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Thule's Commuter pannier is part of its Pack 'n Pedal range of racks and luggage. It works best with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack, though Thule reckons it works with 'virtually any rack'.
The Thule Commuter pannier comes in left- and right-hand specific versions. Inside, there is a main compartment with a sleeve that will easily fit a 15in or 13.3in laptop and you might even cram a 17in behemoth in there.
At 19 litres claimed capacity the bag should be more spacious than the Carradice Super C A4 we reviewed a little while ago. In practice the way the Carradice bag works means you can get loads more in. With a laptop inside the Thule bag, you can just squeeze in a lunchbox on its side, whereas in the Carradice with the same laptop there's still loads of room.
The mounting system is clever. Pull the blue toggle and the hooks rotate to release the top bar of the rack. The bag is held down by a strong magnet on the rack that grabs a steel plate inside the rag. It holds the bag securely, but I found the spring-loaded hooks a bit of a fiddle, especially with the magnet engaged when the bag is not perfectly horizontal.
The hooks are mounted on a plate that rotates horizontally into the bag, leaving a flat aluminium surface with nothing to snag. The bag comes with a nicely padded messenger style shoulder strap, so it is really comfortable to carry around for longer periods of time.
Though it's designed to work best with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour rack, it comes with a little adapter that allows you to mount the magnet on racks of other makes. I tried it with a Tortec Ultralite and that worked fine. Make sure your strut diameter is compatible before you buy.
The bag has a roll top closure, held down by with a strap and buckle that is fed through a little loop near the top. This works well enough, but the metal buckle is different from what you see on most bags. Unlike the usual backpack type buckle, you can't easily open or close this one with one hand.
A small pocket that will take keys and a wallet sits underneath the strap. There's a grab handle on the top of the closure though this doesn't really work at all with the bag open.
On the outside, there is a special transparent pocket that will take a rear light. The idea is that you can be visible without needing any special brackets. It's a neat solution in theory, but I prefer proper all round visibility from the back of a rack, rather than from a pocket in a pannier which will throw more light towards the side it hangs. If you're buying a single one for UK use, make sure you get the right-hand version if you're planning on using the special rear light pocket.
There is a fine mesh pocket on the front of the pannier, handy for storing the included waterproof cover. On the rear-light-pocket side are a couple of straps with metal buckles that allow you to cinch the bag down when you're not carrying much. A neat feature, but not one I have missed on other panniers. When the bag is half-full, the strap system that holds the roll top rolled up isn't particularly effective. I would have preferred this to work better over side-compression.
You'd think a roll-top closure would indicate a completely waterproof bag, but this isn't the case, hence the waterproof cover. The pannier coped fine in mild rain without the cover, but I wouldn't trust my laptop inside in a prolonged downpour. The cover isn't attached to the bag, so it's easy to lose.
The waterproof cover also renders the rear light pocket rather useless, which is ironic as you need visibility all the more when it's raining. I think it's a shame Thule didn't just go for completely waterproof construction, seeing as they've used a waterproof closure system. Who really wants to deal with the faff of a waterproof cover?
Overall, the bag looks and feels like it's really well made. The bottom, for example, is a one piece rubberized moulding; it should be fine to put your bag down on wet surfaces. Though the bag isn't waterproof, Thule claim that the main material is weatherproof and breathable, and features built-in reflective fabric. A quick test with a torch in a dark room only really makes the logo on the front (as in visible from the side when mounted on rack) stand out.
The Thule Commuter pannier retails for a £100 (though it can be found for £90 online) for a single bag. You can buy a pair of Ortlieb front panniers for that - and they weigh the same as a single Thule pannier. Those are the penalties you do pay for all those clever design features.
The Thule Pack 'n Pedal commuter pannier is cleverly designed and very comfortable to carry off the bike. The price for that is both cost and weight.
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Make and model: Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Panier
Size tested: xx
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?
Our weatherproof bags keep your valuables safe and easily accessible. And the design of the bags makes them easy to load and use as normal bags. They also come with compression buckles to reduce size when your bag is empty.
With its unique and smart solutions, the Thule Pack 'n Pedal™ range is designed to be easy to use and practical both on and off the bike. There are no attachments scraping against your body and comfortable handles make the bags easy to carry.
Our racks can be fitted on virtually any kind of bike. And our bags to any kind of rack. But needless to say, using our racks with our own bags is the best solution. With their combined number of smart solutions, you will get the best, safest and most comfortable ride – no matter what you're bringing.
Thanks to our ground breaking patent pending pannier attachment system, attaching and removing bags to a bike rack has never been easier.
The hooks at the back of our panniers are concealed when not in use, making the bags comfortable to carry. In addition, the magnetic attachment solutions for the lower part of the bag takes away the need for plastic parts sticking out on the bag.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
o Designed to perfectly fit Thule Tour Rack.
o Fits on virtually any rack.
o Easy to mount with our patent pending vanishing hardware attachment system including magnetic connection.
o Easy to carry off the bike; no attachments sticking into you thanks to Thule's patent pending vanishing hardware.
o Weatherproof and breathable main material.
o Roll top design.
o Comfortable handle for carrying.
o Custom compression buckles allow adjustment for variety of load sizes.
o Messenger bag style shoulder strap included.
o Rain cover included.
o Smart bike light pockets lets you keep your 'blinky' with you at all times in the bag without need for extra attachments on the bike.
o Built in reflective fabric increases visibility when night riding.
o Volume: 19 l
o Weight: 1408 g
oDimensions HxWxD: 48x30x12 cm
o Materials: Non-PVC
o Warranty: 5 years
The bag has obviously been very well put together and exudes quality.
The pannier bag does what it says on the tin, though mounting it on the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour rack isn't quite as easy as the marketing blurb would have you believe.
I haven't had it long enough to see what it looks like after years of use, but I have no reason to believe it wouldn't last the distance. Having said that, I don't think it's quite as durable as an Ortlieb or a Carradice. I am a little concerned about the longevity of the rotating top attachment points - these are only as strong as the points they are rotating on.
It weighs twice as much as an Ortlieb classic front pannier. And it's designed for a rack that weighs more than other options too (see separate Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour rack review)
The design brief for this pannier was very obviously comfort on, and almost more importantly, off the bike. With the flip-away mounting hardware, the magnetic catch and the cushy shoulder strap, it's very comfortable to carry.
A single Thule commuter pannier bag retails at £100 (£90 if you shop around). This is more than a pair of Ortliebs, and twice as much as the Carradice Super C A4 pannier we reviewed recently. That makes it very expensive, but you do get some very clever design features. Up to you to decide whether that is worth paying for.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It can be a little bit of a faff to get the pannier on and off the rack, but once on behaves itself very well. The buckle closure is a bit of a faff too, and is very hard to do up one-handed. Carrying the bag off the bike is a pleasure thanks to the clever design features and the padded shoulder strap.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The features that make it so comfortable to carry it off the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It is quite heavy, and has a lot of clever features for what is essentially a fairly small pannier.
Did you enjoy using the product? I didn't not enjoy it as such, but now it's reviewed I'll go back to using my Ortlieb pannier at half the weight..
Would you consider buying the product? No. Lightweight and waterproof without a cover is much more important to me than carrying off the bike or any of the other design features.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they were spending a significant amount of time carrying the pannier off the bike, and already had the Tour rack, then yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
It is cleverly designed and comfortable to use off the bike. The price for that is both cost and weight.
Age: 36 Height: 1.78m Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,