Bicycle panniers that survive the years and dog attacks

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A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a family on bicycles up at Log Boom Park on the Burke-Gilman Trail. What first drew my attention to them were the old blue panniers on the dad’s tandem.

Eclipse panniers

I recognized them immediately as an Eclipse model of panniers. They’re the saddlebags that efficiently lugged my stuff on a cross country bike trip nearly 3 decades ago.

They still see use today for touring, at right, and more frequent trips to the grocery store.

My cross-country bike tour partner also used Eclipse bags, which took the brunt of a feral dog attack on a country road in Virginia. The dog punctured, but couldn’t rip, the fabric.

The dad had similar tales of long-distance touring with the panniers. He said that mounting them on a bike for a three-day trip to Seattle from their home near Puyallup brings back memories of those adventures.

I remembered our conversation when I read a couple of days ago that the Eclipse Bags founder, Leslie Bohm, had died last week at age 59 after battling cancer for several years.

Bohm started making the panniers in the 1970s when he was 20 years old. After expanding into motorcycle panniers, he sold the company in 1984.

The following year he began the life’s work to advocate for bicyclists and those who sell bikes and accessories. He created direct marketing company Bicycle Product Corporation, which later became Catalyst Communication. The company produced Cycling Guides that promoted stores and suppliers. Later, Catalyst created the promotional SuperSale events in bike stores that helped increase traffic.

The Boulder, Colorado, resident also was a founding member of Bikes Belong, a high-profile bicycling advocacy group.

Bohm also was an avid bicycle traveler, writes Adventure Cycling Association’s executive director Jim Sayer. He bicycled in Europe, Asia and through North America, and was one of the first Americans to ride through China when it was reopened to tourists in 1981.

Sayer writes that Bohm was an Adventure Cycling supporter, “But more importantly, through his work, he helped spur the growth of independent bicycle dealerships — those great shops where we buy the best in bikes and gear, and where people who are passionate about cycling tend to gather.”

If you want to learn more about Bohm, check out his bio at Bicycle Retailer, “Catalyst founder Leslie Bohm dies.” It tells about Bohm’s many accomplishments beyond making strong, durable panniers bring back memories of past adventures.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday, Sept. 2, at 4 pm the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave, in Boulder.

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    • Eric on September 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm
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    I still have my rear Eclipse bags and rear rack. Still going strong after what must be 30 years.

    • dick on June 24, 2016 at 6:37 pm
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    39 years ago for me.
    The only thing is, one of the bags has a broken, now missing tube that inserts into the racks slot. I’d love to be able to buy one

      • Tony on October 28, 2016 at 8:36 am
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      I have an unassembled version of the eclipse panniers I’ll be putting on ebay soon.

  1. I just passed my four Eclipse panniers on to Kirsten, a young woman from Denmark riding from Boston to Miami. We hosted her via the WarmShowers,org website. You can see a photo of them on her blog here:

    Those panniers were with me through France, Belgium, Scotland, across the US and many shorter trips. In later years as the weather resistance decreased I just used trash compactor bags as liners. Never any issues with them, and the positive attachment, ease of use, and the snap-together feature have been great. I hope they give Kirsten many more years of use.

    • James Williams on June 21, 2018 at 8:44 am
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    If anyone is interested, I have a set of unused Eclipse Red Panniers. Bought in East Lansing, MI back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Have the hardware to mount on rear rack. Perfect condition.

      • Gary Barber on May 23, 2019 at 11:37 am
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      I realize your post is almost a year old but I am interested in the panniers. Please let me know if still available.

    • Brad Mitchell on June 19, 2020 at 2:43 pm
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    As I retire my Eclipse handlebar bag i read this…what a good read. I bought my panniers and handlebar bag in 1976 or 77 and put on my Motobecane Nomade Sprint…25 inch frame the bike I still ride today. The bike is too big for me but it was the last in stock in the fall of 76 near Swartz Creek Mi. I needed it for riding around Michigan State University and beyond………

    • John Bredell on September 28, 2020 at 7:13 am
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    I have an orange eclipse over the handle bar bag I bought in the late 70’s. It is in perfect conditon. Years later, I met the inventor of the bag, We had gym lockers next to each other. Sean, who was a professor at U of M, Ann Arbor, tragically, died a few years ago in Florida, in a sea plane he was thinking of buying. He was a fascinating man.

    1. Hi John…
      That’s amazing that you met him. Sorry to hear about his death. I’m still using my Eclipse panniers whenever I run an errand to the store or on any bike ride that I need to carry gear. They are very dirty on the outside, but trouble-free.

  2. I worked for Leslie the summer of 1975 at his packaging office in Ann Arbor, Mi. I made enough money that summer to purchase a set of front and rear panniers, frame mounts, and handle bar bag (might have gotten an employee discount). Took them on Bikecentennial the next summer.

    16 years old riding across the Rocky Mountains with eight strangers I met for the first time in Astoria, OR. What an adventure, and adventure no 16 year old is likely to repeat in this enlightened age.

    • Scott on May 28, 2022 at 9:54 pm
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    And I still have mine. Almost 40 yrs! Eclipse bags and the rugged rack.

    1. These are bomb proof. I wrote this 10 years ago, and I’m still using mine. There aren’t too many things that you can use for so long without a major overhaul or two.

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