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The Specialized/Fjällräven Coolcave Pannier is a pannier box that attaches to your bike and enables you to take any bag with you, provided it fits inside its 20-litre capacity. It's well built, fits securely and looks great. But it doesn't come with a waterproof cover and it's a bit weighty.
One of the most interesting pieces in the recently launched Specialized/Fjällräven (S/F) luggage collaboration is the Coolcave: a rigid plastic pannier box capable of carrying up to 20 litres of luggage. You can mount the Coolcave to any pannier rack, as far as I can tell, and it's attaches via two KlickFix mountings that you can adjust to suit.
It also has an adjustable hook to prevent lateral movement. It comes in several colours, including Ochre, Ox Red, Green and Navy.
It's an interesting concept: because the Coolcave is essentially an open box, it'll house any bag you like – provided it fits. S/F sells several bags that are specifically designed to work with the Coolcave, including the Cave Pack, Cave Tote and Cave Drybag. These are fairly expensive options, so you might just prefer to use your own bag.
S/F also sells the Cave Lid Pack, a fabric lid that attaches to the top of the Coolcave, and keeps everything inside in place, as well as protecting the contents from the elements. It has a handy six litres of storage in its zippered compartment, and you can also remove it and use it as a sling bag on or off the bike.
Again, this is a pricey option, and one I feel should have come with the Coolcave in the first place. Thankfully, you do at least get a bungee strap included, which keeps things held in place if you have several loose items inside the pannier.
If you're wondering why you'd bother with the Coolcave and accompanying bag over a regular pannier? The main benefit is being able to take your backpack, tote or whatever with you when you get off, and leave the pannier on the bike. I've carried panniers in the city before, and they aren't comfortable to wear over your shoulder for any length of time.
The only downside I can see with the idea is if you do leave the Coolcave on your bike, there's always the risk someone might take a fancy to it and take it off your bike. Because I thought of this in advance, I always locked it to the bike with a Hiplok Z LOK, which does the job without getting in the way of whatever you're placing inside.
If you're really worried about where you're leaving it, you can always remove the Coolcave, although I found it took some effort to disengage the KlickFix mountings, which seemed to be quite stiff, and the plastic handle built into the box is uncomfortable to hold onto for longer than a minute or so.
If you do leave it in place, and the heavens open, you can rest assured you won't come back to a bucket full of water thanks to the drainage hole in the bottom of the Coolcave. You'll have to remember to remove the rubber bung first, though.
The other benefit of using the Coolcave is that your bag gets some protection from standing water, as well as general road grime, although as mentioned you won't get any protection from the elements unless you use the Cave Lid Pack.
In use the Coolcave feels very sturdy and there's no obvious movement – provided you strap the contents down securely. Though it's quite weighty, and obviously even more so when you add stuff inside, I didn't find this a problem once on the move.
It also looks very smart (especially on a city/commuter-style bike) and feels like it's an integrated part of the bike rather than tacked on. The only possible downside I found is that it sticks out a little more than a regular pannier, though I never managed to come into contact with anything.
At £70, the Coolcave feels a bit expensive when you consider you're not getting any kind of bag included with the price tag. Then again, it's a well-built box with good fixtures (if a little fiddly to remove), and you can either use it as is and just chuck your things in it, and/or use your existing backpack.
Interestingly, Specialized sells the exact same thing on its website, minus the Fjällräven link, for £25 less. It's only available in black, though.
Dave reviewed Ortlieb's Downtown 2 GL3.1 pannier, which seems like a decent alternative to the Coolcave, simply down to the fact that it's designed to look good and feel a bit more normal off the bike. That said, the back section doesn't look like it'd be hugely comfortable against your back. There's also the small matter of the £145 price tag...
Lara rated the Altura Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier highly when she reviewed it. This offers the same storage capacity as the Coolcave and is also fully waterproof, and though it's not particularly cheap at £100, you can find it for much less.
The Coolcave is definitely a good idea for those who are tired of lugging heavy panniers around, and I like the flexibility it offers – allowing you to take your backpack when you need luggage off the bike, or of just using it as a sort of glorified shopping basket. The optional S/F bags do add significantly to the cost, but obviously you can use your own bag. You might also want to consider locking the box to your bike if you're worried about theft.
A neat alternative to a regular pannier, allowing for greater flexibility and better comfort off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized/Fjällräven Coolcave Pannier
Size tested: One Size
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
S/F says: "20-litre open pannier in rigid plastic. Perfect for carrying everyday essentials, purchases or camping gear on bike commutes or trips in the countryside. Easy to clip on and off so you can take the pannier and its contents with you. Adjustable KlickFix mountings allow for secure attachment on most bike racks. Openings for gear straps and compatible with the S/F Cave Lid Pack (art.no. 23230). Part of the Fjällräven/Specialized series for urban rides and bikepacking adventures."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: 100% polypropylene
Volume: 17 litres
Solid and well built.
Very stable and secure while riding – easy to add luggage, and the webbing strap keeps everything locked down. The KlickFix system is a bit stiff to disengage, but I tended to keep the box on the bike all the time.
Seems to be holding up fine so far, though I've managed to scratch it a few times.
It's pretty heavy. When you factor in your luggage, you're adding quite a bit of weight to your bike.
The plastic handle is a bit uncomfortable to hold onto.
It's not cheap, given that you're 'only' getting a box. But then again, you can use it as is, or just use one of your existing bags to fit inside.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It mounted securely to my bike and held luggage without any issues. It's not the easiest to remove in a rush, however,
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Its flexibility to store different types of luggage.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The stiff KlickFix system.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Although it's not cheap, it's actually pretty decent value if you have your own bag. The Ortlieb's Downtown 2 GL3.1 pannier looks great, but it's much more expensive, and doesn't look that comfortable. Alternatively, the more conventional Altura Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier works well, but again it's not that cheap.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall the Coolcave works really well and I really like the concept - I hate carrying regular panniers, and much prefer to use a backpack. The Coolcave allows you to use your own bag, although S/F offers plenty of decent options – though they are a bit expensive. The only issue is the KlickFix system, and the risk of theft.
About the tester
I usually ride: Condor Italia RC custom build My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,