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Axiom Monsoon Hydracore 32+ Review
Cons: Lack of storage space, insecure hardware, not totally waterproof
Bottom line: Our lowest-rated touring pannier that is better suited for day trips instead of long rides.
We had high hopes for the Axiom Monsoon Hydracore panniers after doing our initial research. All signs pointed towards an excellent design that would cater to cycling enthusiasts. Though, we weren't as impressed by these bags as we were by others in the lineup. Valued at more than $100, we were expecting a rock star performance in all the testing metrics. But in certain areas, we felt that the Monsoon fell a bit short of the mark.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The stout and compact design of the Axiom Monsoon Hydracore offers the rider less storage than the other touring panniers. It comes with sewn-in reflective materials and lots of extra webbing attachment points on the outside. The mounting hardware is fairly straightforward but doesn't allow for much fine-tuning for a proper fit. While it offered some protection from rain, this pannier wasn't resilient enough to be labeled a waterproof touring option.
Similar to the Seattle Sports Titan, the Monsoon panniers had only two plastic hoops and bottom latch for securing to the rack. But this pannier also had a spring-loaded clip that would sort of lock the pannier once it was in place. However, our testing proved that these clips and hooks were not enough to handle rough roads. At one point during our testing, a fully-loaded pannier was launched off the rack as we hit some rough downhill terrain.
While it was fairly easy to mount this pannier to our racks, we had a bit more difficulty removing it in a speedy fashion. The spring-loaded clips had a tendency to get jammed up if we weren't careful in how we grabbed it off the rack. We also wish that the mounting hardware had more options for adjusting.
Normally, we'd expect a pair of panniers to have exceptional storage abilities. However, we were fairly disappointed by what the Monsoon had to offer. Both of the Axiom panniers weren't able to hold all the gear we were able to fit into a single Ortlieb pannier. For that reason, we don't believe the advertised capacity of 32 liters is accurate.
Each pannier has a relatively compact design, which is maybe a bonus for cyclists who are looking to reduce weight or don't need to haul lots of gear. But the small dimensions made it hard to fit much more than a sleeping bag in a single bag. For a touring pannier, that is borderline unacceptable.
The 600D nylon exterior of the Monsoon panniers is certainly able to withstand abuse from road and tree abrasions. Additionally, the exterior is wrapped with hardcore nylon webbing that seems to enhance the overall stoutness of the design. Though, the internal nylon material feels of a lesser quality. We worry that the thin material on the inside of the bag is susceptible to puncturing, which would compromise the bags waterproofing as it is designed as a 2-ply membrane similar to Gore-Tex.
The weatherproofing of this pannier was fortunately a redeeming quality for the otherwise low-scoring Axiom Monsoon Hydracore. It seemed to perform just about as well as the other roll-top designs in the review. During the overnight rain test, this pannier kept all of its contents dry, proving that this model is resilient to rain and wheel spray. In our parameters, this qualifies as water resistant.
During the submersion test, however, we noticed that a small amount of moisture had snuck into the bags. It is worth noting that the roll-top closure was solid enough to keep water entering from the top of the pannier. Though, the seams on the bottom of the bag had seemed to allow a bit of moisture to pass through—not enough to puddle up, but enough to make us question whether it is actually waterproof.
Ease of Use
All-in-all, this pannier was pretty easy to use. There were no learning curves with installation and it was ready for use out-of-the-box. We did, however, encounter some trouble when we first tried to remove it from the rack. Though, this minor nuisance was avoidable after we had played around with it a few times.
What's really nice about this bag is that it has reflective materials on three sides of the bag, which is good considering the black fabric isn't very visible at night. We didn't have any use for the additional webbing wrapped on the outside, but we trust that it could come in handy when securing extra gear for long hauls. But we wish that it came with two shoulder straps instead of just one.
Even though this pannier was lumped into our touring-specific category, we wouldn't recommend the Axiom Monsoon Hydracore for dedicated bike touring. It may suffice for shorter rides requiring less gear, but certainly not for long rides when you need to carry materials for overnight adventures.
At $115, we think that you could find better value in a different setup. You could get much better performance out of the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic at only a marginally higher cost.
We weren't that impressed by the performance of this pannier. It seemed to get the job done as far as water resistance was concerned, but we couldn't give it the stamp of approval for a totally waterproof status. If we were able to fit more gear into this pair, we would have been happier. But it's hard to recommend this model to bike tourists considering we weren't able to fit all the gear necessary for an overnight jaunt.
— Rob Woodworth
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