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Hands-on Gear Review
Timbuk2 Tandem Review
Cons: Bags aren't detachable, lack of waterproofing, insecure mounting system
Bottom line: A convenient, easy-to-use commuter bag that also works well when carried over your shoulder.
The Timbuk2 Tandem is a 2-in-1 saddle bag style pannier. Not only will it haul everything you need for work or school, but also removes very easily from the rack to transform into a professional-looking book bag. This pannier wasn't as spacious as the award-winning Brooks Suffolk Rear Pannier, but it had lots of pockets and plenty of bells and whistles to aid in functionality. If you're looking for a touring-oriented pannier that will also serve your commuting needs, we would suggest taking a look at the Editors' Choice Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic or the Best Buy Seattle Sports Titan.
RELATED REVIEW: The 10 Best Bike Panniers for Commuting and Touring
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This saddlebag style, water repellent pannier comes fully-loaded with features geared towards the daily bike commuter. Each side of the pannier has laptop sleeves with securement straps and internal pockets that provide multiple options for organizing smaller items. The mounting system is simple but secure and allows the rider to quickly grab the bag off the rack and throw it over their shoulder on an adjustable strap.
The mounting hardware of a pannier will have a massive impact on its performance. Sadly, this was our lowest-scoring model for the metric of mounting system. There was no hook, clip, or metal hardware to secure this pannier to the rack. Instead, it simply draped over the top of the rack and used two small pieces of velcro to attach at the bottom of each rack. The simplicity of this design doesn't allow for a secure attachment, and we found that the bags had a tendency to slip and become loose while riding.
What it lacked in mounting security, the Tandem made up in storage abilities. With two main compartments decked out with pockets, this pannier had the largest advertised storage space of the commuter panniers that we tested. We were able to comfortably fit all the gear from our storage test, though the 15 inch laptop went a bit beyond the top of the bag, making it a little bit more difficult to close securely.
Not only did each compartment have a laptop sleeve, but there was also a buckled strap that allowed us to completely secure the contents of each sleeve. This is super handy so valuables like your tablet or computer don't get bucked around while you're riding. In addition to the sleeves, there were also several extra pockets that had multiple options for stowing away smaller items like phones, keys, or wallets. Finally, there were also moderately-sized pockets located on top of the flaps that close each bag—giving you quick access to maps or snacks.
The Timbuk2 Tandem pannier is built from water repellent tarpaulin, which looks and feels like some sort of rubbery composite material. It also seems to handle abrasions fairly well, but we had our doubts about some of the nylon material that is used internally for the additional pockets. The zippers and buckles found on this model are of a notable quality, especially the extra-large, stout buckles found on the front closure.
Commuting bags should have good weatherproofing so you can safely stow valuable items like electronics during your ride. In our experience, the Tandem was able to provide good protection from wheel spray and sprinkling rain, but it is not a totally waterproof bag. During the rain test, the water repellent fabric was very effective at keeping the contents dry. However, because this pannier doesn't have a complete closure, there are areas on the sides where water was able to surge in during our submersion test.
Ease of Use
The Timbuk2 Tandem is certainly a user-friendly bag. It has arguably the most simple-to-use mounting system, which installed in mere seconds (though it didn't offer any security). When you're ready to dismount your bike and go into pedestrian mode, the Tandem is very easy to grab and has a comfortable shoulder strap that can be clipped on when you're ready to use it.
When off the rack, the Tandem truly felt like a dedicated book-bag. Magnets located on the back panel clip together and shrink the profile to feel more like one bag instead of two. There is no shortage of extra pockets and sleeves in these dual saddlebag panniers. However, we would've liked to see more reflective materials, considering the bag itself is already so dark.
This is no doubt a dedicated commuter bag. Although this model has an overall capacity that could accommodate the gear necessary for an overnight trip, the lack of a complete closure make it difficult to pack with bulky gear and don't provide the necessary waterproofing.
At $130, this was one of the highest-priced panniers in the review. When compared to the other high-cost panniers, we don't feel that the Tandem offers the same quality or durability. Thus, we don't believe that this model has a notable value.
This saddlebag style model would be a great option for someone looking for a pannier that works as a shoulder bag just as well as it sits on your rack. Though, because of its low security and waterproofing, we wouldn't recommend the Tandem for any hardcore cyclists looking to take their gear on extended tours.
— Rob Woodworth
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