This is my second set of panniers made by Axiom, a division of Norco. A Canadian bike manufacturer. I previously had a pair of their their early generation Typhoon Panniers, the larger 33.2L version with the same effective waterproof roll-top closure, but with out the fold over flap and zipper pockets that you see on the latest versions.
I received the Monsoon’s, a little smaller at 24.8L for the pair, as replacement since my original Typhoon set had been damaged by the cold. The welded seams had split open in temperatures under -25 degrees Celsius. I agree this is pretty extreme condition, but Axiom makes no mention of their ability to tolerate cold in any info blurbs. In hindsight I shouldn’t have taken them in the temperatures that cold. But someone had to find out the hard way right?
With the most recent version of the panniers, Axiom hasn’t changed any of the construction materials. A heavy duty Tarpaulin (the yellow part) and 600 denier polyester (the black part) compose the Monsoon set that I currently have. Both fabrics are incredibly robust, I have used this pair almost daily for about a year now. They are a little dirty, scuffed and abused, but there aren’t any holes or tears. They are still totally waterproof.
I imagine that it wouldn’t be too hard to clean them. A little degreaser would go a long way to remove the oil and road scum,. I’m sure they would dry in seconds. I have taken these panniers through a lot of different conditions, rain, snow, boiling sun. I’ve taken them off-roading, bushwhacking, and have totally overloaded them with “groceries”. Structurally, they don’t show any signs of stress.
I don’t think there is a more effective yet simple system to mount pannier to a bike. Axiom uses two rubber coated hooks, a heavy duty bungee cord and a black plastic “twist lock” mechanism to secure the panniers to you rack. The hanger hooks will fit nearly any sized rack, and can be bent open or closed if need be. The hooks are usually a complaint for me with other brands of panniers, as they usually only accommodate one diameter of tubing. So this is a major plus if you have more than one bike or style of rack.
Now i don’t want to jinx myself, but I have never had one of these panniers come loose in the 2+ years that I have had both sets.
As you can see the rubber coating on these hooks has worn off, and yes it does scratch my rack. It’s not huge concern , but if you were on a long tour I would keep an eye on the wear, I might just wrap a piece of inner tube around the rack where the panniers sit. The set came with an extra set of hooks and bolts just in case you need to make a repair.
The roll down closure works in the same fashion as the dry bags you would use for kayaking or canoeing. I’m still not sure if the long Velcro strip is really necessary. In fact, i’m not even sure why it’s there at all? It’s not really effective at compressing the load, nor does it keep the roll top closed any tighter. Suggestions?
As you can see by the next picture, these panniers are pretty cavernous. A penny is used for scale. You can see now why I switched from the larger Typhoons. There is a thick plastic stiffener mounted to the backside to give the pannier some shape. This works quite well, the panniers never flop over, can stand on their own, and most importantly stay out of your spokes.
My major beef with these panniers is the fold over flap with pockets. It was not on the older versions. I know Axiom was trying to add value to their line of panniers by adding this feature. I’m sure I’ve read comments about cyclists wanting more pockets to organize things, and having quick access to things is a real plus. I have to agree, however I think they should have passed on it for the following reasons.
This is the mesh “tool pocket’ on the underside of the flap. I haven’t carried anything more than some letter mail in this pocket and clearly it is useless.
The flap causes more drag, as it catches the wind like an open jacket, and adds considerable weight with the two zippers and heavy tarpaulin. In a market constantly looking for ultra light alternatives, I think the weight saving alone would justify the banishing of the flap. I once heard of a cyclist paying hundreds of dollars just to save a few hundred grams…
I can still see this pocket being perfected, because I like the breathable mesh, it would be a great place to store damp or wet cloths while on the move. However I would never store any tools in there, especially not my crank brothers multi tool. The stitching came loose on both panniers with minimal use. I might recommend adding an extra hem around the mesh portion with tighter stitching, and a stronger mesh to prevent too much deformation of the compartment.
What ultimately caused my hate for the “flap” is the “self healing” zippers on the flip side pockets. As you can see this one is still in the process of self healing.
This was a great idea that some how went wrong. I would love to throw my keys, a quick snack, or a camera in that slick waterproof pocket, but it’s so narrow that you would be challenged to cram your cell phone or wallet in it. I though perhaps I had faulty zipper, so I checked the local bike store’s stock in person. I would say about half of the zippers were bunk, brand new, hanging in the shop. Some were smooth while other zippers snagged, separated on the first opening.
Over all I really like these panniers. The bright yellow Tarpaulin coupled with the reflective logos make them highly visible in nearly all conditions. The Monsoons carry a stunning amount of gear while being able to mount securely to nearly all front and rear bicycle racks. I regularly take curbs and drops with them fully loaded and they stay put.
I am still not convinced regarding the welded seams however. I wonder if it was too expensive to use stitch AND welded seams in their construction? I am still very apprehensive about using these through the winter cold, and may just pack them away until things get sloppy again in the spring.
This brings me to the other big selling feature of these panniers, and well for all Axiom products I guess. The lifetime guarantee.
Perhaps the failure of my first set of Axiom panniers was partly due to my fault. But this Canadian company does customer service first. If you have a problem, Axiom will have you return it to your local bike shop for exchange in most cases. I really like not having the hassle of mailing my property around the world hoping that I get it back without a lengthy repair process. Not having to worry about some phone agent disqualifying my claims is quite a relief as well.
Would I get a replacement set on warranty after subjecting these panniers to abuse admitted to in this review? That’s a whole other question…
I don’t miss the larger Typhoons at all, but would certainly consider the full set of four Typhoon/Monsoon combo for unsupported touring. The fact that they are waterproof can not be understated either. If you are an all weather cyclist and need the contents of your pannier to be protected from the elements, whether they be dry cloths, shoes, electronics or paper work the Monsoon panniers in Axiom’s “Storm Front” series are the way to go.