As of two days ago, I am the proud owner of a bicycle panier rack and bag.
This is a huge upgrade from the bag I lug around to work, back and everywhere in between. Mostly it means that I won’t have to carry the weight of books, food and rain gear on my back. Unfortunately, the absence of said bag means that on hot days my inevitable back sweat will be visible to all that share the road- sorry fellow commuters.
Having the rack installed on my bike was not an easy feat. I arrived at MEC at 7pm and I picked out a panier rack and basket. Why bother getting fancy when all you really need is a basket and some bungee cords to carry around your valuables? When I brought my bike and purchases to the MEC bike shop, I was kindly informed that my bike was a strange model and would not fit the standard bike basket. No problem- i’ll take the regular rack and I will splurge and buy the accompanying bag. The in-house mechanic advised that I should be back in 20 minutes.
At 9pm I was finally prepared to pay and leave. As it turns out, my velo is a strange model all around and it took the dedicated mechanic the entire two hours to rig up the little panier rack. To do so also required that he take off the back fender, which is barely a loss because it created some friction with the back wheel to begin with. Needless to say I was all sorts of apologetic, especially considering that the $5 I paid for labour was supposed to cover 20 minutes, not two hours. (The service was fantastic throughout the two hours, and it is one of a myriad of reasons that I would recommend MEC to all Canadian cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts.)
Two hours, $55 (including labour) and a back fender later, I had my first backpack-less ride. Speaking from experience, I highly recommend all commuter cyclists to take a load off their backs and go the way of the panier.