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Bontrager's MIK Commuter Double Pannier is a set of two conjoined pannier bags with integrated MIK mount to securely attach it to compatible MIK rear racks. It's well made, smart, subtle and very functional, but it's arguable whether the MIK system is a security benefit or a practicality hindrance.
At their core, there's very little to complain about with the MIK Double Commuters. With a combined capacity of 36 litres, they are more than big enough for the commute and will even handle a decent sized shop.
They are very nicely made and feel particularly sturdy, with both outer clipped Cordura-style hooded closure flaps and then a Basil Miles roll-top-and-click waterproof section underneath that.
On-the-bike performance is very good. Stability is perfect and waterproofing is good. These are quite big bags so carrying potential is excellent although, if your rear triangle is on the compact side, it would be well worth fitting and testing before buying.
In terms of details, there are subtle but sufficient reflective elements in the piping and Bontrager branding; rubber bumpers protect the bottom of each bag; relatively small elasticated side pockets will handle a bottle; and there's a top handle for carrying off the bike, beneath which you'll find the rigid presence of the MIK mounting system.
And here's where we start to find some criticism.
I'll start with the good. The MIK mount does provide for a nice positive and secure mounting system where you won't have to worry about the bags shifting on the rack. However, the MIK system is also marketed as a theft deterrent and I'm not sure that stands up to particular scrutiny.
When I first got the bags, without looking at the instructions or marketing blurb, I played with the MIK system by clicking the bags into place onto a compatible MIK rack and then removing them. I thought the removal method for it seemed a little bit unsophisticated, requiring the remover to reach underneath the rack slightly to push the clicking mechanism out of the way. I didn't realise I wasn't following whatever rules the MIK system inventors think thieves work by.
Officially, Bontrager provides a little sprung-loaded MIK key or 'stick' that you are supposed to push into a slot at the end of the bags' mounting plate to allow removal.
It's slightly more sophisticated than reaching underneath and pushing the clip out of the way manually, but not much. As I'd inadvertently discovered, it's also all but worthless as a security measure if horny handed oafs like me can remove the bags almost as easily without it. I've seen the kinds of people who steal bikes and things from bikes, and I don't think MIK will be the technology that causes them to readdress their life choices.
Additionally, in the case of the MIK key, the idea that you're going to keep another chunky but still eminently losable bit of kit with you seems like an extra annoyance you don't need.
Bontrager has an answer for this, though – the website says: 'We recommend storing the key securely in the bag during transport.' I kid you not. I'm pretty sure the first message taught in 'Security 101' is to not keep your keys close to the thing they unlock. With Bontrager's suggestion, even if thieves do find the MIK locking-on method overwhelms their tiny minds – unlikely, as I overcame it without consciously even trying – there's always the chance they might find the key that will make their lives easier as they rifle through your stuff. Although, to be fair, if they can't work out how to remove the bags without it, I doubt they'll work out what the key is for – I initially thought it was a handy screwdriver to take off the MIK plate.
In my opinion, then, the MIK system should be promoted as only a mounting method to keep the bag stable, not as a security measure.
I'm not a huge fan of the lower fixing system, either. While other pannier bag manufacturers use hooks of one form or another to keep their products from bouncing around near the dropout, here Bontrager resorts to cheap-feeling Velcro straps.
Finally, my last criticism is external pockets, or lack thereof. The two elasticated side pockets might be all right for a bottle, but even then they're not very deep. I would really like to see at least one zipped external pocket – perhaps on the outer closure flaps – for keys, wallets, multi-tool, phone, and so on.
In the value stakes, the MIK version of Bontrager's Commuter Double Pannier has some stiff competition. In fact, you don't have to look hard to find a very similar set of conjoined bags at a lower price: Bontrager's own Town Double Pannier comes in at £54.99. It doesn't feature a MIK mount (although it can accept one), the capacity is about half at 17 litres, and it uses rain covers (included) rather than inherent rainproofing. But it looks smart and is certainly good enough for less demanding duties.
From other brands, there is the Oxford Aqua V32 Double Pannier Bag, which our very own Lara thought was fantastic; it's sturdy, waterproof, has a total 32l capacity and costs £54.99. Or if you want the added option of using two separate rear panniers, the dhb Waterproof Panniers are capacious at 22l each, smart, waterproof and cost £34.99 for one. In that company, Bontrager's MIK Commuter Double Pannier looks a bit expensive.
For all its good qualities, in my opinion it's the element that Bontrager has added to the Commuter Double to provide 'added value' – MIK technology – that most drastically affects the overall impression. As a security aid, it is not very effective, and even if it did work as intended it means you'd also have to find somewhere to store that rather inconvenient unlocking key. The MIK mounting plate also makes the overall product heavier, costlier and less easy to wield and store off the bike as well.
That's a shame, because as basic, large, waterproof conjoined pannier bags, these are actually very smart, sturdy, capacious and well made.
Fine as a straightforward conjoined pannier bag system, but the extra MIK feature provides less than it promises
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager MIK Commuter Double Pannier
Size tested: 34 litre
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?
This is a conjoined double pannier bag, aimed at commuters and shoppers although with enough capacity for light touring duties. Bontrager says: "A versatile double pannier packed with features that securely mounts to compatible MIK racks." I'm not entirely sure I'd agree with the "packed with features" statement: each side has one large compartment, a rear elasticated pocket, and that's about it. Bontrager also says: "MIK racks and bags feature a keyed installation system that locks your bags to your rack to prevent theft but still makes it easy to remove them when you need to." Hmmm.....
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Interior roll-top-and-clip closure
External flap-and-clip closure
Reflective piping and branding
36 litre capacity
Hard to fault Bontrager on construction – these are sturdy and well made. The only negative is the Velcro lower retaining strap – rather low-rent in comparison to the rest of the bag.
Excellent on-bike performance – remained stable and secure, and carrying capacity is very impressive. Waterproofing is excellent, too.
There's a little rubber bumper on the bottom of each bag to protect them when placed on the ground, which should help with durability. Otherwise, the excellent build quality means they look likely to stand up to daily use.
About right for the product. Even lighter if you get rid of the MIK mount.
The Oxford Aqua V32 Double Pannier Bag only costs £54.99. Two separate dhb Waterproof Panniers offer a combined 44l and cost £69.98. Bontrager also has its own Town Double Pannier at £54.99, although this is only 17l and uses a supplied rain cover for waterproofing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In use, the Commuter Double Pannier is actually very good. However, I was unimpressed by the MIK mounting system – it holds the bags securely but at an unnecessary cost in terms of price and weight, and its security benefit is negligible at best.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Carrying capacity and waterproofing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? To some extent.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
As basic bike luggage, the Bontrager Commuter Double Pannier is really pretty good. It's sturdy, smart and waterproof – and it'll carry a lot. However, it's missing a couple of features, such as an external zipped pocket or two, and a better lower retaining system. If you then factor in the relative cost in terms of weight and price of the MIK system, and its questionable benefits, then the product starts to lose even more points. Ironically, had Bontrager offered less and not fitted a MIK system, it would get a better score.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure