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