Panniers are like axioms. You either love them or they’re not really your style. If they’re not your style, consider these three words: June, July, August. The hottest, stickiest, sweatiest months in Minneapolis for bike commuters.
The Detours Fremonster Pannier ($72) eliminates the problem of the hot, sticky, sweaty back that you get with a backpack.
Part messenger bag, part big purse, it has 850 cubic inches (1,050 with flap extended) of storage capacity inside the main compartment. The flap extends the body of the bag and fully zips to prevent contents from falling out and is secured by a magnet
Inside the main compartment a neoprene laptop sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop. A smaller mesh zip pocket holds smaller items like a tire repair kit, wallet or phone. A convenient outer pocket provides easy access to keys, ID badge, bike lock, etc., and an integrated rain cover on the bottom of the bag keeps it all dry on rainy days.
That’s the overview. How did it really work for me?
Let me first disclose that I (probably unfairly) used my Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier ($129) as a baseline for the review of the Fremonster. I say “unfairly” because the Timbuk2 is the watermelon to the cantaloupe that is the Fremonster.
Two plastic clips secure the Fremonster to most standard bike racks. I say “most” because the stock rack of my Civia Hyland has an odd design so only one clip fits on easy. The second clip requires some fiddling, making loading and unloading not as quick and dirty as the Timbuk2.
But once snaps closed, they never opened without intervention from me. Still, while the snaps are made with a durable, heavy plastic, they’re still a moving part that has the potential to break over time.
At 850 cubic inches, it's certainly enough to carry a change of summer wardrobe clothes, lunch, a laptop and a few other odds and ends like phone, wallet, keys, etc. But with winter is on its way, my clothing will soon morph into bulkier sweaters, jeans, long trousers, scarves, tights, knee socks, clogs, fashion riding boots, the list goes on.
Even with its expansion capability of 1,050 cubic inches, I suspect that the Fremonster will be too small. For me, at least. The Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier's capacity of 1,450 cubic inches has succesfully carried winter wardrobes, lunches, laptops, etc. for three years.
Off the bike functionality
This is where the Fremonster reigns king. The long strap with shoulder pad lets me walk inside a store or work as if I’m carrying a large purse or a messenger bag, so I like this part alot. Something I can’t do with the Timbuk2.
The magnet that secures the flap works well as long as the bag isn’t filled to its capacity. But even at half capacity, you have to get it lined up perfectly to prevent floppage. My preference would be an adjustable clip like the Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier.
Detours offers a three-year warranty against material and workmanship defects. Timbuk2 offers a lifetime warranty.
The Fremonster is a durable, smart-looking, functional, multi-purpose pannier. Aside from my nit-picks, this is a nice pannier for the price ($92). If you need more capacity, Detours carries the D2R Large Pannier Set for $95 with a hulking 2,125 cubic inches of cargo capacity.