Oct 16 2010
In the weeks since I bought a set of Axiom Champlain panniers, I’ve had a chance to get to know them a bit better. And I’m impressed. They retail for just under USD100—some “trophy” panniers cost two or three times as much!—but the workmanship leaves nothing to be desired, and the panniers themselves are feature rich. I’ve already written up my first impressions. Today, I’ll take a closer look at the Champlain’s suspension system. First, though, here’s a look at both sides:
Designing an efficient suspension system for bicycle panniers isn’t rocket science. The requirements are pretty straightforward, if somewhat contradictory. Panniers should be easy to put on the rack at the start of the day and just as easy to remove at day’s end. Yet they also have to hang tight when you’re under way, both on (and off) the road, whether lightly loaded or filled to bursting. Happily, the Champlain delivers the goods under all conditions, using the simplest of mounts:
A pair of plastic-coated metal hooks suspend the pannier from the rack rails. A third hook, hanging from the end of a sturdy bungee, clips to the post at the bottom of the rack. And—this is the crowning touch—a rotating “Posi-Lock” (it’s the rectangular object between the two upper hooks) creates a fail-safe clamp, insuring that you and your panniers won’t part company unexpectedly on some rutted gravel road:
And if the Posi-Lock doesn’t quite do the job out of the box, you can quickly alter the axis of rotation by moving the mounting bolt to one of the two other predrilled holes. Simple and good. What did I tell you?
But that’s not the last of the Champlain panniers’ virtues. All the hardware is easily replaced in the (unlikely) event of failure. Moreover, the panniers come with a selection of replacement parts, including fasteners, washers, an extra rack hook, and a spare Posi-Lock. I’m impressed. I can’t think of many other companies that provide such a comprehensive repair kit at no additional cost. Replacing parts is easy, by the way. You’ll need 3mm and 4mm Allen keys and 7mm and 8mm open-end wrenches—the smaller sizes are required for the cap screws and locknut securing the Posi-Lock toggle—but except for the 7mm open-end wrench, these are probably part of your road repair kit already.
OK. How do the Champlains perform? In a word: Well. Very well, in fact. I’ve hauled 35-pound loads over badly rutted and potholed roads with no problems. The panniers didn’t sway or bounce, yet they came off the rack in a flash at day’s end. That’s good news, of course, but I’ll be subjecting them to even more rigorous trials in the months to come. So stay tuned!