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If you regularly ride your bike in the rain, whether commuting or touring, then good, strong, waterproof panniers are no doubt important in your life. I know they are in mine! I am on an ongoing quest to find great waterproof panniers. In this post, I offer suggestions for setting yourself up with waterproof bike panniers that will make your bike touring and bike commuting easier and more enjoyable. And keep your stuff dry! In this post we feature and compare three of the best in Ortlieb’s line-up of premium waterproof bike panniers. I chose Ortlieb because it seems every bike tourer I meet on the road is using them.
Back when I was a bike commuter, I had excellent results with Axiom Stormfront panniers. I used them regularly for both commuting and touring.
I found the Axiom Stormfront panniers to be entirely waterproof – I transported my laptop inside these panniers in monsoon-like weather without getting a drop of water on it. Also, the Axiom Stormfront panniers were quite spacious – the volume of the set was 33.2L, or 2028 cubic inches.
However, it is time for me to get new panniers, and to my dismay, I cannot find Axiom Stormfront or Axiom Typhoon panniers on Amazon. This sent me off an a quest for new panniers. As usual, I have done tons of research. The best solution I have come up with are Ortlieb panniers. Ortlieb offers a range of waterproof panniers, and I am featuring the best of these here. They come with a fairly large price tag for a pair of them, but the vast majority of users swear they are worth every penny.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Waterproof Bike Pannier
As the name suggests, these panniers are designed to be carried on your rear rack. The key positives with these panniers are:
- They are completely waterproof, thanks to strong polyester materials and the roll-over style closure on the top.
- The QL2.1 mounting System fits perfectly with standard bike racks, such as the Topeak Super Tourist rack. The mounts fit snugly, so the panniers are immobile and do not rattle. The QL in QL2.1 stands for Quick Lock.
- When setting them up, they can be easily adjusted to avoid heel strike.
- Once your initial fine-tuning is done, they are super quick and easy to take on and off.
- They are very spacious (40 L capacity for the pair), as in you can transport a tent and sleeping bag on one side, and still have space for the rest of your gear on the other side. As a size guide: you can fit in full-size frozen pizzas!
- They have a small pocket inside for keeping your smaller items in an easy-to-find pace.
- Also, they have an internal mesh pocket at the rear, which works well for small laptops.
- They ship with both a carrying handle and a shoulder strap, which is ideal for both commuting and touring.
- The Classic has buckles that can be clipped to each other, so you can transform two panniers into one unit when transporting them off the bike.
Ortlieb Back-Roller City Waterproof Bike Pannier
These are very similar to the Ortlieb Back-roller Classic. They have most of the same great features. However, they are a lot cheaper because they lack a few of the features of the Classic model. If you don’t need those features, they are a great deal.
Differences between the Ortlieb Back-Roller City Pannier and the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Pannier
- The Classic has compression straps that double as carry handles. However, the City has no straps. You can buy a strap separately, but then you might end up paying more than you would have for a Classic.
- The City is just one big bag. The Classic has two inner pockets – a large, flat one you can use for a small laptop, and a small zippered one that is handy for keys, wallet, etc.
- The Classic has buckles with straps so you can close them more quickly; plus, it is quicker to access stuff if you don’t fold it down as much (for example, when it is not raining).
- The Classic has buckles that can be clipped to each other, so you can transform two panniers into one unit when transporting them off the bike. However, the City does not have these buckles.
Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Waterproof Bike Pannier
These are smaller panniers, designed to be attached to your front wheel. They hold 12 L each, for a total of 24 L for the pair. These are panniers that have been extremely highly rated by hundreds of reviewers over the years, and by people who do highly adventurous bike tours. The panniers sit on each side of your front wheel, designed for optimal weight distribution and protection. They feature water-proof roll closures, a shoulder strap, and of course the Ortlieb QL system (the updated and improved QL2.1 system). Plus, reflectors for high visibility.
Like the other Ortlieb panniers featured in this post, these panniers are completely waterproof. Proof of the pudding lies in the eating: take a good look the next time you see an intrepid bike tourer – chances are very strong they will have Ortlieb panniers on their front wheels!
Bottom Line on Ortlieb Waterproof Panniers
These are not the cheapest panniers, but they are almost universally loved by those who take the plunge and buy a pair of them. I have not been able to find a single review anywhere that faults their waterproofness or their carrying capacity. So, if you commute or tour in the rain, these are likely to be worth the investment for you.
Note: If you want more options for bike panniers, check out my post on 7 of the best bike panniers.
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