I bike commute nearly 30 miles on most weekdays—and I hate wearing a backpack while I do it. Wearing one turns my back into a sweaty mess, obscures my high-visibility jacket or jersey, and can sometimes restrict circulation to tingling fingertips.
So I instead have a rear bike rack and ride with a pannier that carries my work clothes, bike lock, plus whatever other stuff I need to put it in there (loaves of fresh bread from my favorite en route bakery, goods from the farmers market, essentials from the beer store, etc.). I also ride year-round, so I need extra space for cold-weather clothing as well.
And because I’m loading and unloading on a daily basis, I also prefer not to routinely futz with roll tops or other funky time-consuming closure systems. I also don’t want to spend more than $100 for a bike pannier, which you can easily do. So I ride with an open-top set-up, often called a shopping or grocery pannier.
Turns out, though, that good ones are surprisingly hard to find.
For several years, I rode with an older version of REI’s Round Town Single Bike Pannier. It performed extremely well, but eventually started to wear out. And when I went to replace it with an updated version, the cheap attachment clips broke within three months. And now they’ve stopped making it.
I also tried the Banjo Brothers Grocery Bag Pannier, but found it’s elastic and metal-clip attachment system irritating and prone to coming loose, plus the metal snaps for folding it up and securing it rusted out. I also considered the Bushwhacker Omaha Grocery Panniers, but disliked the mesh sides—too prone to spray and wear and tear.
And then I finally stumbled on the Cannondale Quick City Shopper Bicycle Pannier. It’s capacious. It’s simple. It has no metal parts to rust. And it’s inexpensive (under $50). Features include a drawstring closure on the top that helps keep out grit and spray (though it’s definitely not waterproof); attachment clips for the bike rack that are strong and secure (though a bit challenging if you need to take it on and off regularly); and a strap that runs over the top of the bag and clips to the side to keep the pannier tight and snug (or all the way folded up).
Now the bad news. It looks like Cannondale is no longer making it, which means that to get one you’ll need to act fast and order one via eBay (here’s a current listing) or an online retailer that still carries it. After years of bike commuting and fruitless pannier hunting, I recommend making the effort and getting one before they’re all gone for good.