Old Man Mountain Juniper Trunk, Ponderosa Panniers: At The Finish
Note: Old Man Mountain sent over a set of Ponderosa Panniers, and Juniper Trunk Bag, and a Divide Rack for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel/Guitar Ted Productions. I have not been paid nor bribed for this review and I always strive to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
These are good panniers.Maybe even great ones. I feel like you need to have a set of panniers through a few trips before you can really say any pannier is “great”. I will say that the Ponderosa Panniers are trending in that direction though.
They stay put on a rack, which is job number one for a pannier. Loose panniers really hurt handling, not to mention cause one to wonder how many times you’ll have to stop to tighten them up, or if they will just randomly fall off. I’d rather have panniers I never have to worry about at all. The Ponderosa bags seem pretty much like “that” pannier to me.
These bags have tightening straps to cinch the bags against the rack, which work great. The remaining, extra lengths of those straps are supposed to be rolled up and held in place by two short bits of Velcro material. Nice idea, but in practice these could be knocked loose and then you have a streamer waving in the wind. I’d rather see some other more secure way of dealing with the loose ends. That said, I never had a problem with them.
I mentioned in the intro that the Ponderosa was hard to mount, and because of that, I never tried taking them off, and I wouldn’t on a tour. In fact, I would dread having to do that. Not ideal there. It isn’t that you can’t mount them, but wow…. Is that a tough thing to do or what? Loaded bags would be almost impossible to do without a companion helping to support the bag while you threaded the upper straps to the rack from behind the rack and between that and the rear wheel.
But other than that, the Ponderosa Panniers are very well made, they are easily opened and closed, and they really can be cinched down tight for single track usage or rough road riding. Your contents won’t be jostling around in a cavernous space here. I just wish that Old Man Mountain could redesign that upper rack mount to be easier to use which would encourage removal when you need to work on the bike, or allow you to take the panniers off and put them in a tent, for instance.
Old Man Mountain Juniper Trunk Bag:
The Juniper Trunk Bag was also originally on my Singular, but it really came into its own mounted to my Salsa rack on my titanium Mukluk that I call “Ti Muk 2”.
The thing about this bag is that it essentially is a roll-top grocery bag. It obviously has straps to mount it to a rack, and it is made from a durable, waterproof material, but I think of it in terms of practical uses since the design is that of a standard grocery bag.
I’ve carried all manner of stuff in the Juniper Trunk Bag and as long as you roll the top tightly and cinch that down with the strap and buckle it, the cargo you carry will be pretty stable and almost “invisible” in terms of riding.
Honestly, this trunk bag solves a problem on the Ti Muk 2 because I generally would want a frame bag for storage of extra gloves, clothes, and repair gear, but that takes away from water capacity and it makes portaging a bit tougher. The Juniper Trunk Bag adds a copious amount of space that is just enough to do what I want, but is pretty much out of the way otherwise.
The bag is simple, yet well designed and made from quality materials. I have found it to be immensely useful already, but I think this Winter that practicality will be amped up even further. Plus, a strap and roll top is something a gloved hand can handle, which is important to keep in mind.
At The Finish: At the end of the day both the Ponderosa Panniers and the Juniper Trunk Bag are really very well designed and useful bags overall. My only real nit are those upper rack mounting straps on the panniers, which may or may not bother you, but I would like to see something different there.
The Juniper Trunk Bag is nearly perfect, in my opinion. I saw no problems at all with its design or use in the field. Yes- you can remove and replace it on a rack easily. I did ride with this bag in the rain and once in slushy snow and it does a great job at keeping the contents dry. I would imagine that the Ponderosa Panniers will do a similar job seeing as how the construction and materials used are similar to the Ponderosa Panniers.
I would recommend either bag as long as ease of on-off with regard to the panniers isn’t a deal killer for you. Otherwise these bags should provide the touring cyclist and bikepacker with a reliable, stable, and good looking set of bags.