Thursday, April 28, 2016

Blackburn Central Shopper's Bag/Pannier Review

Blackburn Central Shopper's Bag - a snazzy satchel with perfect styling for the office.
Looking to replace my floral upcycled pannier, that eventually started falling apart and was speckled with grime, with something sturdier and hopefully easy on my wallet, I stumbled across the Blackburn Central Shopper's Bag online. Firstly, I fell in love with the material, a grey woven pattern, kind of like a cross between tweed and black denim. Secondly, the volume, a whopping 1440 cu. in. would rival my existing bag which swallows my lunch sack, clothes bag, book, and handbag. And also of importance: the bag doesn't look like a pannier. Hooks are hidden behind a panel, easily zipped up once the bag is removed from the rack.

However, I still had misgivings. This is a new product line for Blackburn, thus lacking reviews. Plus the bag was advertised with only two photos, even on Blackburn's own website, which left me a little suspect. It's easy to take lots of digital photos. But, because I could get the bag at half price and backed by Blackburn's reputation, I took a leap of faith, and ordered the bag.

That's one humongous pannier!
Equal parts excitement and trepidation, when the bag arrived I checked out all it's features. Immediately, I noticed wear spots on the inside nylon lining, directly related to hook placement, even with the bag packed inside plastic. The item was loosely packed inside the box. But with that aside, I knew I could repair the fabric at a later time should the area become more of a problem.

Hooks snap easily and securely onto rack. I also secure lower Velcro-type connection to rack.
After two weeks of daily commuting, I love the features of the Shopper's Bag. The title itself is a misnomer. Blackburn also carries a Grocery Pannier, more in line with what I think of as open-topped baggage to haul groceries in, whereas the Central Shopper's Bag is 18" tall, tapered a little towards the bottom, with the possibility of another 6" extension cinched with drawstring.

In some respects, the bag is a behemoth. One co-worker asked if I felt lopsided, riding with one large pannier. Looks are deceiving. I carry the same weight as before, but the bag appears and may actually be larger, due to it's structure. I never felt unbalanced using the previous pannier, and because I ride a very stable bicycle I never suspected weight would become an issue with the new bag.

Three attachment points for carrying strap. 
The outer fabric is polyester, treated with stain resistant coating. The lining is nylon with coordinated compass pattern. The strap is a good 2" wide webbing, comfortable slung over the shoulder. It is also detachable on one side, though I don't understand the need to tuck the loose end inside the drawstring. I leave the strap clipped in place - it's short enough to stay away from the wheel. The other oddity: why are there 3 slots to attach the strap?

There are red accents on zipper pulls, tiny loops and elastic bands for clipping lights, and multiple reflective spots, including the logo. There is clearly some sort of padding sandwiched between outer and inner fabric for structure and comfort, plus a short stiff plastic piece around the base. I love the bottom material; it feels like neoprene, with four nubs, much like luggage. The bag brilliantly stands upright in my cubicle, with or without items stowed inside. And if that weren't enough, there is an exterior zippered pocket, for easily retrieved small items.

The attachment system works well. Unzip each side zipper, fold the flap inside, and push hooks onto the rack. The first time is awkward, and detaching the hooks later takes some getting used to, like opening a claw, and multiple fingers are required to perform this function, but I like the security the hooks provide. I will never have to worry about this pannier coming unhooked in transit.

Blackburn utilizes this special clip system on multiple products, and if you also purchase their proprietary interlock rack, one can lock multiple panniers, using one key. The other uniquely designed bag feature is the lower two Velcro-like straps, neatly disguised into the design, handy for added security when folded around rack struts.

A pannier with only a drawstring for closure is obviously not waterproof.
By taking a chance on a new product, one with style, functionality, spacious cargo capacity, that won't break the bank, I now have a new favorite bag, one that I'm proud to bring inside my office.

*Update, November 2016: After 6 months of continual use, both latches broke within a week of each other, but main hooks are still in place. Read here for my solution to re-secure pannier to rack.


  1. It looks the business and Blackburn's products are usually of good quality. The zip bit to cover the panniers hooks is a good idea for when you're carrying it. Is it waterproof? I use a plastic rubble sack to line my panniers and have never had any trouble.

    1. The exterior fabric is water resistant, but by nature of design the top is not.

  2. Nice review. The bag looks nice. It's huge!

    1. I'm very pleased with the design and as I said it works well as an office pannier.


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