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Carradice luggage has a well deserved reputation among mile-eaters for being tough, no-nonsense and durable. Their Super C A4 pannier, specifically designed - as its name implies - to take A4 files and similarly shaped objects, certainly lives up to that.
As with everything in their Super C range, it's made from cotton duck, a traditional heavy, waterproof waxed cotton fabric. Cotton duck is incredibly hard-wearing and will keep your stuff dry for decades to come. It can be repaired easily by stitching or gluing, and can be reproofed with reproofing wax. A pretty good choice to make bike luggage out of then. It also gives Carradice bags an idiosyncratic retro-look which you either like or you don't. I'm a fan.
The pannier is shaped to take A4 files, and does so well. Unlike my Ortlieb front panniers, it has a flat surface internally for files to sit against and will easily swallow a laptop too. You can get a separate laptop pouch from Carradice.
The main compartment has a massive storm flap with drawcord closure underneath the main flap which closes with plastic backpack-style buckles. These sit quite high up the front of the pannier. On the one hand this means there's less range to strap the pannier down when there's not much in it (like you can do with similar style Ortlieb panniers), on the other hand, there's space for a small elasticated mesh pocket underneath these fixings for stowing the shoulder strap for example. This is no ordinary mesh by the way, it's super-duper plastic coated strong stuff.
On top of the main flap are two straps crossing each other which form the carrying handle. This looks slightly odd, but works well. The bag comes with a separate shoulder strap which attaches to the sides. This strap is rather utilitarian and is clearly intended to be used for short periods. The pannier can be used on either side of your rack and has reflectives on both sides. A strap to attach a rear light is missing, something we also remarked on when reviewing its bigger sibling the Bike Bureau.
Carradice use their own C-system fitting to attach the pannier to a rack. It consists of two hooks which are fastened into an aluminium rail, allowing them to be positioned horizontally exactly right for your rack. The hooks have clever little fasteners that you snap into place manually once positioned on the rack. This works well, though some might prefer Ortlieb's system that integrates the fasteners with the carry handle - I prefer this system.
The hooks are not installed in the aluminium rail out of the box, the instructions show you how to do this. It pays to be careful when you do, maybe even wear gloves: it's a tight fit and the edges of the aluminium rail are sharp. When the hooks are on, you cover those rail-ends with plastic blanks, so this is only an issue once. Why this doesn't come assembled, I don't know - it would certainly be better.
Lower down is a plastic clip, fastened into a horizontal, plastic rail. This clip can be rotated through 260 degrees and should be able to fit most racks. It's purpose, according to the instructions, is to stop the bag moving forwards; Carradice therefore advise you to point it forwards. The system is designed to fit rack tube diameters up to 13mm.
It's clear that Carradice have an opinion on what a pannier should do and what it should be made of, and that those requirements to a certain extent drive what the pannier looks like. This no-nonsense approach works for me; I like stuff that works well and that's made to last. I also like that it's manufactured in Lancashire and hasn't travelled through more countries than I have before getting to me.
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Make and model: Carradice Super C A4 Pannier
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Carradice say: "A tough no-nonsense bag ideal for commuting to college or work."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Range: Super C
Weight: 910 grams
Capacity: 18 Litres
Dimensions: 29cm wide x 44cm high x 14cm deep
Fixing system: C-system pannier fittings will fit racks up to 13mm diameter
Pockets: 1 mesh outer pocket for oddments
Materials: Cotton Duck
Other features: Single pannier shoulder bag which is shaped to take A4 files and documents.
Please note that reflectors/logo badges may vary.
The legendary Carradice build is as solid as they come. There is even a tag inside with the name of the person who made the bag, in this case Janet made this bag with her own fair hands in the workshop in Nelson.
Performance is a funny concept for a pannier. This one definitely does what it says on the tin very well. I suppose you could fault the bag for not being quite as quick to attach to a rack as others, but then it does so more solidly. There are bags that are quicker to get into, but they'll probably let some rain in.
None of my other Carradice bags are showing any signs of wear. Sure, they've developed a bit of patina, but their expected lifespan is probably longer than mine. The internet is full of stories about Carradice's customer service in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong; they really stand by their products.
The bag comes in at 822 grams on my scales, with the detachable strap another 98 grams. Yes, that is a little heavier than other panniers, but that's to be expected given the construction quality and durability. It's certainly not so heavy to be an issue.
Overall the pannier is comfortable to use; it attaches to a rack securely and stays there. The crossed straps on the main closure flap look odd but work well. While the shoulder strap is a bit utilitarian, it works well for short periods of time (it is a pannier after all)
While on the face of it the pannier is more expensive than, say, a single Ortlieb, this is truly a bag for life that is made in England. Only you can decide what value you place on that kind of thing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It swallows a laptop, lunch and sundries easily and attaches securely to the bike. It is waterproof, holds its shape and, off the bike, stands without falling over. It's reasonably comfortable to carry with the shoulder strap as long as you didn't pack the kitchen sink. No complaints from me.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I know I can trust this bag to take my stuff where I'm going in one piece, dry. I like Carradice bags' idiosyncratic look, though obviously that's a bit subjective.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't particularly dislike anything, though a little strap to attach a rear light and a more padded shoulder strap would make this bag even better.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If it's the right size for your needs and you like the Carradice look, this is one of the best panniers money can buy - backed by exceptional customer service and made in England to boot.
Age: 36 Height: 1.78m Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,