Yesterday, I rode from my home in West LA to my community garden plot in West Hollywood. It's about 18 miles round trip, and doesn't have any really big hills - although the gentle rolling swells of asphalt on Santa Monica Blvd in Century City are daunting when one's got a headwind.
Since I was bringing my long-handled pruners to cut up my fava bean plants, I chose to take the new grocery bag pannier so I could just drop the pruners in and leave the handles sticking up out of the bag. Also I was bringing a bin of kitchen scraps to dump into the composter that's in the garden plot.
The grocery bag pannier is way easier to get on and off the bike and the open top design makes access easier, but it doesn't feel as stable as the heavier duty compression type panniers, especially on the beat up pavement of Los Angeles' notoriously bad roads. The bag shook a lot as we rolled over potholes and steel plates, and I started to get concerned that the plastic clips holding it to the rack were going to break.
I made it to the garden, did my thing and then stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home. They had five pound bags of pears, but I didn't feel the pannier was sturdy enough to hold them, so I just got a bottle of water and a discounted bottle of tempranillo. Yum.
So, verdict? Good for short trips, but I don't think I'll use it for a cross town haul again.
The ride home was into a strong headwind the entire way, so I spent most of the ride trying to find a gear which would allow me to make some progress but not burn out my quads.
I never managed to find it, so by the time I got home my legs felt like lead, which I guess is good exercise.