hi,

    I use a Carradice Bike Bureau Cotton Duck everyday when I commute to work on my bike. It´s great and looks very stylish. I also use it as an over-night bag when I fly and it takes both my lap-top, my camera, some books and also enough clothes for one night away. You won´t need any other bag.

    //Per Erik

  20. You mention that the VO rack allows as much movement as a standard rack, but it's hard to imagine it would allow the same fore and aft movement as a standard (say, Tubus) rack. I will second the comment on the nice adjustability of the Ortlieb mounting system. That said, I can understand why you would never want a standard rack with garish yellow or red Ortlieb panniers on your lovely custom bike.

    If I understand correctly, you also want to use the panniers on another bike. With all the other limiting factors, I would put this criteria down towards the bottom of the list.

    The bags in the last photo are very nice. If you didn't want to go custom, maybe you could get a smaller laptop :). With 'cloud computing' I think we will be less machine dependant in near future. A friend travels with an iPad and protable keyboard. He does a lot of writing and reports that it gets the job done.

  21. My demands for a commuter pannier are different from yours, and for the last eight years I've commuted with a pair of Aqua-Not panniers from MEC (Canada's equivalent to REI) ... the line itself is discontinued but the current PF-43's are comparable and give you an idea of how they look. Nylon, reflective striping, plastic buckles -- nothing classic at all about them. But, hey, they've done the job for 8+ years, being totally waterproof and close to indestructible. On the seldom occasion where I've had to ride my bike to a client site* in proper business clothing, I tend to put my laptop bag** in one of the panniers and take it with me when I enter the office. Cable lock goes through the pannier handles, bike frame and anchor to ensure that they aren't lifted.

    Alternatively, I've also put my 14" laptop in a protective sleeve and slipped that into my Carradice Super C and commuted with that ... which I may have described to either you or cycler in a discussion from the summer? anyway, in that configuration, the Carradice can accomodate a 14" laptop, and a small 'man-purse' like the Crumpler SoupanSalad which I use for work clothes and bag lunch. So I'll lock up at the rack, leave the Super C on the bike and go into the office with the Crumpler slung on my shoulder and the laptop tucked under my arm.

    Sorry that couldn't be more helpful ... just trying to point out that if you need a cargo solution right now, you might just consider separating the container that carries your things on your bike from the container that carries your things in the office. Both tend to have different requirements, and it might be easier to get two things that meet each well rather than one thing that struggles at both.

    * most of my clients are out of town, but I had a three month stint at a construction company based out of South Boston in 2008.
    ** my standard laptop bag is a Tom Bihn Zephyr which is also a tech-y cordura creature

  22. arevee - This is kind of hard to explain, but I've dealt with a lot of racks for the past month whilst trying to design one for the Bella Ciao bike, so let me try: It's true that due to its size, the VO rack does not allow a lot of movement. But neither do most standard racks if the bike has short chainstays. On a standard rack, the platform basically starts under the saddle, and half the rack ends up being under the saddle. The pannier usually interferes with the saddle and causes heel strike in all but the very rear part of such a rack. So there is only a limited area of the rack to which you can attach the bag, and that area is in the exact same spot and of the same length as the platform of the VO rack. Just think of how the VO rack is attached vs how standard racks are attached and you'll see what I mean.

    My laptop is a Macbook Air, which is 8 1/2 x 11" and it's as small as I can go while still being able to do all the stuff I need to do on my computer. If I do get a custom bag, it will probably be with the Ortlieb attachment system, as everyone seems to speak so highly of it.

  23. Check out Philosphy Bags,
    I saw them at NAHBS last week. They were very well made bags/panniers.

  24. I don't like bags that sit higher than the rack they're attached to. It's (IMO) ugly and inconvenient, since the rack became almost useless.
    That being said, this pannier is quite neat.
    I have big foot and i've been using it without any heel strike issues. It has the right look and it's pretty big.
    Of course, it's not padded at all. I don't mind since it stays on the bike and I use it to carry stuff already packed, one way or another. But that can be problem.

  25. I haven't had time to read through all the comments so far, but another trick for making a pannier work:

    reposition the attachment hooks!

    I have a set of Axiom panniers, which I like a lot, but they were causing unbearable heel strike. I just unscrewed the mounting hooks, drilled new holes in the pannier another 1.5" rearward, and reattached the hooks. Voila! The pannier I liked but thought was incompatible now sits 1.5" farther back on the rack and heel strike is no longer an issue.

    I also agree with Philippe-- I don't like the appearance of panniers that mount high up. It not only looks unsettling, it's functionally inferior, as it raises the center of gravity of the bike. Panniers should hang low and not rise above the top of the rack.

    Again, thoughtful repositioning of the mounting hooks can cure this! :-)

  26. Oops-- I meant "forward" instead of "rearward". By repositioning the hooks more forward, the pannier rests more rearward. Duh.

    Anyway, I realize that some readers are averse to modifying accessories to make them work, but in all this discussion about finding that elusive "perfect" pannier, and the potential frustration of buying and testing countless panniers before finding one that fits *your* bike and *your* aesthetic and practical needs, doing a simple modification like this can mean the difference between having the perfect pannier and not.

  27. I agree about the panniers that are high up -- they can look like they're not well-integrated with the lines of the bike.

    I have the roll up Brooks panniers and I do like them a lot.

    I do wish there were some unobtrusive smaller single panniers available that were neither technical looking nor modern bubbles/dots.

  28. I've done the same as somervillain. Since 1979 I've used the same set of panniers and the same rack -- a Blackburn -- on various road bikes which have been used for commuting. The chainstays have varied in length but always been on the short side. The Blackburn has enough for/aft play that when there was an issue with heel clearance I would re-adjust the clamps. In looking at the rack I can see a good two inches of play that i've taken full advantage of, but it looks like the VO rack gives no such room so one has to rely completely on the size and design of the panniers. There are also adaptors which allow one to move the mounting point further back at the drop-outs, but I get it, you're not interested in that as a solution. It's been nice to see some of the bags suggested thus far. . .mine are finally on their last legs!

  29. The Ortlieb QL2 system is really nice for adjusting both the angle and the positioning of the hooks to move the bag around for different bikes (no tools required). However most of their bags aren't terribly aesthetically pleasing. I have the "office bag" from years ago and it has a subdued look, but it's also really big (although it looks like it now comes in two sizes).

  30. I have the same Fast Rider pannier and the same problem on my mixte, and although I have a longer rack and so I can move it back to avoid heel strike, it does then block the side view of the rear light and is not as secure as when it's centered on the rack (when it's centred the hooks fit betwen the perpendicular supports which go across the top of the rack and so stop it from sliding about).

    I've seen a pannier bag which I thought might fit the bill for you as it looked smaller, the New Look Cita, but on checking the measurements given online it's just as wide, but 10 cm shorter in length - again it's dependent on the positioning of the hooks but maybe the shorter length would work in keeping it out of heel-reach? They a Dutch company too, but the Cita is available online from a few stores in the UK (where I am). Ironically I just googled "New Look Cita USA" to see if they were available there and one of the first results led me back to a commment on a post on this blog from 2010 (Pining for Panniers) from someone bemoaning their lack of availability in the USA! I've been considering buying one myself, and they do seem to be stocked by few shops here in London so if you like the look of it and further measurements would help, let me know!

  31. I'm thinking of trying out the new Ironweed bags. Wonder if they might work for you?

  32. This is one of the most informative and relevant posts I've read in a long time. The photos are helpful, and actual dimensions are essential for sussing out bike/rack/pannier compability. Thanks for posting, Velouria.

    I would like to add two more considerations in pannier choice: shoe size and crank length. Shoe size is obviously a constant, but bigger feet need more room. Your small-footed friend has a built-in clearance advantage, so what works for him/her might not work for you. Crank size isn't a dimension that can be inexpensively changed on an existing bike, but if you're building a new bike, and you're puttin' panniers on it, get 165's or 170's. The extra 5 or 10 mm extra clearance can make a difference.

    Lastly, if you're going into a shop to get a rack and/or panniers, take the time to bring in your bike and 'dry fit' to check clearance before you make your purchase. Shop staff are often unfamiliar with the subject of this post. No offense to bike shop staff (I'm a bicycle mechanic).

  33. Velouria,

    Your bike is equipped with a front rack. Getting a decent handlebar bag that can hold your tiny MacBook Air along with a change of clothes, some spare tubes, a pocket tool, etc., would solve your problem without compromising the appearance of your bike (that you seem to be quite concerned about).

    My wife has made me a large handlebar bag (about 20 liters) that I use when commuting on my rando bike. This bag easily holds my 13.3" MacBook Pro as well as the stuff listed above. While my bag is made of Oxford nylon and Cordura, I am sure it would be possible to use waxed cotton instead if you so prefer.

  34. Velouria--My LHT accepts your thorough apology. I had to spend a hour calming her down last night. "No, the nice lady from Boston didn't mean all those things she said." ;-)

    Okay, now onto serious stuff...

    For those of you who want to get a longer rear reach rack, I'd recommend the Jandd Expedition rack:
    It's pretty burly looking (as it's intended for touring bikes) but gets the job done. And holds a lot of weight!

  35. I use the cheap Bushwhacker Westwood ($50/Amazon) which is cut away to avoid heel strike. Of course, that is a garment bag pannier but I would expect that, say, the Moab would work well for you, though I think you will object on aesthetic grounds.

  36. Have you looked at these Clarijs panniers (I found them here: which come in a silvery/grey colour? They look bright in the sun (but go nicely with a stainless steel bike), but a more muted grey-ish in cloudy weather/indoors. I have them mounted on a small bike with a rack that I *think* is similar to the VO one.

    They're not as wonderfully huge and solid as the Fastrider panniers (which I have too), but they're smaller, a lot lighter, and easier to carry off the bikes. They look as if they hang nearly as low and wide as the Fastrider ones, but the attachment system is more flexible (two hooks fairly close together plus a velcro strap in the middle), so it's easy to put them further back (but am not sure if that would cause problems for the rear light, as you describe).

    I don't think they're too blingy, but your tastes are more restrained than mine, so they may be too bright!

  37. Is the rack mounted to the seat stays? I don't see this in the photo, but there must surely be something else holding it in place besides the eyelets at the drop outs.

    Any idea what the rack is rated for (weight)?

  38. arevee - No, it's mounted to the fender via two attachment points (in addition to the dropouts of course). Not sure about the weight rating, but it's suitable for light touring with 2 small panniers and as a saddlebag support. It is not a rack for hauling stuff - which is fine because neither is the bike itself.

  39. Sherlock - All that you describe is possible, but I want an easily removable clip-on pannier that will work with all of my bikes and can be moved from bike to bike. I am the kind of woman who only owns 1 handbag at a time and keeps everything in it.

    Cold Iron said...
    "... if you're going into a shop to get a rack and/or panniers, take the time to bring in your bike and 'dry fit' to check clearance before you make your purchase. Shop staff are often unfamiliar with the subject of this post. No offense to bike shop staff (I'm a bicycle mechanic)."

    I second that. It seems that racing/roadbike culture has left such a mark on the industry that many simply don't understand what long chainstays are "for". The result is that many bike shops have begun to carry racks and panniers, but those panniers are often incompatible with the bikes they sell.

  40. I'm surprised you didn't consider the Sackville TourSacks. Too big? I think this would satisfy your aesthetic considerations, give you lots of space for your laptop, etc.

  41. Jon - I like them, for touring. But they are not a commuting pannier; not easily moveable from one bike to another and not takable-to-meetings.

  42. I am the kind of woman who only owns 1 handbag at a time and keeps everything in it.

    Ha! Try telling that to your bicycles! :)

  43. Well, you know what they say: You can never have too many books, bicycles, cameras, and fountain pens. And by "they" I mean the magic cats...

  44. "So there is only a limited area of the rack to which you can attach the bag, and that area is in the exact same spot and of the same length as the platform of the VO rack. Just think of how the VO rack is attached vs how standard racks are attached and you'll see what I mean."

    As long as your rack has long horizontal rails you can hang your bag well back of the heel strike zone. Alan @ Ecovelo demonstrates here on a Raleigh Detour Deluxe:

    Yes, this bike has an integrated low rack but the principle is the same. The bottom part of some panniers must be secured to the rack, so the limiting factor for these is where the bottom anchor point is. In the case panniers that secure solely on the rack's rails, the limitation is the rail length.

    Rear light visibility is another matter.


  45. After searching hi and low for panniers I finally decided on the Fastrider Deluxe and ordered it on Monday, so it's ironic that this is one of today's topics, which includes this pannier. My decision was based on it's classic look due to planning on using it for my commute to work I wanted something with a simple elegance. The other decision factor was the price, which I felt was right. I tend to disagree that panniers that sit a bit higher on the rack look odd. In my opinion, I like the look as it doesn't hide the lines of the bicycle as much. But, I may change my opinion once I actually see it on my bicylce, which is a Lady Sports Raleigh. I do wish I had waited to order until I read this post because a lot of the panniers mentioned here in the comments I may have considered. But, in the end I think I made the right choice for my needs.

  46. SM--Raleigh Sports should be fine, I would think, chainstay-length-wise. This pannier has very clever rotating hooks that will accommodate a wide range of racks.

  47. SM - Ditto what MDI said. Unlike Basil's attachment system, the hooks on the Fastrider can pivot, which allows them to attach to a rack in a variety of positions. Plus the Raleigh Sports should have sufficiently long chainstays to begin with.

  48. I use the Basil D'azur messenger on a daily basis. It works great on my enormous Dutch bike with enormous extra-long rear rack. But I'd love to have a smaller leather & brass bag with a bit more structure but still with the easy-on/easy-off clips of the Basil. I can't believe there isn't anything like this out there...


  49. the vo pannier is too small they were designed for small panniers or rack bags.

    with the light issue, theres not much you can do with panniers so big. its not just an issue of the bag covering the side view of your light, its covering the side view of half of the rear of the bike, and thats a shame because your bike is beautiful.

    if you're worried about people seeing you at night then couldnt you try wheel reflectors?

  50. Don't know whether anybody is still reading the comments, but has anybody used both the Ortlieb and the Arkel mounting systems, and if so what do you think?

  51. Velouria,

    I love the Ortlieb Q2 mounting system. The weight of the bag against the handle opens up the clips, but then once you set it on the rack and release the handle, the clips lock shut. very simple and secure.

    I think if i left my bags on, I could be happy with many of the other options, but I'm always taking them off and bringing them with me to pack/unpack.

    hope that helps,


  52. V: I think this might be where you cross the line between aesthete and crank. You already know the solution, and you mention it in the last paragraph: nix the tiny rack. If you want to keep that impractical rack, you'll be obliged either to continue suffering for your art, or to consider bags that go on top of it, rather than next to it. Perhaps the bag of your choice plus a nice Dutch cargo bungee?

  53. BG - Thanks for the vote of confidence : )

    But firstly, read some of the comments above clarifying about the VO rack. While small, its design actually places the bag in the same position as a standard rack would; that's part of its genius. I would have to get an extra long rack to get the bag further back, and that would cause other problems, such as tail light interference. Bottom line is that it's the bike's geometry and not the rack that is causing heel strike with large panniers, and getting a super long rack would just be an inadequate, ugly bandaid. You're not supposed to use 40cm Dutch panniers on a mixte with roadbike geometry, and aesthetics has nothing to do with that. The real issue is that I am using this bike for a purpose I did not intend to use it for.

  54. I read all of the comments above, and i have to agree with the folks who say the rack is the real limiting factor. I get what you're saying re: the location of the anchor points relative to the axle, and how it is similar to "standard" racks. Thing is, "standard" racks aren't meant for dookie-fat bags, either. Many ppl ride bikes with @430mm stays and sizable bags, but they use 'em with racks designed for the purpose. The VO rack is a ornamental gewgaw, built for looks rather than functionality.

    I get it that the VO rack is givng you the "look" you're going for. I figure you'll likely leave it on, and you should. It *is* your bike. But, the frame geometry isn't the limiting factor; it's merely a contributing factor.

  55. rob - I'll try to get my mixte to a bike shop, then take some side by side pictures with conventional racks held next to the bike.

    In the meantime, if anybody out there is rocking 40mm x 35mm (16x14") panniers with no anti-heelstrike curvature and non adjustable hooks, on a bike with 430mm chainstays, please let me know what rack you are using and/or send me a picture.

  56. rob said...
    " The VO rack is a ornamental gewgaw, built for looks rather than functionality. "

    And you realise that VO didn't invent this rack, right? It's a French design and has been around since the 1930s, used for randonneuring and light touring with appropriately sized panniers... which is exactly how I intended to use it on this bike. Just because something is not functional for all purposes does not mean it is "built for looks and not functionality."

  57. This is an interesting discussion because it brings up the question: what is a bike for?

    A mountain bike is designed for a mountain, right? I've used my standard mtb to climb mountains, get milk, carry a FUTON (with a standard Blackburn rack), carry a weedwhacker, carry a 6 ft. bookcase of shelving with one arm, carried it on my back on a motorcycle, blah blah.

    Today I went out on it, now an 81 lb. Xtracycle, and rode 17 miles. Well, it could've be more or less--who really cares? Mostly I cruised, at times I matched pace with road riders. After accumulating sundry crap it came back well over 130 lbs. Oh yea, my dog was in it.

    What the bike can do is far more than most of us think it can. A long rear rack, or a front, is the key to utility, Xtracycle nothwithstanding.

    V, there are numerous ways you can approach the problem you're having with bags on this bike. The VO rack is a copy of a Singer, Herse, Csuka, or some anonymous Frenchman, looks and functions fine. But...

    I have to say the huge pie plate cassette and mountain derailleur detract from the aesthetic of the bike much more than a rear rack does.

    Pretty much anything you can line draw can be made into a rack that works with this bike: long rails, elegant lines, rearward (back of axle) anchor point. Braze up a rear light and turn signal mount while you're at it. A long rack isn't necessarily an ugly one. Turn signals, on the other hand...

    Surely you must need to pick up a carton of milk, a bottle of olive oil, or a bunch of carrots on the way home is that handled?


  58. Absolutely. Racks like that one were popular once, but rack design has long since moved on. Until recently, virtually all cyclists who were in the market for a rack wanted either a very cheap one, or a very functional one.

    VO doesn't seem to "invent" any of their products, but they have done a lot to promote reenactment cycling. They didn't invent 6-bolt cranks, either, but they offer this thing: Nothing against VO or their customers, but there is no reason to buy a cutesy rack or a terribly outmoded crankset with obsolete rings over a tubus or a 110/74mm crankset beyond the aesthetic.

    That rack, like much of the VO catalog, is sort of the pannier rack equivalent to a pt cruiser or a triumph bonneville. Ppl buy them for their retro looks rather than for practical or performance reasons. That's fine by me; i can't judge! i just finally got around to ordering a worksman; obsolete standards, primitive technology, and limited practicality in one package. It's mostly something i'm into b/c i think it's neat; i don't think it has the elegance/pseudo-fashion cache of the VO stuff.


  59. Here's a link, from your archives, of a Herse rack with a low, horizontal anchor point allowing for rearward adjustability:

    Note also the placement of the tail light at the end of the fender, the farthest point back on the bike to clear bags.

    A feature not found on modern racks is the stops to prevent bag foward slippage.

    That rack is perfect--everything for a reason, aesthetic but not prettified. If a rack were to be copied, this it.


  60. Screech said...
    "...they have done a lot to promote reenactment cycling."

    : )))

    rob - I get what you are saying, but you seem to be ignoring my point about larger, "normal looking" racks having the same problem on bikes with short chainstays. Why single out the poor VO rack? Just because it's beautiful? FYI, with at least 3 Tubus racks I can think of, these panniers would still cause heel strike on this bike. And those racks are utilitarian as hell. Again, try riding a roadbike with a standard (not oversized) rack of your choice and 40cm Basil panniers and let me know how it goes.

    I guess what doesn't make sense to me, is why you are focusing on criticising the VO rack specifically, instead of all racks without extra setback or extra length. The VO rack can fit most touring panniers without heelstrike just like those other racks. Doesn't that make it all the cooler, for being so small and elegant yet fitting the same bags?..

    Jim - It's a nice rack, but for this particular bike I prefer the one I've got. The small size has a number of positive aspects to it. I guess I ought to write a review!

  61. I realize I'm coming late to the discussion but has the Canvas Utility Pannier by Minnehaha bags been discussed? I'm looking around trying to fit a Nitto r-15 with bags and came across these. Were they olive I would try them. As far as your particular concerns... They are slender, tapered have what looks to me to be fairly versatile mounting hardware, rigid back and bottom, strap handle. Might work. Velo-Orange carries them so they should be able to comment on the Rack/mixte compatibility issue. Hope this helps. Cheers.

  62. BrotherTrucker said...
    "...Were they olive I would try them."

    same here!


  64. sjb and Anon - The philosophy bags look great. I contacted them a few days ago with some questions (I want to know more about the mounting system), but haven't heard back. They must be still in Austin post-NAHBS.

  65. Hi, Velouria -

    I recently purchased a Basil shopper for my wife's 2009 Raleigh Roadster (btw - a screaming deal of a modern/classic step through - less than $400 in our case - which you might want to consider for your "budget" category. I wanted to get her the VO rack, but ended up with this one instead:

    I know the VO rack is designed to provide the same central position as a longer rack, but what I've observed is that you can mount the Basil Shopper with one clip forward of the rearmost curved crossbar, and one "aft" of it, giving you a some more clearance. Not sure if I'm describing that clearly and of course you don't want to lose that cool rack. Just a thought.

  66. I have been on a similar pursuit lately. Has anyone seen the Knog Dutch Dog? It seems like it's new and from the same company that makes those gummy lights. It's pretty much the bag I would make if I got a custom pannier made. It's saddle bags and a backpack combined. That way, you don't have to worry about mounting hardware. Pretty neat. Thoughts?

  67. Velouria,

    I don't know if you're still searching for a pannier artisan. I'll be more than glad to work with you in creating a set of custom panniers for your mixte bicycle. I own a mixte myself. My leather panniers are made for 17" laptops, but I can create a smaller custom design that works for you (and your short chainstay mixte!)

    Get in touch! :)

  68. I have a set of olive Ironweed panniers... very nice for the price, indeed!

  69. Interesting post.

    I am looking around for some panniers to replace mine, as I wanted something a bit bigger for my shopping, but the choice is really limited (here in England)! I'm surprised. I have never actually bought panniers before, having always gone for the old army surplus leather/canvas bag option, so I didn't know. I don't really want a polyester modern miracle thing urk.

  70. I've a similar problem with heel strike on my Claude Butler Majestic, fitted with some big panniers from Decathlon. My temporary work-around is to have stuffed a couple of polystyrene blocks under material that sits on top of the rack, making the panniers 'point' upwards and backwards. Very Heath-Robinson, but it works! I've also been looking for a 'high' front carrier so I can use another lightweight bag(it sits on the rack centrally but has drop down 'pannier bags' for extra capacity when needed) I have, but without success! I think I will have a go at making my own after reading an article about a guy who did just that, using stainless steel!

  71. I've been trying to find a classic looking pannier for a while. These are some beautiful satchel style panniers from Carradine and Ally Capellino.

    There also seems to be something similar in the UK Evans store


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