I have no idea if anyone has run out and made panniers based on my tutorial, but I wanted to share some thoughts now that I’ve been using my oilcloth pannier for a couple weeks. Hopefully this helps anyone who might want to tackle this project in the future.
(I’ve updated the original post to reflect these observations.)
The first few rides with the pannier were odd, but mostly because I’d never used one before. I was actually late out of the house the first day because I spent an extra 5 minutes trying to figure out what I was forgetting before realizing that thing was my backpack, and that I could leave without it.
Once I got used to how the bike handled, however, I relished the sense of freedom I got from not being tied down with a backpack. It made it easier to check behind me, it made my shoulders and lady bits less sore. Overall, I’m hooked.
There are things I love, things I could have done differently, and one thing that went very, sadly wrong. But overall I’m thrilled with how this pannier turned out, and I’m already scheming about new oilcloth projects for the bike. Stay tuned.
What I love about this design:
I’m really glad I added the “laptop sleeve” pocket. It’s great for tucking in all the notebooks, papers, books, etc. which I always cart around with me. I’ve yet to put my laptop in it yet, since I’m just generally super paranoid about it.
Organization overall is nice, since the front pockets are really helpful for smaller stuff in the main compartment, and the front zipper pouch is awesome for things you need on your ride (it’s hard to get into the main compartment when the handles are Velcroed shut.
I’m really glad I put D rings on the side for attach a shoulder strap. So crucial.
What I would do differently next time:
I’d add a key hook in the main compartment, since I lose my keys there all the time, and once I stuff it full of clothes and lunch I can’t always get to the little pockets.
Speaking of, in the future I’d the pockets higher up, rather than even with the bottom. I’d also add a slim pen/pencil pocket to help me keep track of those, as well.
I’d add a stiffener panel in front as well as the back to keep the bag from slumping and make it easier to fill when it’s sitting on the ground.
I’d also add a little place to attach a light in the back. One of my brightest rear lights attaches to my backpack, and now I feel a bit underlit without it. It can hook onto the D ring there, but it flops around a lot.
The attachment hooks are awkward, but doable. I’m not actually sure what I’d do differently with these, since they work just admirably once they’re attached to the bike, but they’re difficult to attach in the first place. I finally figured out that if you rest your bag perpendicularly on the rack with the straps dangling through the rack, it’s easy enough to hook them.
So awkward to attach it this way!
But trying to hold your bag in an upright position whilst simultaneously fastening the hooks requires three hands minimum. Here are photos, hope that explains what I’m talking about.
Lower the straps in with the pannier held perpendicularly.
Rest the pannier on your rack--now it should be easy to attach the straps.
And you're good to go!
One major thing I learned is that oilcloth isn’t really so tough. After about 10 trips, my pannier had ripped where the straps connect to the back piece. Grrr. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened if I had secured the straps through all layers, including the stiffener piece, though I can’t say for certain at this point.
I’ve fixed mine by wiring it through all layers, and it seems really solid now. I’ve thought about reinforcing the back piece by stitching a strap that travels from one side to the other horizontally over the point where the straps attach, thus spreading out the area that’s affected, but I’d love suggestions if anyone has them.
Go forth and experiment!