Ortlieb Panniers

Picnic stop at a damCyclists rave about Ortlieb panniers and in our opinion the praise is justified.

These are truly bicycle bags for life. Even after our 3-year world trip, our bags are still in great shape.

The only signs of wear are a little sun fading and a few broken plastic clips (easily replaced). There is also one small hole where Friedel leaned her bike against a sharp piece of metal. We put a tire patch over the hole and the bag remains waterproof.

Here are the types we have used:

Bike Packer Plus Ortlieb PanniersBIKE PACKER PLUS PANNIERS
Weight: 2.1kg / pair
Capacity: 40L / pair
Features: Outer pocket for easy access to critical items
Price: £135.39 from Wiggle or $175.93 from REI
Ortlieb Back Roller Plus PanniersBACK ROLLER PLUS PANNIERS
Weight: 1.5kg / pair
Capacity: 40L / pair
Features: Lighter than the Bike Packer Plus models
Price: £109.18 from Wiggle
Ortlieb Front Roller Plus PanniersFRONT ROLLER PLUS PANNIERS
Weight: 1.3kg / pair
Capacity: 25L / pair
Price: £82.97 from Wiggle or $101.93 from REI
Capacity: 22L
Features: Not technically a pannier, but very handy for storing your tent and other gear over the top of the back rack of your bike.
Price: £16.50 from Wiggle

Why we love our Ortlieb Bags:

  • Waterproof – You never have to worry about water leaking into your bags in a rainstorm. There is no need for rain covers. All you need to do is make sure the bags are tightly closed.
  • Durability – We put these bags through a 48,000km test run, over the course of more than 1,100 days. We took no special care with the bags. They were often thrown on the ground, heavily loaded and rubbed up against sharp objects. The bags passed their test with flying colours.Friedel and a lost lamb
  • Easy Attachment – All you have to do to get Ortlieb bags on and off your bicycle is lift a strap that releases the hooks that attach to the racks.  We’ve met cyclists with other brands of panniers and they’ve complained of needing up to half an hour to load or unload their bags. With Ortlieb, the job is done in seconds.
  • Stability – We’ve rarely had a problem with Ortlieb panniers coming off the bike while riding. On the rare occasion that a bag has come flying off, it’s always been on the roughest of dirt roads, after several minutes of rattling. The bags are exceptionally stable.
  • Visibility – Reflectors on the side and the option to choose bright colours helps to maximise your visibility on the road.
  • Good Service – One of the few problems we had with our bags was with the plastic clips that keep the bags closed. After daily use and repeated exposure to cold temperatures, towards the end of our 3-year trip, a few clips snapped. We emailed Ortlieb and within days we had the replacement parts.

What are the disadvantages to Ortliebs?

  • The Price – They are expensive. If you don’t plan to do a lot of touring, you may not get your money’s worth out of them.
  • Lack of Compartments – The Ortlieb Panniers are one big empty space inside. This means they turn into a bit of a black hole for your things. We helped to counteract this by separating things into smaller multi-coloured bags. Socks go in a blue bag. Shirts in a red bag. Underwear in a brown bag. See more tips for packing panniers
  • Inserts Can Come Loose – This isn’t a problem we’ve experienced directly, but some people do complain about it. The little plastic inserts that fit under the hooks of the bags and around the luggage rack apparently have a habit of falling out and getting lost. Some people take them out altogether, or wrap a bit of tape around the rack so that the fit between the rack and the inserts is tighter.

Which is best? The Bike Packer and the Roller-style panniers are similar in many ways. They are made of the same material, have the same attachment systems and have a hard plastic backing to help the bags keep their shape.

The main difference is that the Sportpacker style has a front mesh pocket (handy for quickly stashing things) and drawstrings and clips help keep it closed. The Front Roller and Back Roller panniers roll closed.

As for which is best, ask 100 cyclists and you’ll get 100 different answers. We find the Bike Packer bags quicker to open when we need to find something. We also love the outside pocket for keeping things like keys handy. On the other hand, the Front and Back Rollers are nice because they seem to accommodate more things. They can be left slightly open at the top on a sunny day if you’ve just stopped at a market and suddenly have a bushel of apples to carry down the road.