Donkey Boxx Initial Impressions…

16 05 2011

Donkey Boxx installed on Sharon's Cross Check...

The folks who make the Donkey Boxx low cost coroplast bike pannier sent me a sample to test. I’m a gear snob and I tend to buy high end items, but I know that’s not practical and frankly not necessary for everyone. I also know it has a downside – do you think I’d leave an Ortlieb pannier on my locked bike when I leave it downtown?…no way! Coroplast is the same stuff they make election signs out of. It’s lightweight, durable, strong and waterproof. I’ve seen folks make stuff out of coroplast before, but it’s always been a little frankenstein looking. The Donkey Boxx is a very clean well made box that looks as elegant and classy as coroplast will ever look – which is to say pretty nice.

Since Sharon is a daily bike commuter and I’ve been complaining how awful the Basil pannier she was using looked on her bike [I call it Flopsy because it looks like a dead rabbit has been attacked to her rear rack] I offered the Donkey Boxx to her for this review. She gave it the once over and agreed it was nicer than Flopsy! She puts all her work stuff into a soft shoulder bag now and simply drops it into the Donkey Boxx for the ride to work. At work she takes the bag out and leaves her bike with Donkey Boxx locked up.

Donkey Boxx zip tied to top rail of rear rack...

Installing the Donkey Boxx took me less than 5 mins. I zip tied it to the top of Sharon’s rear rack taking a second to make sure her foot wouldn’t hit it [they provide a handy measuring tool with the Donkey Boxx]. They provide enough zip ties for 3 on the top of the box, but I went to town for added reliability and security.

A couple zip ties at the bottom...

A couple more zip ties at the bottom and the Donkey Boxx isn’t going anywhere. Clearly you won’t be installing and removing this box 5 times a day, but at the same time it’s a hassle for a thief to steal as well. If Sharon wanted the Donkey Boxx on another bike for the weekend moving it around isn’t a big deal and I’d do it a few times a week without any problem.

Once attached to the rack there is a bit of velcro you stick on to keep the lid closed enroute and a couple reflective stickers for the front/back of the box. The box surface is sticker and paint/marker friendly so it provides a nice canvass for artistic expression or advertising if you run a business. The more unique the box is the less likely anyone would even contemplate stealing it.

Sharon ready to roll...

Sharon has used it a couple times already and likes how sturdy and light the Donkey Boxx is as well as the fact it looks nicer on her bike than Flopsy. The fact the Donkey Boxx is made from waterproof material is a bonus – Flopsy is made of cotton. Having said that you need to seal the seams and holes in the box to make it really waterproof vs. just being water resistant.

The Donkey Boxx is a bit wide...

The Donkey Boxx is wide and rigid which means you need to be able to fit it through any openings it goes through as you won’t be popping it on and off each trip. I think one Donkey Boxx and one removable pannier is an idea setup. Sharon has her own Ortliebs or Flopsy her Basil bike bag and she’ll throw that on the left side of the bike if she is carrying a mega load. Two Donkey Boxxes probably wouldn’t get through the gate into our yard. OTOH if you have a garage access from the street and carry a ton of stuff all the time two Donkey Boxxes would be a fine idea.

Sharon and Donkey on a date night ride...

Like any rigid bike pannier if you put a bunch of hard loose items in the box there will be a rattle so wrap your multi-tool, tire levers in a dirty rag. Not only will it keep them quiet, but when a thief peers in the box it will look gnarly and they’ll leave it alone…=-)

Boxx details...

The Donkey Boxx has a metal reinforcement around the top to help keep its shape and the construction is held together using a heat welded pseudo rivet. This lets the box be strong and light with a clean shape. These boxes are made in the US by a company that provides jobs for folks with disabilities and they use 80% recyclable materials when fabricating the box. Assuming you don’t crash the Donkey Boxx should last many years and can be fully recycled when the end of its lifespan arrives.

Donkey and Cross Check...

The Donkey Boxx sells for $28 and can be bought online or through a dealer. Personally that price is ideal for a nice looking bike box/pannier. Anything I tried to build would take me long enough and look crappy enough that it wouldn’t be worth saving $28.

Donkey Boxx from the rear...

I’ll let Sharon use this box for a couple months and we’ll see how well it performs for her.


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26 responses

16 05 2011
Steve Jones

Well it works…but snobbery aside I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see that thing attached to the Cross Check!
Hmmm…perhaps in Robin’s Egg blue or bunny pink?
I’m just feeling sorry for Flopsy! Low tech solutions can sometimes be great but if this catches on it’ll be worse than the crocs craze! Ha ha!

16 05 2011
Mark Brown

Hi Vik, loving the blog and your fleet … been following you for a while now.
I’m looking to build myself a blue cross check up for some heavyish summer touring and also some cyclocross type off-roading.
Was thinking about an Alfine 8 build… one of the things that suprised me about your NWT build was the nexus. Had never thought about the Alfine as a possible touring rig. Don’t you find the gear range is too limited or maybe a bit top heavy for loaded touring?
Would love to hear your opinion. Keep riding!

16 05 2011
Vik

I love my Crocs!

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

@Mark – thanks for the kind words.

I’ve also got an Alfine 8 on my Surly Pugsley which we did a nice fully loaded dirt road tour through the mtns a couple years ago. The gear range was fine. We did walk once or twice a day on the steepest hills, but the guy that stayed on the bike didn’t move much faster than the guy walking at that point. Now that there is an Alfine 11 out you’ve got even more gear range at your disposal.

http://www.bowcycle.com/bikes/blogs/viks-picks/index.php?s=cdn+gdr&x=0&y=0

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/sets/72157620470407905/

http://thelazyrando.wordpress.com/?s=cdn+gdr

I’ve got another touring bike build in mind and it will be a 1 x 9 or 1 x 8 drivetrain. I just don’t need the extra gears.

16 05 2011
Brad

I’ve been running a Donkey Boxx on my utility/commuter mtb conversion and I absolutely love it. It is the perfect solution for daily commuting. I only wish the gate to my backyard was wide enough that I could put two on my bike..

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

@Brad – we are cool with just one DB on Sharon’s bike, but we said the same thing – two wouldn’t fit in the gate to the backyard.

16 05 2011
Pete

“Anything I tried to build would take me long enough and look crappy enough that it wouldn’t be worth saving $28.”
That’s the kind of perspective I love about this blog!
I think the Donkey Box is a great low-tech solution. However, it does look really wide at the top. I wonder if they could make a version that either didn’t flare out , or was just narrower overall, so that mounting a pair of them wouldn’t be so problematic?
Also, coroplast comes in colors…hint.

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

@Pete – thanks…I’m sure they could build a different shape and use different colours, but I bet they are trying to keep costs/complexity low so their business is viable. Bike box shape is a tough one because everyone will want something different and since they are hard a box that’s too small won’t accept bulky items – say like a helmet. Having said that two BDs on a bike would be very wide and I probably couldn’t live with that for any length of time.

16 05 2011
Mark Brown

Cheers Vik – that’s good advice. Now just got to decide if I go drops with Versa shifters.Think I’ve also got a JTEK shifter from another project somewhere. Then again the H bar looks cool too!

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

I love my JTEK shifter. I can’t wait for them to make a version for the Alfine 11.

16 05 2011
Mark Brown

You think the Alfine 11 is worth the extra $ Vik? I’m in Europe here and the 11 comes out at roughly $250 more. From what I can see you get your top end extended considerably but not much at the bottom. Not discounting the obvious advances in hub quality.

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

Ask me about the Alfine 11 in a year! My guess is that it’s worth it in the long run simply because the hub is user serviceable via oil changes. I gear my Alfine 8 way below what Shimano recommends and it’s been okay. I could do the same for the Alfine 11 and I’d still have more top end.

If you asked me if it was essential I’d say no.

16 05 2011
Mark Brown

And some of the stories on the forums concerning tech problems would make me think twice too.
Like you’ve said, I guess the word is if the extra is ‘essential’.
I’ll let you know how the build goes. Cheers for all that.

16 05 2011
Philboyd

Wald 582 folding baskets are similar to the Donkey Box. They aren’t water resistant like the Donkey Box but they fold out of the way when empty. I carry most stuff on a front rack but the folders are a nice backup.

16 05 2011
adventure!

They sort of look like the mail totes for the USPS.
I think the Donkey Box fits into the same niche as the Converted Kitty Litter Bucket Pannier that I see a lot of in Portland. It’s similarly low-tech, but I like how the Donkey Box is lighter weight.

17 05 2011
Steve Jones

I’d like it better if it was full of ice-cream!

17 05 2011
Vik

@Steve – Sharon has already hauled a tub of ice cream in it for some event at work…=-)

17 05 2011
jdmitch

Vik,

If you’re interested… these do fit on a Tikit front rack… kind of odd looking… but it works… I have photographic proof. Also, I found some 50-150# (can’t remember how much) releasable zip ties that’ll let you simply remove it…

17 05 2011
thelazyrando

Ah cool. Good to know. I won’t be trying that, but glad to hear the Tikit front rack is versatile.

I have started to think adding some basic upper hooks and a lower bungee hook might be feasible for those that want a removable box.

23 05 2011
Rod Rudinger

How does it handle being fully loaded with groceries with additional grocery bags on the carrier? I’ve done this with a wire basket carrier (and broken it ). That would be the acid test for the Boxx.

23 05 2011
thelazyrando

@Rod – Sharon has used it stuffed full to carry all her gear to work incl: books, lunch, clothes, etc.. Worked fine. It’s rated to something like 30lbs which seems reasonable.

29 06 2011
Surly Cross Check Nexus 8 Shifter Update « The Lazy Randonneur

[…] is really enjoying the Donkey Boxx and it’s performed solidly for her. She gets lots of positive comments on it and questions […]

25 08 2011
rroocckkyy

Have any of you tried the NuVinci N360 Hub? The thing is amazing. I have been riding one quite a bit lately and it is defiantly worth a test ride. I think it is far better than any of the other “internals” out there! The idea of the reusable zip ties was a great one. I really like the donkey boxx but put my bike on a roof rack regularly. This would fix that pretty quick, Thanks.

25 08 2011
thelazyrando

@Rocky – I’ve test ridden a Nuvinci and didn’t care for it. My biggest complaints were high drag, heavy weight and limited gear range compared to my other IGHs.

26 11 2012
Lisa Wylie

Hi Vik. What are the handlebars on Sharon’s Surly? I’ve been looking for that style of “euro” trekking bars for my Bike Friday. They are hard to find, even here in Portland, OR. The ones I have managed to find are pretty wide (58cm, I think), especially for a woman. Don’t know if there are any women-specific ones out there. Anyway, I’d appreciate any word from Sharon on her experience w/ them. Thanks!

26 11 2012
thelazyrando

@Lisa – those bars are aluminum Jeff Jones H-bars. Both Sharon and I really enjoy them.

http://www.jonesbikes.com/h-bar.html

The ones on Sharon’s bike are Titec H-bars that are no longer available, but Jeff sells a variety of H-Bars direct from his site.

http://thelazyrando.wordpress.com/?s=h-bars

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