Jan 25 2011
If you want to know how to keep your cycling kit dry, just ask a canoeist or kayaker. Thirty-odd years of backcountry paddling have given me plenty of practice keeping water in its place, and the mainstays of my defense against both rising and falling damp have been the heavy, roll-top bags known, logically enough, as “dry bags.” Of course, such bags would be overkill on most cycle tours, though at least one retailer sells a rucksack that doubles as a pannier with a dry bag at its heart. Be that as it may, however, I’m not too worried by the need to immersion-proof my cycling gear. Whenever I have to cross water that looks like being deeper than my bottom bracket I carry my bike or find another route. But that’s not always good enough. Water falls from the sky more often than rivers surge over their banks, after all, and a driving rain can find its way into most panniers sooner or later, even those panniers advertised as “waterproof.” And while it’s bad enough to have to wring out your spare clothes before donning them, there are worse things in store for the waterlogged cyclist: saturated sleeping bags, for example, or soggy maps.
Don’t get me wrong. Well-designed panniers—and I number my Axiom Champlains among these—should protect your gear against intermittent drizzle or the occasional road splash. But sustained, heavy rain is something else. It’s best to take precautions. Many cyclists resort to lining their panniers with trash bags, and these are better than nothing. Still, trash bags are designed for one-time use, and they’re often made of rather flimsy stuff. Some incorporate rather cloying scents, too, on the questionable premise that a New Jersey chemical company’s idea of a floral essence smells better than the uneaten trimmings from your latest pot roast.
In any case, I save my trash bags for trash. I prefer pannier liners that last for more than a few days. Now I’ve found just what I’ve been looking for, and in the local HyperMart, no less:
As the package makes abundantly clear, these are Ziploc Big Bags. And while the cost is higher than a roll of trash bags, a box of four in the extra-large size costs less than a Buster Burger Meal from your neighborhood Cholesterol Café. Don’t be misled by the Ziploc label. These are not your everyday sandwich bags:
Each one is 2 feet wide and about 19 inches deep, from the double zipper closure to the square base. A broad border at the top boasts three precut holes, one for your hand and the other two for (I assume) hanging from wall hooks. These are a nice touch, even if few cyclists will need either.
Are Big Bags up to job? In a word, yes. The plastic is a heavy gauge, and the bags are plenty big enough to line the largest pannier. If you have any doubts, check the scale printed along the right edge. (Why is there a scale there? I’ve no idea, though I suppose you could use it to measure a fish if like to combine cycling and angling.)
Here’s one in place:
Note the generous collar extending about the Champlain’s main compartment:
Now let’s start packing…
Full up! But there’s still plenty of room to spare:
Just zip the bag closed:
Piece of cake! All that remains is to fold the top over and cinch the pannier flap down.
That’s it. Your gear is now protected against the heaviest rain. And the Big Bag will keep road dust at bay, too. That’s important. If it’s not raining, and if it hasn’t rained in the last couple of days, chances are good that each passing car is trailing an all but invisible plume of fine dust—dust that can infiltrate almost any pack. But the double seal on the Big Bag will keep your clothes (and your electronics) dust-free.
Bottom line: Ziploc Big Bags are a cost-effective solution to a problem that bedevils all cyclists, whether they’re commuting to work or riding for pleasure. Best of all, Big Bags can be found in almost any HyperMart, so if you lose or tear one, you can readily replace it when you stop to buy the makings for dinner.
What’s not to like? A sturdy, lightweight, waterproof (and dustproof) liner for almost any pannier, all for the price of a Buster Burger Meal. Peace of mind seldom comes this cheap, does it?