Thule Shield Review
Cons: Mounting system is not as secure as others
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Thule Shield makes its mark as one of the largest, most durable and weatherproof, and easiest to use bike panniers in our lineup. Our testers were impressed with the overall quality of the materials and construction, and the huge capacity of the size large model that we used. This model is easy to load up, securely close, and mount to the bike. The only drawback we found is that the small magnetic mount for the lower end of the pack wasn't as effective at securing the large pack as the mounting systems on some competitor models.
The mounting system is the only part of the otherwise impressive Shield Pannier that our testers found to be a minor weakness. Once the additional magnetic lower attachment point as attached to your rack, it is very quick and easy to mount and remove the bag from the bike. Pulling up on the handle of the rotating clip system twists the clips horizontally to align with the bars of the bike rack, and releasing the handle twists them vertically to lock back into place. As the bag rests on the rack, a metal plate embedded within the side of the bag comes into contact with the magnetic lower attachment point, helping secure the load. To remove the bag, simply grab the handle and pull up and out.
This simple design is very user-friendly since there are no additional latches or straps to have to adjust to mount the bag to the rack. However, we found that the rotating clip system, while effective, was a little tedious compared to hook style clips, since you must grasp the handle with equal pressure to twist and lock both clips at the same time. While certainly not a big issue, our testers preferred the hook style clips found on other products.
Another notable design feature on the Shield is its magnetic lower attachment points. We found that it took a little extra time upfront to secure the magnets to the rack and that the magnets weren't able to secure the pack to the bike over rougher terrain as well as some other models with latch style lower attachment points. On one of our bikes, the magnets extended out further from the rack than the upper clips, meaning that the bag wasn't able to sit completely straight and totally flush against the magnets. While certainly an interesting and innovative idea, we were a bit disappointed in the performance and preferred other hook-and-latch style mounting systems.
The Shield Pannier ranks very highly in our storage rankings with its gigantic 3,000 cubic inch (48 liter) storage capacity for the size large pair, and its simple to use closure system. Each pack also comes with an internal sleeve that has two smaller mesh sleeves attached to it. We found that this was a nice balance of a large, unobstructed main storage compartment for bulkier items combined with the smaller sleeves to keep notebooks, phones, wallets, and keys organized and easily accessible. The same exact model is also available in a size small that has a capacity of 1,700 cubic inches (28 liters) for the pair.
This model also has an easy to use closure system with a roll-top opening with a single cinch strap. We found that this design is effective at sealing out the elements and not making it complicated to access your gear inside.
The Shield Pannier also scores very well in our durability ratings, coming in as one of the heaviest and most well-built models in our lineup. The heavy-duty nylon material and welded construction give it an IP64 rating per the manufacturer's website, and all of the hardware attachment points, handles, and straps are solidly built as you would expect from a well-respected manufacturer.
One thing to note is that the shiny nylon material can scratch or scuff if you hit it just right, but we had to work hard to manually create some scratches ourselves. The material stayed in great shape throughout our testing, and we would expect these bags to last a long, long time.
Similar to the durability ratings, the Shield scores incredibly well in the weatherproofing metric. The heavy-duty nylon material is one of the thickest of any product in the lineup, and the roll-top closure and cinch strap do a great job of keeping the top closed. One key feature is that the closure strap is in a "Y" shape, giving it more coverage and leverage across the roll-top. Some other similar models also have side attachment straps to help seal the roll-top, but their main closure strap isn't as burly and well-designed as this one. We felt very confident in the closure strap and never missed having any additional security straps to keep the bag sealed from the elements.
Ease of Use
The pannier set also gains respectable scores in the ease of use category. Our testers appreciated the simple to use roll-top closure and very effective cinch strap and enjoyed the simple pull-to-twist mounting system, once we got the right feel for it. The Shield lost a few points in this category due to the additional initial setup that is required to install the magnetic lower attachment points. We also found that while the pull-to-twist mounting system was intuitive and easy to use, it was slightly more tedious than other clip style attachment points.
Where this model really shines is that to remove it, it simply takes a very easy lift of the handle to remove both the pull-to-twist upper clips and the lower magnetic attachment point. It definitely was one of the easiest packs in our lineup to remove from its mounted position. These panniers also each come with a detachable shoulder strap, which is a nice addition that makes hauling them around off the bike a bit more natural.
While the retail price on the Shield is on the higher end of the lineup, it also has a huge storage volume, very high-quality materials and construction, and a user-friendly design. For road riders who may not need the extra security of a latch-style lower attachment system, this could provide a great value, as this bag provides a ton of utility and will likely withstand any abuse you could throw at it for years and years. Offroad riders needing a little extra attachment security for riding over rougher terrain will likely be able to find similar touring style products for a similar price. Riders who don't need the huge storage capacity or heavy-duty construction will likely find a better value with a commuting or urban style pannier.
The Thule Shield Pannier impressed us across the board with its burly construction, heavy-duty materials, innovative design, and huge storage volume. It just missed out on winning one of our top awards because we preferred the mounting systems of other similar products. Overall it is an impressive product that could be perfect with a few small changes.
— Nick Bruckbauer