Here, for example, is Takumashi, my Nishiki Citisport, magically transformed into a something you'd expect to see rolling home to an English cottage from a quick spin to the greengrocer.
What's more, they're huge. Forty one liters of capacity mean a shopping cart full of groceries can disappear into them without spilling over. After a few uses, the leather straps become a bit more flexible, and practice makes the user much quicker and getting in and closing them.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I placed a full paper bag of groceries into each side. There was plenty of room left over at the top -- I could have easily divided another full bag between the two bags, maybe even a fourth.
The only thing that comes close to a drawback on these bags is a question of practicality. First, they're attractive enough to be a bit of a theft magnet... or at least that's my assumption. I wouldn't want to leave them on a bike left out of sight for more than a short bit. And, while they're not particularly difficult to install or remove (with a bit of practice), it's simply not realistic to think you'll be able to pop them off and take them into the store with you.
They fasten to a rear rack -- and to chain stays and/or fender struts by good old-fashioned leather straps. This means they'll go on racks tubes of any width or configuration, which cannot be said of many panniers. One friend described the installation procedure as a "six swear word" process, but I've found myself getting quicker at swapping them out... I'm down to one or two muttered curses now.
On my first installation, I found there was a lot of leftover strap to deal with. I couldn't seem to make it disappear the way it had in online photos and reviews I'd seen. So, I emailed the sales staff at Basil to ask their advice. I received a friendly answer within a day (in the flawless English that is universal in Holland) with useful suggestions and genuinely warm wishes on my new purchase. That kind of service makes the bags even prettier, in my book.
I wish I could find more occasions to use them. Determined to find one, a few days ago I put them on Blaise (the Mercier mixte) and set off for the grocery store.
This is Blaise with the Basils empty.
And here they are fully loaded with everything from a six pack of soda to a big box of spring mix.
Any suggestions for how I get more use out of these gorgeous panniers?