Here you find the reviews of everything that is hanging off our bicycles. Panniers, racks and cockpit gadgets.
Brooks Nederland supplied Cyril with a full set of panniers. The John O’ Groats and Lands’ End set is named after the most Northern and Southern tip of the UK, coincidentally the start and end point long-distance long distance bike touring route. The bags are made by Ortlieb but they use different material from the ubiquitous shiny and smooth Ortlieb Classic panniers: these bags have the matte texture of a woven fabric and are a bit lighter. The different material means they aren’t as rugged as the Ortlieb Classic panniers: I managed to get some holes in a front pannier while scraping my bike along a stone wall. Luckily this was the only time they sustained serious damage. Another difference is the bags closing system. Just like the Classic you roll the top to create a waterproof close, but instead of closing with plastic bits that click together you then hook metal clasps through a fabric band on the front and back side of the pannier. I really liked the simple and sturdy hook and belt setup. A great advantage is that you can use it with one hand if needed and it looks really nice. The system used to hang the panniers on the bike is the same as the Ortliebs Classic. It does the job well, but having some spare parts with you is a good idea: we ended up losing some screws and damaging some hanging clips.
Overall I liked the bags, they’re waterproof and I like the material they are made off. I would recommend them for longer tours through not so rugged terrain and if you (like me) are concerned about the looks of your touring rig and willing to fork out extra money for this.
Ortlieb panniers & handlebar bags
I don’t think Ortlieb panniers need much of an introduction. Almost every cycle tourer uses them, although many new brands are starting to pop up. Vera has the full set: black Classic front and back rollers. I’m happy with them although the hanging system could be a bit sturdier. Bolts need to be checked regularly but apart from that no complaints. The bags can take a beating without sustaining any serious damage. We both got the Ultimate 6 Pro handlebar bags. Expensive but very good. Sturdy, 100% waterproof, roomy enough for all your valuables, it snaps on and off the handlebar mount with ease and it has a very handy touch screen window at the top so you can use your phone for navigation. The touch screen doesn’t work so well in the rain and when it is sunny the phone heats up and stops working, but overall it is a very handy feature that keeps your phone safe and together with your other valuables in the bag. No need for a phone mount on the handlebar with this bag. It comes with a plastic map case that you can attach to the top so analogue map navigation is also an option. Highly recommended!
TwoTone Amsterdam supplied us with a Wahoo Elemnt bike computer that came out just before we took off. Since I am a roadie turned bike traveller, these sophisticated gadgets are normal to me, but I can imagine most tourers only want the simple odometer to counts all those kilometres so you can take that iconic 10.000km cycled picture. The Wahoo can do a lot more
First of all, there are multiple data fields that you can add to or leave out of the display. Second, you can use your smartphone to manage routes, maps and data fields without having to be connected or online all the time. I like this setup because it means the bike computer itself is quite simple. Finally it is a sturdy, simple black and white and easily readable screen without touch options uses little power, although it is, of course, another gadget that will need to be charged. It connects to GPS so there is no need for extra sensors.
We used the Elemnt mostly for recording our daily distance, to check gradients and to have an idea how far we still had to go. Having this data at your fingertips is not essential but it can help with planning stages. We didn’t use the route option as you need to have a data connection on your phone. This, together with the yet-another-gadget-to-charge, would be the only gripe: it would be very cool if we could export our offline made route (in for example Maps.me) into a .gpx file that could be read by the Elemnt. Maybe there is such an option, but I didn’t look into it that much because we used our smartphones for this.
Overall we really appreciated our little bike computer with it’s sturdiness, ease of use, adaptability and wealth of provided data. The information about distances is nice but there’s probably a lot more we could have used it for than just to record our rides, the main reason to take it along. We now have our exact route in Strava to share and look back on. That would be reason enough for me to bring it on another trip.
We both have Tubus racks. Zero complaints! Sturdy and simple, never lost a bolt on some of the teeth-clattering bumpy roads we crossed although we advise you check the bolts regularly. You might also consider thread locker to keep them in place.