May 2021 UPDATE: I ordered the panniers and had them sent to my sister’s in the Netherlands with the aim to pick them up in spring 2020. But then COVID hit and they are still sitting at my sister’s. It looks like I will not be able to pick them up until spring 2022 (!), so I ended up buying one pannier from MEC for not too much (zipper, no roll top). Orange no less, matching my bike!
I am looking for a pannier to use on my trips through Ottawa. I have been using the cheapies, but eventually the bottom starts to deteriorate, netting starts to fall apart and hooks start to come off. The current one’s back is sometimes touching on the spokes, when it is loaded with groceries. As a good pannier is really only as expensive as a tank of gas for your black Ford 150, I figured I should upgrade my material a bit.
I looked at some different suppliers, one of them Ortlieb, a well known German pannier brand. I also looked at some US websites and of course our own Bushtukah, MEC and Arkel, a high end Quebec brand.
Unfortunately, the more I read the harder it becomes to take a decision. I really only need one pannier bag, but if I take two, will it be cheaper per pannier? Do I need weatherproof, waterproof or water resistant? How often do I really ride in the pouring rain? Rarely, come to think about it. Should I order in Germany but what is the shipping cost? Are the import duties really gone since the introduction of CETA? It is not always clear from the online imaging how the inside pockets are organised. O, and then the colours….
A few years ago, before CETA (the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada), I was slammed with 70 dollars in import duties for a $120 purchase of two wheels in Germany. I protested this and got more than half my money back by explaining that the invoice was really only $120. The box had been opened and some custom officers must have thought that it was worth a lot more, starting an unneccesary process. The process was very cumbersome, involving sending documents by mail and then again more documents by mail. In fact, all correspondence was by mail. It feels like it was designed to discourage Canadians to appeal customs. In theory, virtually all cycling stuff from Europe should now be charge 0% import duties
Bike Ottawa discount
Ortlieb definitely stands out, but the pannier I eyed is not available everywhere. The MEC pannier looks like a good buy, with its clip-on for bike lights and pockets, but the reviews are mixed and MEC doesn’t give a 10% discount to Bike Ottawa members (Bushtukah does, but doesn’t have a great selection). I looked at Amazon, which offers the Ortlieb pannier for outrageous prices.
Go to Europe instead?
Or should I just wait until I am in Europe next year and buy something locally and bring it home? That requires even more research, and I should really limit the options somewhat.
Pannier screen shots
Here are a few screen shots. One take away is clearly that one should definitely not ask Alexa to send you an Ortlieb pannier. I might go to the MEC store after the holiday season to check out the bags because I feel like I want to actually touch and feel before I buy. But MEC has suppliers in the weapons industry, so do I want to research the weapons industry and read up on the Koch brothers before I buy a pannier? Ortlieb has a PVC free pannier now, which opens a whole new can of environmentally conscious worms.
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