Daily Archives: October 31, 2008

Ortlieb Frontroller bicycle panniers review


This is the first bicycle pannier review, there will be many more pannier review posts to come.

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I apologize for the recent lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing my new website, www.theultimatetrek.com, to go live.  It finally has, so now I’m back to the blog.  Have a look at the new website if you’ve got the time.

So let’s get started with out look at Ortlieb panniers.








First up are the front panniers.  These panniers are typically smaller than rear panniers and are very important in effecting your bike’s handling.  You’re going to want to keep these panniers evenly loaded and low to the ground.  The lower the bag, the more stable the bike.  Don’t overload the front panniers or you might go head-over-bars on downhills.

Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers

Let’s look at some specifics on the frontrollers from Ortlieb.  Obviously they are waterproof, and they are also well-made.  They measure 11.8 x 9.8 x 5.8 and can carry 1525.6 c inches combined.  That is about as much as a medium-sized backpacking pack.  The thing I like the most about the Ortlieb frontrollers, and the Ortliebs in general, is the mounting system.  It’s great.  Super easy to use, adjust, and replace if necessary.  I freaked out when I first went to install the panniers because the clips didn’t even come close to lining up with my Surly Nice Racks.  Upon further inspection I learned all about the great clip system. It’s very simple.

*  Clips are fully-adjustable left to right.  So this means you can make them wider or narrower depending on your rack.

*  Clips are quick-release.  Simply lift the cord and they come open, let it go and it closes.

*  Bottom clips move around to tightly secure the pannier to the rack and stop it from jiggling.

*  There are no ventilation options on these panniers, so do not keep wet things in here long.

Bicycle Panniers. A look at the types of bike panniers on the market.


Now that we’ve looked at some racks (more to come, don’t worry), we’re going to get into panniers.


There are a lot of brands of panniers on the market today, each pannier famous in their own niche, whether it be their quality, waterproofing, reliability, or price.  What panniers are the best?  What panniers are waterproof? What panniers are cheapest?  We’re going to dive into the long list of pannier manufacturers and pick out some hot brands to consider when making your purchase.

Take the poll and comment on your selection. Sorry if your pannier isn’t listed, there are a lot of them.

Popular Bicycle Panniers on the Market:


  • Famous for the GT-54’s and matching GT-18’s.  Load up for the ultimate trek.
  • 3,300 cubic inch rear set—2,200 cubic inches up front.  Total 5,500 cubic inches of space.
  • Not waterproof
  • Waterproof inner liner included
  • GT-54s come with a integrated tent/tent pole holder
  • Price is a little higher than other models, you decide if it’s worth it to you.
  • Lots of pockets and zippers to organize stuff
  • Easy mount/dismount clips


  • Ridiculously large.
  • Upwards of 6,800 cubic inches on only the rear packs!
  • Not waterproof and require rain covers
  • Lots of zip-offs and options
  • Pockets
  • Looks complicated to mount


  • Canadian company
  • Waterproof panniers available
  • Average sized, 1,100 cubic inches up front, between 2,800 and 3,400 on the rear.
  • Not too pretty.  Colors are not very inspiring.
  • They are very inexpensive.


  • Famous for the Front/Back roller series and matching Bike Packer series.  Load up for the ultimate trek.
  • 2,441 cubic inch rear set—-2,441 cubic inch front set. Total 4,882 cubic inches of space.
  • Very waterproof
  • Interior pocket and outside pockets with water draining slots on the Bike Packer rears.
  • Reasonable price
  • Not a lot of pockets
  • Super simple & easy mounting/dismounting


  • Offers a seriously impressive line of panniers.
  • Five lines in fact: Discover, Aqua, H20 Proof, Roadmaster, and Traveler
  • Lots of color options
  • Roadmaster series offers serious space in a stylish package with a rear rack that has a detachable top pack.
  • The H20 proof does exactly what you expect it to
  • Similar set-up to Ortlieb panniers, similar mounting system too.
  • Surprisingly low-priced

Ok, that was very tiring and I have to get back to work.  More posts on the way.  Don’t forget to check out www.theultimatetrek.com if you’ve got the time.

What are bicycle panniers?


Bicycle panniers are basically bike luggage.  They’re designed to load your gear onto the front and rear racks of your bike and keep it safe from damage.  I use panniers because I hate touring with any type of bag or pack on my body.  I even went so far as to ditch my water bottle in favor of screwing on a box to my mounts so I wouldn’t have to carry a backpack.

Take it Easy on Mother Nature

If you want that kind of freedom, you need panniers.  There are a bunch of pannier manufacturers, each catering to their own niche of customers.  Ortlieb panniers are some of the most famous bike bags in the entire industry.  Famed for their waterproofing, Ortlieb offers a truly extensive line of panniers.  Arkel panniers are also quite famous.  They’re known for their superior organization and number of pockets.  We’re going to look at panniers in the upcoming posts, but now I’ll provide you with some simple things to remember when choosing bicycle panniers.

Panniers buying guide:

Before buying panniers, make sure to remember the following:

  • The first thing to remember is these things come in pairs.  You wouldn’t want to be riding around with 8kgs of food in your front right pannier with nothing else on the others, that would be a disaster.  Although you can usually ride with only one rear pannier, I wouldn’t recommend it.  99% of the websites you see, the panniers come in pairs.
  • Secondly you need to consider if you’re going to ride with only front panniers, only rear panniers, or front and rear panniers.  This totally depends on how long your bicycle tour will be, if you’re camping, and how much you’re gonna haul.  On a long weekend, it should be easy enough to get by on two smaller panniers.  If you’re camping, just stick the bag, tent, and pad on top of the rear rack.  On extended tours, where you may have to bring cooking tools, replacement parts, and lots of maps, you’re going to need all four bags more than likely.

    Learn More About the Eurasian Cycling Trek for World Hunger 09′

  • Next, consider the size of your panniers.  Looking at a couple of different models, we can see that most front panniers range from about 1,400 cubic inches to 3,000 cubic inches.  The lower end of that scale is equivalent to roughly a medium-sized hiking backpack.  The larger end being a large-sized hiking backpack.  Rear panniers tend to range in size from about 2,000 cubic inches to 4,000 cubic inches, although Jandd and Arkel have models of 5,000+ cubic inches.  Use that to help you decide how big to go.  The size stat usually includes both panniers.
  • Are the panniers waterproof?  There are good things and bad things to remember about waterproof panniers.  The good things are that they ARE waterproof and usually can float.  So if you go careening off of a cliff into a river, your bags will safely float downstream without you.  Some of the bad characteristics of waterproof bags are the lack of ventilation.  Usually the type of fabric and design of these panniers inhibit airflow, making things stinky and moldy if you put any wet items in your panniers.  This can be solved with exterior pockets that have ventilation (like on my waterproof Ortlieb panniers).
  • Mounting systems widely differ between brands and can be a real important issue.  I definitely prefer the Ortlieb QL-2 mounting system, it is ridiculously easy and customizable.  Some racks use metal hooks to attach to the top of the rack and are then tightened to the rack with a strap (Jandd).  Others have quick release systems that allow you to take your panniers on and off quickly, in case you want to store them in your tent at night, or convert  them to day packs (Ortlieb & Arkel have pretty similar systems here)
  • Are you a pocket person?  Do you like to be organized?  Do you plan to access your bags often each day?  If you answered yes, you should look into bags that have sections and/or pockets.
  • How are you going to load the panniers?  I prefer a 45/55% weight ratio on my front and rear panniers.  I say this just to be different.  Here’s a tip; before you do a 5,000 mile tour, test out the bags once or twice!  If you feel like you’re about to go head-over-bars on downhills, you’ve got too much up front.  Sluggish steering?  Weight not loaded properly up front, try getting it lower to the ground.

Now that we’ve done a little research on the differences in panniers, the next post will look at some of the different brands available.

Check out my new website www.theultimatetrek.com to read about my upcoming cycling trek from South Korea to Portugal.