IPMBA News

Detours Panniers: These Bags Won’t Detour You from Your Mission

by Craig Lepkowski, PCI # 1180/EMSCI #272
Lake Forest (IL) Police Department
IPMBA Secretary

About a year and a half ago, after meeting Shawn Parks from Detours at the 2012 IPMBA Conference, I treated myself to both the D2R handlebar bag (now updated and renamed the “Sodo”) and the large D2R Panniers because I hoped to take a long interstate ride during the summer of 2013.  The ride never materialized, but I have used the bags both on- and off-duty and am quite impressed with them for both applications.

Let me begin with the D2R (Sodo) handlebar bag, which I had installed differently than they recommend because  I have a Cygolite® bike light on my handlebars.  My local bike guy mounted the handlebar bag on a metal basket frame along the front stem of the bike, which makes it very secure and ensures it can handle more than the 13-pound capacity recommended by Detours.  It sits right above the front tire and is accessible while the rider is on the bike.  The D2R bag is 10 x 4.5 x 8 inches in dimensions with a weight of 1.8 pounds and can hold 330 cubic inches in volume.  Mounted as recommended, the bag easily detaches and comes with a detachable shoulder strap to make it quite portable.

The handlebar bag is more than big enough for the items I like to carry and access during a ride: water bottles, keys, gloves, extra lights, snacks, sunglasses, Israeli tourniquet, mini first aid kit and cell phone.  The top of the bag completely wraps over the edges of the bag and makes it very weather safe, but to ensure the bag remains waterproof and the contents dry, the bag comes with a bright yellow, waterproof cover that completely envelopes the bag.  The bright color and reflective striping enhance visibility in rainy conditions, as does the reflective striping found on both the black and the ground herringbone colored bags.  The spacious interior area has a smaller hanging pouch perfect for keys, cash, ID and credit cards, while on the outside front, there is a smaller, zippered pocket to store the rain cover and other small stuff.  The Sodo bag adds more pockets on the inside of the interior compartment and a clip for a set of keys.  The sides of the bag are equipped with mesh elastic pockets that are perfect for water bottles or coffee travel mugs.

The most impressive feature, and what I ended up using the most while supervising numerous officer posts around the Conway Farms Golf Course during the BMW Championship Golf Tournament, is the clear plastic paperwork case that Velcros® to the top of the bag.  Not only is the case large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 forms, it is waterproof and very visible to the rider.  I was able to track posts and relief times, and pack a map of the golf course and important contact information.  When I wasn’t on the bike, I simply ripped the plastic case off the bag and took it with me. When I returned to the bike, the case with all its important forms was easy to reattach.  A recent review of the Sodo by the Washington Post extols the virtues of this pocket as a way to monitor a smartphone and keep it dry, though they wisely caution against texting while driving a bicycle.

The material of the bag holds up well; it has not lost its shape or luster, or shown much wear and tear.  There is no fraying along the edges as I’ve experienced with bags from other companies.  I had similar results from the D2R large panniers – they hold up very well under tough conditions and heavy loads.

The large D2R panniers measure 12.5 x 8 x 15 inches in dimension and hold 22 pounds of equipment in 2,125 cubic inches.  As I noted, the bags are quite sturdy and attach very well to the rear rack of any bike.  Not only do they have the usual hooks to hang off the rack, they come with spring-loaded clips that secure the bags to the rear rack so there is very little chance of the bags coming loose no matter how many stairs you ride down.  The hooks that attach the bags to the rack frame feature a strap with a quick-release mechanism that is easily adjusted to secure to any frame. 

The bags hold an amazing amount of equipment and/or clothing, and can handle the weather with a top flap that, like the handlebar bag, seals out the elements by overlapping the bag and clipping down securely.  A smaller, zippered pocket on the front of the bag is also covered by the flap.  Under the flap, the bags cinch closed with a “rucksack-style closure” (drawstring) which helps secure smaller loads that don’t fill the entire bag.  Each bag has two exterior elastic mesh pockets for water bottles, snacks or anything else that a rider would want to carry.  For harsh weather, each black bag comes with a bright yellow, waterproof cover with elastic edges, which envelops the entire bag.

Detours’ bags are advertised as “straightforward and reliable gear for your ride”, and so far this has proven true.  The bags do not have too many specific-use pockets and/or extra “bells and whistles” that some engineer thinks you need.  Instead, Detours produces and markets simple, reliable bags, with straightforward mounting systems and general uses for everyday riders, commuters, touring riders and public safety professionals.  The simplicity of design helps keep the bags affordable:  the handlebar bag is $78 and the panniers come in a set of two for $95.  No matter how simple the bags are in design, everything is very well-thought out.  Reflective stripes and clasps and mesh pockets all do what they are supposed to do – provide safety, keep items secure, and adjust for large water bottles or smaller items.  The only limit on what these bags can carry or how they can assist a bike officer or medic is the rider’s imagination. 

Detours participates in the IPMBA Product Purchase Program, offering 25% off all non-sale merchandise.  Please check out all the products Detours offers at www.Detours.us

Administrative Commander Craig Lepkowski is responsible for Support Services for the Lake Forest (IL) Police Department.  He is an IPMBA Police and EMS Cyclist Instructor and oversees the department’s part-time bike unit. He was elected to the IPMBA Board of Directors in 2013 and currently serves as Secretary.  He enjoys biking as often as possible with his son, daughter, and his fiancée and her son.  Craig can be reached at lepkowsc@cityoflakeforest.com.

This review appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of IPMBA News. 

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