The Avenir Sonic Welded Waterproof Panniers have a few clever and useful-looking features, but their advantages are beset with problems.
Unusually, the Avenir panniers are sold as a pair rather than singly. They aren't very widely available as far as I can make out, with only a few online retailers selling them. What are they like then? Well, first impressions were good, but things went downhill fairly quickly.
Variously described by retailers as 20 litre and 23 litre panniers, these are actually fairly capacious bags, so I would guess they are probably 23 litres. Certainly, they swallow noticeably more than the Altura 20 litre pannier I was reviewing at the same time. I found it a little odd that they don't seem to have a model name so much as a description. So, we know they're sonic welded and waterproof, anyway. Unusually, there is an external zipped pocket, boasting a waterproof zip. The pocket is big enough for an OS map, and it's pretty handy having access without needing to undo the roll-top. The first time I used it, however, the plastic zip pull snapped off in my hand. And thus was set the pattern - features which seem quite neat but quickly become flaws. Over time, the pannier reminded me more and more of Mark's colleague Darryl in Peep Show - he seems a great laugh to begin with, but then turns out to be a massive racist.
When you set the panniers up for the first time, you can't help but like the tool-free adjustment of the attachment points. The top two hooks are moulded plastic with a sprung tab that engages with a series of holes along the top rail of the pannier, so you don't need to fetch a screwdriver or Allen key to get them to fit your rack. Vague misgivings about the robustness of these hooks aside, this makes for a very trouble-free set-up. Similarly, the lower hook is also tool-free - it slides in a channel on the back of the pannier and simply folds up and locks in place to suit. In use these hooks hold the bag in place fine, although I would worry about the top hooks breaking over time; they just seem a bit flimsy.
When touring, my wife and I often switch panniers between our bikes, and so this ease of setup seemed an absolute boon, no more need to dig out the multi-tool each time; it was literally a 30-second job.
The first ride I did using one of the Avenir panniers was on a windy day, with only a few bits and bobs to carry. One thing you notice straight away is that they are quite lightweight, and the main reason for this is the absence of a rigid back, using instead a flexible plastic board. Add in a windy day and a half-empty pannier and you have the first major shortcoming. I found that the pannier could flex enough that the rear lower corner would start to catch in the spokes of the back wheel. This self-perpetuated; the more it happened, the more the back was bent and the closer it sat to the rear wheel. A gust of wind would push it back in and it would make a hell of a racket, plucking the spokes of the wheel like a demented guitarist.
This quite quickly made me really dislike the Avenir pannier. When I then removed it from the rack, it didn't get better. The lower fixing hook, so quick and easy to position, tends to drop out of position every time you take the pannier off the rack, meaning it has to be reset every time you put the pannier back on the bike. Very quickly, you start to wish it was just screwed in place like other panniers; one minute to set it up permanently being rather better than 15 seconds every time you fit it to the bike.
If the pannier's full, then the tendency to catch in the rear wheel disappears, as the contents keep it in shape. So for cycle touring this may not be so much of an issue, but if you're thinking of using it for commuting or just nipping into town, well, you might as well stop reading here to be honest.
On to the other features. Top sealing is done with a zip-less roll-top, which works fine. Inside are some detachable pockets, one of which is described as a "laptop sleeve". These fix to that flexible back plate via poppers, and the weight of my D-lock was enough to detach the poppers during a ride, so it's hard to imagine them keeping a laptop in place. A padded shoulder strap is provided, which can clip to the sides of the bag for carrying off the bike. Reflective details on the sides should help with night-time visibility.
Over time, and having quite a number of panniers, we've ended up simply removing the top hooks from these and just bungeeing them to the top of a rack as a waterproof bag when we really need the extra capacity. I can't foresee using them as panniers again. They're not even especially cheap - much better waterproof panniers can be had for £50 a pop.
Initially promising and unusual features quickly overshadowed by serious flaws - hard to recommend.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Avenir Sonic Welded Waterproof Pannier (Pair)
Size tested: n/a
The journey begins with Avenir. Quality, reliability and price are the key aspects of the Avenir philosphy. Having a range of classic cycle accessories, Avenir is your first choice when preparing a trip.
So says the blurb - they would only be my first choice if I needed to carry a lot of stuff and I had lost all of my other panniers. And the shops were shut. And big Dave wasn't around for me to borrow some of his.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Full welded seams
20Litre (also listed in some places as 23 litres)
Lightweight durable 420D+840D TPU laminated Nylon Fabric
Secure roll top closure
Front pocket with waterproof zip
Independent laptop sleeve
Quick release fitment system
Fully adjustable fitment system
3M reflective details
Poor quality zip pull was a bad start. They've not disintegrated, though - the flaws are more related to design than construction.
Waterproofing works, but flexible back-board is disastrous unless packed full, and tool-free hooks quickly become an irritant.
Nothing's broken bar the zip pull.
Much better options available for a similar price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Not very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The waterproof external pocket was a feature not present on any of my other panniers and is a good one.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lower hook needing repositioning each time you mount the pannier. Awful flexible back plate.
Did you enjoy using the product? Was ok as a waterproof bag, not as a pannier.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 6 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,