RBD EL Hybrid Panniers: An Overview of Design

“Bob Beckman makes the finest touring packs in the world”

(Bicycle Rider Magazine)

“The crème de la crème”

(Outside Magazine)

The EL Hybrid panniers are highly detailed, yet very economical high-performance panniers that are designed to fit, through many types of four-point mounting systems and ATS adapters, a wide variety of touring racks.  They were originally designed as an affordable, less-detailed alternative to the top-of-the-line Discovery Hybrid pannier models.  In their latest hybridized, custom-built form they are by far the most advanced, comprehensively designed panniers available of a conventional design.    

Early versions of the EL World Tour Panniers were once rated as the “absolute best” of touring packs.  In another review, when compared with all other brands, they were described as being  “in a class by themselves.”  But still, they were upgraded in the late 1990's, and in recent years I have applied many of the Hummingbird design features to all EL models to improve their performance even far more.  All EL models are now completely custom-made.  Each pair is built per individual order, to fit individual requirements and needs.  Types of fabric, zippers, webbing, pannier depth (width) and height and the type of mounting system of each model is determined at the time of order.  Whatever the composite of complex details adds up to, as they are custom-built in a hybridized form, they are designed as an economical, slightly less-detailed option to the Discovery models.  But even though they are designed to be an economically priced line of panniers, they are still much more elaborately designed and detailed, and have much higher performance levels, than any other brand of pannier.

It is the details of design that separate one product from another. Even though the EL Hybrid panniers are a less-detailed alternative to the Discovery Series panniers, they have a multitude of designs that elevate their performance far above other brands of panniers. Two of those unique features can be found in the photo above: zip-on, zip-off pockets in a modular design and multi-fabric construction in which small patches of heavy fabrics are used only as reinforcement where they are needed, as in high stress areas such as under pannier carrying handles.
Of the 14 individual elements of primary and complimentary designs (four-point mounting systems, HDPE perimetric stiffeners and load supports, dual- and triple-compresseion/stabilizing systems, five-fabric construction etc.) which I consider essential to the basic performance of the ATS and RBD panniers, all other brands of panniers that are sold through retailers will have no more than one or (rarely) two, while each EL model will have at least 11.  Consequently, EL Hybrid Pannier models, when built in extremely lightweight versions that will weigh as little as 28 ounces per pair, will have extremely high performance-to-cost ratios, and will have extraordinary performance-to-weight ratios.  Each RBD EL Hybrid model is designed to fit, by means of specially adapted four-point mounting systems, to many racks including Gordon, Jandd, Tubus, Nitto, Blackburn, Surly, Old Man Mountain and many other brands.  I do not build the EL models to fit my own Advanced Touring System racks.

A lot has changed in the external appearance of each EL model as they been hybridized, so much so that I don't even know how to take an accurate, representative photograph of the panniers anymore.  As they are currently being custom-built there are many potential differences in the design of compression systems, types of zipper flaps, compression panels and pocket choices, so that one version of each model may look quite different from the next.  As their designs have evolved, some of the basic design details of the panniers have improved significantly, but the fundamental design remains the same.  All EL pannier models are built for all-around use including the most extreme expedition conditions, therefore they are designed with 360-degree HDPE perimetric stiffeners, the most advanced four-point mounting systems and the most effective and advanced compression systems.  These have been standards for decades, but many options have been added.  The EL panniers are now set up to have an optional triple compression strap system added.  Dual straps are the standard, but triple compression is a built-in option.  All pannier models are now built in three different vertical height options: 14.25 in., 16.25 in. and 18.25 in. versions. The taller the pannier the narrower it becomes relative to its individual size and carrying capacity.  Narrower is better.

At the bottom, supporting the two lower pannier hooks of this four-point mounting system, is the ATS Four-Point Adapter. Such adapters make it possible to mount EL panniers to racks that are not well-designed with an extremely high level of mounting-system stability and are one of the unique foundations of a high level of performance in EL Hybrid panniers.
The greatest change in EL models is in that I used to only make them for RBD and Gordon racks.  A few years ago I developed the RBD Four-Point Adapters to make all EL models available, with the highest levels of mounting system stability, to fit most brands and types of racks.   As an option, each model of EL panniers may now be built with relieved aluminum plate stiffeners, lightweight fabrics and webbing, or lightweight hardware to increase their performance as it relates to weight.  Short of the RBD Discovery Pannier models, the EL models remain as by far the most advanced and most economical high-performance panniers (relative to performance and design detailing) among those of conventional design on the market.

In past years the EL Hybrid models have been built in three forms, the L, S and C versions.  Currently their standard, basic design is the “L” version of the panniers in each model.  The “S” version adds a flat pocket, with a long vertical entry zipper, to the outside face of the panniers.  The “C” version includes both the flat pocket and a compression panel on the outside face of the panniers.   

The EL models have evolved, they have changed.  They have always been far more advanced in their designs than other panniers, but in recent years the gap has simply become much, much wider.  More than ever, in design and performance they are setting the pace in moving bicycle touring forward.