Nashbar Garment Bag Pannier
I bought this garment bag pannier in October of 2008 when I decided that I wanted to commute by bike to work instead of taking the bus. I’ve been using it now for about . year and a half and figured it’d be useful to put a review out onto the interwebs. It’s gotten a good amount of use: I’d guess that at a rate of about 4 days per week for about a year and a half, that’s about 280 uses. With a relatively short 6-mile round-trip commute, that’s about 1680 miles of use.
This bag was the cheapest one that I could find at the time. I saw it at nashbar.com and also in-store at performance bike. They’re basically the same product. The only difference is that the performance bag has the “Trans-it” logo sewn on.
Loading the bag on your rack
Loading the bag is a little tough. The hooks are metal, covered with a soft vinyl-like plastic. this plastic wears away pretty quickly and you’ll end up scratching up your rack. this isn’t too big of a deal, but the hooks definitely aren’t as nice as, say an Ortlieb pannier with the quick release system and a more secure mounting.
The pannier is secured to the bottom of your rack with a stretchy elastic cord and another set of plastic-coated metal hooks. I’ve found that the plastic on these hooks wears away pretty quickly as well. You can also really hurt yourself with these. the elastic cord can generate a lot of tension, and if these hooks go flying when you unlatch them from the bottom of your rack, you can cut your fingers or hand. It’s happened to me a couple of times. The hooks also get caught on just about everything when you remove the bag. These hooks can also fall off of the elastic cord and get lost (see the photo below.)
There’s a hole in the hard plastic for stowing the hooks, but it doesn’t work so well in practice for me. This hole is higher than where I attach the bottom hooks to my bike rack and there isn’t enough tension in the elastic cord to keep the hooks engaged.
There are two more clips that secure the bag even more on the front of the bag and the rear of the bag. I’ve found that they’re very helpful in securing the bag.
On the bike:
Nashbar garment bag: on the bike, rear view
Riding with the bag is usually not bad at all. It’s well balanced (in a side-to-side sense – the bike+bag is of course top-heavy, so it’s hard to keep upright when you’re not riding) because it covers both sides of the rack. I had a lot of problems when I first started using the bag with parts of the bag rubbing against the tire. One time, one of the hooks came off and got caught on a spoke. after a couple of revolutions, it locked up my rear wheel and my bike skidded to a stop. scary.
There’s hard plastic on the insides of the bag (facing either side of the rear tire when mounted) . This seems to help prevent water and grit from soaking the inside of your bag when it’s raining. It also serves as abrasion protection if somehow the inside of your bag rubs against your tire. tire rub is of course rack-dependent.
I have to make sure that I place the bag far enough back on the rack so that the clasp doesn’t rub against the back of the rear tire. This also helps prevent your heel from hitting the bag when you pedal.
the two clips prevent the sides of the bag from bouncing around too much if you hit a bump. the back clip’s gotten a little frayed from rubbing against the rear wheel from times when I’ve been sloppy in placing the bag onto the rack.
The bag has two reflective strips on the back side.. There’s also reflective piping around the side and top pockets. I’m not sure how visible it is, but I think it is a good thing to have. I put a makeshift tail light into the carrying handle on the top of the bag. it seems to work.
Sometimes unloading the bag is a breeze – you just unhook the bottom hooks and pull straight up. Sometimes it sucks a lot – the hooks can stubbornly attach themselves to your back rack (I mentioned getting cut on them above!) and then they can catch onto just about EVERY part of your back rack as you lift the bag from the rack.
The fact that this bag is attached to both sides of your rack makes it a little harder remove the bag. If you’re using just a regular (single sided) pannier, you can lean the opposite side of your bike against something. that doesn’t work so well in this case.
Carrying it while walking:
The bag’s generally pretty heavy and bulky when loaded, so it sucks a bit to carry while walking. I bought a Crumpler velcro shoulder pad (item SP01A) to help distribute the load in a more comfortable way.
It’s kind of big, so it might bump against your legs as you walk as any other bag this size would.
How does the bag carry your clothes?
I’m pretty happy with how the bag carries your clothes. Typically, I can fit in a shirt, slacks and shoes into the bag. It’s a bit smaller than other garment bags I’ve used (but of course, those bags don’t mount onto your bike..) so there’s a bit of folding that you have to do to get your pants and shirt to fit. My shirts get to work with a couple of wrinkles, but it’s not nearly bad enough for me to care.
There are two side pockets on the outside of the bag, each with a smaller separate compartment for fitting even more stuff.. Each side pocket can fit about 3 bottles of beer. (though if you do choose to load your pockets this way, your bag will be considerably harder to carry) There’s also a pocket on top that I probably underutilize.
If you’ve got clothes already in your bag, there’s not too much more carrying capacity. I typically have tools and a bike lock in one side pocket and lunch or other miscellany on the other side pocket. You can stuff more things into the main compartment, but after a certain point, it gets hard to fold the bag over onto your rack.
In the rain:
The bag’s not bad in the rain. Some parts of the bag have a waterproof inner coating, but other parts (especially near the zipper of the main compartment) don’t. In mild rain, nothing inside gets wet. When it’s raining heavily, though, I can expect parts of my shirt and pants to get wet. Overall, it’s decent.
General comments on build quality:
The bag feels kind of cheap. I think the mounting system kind of sucks. I’ve used other nashbar bags that use the same mounting system, and I dislike those as well. I’ve found that you can use a carabiner or something similar (google search: “oval screw link”. in place of the bottom hooks. this prevents injury and also doesn’t catch on as much as you remove the bag. I haven’t “upgraded” my bag yet, but I really should.
As of today, the bag is selling for $59.99 at nashbar.com. It’s performance bike equivalent is $99.99. That’s $40 extra for the “Trans-it” brand (which in my mind doesn’t hold much equity).. I think I paid $79.99 for it in 2008. It was an okay deal for what I paid, probably a good deal for $59.99 despite its shortcomings. It’s significantly cheaper than similar products:
- Knog Neat Dog Rackless pannier (about $140 according to google shopping, and it gets kind of bad reviews)
- Two Wheel Gear Bag ($150 on their website, www.twowheelgear.com, not sure how well-received it is)