Updated for Summer 2021!
I had a hilarious conversation by the bike racks at the farmers market this weekend. A woman and her family had just ridden up, and we started chatting about my Sahn helmet (but have you seen my new bike helmet that looks like a hat??), the merits of no holes in your helmet (ventilation v style and not getting rained on). She noticed my Linus pannier bag and was amazed to see a such a nice-looking bag be a pannier, and not look like a WATERPROOF RACING CYCLIST kind of bag.
I admit I have spent maybe more hours than would be strictly healthy searching out bike gear that does not look like Bike Gear, if you know what I mean. In my moments sweating up a major hill, then walking up the rest of the hill, then stopping at the top texting my husband about how I think I might throw up or something, but trying to look nonchalantly busy with an important message from a cool person about some pop-up supper club, I am deeply embarrassed about my obsession with nice-looking gear.
But then I think – what, I can’t have anything nice until I can do the Tour de France? Forget that. If I’m going to suffer trying to get up these damn hills, I’m going to have a nice jacket/pannier bag/bike basket while I do it. *stamps foot*
So now that we’re all on the same page, let’s look at some pretty pictures of nice, functional panniers that don’t look like scuba gear.
The aforementioned Linus’s The Sac. I’ve been using this one for about a month and I really like it. Fits my 13” Macbook in a sleeve while still being able to close with the powerful magnets at the top. I’ve also fit a 1lb bag of kale, a bunch of radishes, a small bag of nugget potatoes, my wallet, my make-up bag, and a package of smoked salmon. So you know, it’s flexible. Small ring and padlock included should you want to secure it to your bike.
New Swedish brand Weathergoods makes some sleek vegan leather options that look like a proper work bag, but hides secure pannier clips for your bike’s rear rack. Not only that, but the insides show the same attention to detail, with secure laptop sleeve and small pockets for phone, keys and other bits. Not surprising considering it was designed by two cycle commuting Swedish women. Vegan leather is not a cop-out here, but a great design choice, because if you’ve cycled in the rain a few times, you know your bags get absolutely soaked. You don’t want a nice leather bag going through that.
Dutch bike accessories brand Basil is a great place to start when it comes to beautiful baskets and bags. Their bike pannier options are excellent. This Wanderlust Carry All comes with pannier hooks under a zippered flap, and loads of space inside, with some compartments to keep your small bits contained. It’s water-resistant too. I love this dark bird floral version.
I have a beautiful old pannier basket from Bobbin that I love, so I’m thrilled to see this gorgeous sac with handles model on their site. The Daytripper pannier comes in mustard, black, bright blue, and this candy-apple red. There are two hooks on the back to hang on your rear rack, as well as a detachable shoulder strap. This water-resistant cotton bag has that nice outer pocket you can see in the photo, as well as a little pocket inside and a roomy main compartment.
Dutch brand New Looxs makes cute, slightly sporty but quite affordable bike panniers. I love this nautical blue stripe double pannier. Rain-resistant polyester won’t hold up for mega downpours, but your stuff is safe from a shower or two. I like the rear reflective strips and the quick clip closures. Because these panniers are quite a bit cheaper than some of the other ones on this list, it would be quite fun to have these around for beach trips or picnics. There’s a single shoulder bag of the same jaunty blue stripe if you’re looking for something a bit less cargo-centric. Super cute.
If you’re looking for more storage capacity and the ability to attach panniers around a child seat, this double-bag from Basil is an excellent budget option. It’s got a 35L capacity, reflective bits to make you more visible in the dark, and a closure that allows you to lock your panniers to your bike. I love that these are so roomy, but also actually beautiful. That’s a bit of a Cinderella pannier, I have to say!
This Willex shopper can hold a whopping 13 litres of stuff, and is really, properly waterproof. It has four little knobbly feet on it, and it’s built to stay stiff, so you can set it on the ground and it won’t slump over into a puddle. Belgian brand Willex have their own special locking system which means you can be sure it’s not coming off your rear bike rack accidentally. The pattern isn’t my absolute favourite, and the other two colourways are butterflies which is really not my deal, but it looks like a very solid, practical shopper for a very reasonable price.
Image courtesy of Bike Belle
I have a deep love of satchels, and Bike Belle doesn’t disappoint with this red and white canvas version. Water-repellant canvas with leather trim, this retro beauty has a zippered flap that covers the pannier hooks when you take it off your bike, so you won’t catch it on your clothing. It also comes in cherry red. There’s a shoulder strap tucked in there too.
Tourbon is a brand I hadn’t seen before, but I like their waterproof canvas bags. They do a nice over the rear rack double bag for a reasonable price. They roll up when not in use to save space, and you can detach one and bring it with you as a shoulder bag.
A friend on Twitter directed me to these handy and very affordable Cobags. Made of recycled material, these shopping bags roll down small, allowing you to tuck them away. Take one with you to the shops and then when it’s full of stuff, just hang it off your rear rack to safely transport your shopping home. Some of them are veering to the black rubber sport bag territory, but there are also some nice patterns, and even a shiny black patent version.
Have you found a beautiful bike pannier? Please do share.
This post was originally written in 2018, updated in August 2020, February 2021