Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been caught out on my bike in a few torrential downpours where I’ve turned up at work looking like an immersed rodent. I thought now would be a good time to write a few words about my panniers, the Ortlieb Back Roller classics. These ensure that while I might arrive soaked, I’ll be sure to always have a clean and dry change of clothes.
The Ortlieb panniers are made of a tough, thick, utterly waterproof polyester fabric. Unlike most other bags, you don’t need to worry about storing your stuff in a plastic bag inside to keep things dry.
Each pannier can store up to 20 litres which is large enough for a change of clothes, a laptop, a toolkit, a lunchbox and plenty more. The panniers come in packs of two but I find one more than adequate for the daily commute. A couple of people I know have bought packs of two and sold their spare on Ebay for more than half the price.
When open, the pannier takes the form of a small sack. To close it, the top of the sack is rolled up as many times as required depending on how full it is. Once rolled a strap over the top holds it closed via a quick release buckle. A further strap is attached to the corners of the sack that either forms a shoulder strap or clips into a hook at the front.
The pannier is attached to the rack by two catches on the top that simply slot on to the side bar of the rack via a spring loaded clip mechanism. It’s removed again simply by lifting the handle which releases the clips. A number of adapter inserts are supplied that may be slotted into the clips to allow the panniers to fit racks with a wide range of thicknesses. I use a Tortec Tour Ultralite which is lightweight, inexpensive and works well with the Ortlieb panniers.
The first time I attached my panniers and set off to work I quickly realised I’d positioned them too far forwards on the rack which meant my heels would brush past them on every turn of the pedals. The position of the pannier can be adjusted by moving the mounting clips left or right. An allen key is required for this adjustment. The bottom of the pannier is held close to the rack by a simple paddle, which may be placed in a wide range of positions and orientations to provide compatibility with pretty much any rack.
For every day commuting, the Ortlieb back roller pannier is almost perfect. In particular I like the convenience of the ingenious quick attach/detach mechanism and the security of knowing my possesions are going to stay dry. For me, the only thing missing is a small easy access side pocket which would be useful for storing small items like keys.
I nearly forgot to mention we like shiny things at bikelightsreview so we particularly like the 3M Scotchlite side reflectors!