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Kit review: Ortlieb bike panniers

Written by Fiona July 19 2013

In my opinion, the credentials for choosing bike panniers include:

  • Ease of fitting
  • Easy on-off
  • Roomy
  • Easy access while on the bike
  • Useful pockets
  • Carrying around
  • Waterproof
  • Cost
  • Good looks.
Ortlieb bike panniers

Ortlieb bike panniers

I had heard good things about Ortlieb bike panniers and the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative kindly offered to send me a pair for review. I took the Ortlieb Rear Classic Panniers with me on a recent cycling tour holiday in the north of France.

Here’s how they rated under each of the credential headers.

  • Ease of fitting: I hate reading instructions but I found I needed to for these panniers. I made a couple of silly errors fitting the lower bracket at the start but I soon worked out how they system fitted to the pannier rack. There is a lot of room for adjustment and flexibility so I imagine the fitments would offer good fitting to pretty much any rear pannier rack. I liked that I could achieve good clearance between the back of my cycle shoes and the front of the panniers. The panniers felt securely fitted, especially when loaded with my kit.
  • Easy on-off: This is superb. The carrying handle acts as the operating system for unclipping the top “locks” from the pannier rack. One pull up and the panniers are easily removed. Putting the panniers back on to the rack is a simple procedure of lining up and slotting on.
  • Roomy: 20 litres each side is more than enough space for carrying your cycling kit for a week. I only half filled each so that the bike didn’t end up being a major drag. You can roll the top of the panniers over according to how much is inside.
  • Easy access while on the bike: The roll top feature of the bags makes it very easy to open and access your kit. There is an additional security/tightening clip with the strap so you can neatly compact the panniers, or increase the size, according to how much you are carrying.
  • Useful pockets: The pockets are all internal which is great for stowing important items such as train tickets, money and passport. I would have liked a couple of external pockets for the placement of routinely used items such as sun lotion and mobile phone but this is only a small complaint. I imagine that adding external pockets would affect the waterproofing of the panniers.
  • Carrying around: The longer shoulder straps fitted to the panniers were extremely useful for carrying the panniers when off the bike. Adding a bit of extra padding to the straps where they sit on your shoulders would be beneficial especially when you are wearing a vest cycle top!
  • Waterproof: We had not a single drop of rain during the trip so on my return I got the hose out and sprayed the panniers and the contents. I can report the panniers are 100% waterproof, so long as you roll down the top and secure it tightly.
  • Cost: £105 for a pair of these rear panniers offers good value for money. I have heard of people who still own these panniers a decade or more after buying. They are high quality and will be a good long-term item in my outdoors kit wardrobe.
  • Good looks: I don’t suppose you have to buy panniers that look good but if they do it’s a bonus. The yellow version are very bright and have the additional feature of reflective back and front detailing. If you want to be seen on the road the panniers are perfect. They also come in black if you prefer your bike kit to be a little less in your face!

Buy Ortlieb Classic roll top rear bike panniers from Edinburgh Bike Coop.

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