Review: Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers
The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers are a great addition to any bike commuters' arsenal. They're waterproof, durable and easy to install. And they look great!
The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers (white) installed on my 2009 Redline 925 commuter bike.
Credit: Patrick Beeson
I'm skeptical of products reviewed after little use by the reviewer.
So then why am I writing a review of the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers after only one use? Because after adjustment, mounting and riding them to work and back in the rain I'm convinced that they're a great product that will only get better with time.
I've spent enough time in the cycling culture to spot products that aren't up to snuff. Weak design, confusing instructions and poor fit are common in many products.
But not these panniers from Ortlieb.
The bags are made of a PVC-coated polyester fabric that sheds rain like wax. The material is exceptionally durable-feeling with well-sealed seams. They also showcase Ortlieb's signature roll-top closure for "dunkability."
The front and rear (black panels) of the bags feature reflective panels for visibility. Also present are shoulder straps for carrying the bags away from your bike.
I especially like the way these panniers mount on the rack. The upper clasps are activated by a strap you can pull upwards to release. The bottom mount is a single arm unit that slides over the vertical rack tube.
All adjustments are made using a hex wrench. Simply loosen the bolts, slide the mounts to where they need to be, and retighten. This process took me literally five minutes to address.
Also included are shims that help the top clasps fit your rack's tubing. Mine fits snug.
Once the panniers are mounted and adjusted you're ready to ride. You want to load them first, of course.
The inside of the panniers are Spartan, but do have one medium pocket with a zippered mesh pocket on the opposite side. I was able to fit a 17 inch MacBook Pro and lunch in one pannier, and my work outfit in the other with room to spare for tools and more.
The loaded panniers will affect your bike handling, but not noticeably. I found they did slow my coasting in terms of wind resistance -- I use a single-speed and I'll take all the coasting I can get.
But the trade-off for me was a win: I used to ride with a large Timbuk2 messenger bag that weighed more than 10 pounds loaded. Not only did I get the sweaty back, but my neck would be sore for the entire day.
That pack is fine for lighter loads, but not with my laptop. The panniers are a Godsend here.
I've been told the Ortlieb panniers are expensive compared to other brands. I didn't do a lot of comparison shopping here, but I found what is arguably the best price on The Randonne Shop at $137 for the pair with free shipping and no tax outside of Colorado.
Do you use panniers for commuting? If so, what's been your experience with the brand/model you use?