Oct 16 2010

Hanging Tight With Axiom’s Champlain Rear Panniers

I’ve had a few weeks now to get to know my new Axiom Champlain panniers, and I’m happy to say that familiarity hasn’t bred contempt. In fact, I’m impressed. The Champlains retail for just under USD100, and while that’s not cheap, many “trophy” panniers go for two or three times as much. Better yet, Axiom’s workmanship leaves nothing to be desired, and the panniers themselves are well appointed. I’ve already written up my initial impressions, so today I’ll be subjecting the Champlain’s mounting hardware to a close inspection. First, though, here’s a look at both sides of the subject:

Axiom Champlain Panniers Front and Back

Mounting bicycle panniers isn’t rocket science. The requirements are pretty straightforward, if somewhat contradictory. Panniers should be easy to mount 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 they’re lightly loaded or filled to bursting.

And now for the good news: The Champlains deliver the goods under all conditions.

Axiom Champlain Suspension System

Each pannier hangs from a pair of plastic-coated metal hooks that clasp the outer rail of your rear rack, while a third hook, suspended from the bight of a sturdy bungee cord, clips to the post or ring at the bottom of the rack, thereby providing the necessary counterforce tension to keep the pannier in place. A rotating “Posi-Lock” (it’s the rectangular object between the two upper hooks) provides a second line of defense, insuring that you and your panniers won’t part company unexpectedly on some rutted gravel road:

Axiom Champlain Posi-Lock

And if the Posi-Lock doesn’t do the job out of the box — rear racks vary tremendously in their architecture — you can easily alter its 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. In the unlikely event that any part of the mounting systems fails, all the hardware is easily replaced. Moreover, the panniers come with a selection of spare parts, including fasteners, washers, an extra rack hook, and a spare Posi-Lock. I’m mightily impressed. I can’t think of many other companies that provide such a comprehensive repair kit with their products. Replacing the 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 in your road repair kit already.

Locked in Place

OK. How do the Champlains perform? In a word: Well. In two words: Very well. 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. I couldn’t ask for more.

Axiom Champlain Panniers

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