- a touring map
- change of clothes, which included a pair of underwear, a north face long-sleeve base-layer top, a short-sleeved Novara wool jersey, and a gap wool sweater (and M's fleece jacket)
- U-lock with cables,
- 7 rolls of brown rice and tofu sushi,
- a bag of chocolate-almond-cashew trail mix,
- several energy bars
- a meal worth of soba noodles and a small jar home-made spicy sesame sauce.
- a New York Review for reading,
- a triangle to be visible,
- a travel coffee mug,
- necessity: wallet, cellphone, ipod touch, and charger for the iPod
- tools, spare tube (which became handy as I got a flat on the way back 1 mile away from the train station), and a frame pump
This didn't fill the bag up (in comparison, a pair of bike packer panniers from Ortlieb carries 50 liters of stuff). I tried to arrange the stuff so that the weight is even across the platform of the rack. The handling feels heavy, but not in a way where I felt the bike was squirrely. As I rode, the bike with the load felt steady, and follows a straight line easily. When I climbed off the saddle, I need to pay attention not to sway the pressure of my body from side-to-side too much, as this is the time I felt the weight of the front load on my hands and arms. Descending with load is stable and predictable. In short, the low-trail design did what it supposed to do with 20-25 lbs of load up front. On high-torque climbing, I did feel the frame flex a little more, but not to an extend where I felt like I was bending the frame more than propelling it forward.
M.'s Trek 720 is definitely designed to carry the load both front and back, but primarily in the rear. The Trek 720 has extremely long wheel-base, and acts almost as a mini xtracycle. The Sakaroo (made by Arkel) pannier carried her change of clothing, our toiletry, a pair of lightweight street shoes, a book, and some winter accessories (lobster gloves and warm hats). She felt that the 720 is noticeably more stable than her old Trek 620, which ran 700c wheels. The extra width of the Panaracer Col de la Vie tires improved comforts on occasionally bad pavements or dirt road, and she felt more confident on descents. From watching her ride, she kept a straight line fairly well. Even though the front end is very light, she never felt the front end of her bike is too light or in danger of lifting up. Perhaps that's because the grades on this ride were very gentle, or perhaps the extra-long wheel-base prevents wheelie from happening.
The luggage worked well for us. The Ruth Works bag opens toward the rider, so i can access the bag while riding. I didn't use the map case this time, but it can be very helpful on a ride or short tour. It has 3 large exterior pockets and one interior pocket. With the Ortlieb pannier hook and a couple of velcro strap and a pedal strap, the bag felt very secured on the bike over bumps and on bumpy and winding descents.
The Sakaroo pannier has a good amount of space, and has two side pockets that are pretty sizable. There is a pocket facing the rack on the top that isn't as useful. One feature that's nice about the sakaroo is that it has a zipped opening in the front to allow access to the bottom part of the pannier without opening the bag from the top and digging your hand in it. It's very well made and fairly attractive on the bike as well. The bungie-chord based attachment system is very easy to get the bag on and off the rack, and seems very secured. I wonder if one can replace the bungie chord when it loses elasticity.