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
Ortlieb Dry Bag ORTLIEB DRY BAG
Weight:
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.

Comments

  1. Thomas Arbs
    9th October 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    OF COURSE Ortlieb Back Rollers… is there anything else? We usually got along on back rollers alone, but recently bought front rollers as well, as McTrek had them in some wild colours for only 25 EUR.

  2. John Staples
    16th December 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Has anybody got any experience of using Ortlieb Back Rollers on the front?
    If used to carry the bulky items, i.e., clothes, wash bag, first aid, etc. I don’t see a problem. I need more storage for a long haul.

    • sz
      18th December 2010 at 12:46 am #

      No experience myself, but I’m also thinking about it for next year’s tour, and see no problems as long as the bags fit the front rack. I’ve seen a few guys done it, but could only dig up one link (in German): http://bike-nord.de/LapplandperRad.html That’s quite the winter tour they’ve done.

  3. Martin
    30th December 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    I’ve come cross your website whilst searching and have it most interesting. I, too have a 2 week cycle-camping tour planned for next year.

  4. Rob
    30th May 2011 at 1:29 am #

    One thing you didn’t mention that I really don’t like about mine is the weight. Empty, they are 1.5kg. For 40L that’s quite a weight. given a 40L dry bag would weight 250g.

    I’m sure they could reduce the frame a little, and use a more light-weight material (much like Alpkits Airlok Xtra which are just as durable). If the weight was closer to 1kg I’d be happy.

    That’s the only thing that frustrates me with them. If you have 2 back rollers, a rack bag, and an Ortlieb bar bag, you’ve got over 2.5kg in empty luggage!

    • friedel
      2nd June 2011 at 11:07 am #

      Fair point. I guess nothing is perfect and I’m willing to accept the weight given how well they work and how long they last. Ours are still waterproof and working after 60,000km of touring.

  5. Traveler
    30th October 2011 at 1:00 am #

    I don’t agree it. I have FRONT ROLLER PLUS PANNIERS and BACK ROLLER PLUS PANNIERS. I’ve been traveling just one months. My bag is leaking. And also I have some holes at front and bottom already.

    I saw this posting and bought. Now It is leaking and broken. I don’t recommend this bag. Just so expensive.

    Also It’s uncomfortable. If I want to take some stuff which is on bottom. I have to take every stuff for that.

    IT IS JUST EXPENSIVE AND USELESS.

    I am wondering that you got supported??
    How you are different from me?

    • Traveler
      30th October 2011 at 1:04 am #

      I’ve been traveling one months.
      I am traveling around the world by bicycle.
      But it’s already broken. I don’t agree this posting!!!!

    • friedel
      6th November 2011 at 9:09 am #

      Have you tried to get in touch with Ortlieb about your problems? This sounds very unusual to me. No, we aren’t sponsored by Ortlieb. Every piece of Ortlieb equipment we have, we’ve bought at retail price in the normal shops.

    • Anna
      18th October 2013 at 11:16 am #

      Hi Traveler, I also experiences the same problem as yours.
      I use Front and Back Roller Pannier, Brown color with fabric outside and cover with waterproof material inside. (photo of the one I use: http://www.bikesngps.de/img/ortlieb-back-roller-plus-paar-haselnuss-schwarz-b.jpg

      I bike in the rainstorm 2 times, on my first time I was not sure but I felt that once I opened the pannier, the stuffs inside getting moisture. then after the 2nd riden in rainstorm really made me sure enough, because I found the leaking water inside the bag. luckily I put all the stuffs in the plastic bag before loaded in. 🙁

      Anna

  6. Paul
    6th February 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I think Travellers experience above is an absolute exception to the norm. I’ve got two ortlieb classics on the back and 2 rollers on the front. I’ve never found them anything else than utterly brilliant in terms of weight, weatherproofing and durability. One of the best investments I ever made. Can’t think why any serious cyclist would think of using anything else.

    • Steve Redder
      8th June 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      I agree with Paul’s comment. I have used the same set of Ortlieb panniers for 4 years now and 10’s of thousands of touring miles summer and winter. They are bomb proof. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM!

  7. Orlando Morales
    15th November 2012 at 2:03 am #

    LOVE your site…I did some smaller trips in the early nineties, Oregon to SF, Duluth to Ste. St Marie via Thunder Bay back to Chicago, Alaska Parks Highway and then found myself housebound until the age of 52 when two years ago I rolled from Prague to Dresden to Berlin to Amsterdam (FUN!)planning a world tour in steps and the next one is in 2014 (hope hope) from Prague to Istanbul. I’m using an old set of Maddens and use any old garbage bag to waterproof whatever (I’m minimalist to moderate in my needs) The Ortleibs feel superior but my bags ARE much lighter and have pockets and its my impression that with the Ortleibs, if it goes in wet it stays wet…still have no need to replace the old bags but when and if the Ortleibs are still attractive…

  8. Allan Fletcher
    28th January 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    What rack can you use to fit ortleibs panniers to a 29″ trex cobia disc bike? We are hoping to cycle the outer Hebrides at Easter.

  9. gregory chauvet
    10th March 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    I am 6,2ft or 1,90m and I tried the Ortlieb back panniers in the shop.
    When I try the 40l ones, my heel hit the pannier!
    Any tips on overcoming the problem?

    Please!

    • friedel
      11th March 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      See if you can adjust them to sit as far back as possible on the racks. By adjusting the clips on the back of the panniers, sometimes you can move them back a few centimeters…. just enough to get them out of the way of your heels.

  10. Ellen Maxwell
    16th February 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    I’ve never done a cycle tour before but am planning to one for 3-4 months in October. Your site is really helpful, so thanks. I wondered – if with these Ortleib bags you have to plastic bag up all your stuff anyway – then would a lighter, cheaper bag be just as good – seeing as your stuff will be water proof in the plastic bags inside. I’m certainly no expert – but was wondering your thoughts on this.

    • friedel
      25th February 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      The Ortliebs are water-proof so you don’t have to use plastic bags inside them at all.

      • Jonathan
        31st March 2016 at 1:30 pm #

        Yes but you should still do this because dirty laundry needs to be kept separate from clean laundry, and it will stink the bag out if left out on its own. Waterproof bags don’t let smelly clothes air very much…

    • Paul
      25th February 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      If you ever get caught out in torrential rain, you’ll soon find out, possibly the hard way, why Ortlieb panniers are worth every single penny. Any plastic bags inside are more for the purposes of ‘filing’ and keeping good order.

      Paul

  11. Cristina
    10th December 2014 at 2:33 am #

    Any opinions on Ortlieb back/front roller classics vs. back roller plus?

  12. Pam
    31st August 2016 at 6:05 am #

    It’s amazing how much you can fit in the front bags. I use them on the back rack for two-month Autumn touring in France. Carry no bedding and minimal but adequate gear for staying in Gites, Chambres d’hôtes etc.

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