August 10, 2011

Review: Axiom Monsoon panniers, 3-year update

It struck me when skimming metrics on blog traffic and popular posts that the review I wrote about 2 years ago now is one of the most popular searches and hits on the whole site. Interesting... and answers my notions that it's not so much the doing of the commuting as much as it's possibly about what you do it WITH. Either that, or people are really interested in waterproof panniers on a budget.

So, the Axiom Monsoon panniers, sold in pairs, and available at this writing in grey, red, and yellow. After 3 years of year-round, nearly-daily use, it's safe to say that these are very well made. Just like I mentioned in the first post, I am pretty easy on my gear - mainly because I don't want to have to replace things too often. I haven't done any failure testing, haven't lugged around my bar-bells for hill training in them, haven't done things like leaving a pocket knife open in the bottom before packing them with beer or fish or broken circuit boards - just simple daily-duty... lunch, clothes, occasionally a laptop (which is actually heavy-ish and a good test). No splits, no failures, no issues to speak of, really. Good construction, good design - and literally, they have become the last thing I have to concern myself with on a commute. I like that. Beyond that, that same "no worries, pack-n-go" feeling extends to a few camping trips, with way more weight and gear than I commute with - and the results are the same. That's on bumpy minimum-maintenance roads, and lots of gravel. No bag issues to report.

The buckles still snap true, the edges are wearing just fine, the "rack-lock" swivel is still fine on both. A few observations, however: The rack hooks, which are coated with that "tool-handle dip" vinyl are a little haggard... but not bad. A dab of silicone fixes it, and that's about it. I still haven't found enough reason to swap in the factory-supplied replacement hooks (enough for one bag, anyways). The only complaint from the original review was mitigated with some silicone caulk and some long rectangles of PVC fabric cut from a retired rain jacket: the "waterproof zipper" concept is a tough one to swallow because zippers are pretty high-cycle, and coatings tend to wear off of high-cycle items. That's still the only low mark I'd give them, but the homebrew fix has held and works fine in practice. My phone stays in one of these outer pockets, and to this day I still haven't felt it necessary to double-up by putting the phone in a zip-top baggie. Finally, the bungee attachment system -- the hooks are great, still solid, but the bungees themselves are beginning to go "soft". The obvious repair is to un-knot one end, lift a little through, and re-tie, cut/melt the end. A hardware store visit would even be in order, if I wanted that super-tight fit back... but the load is still stable each day, even in bumpy corners, so it's a minor concern at this point. Let's be honest here, also: I have seen smarter attachment designs on panniers, and you pay extra for that - but the bungee system is simple, proven, and practically field-repairable. Absolute worst-case: Arkel - probably the premier touring pannier and bag company - sells a replacement hardware and mounting rail kit that would really make these bags "world beaters" for value and strength... but I'm not there yet, considering all I need is maybe 4 feet of bungee from the corner hammer-haven.

I've been promising this follow-up review for a while - and it's ... well ...pretty unremarkable. The wear from year-one to today is so subtle I didn't even feel it was necessary to take new photos, which is saying a lot. Even the areas that coated nylon tends to eventually show problems, like perma-creases you get from repeated use of the roll-top closure, are thinner, yes, but not perforated. Eventually, these things DO wear out... but I'm thinking that is more like 5 more years away, as opposed to "call me in 12 months". Basically, having gone into this thinking these were a budget-minded purchase, I am pleased to report one of two things: Axiom panniers are either some of the most well-made bags you can buy, OR, the pricier stuff simply lasts long enough for you to eventually be buried in. Either way, I think you definitely get what you pay for with these - and that's a lot of miles-per-dollar of camping, commuting, touring, or pocket-knife armed fish-fry beer runs.

Stay tuned for the ten-year review.... only partially kidding!


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I'll buy mine now. This really is the most informative information (your two posts) I've ever found about this product. Happy riding and all the best.

gerv said...

I have a set of Axiom LaSalles which I've had for just over two years. 7 days a week use.

I use just the left side and that one is starting to wear in the bottom. It seems to have contacted some things on my bike, so no complaints about its durability.

Unfortunately, I can't buy just a left one...

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much (belatedly....).. I am an experienced sea kayaker and instructor, taking up long-distance cycling, and this is the new I need to hear! Thanks again.