Review by James Chester, E-Commerce Manager at Rutland Cycling.
When it comes to cycle touring, the key piece of equipment - other than the bike itself - is the bags. A decent set of luggage can make or break a cycle tour, it's essential that bags protect your kit not only from the elements but also from knocks and drops. It's also important that the luggage is secure and stable on the bike, poor quality fittings can lead to luggage detaching from the bike mid-ride, especially on rougher terrain! They also have to be easy to access and remove if needed; in the event of any mechanical (or rider) failures, you might need to get into your bags quickly and fetch tools, spares, food, clothing or other necessities.
The choice of luggage therefore is critical, and not to be taken lightly!
When it came to picking out some new bags, Ortlieb seemed the obvious choice. There's plenty of companies out there who produce pannier bags, but very few carry the choice, the reputation and the positive reviews that Ortlieb carry.
Deciding on Ortlieb as my bag of choice was the easy part, the hard part was choosing from the massive range of bags and colour options that are available. While all the bags come with Ortlieb's 5 year guarantee and are all fully waterproof, there are many different designs and features to choose from. From the iconic back roller to the highly functional bike packer, and everything in-between!
In the end, I settled on a pair of Sport roller plus for the front, and back roller plus for the back. The sport roller and back roller are staples of the Ortlieb range, and iconic in the world of cycle touring. The bags seemed to provide all of the basic functionality required and came in at a good price point. The reason I went for the 'Plus' versions of the bags over the standard back roller and Sport Roller ultimately was the design. They have a more natural aesthetic to them, which I liked and thought would look great on the bike.
So how do these bags stand up to their reputation?
Upon opening all of the bags at home, it became clear that there is a lot more to these bags than first meets the eye. The QL2.1 mounting system comes with a number of soft plastic inserts which are designed to fit within the mount itself and sit between the mount and your pannier rack. These fittings serve two main purposes. First they provide a softer contact point for your rack, protecting it from scratches and damage that can commonly occur when a pannier bag is removed on and off repeatedly. Second, and arguably the main benefit of these spacers is that they offer a tailored and snug fit around your pannier rack, completely removing any 'play' between the mount and the rack. Thus eliminating any rattling noise and providing a really secure feel when fitted.
On the ride
The first trip with the new bags was a 100 mile trip on the tandem. While the route we took was primarily road there were plenty of scattered off-road sections which featured gravel paths, rocky descents, grass tracks, farmland and many more challenges, not to mention the potholes! This sort of terrain can really test a set of panniers, particularly the mounts, however the Ortlieb bags held up brilliantly.
The mounting fixtures mentioned previously held up perfectly, and on some very bumpy descents when everything else was rattling, from the rear derailleur to our teeth, the bags didn't budge. The rubber inserts hugged the pannier rack perfectly and there was no rattling or movement from them at all.
The ride also saw us riding through some really bad weather. The first couple of hours were particularly tough, with near enough constant torrential rain. The massive puddles on the roads meant that for a number of hours the Ortlieb bags were being barraged with water from above and below!
Despite the intensity of the rain however, the bags held out brilliantly and our kit remained bone dry. The roll top design and innovative front strap system kept the whole bag wrapped really tight, and didn't let any water through. The material was excellent too. It was completely waterproof, which was more than could be said for our jackets!
Packing, unpacking and using on the go
When it comes to packing the bags, the roll top design worked really well as it allows for a very varied volume of kit. When unrolled, the bags open right up and there's plenty of space to pack the bag easily. This also made it very easy at the other end to open the bags and access our kit, without the need to remove everything first. The roll top also works well as it allows any volume of kit to be packed securely and tight.
The bags were also really easy to use on the go. We had plenty of stops on our ride to change clothes, get some food and perform minor adjustments to the bike, all of which required us to either remove or access the bags. The rolltop design was easy to open, and both the back roller and the sport roller contain special pockets inside them, which we were able to use to store our essentials such as tools and food, allowing easy access. Despite the rain, we could open the bags, access our kit and close them again very quickly, and avoided getting anything wet.
The bags are also easy to remove. On caf� stops we had to take the bags in with us, and the small loop on the back of the QL2.1 fitting meant that the bags literally lifted straight off without difficulty. The front strap can then be used as a convenient shoulder strap, allowing us to remove and transport the bags really easily. This was great for quick stops where we had to take the bags with us.
There were many other features of the Ortlieb Back Roller and Sport Roller bags which we really appreciated on our ride. First was that each bag has a large reflective patch on it. Although we weren't riding in the dark, it was very overcast, especially in the rain. This reduced visibility was a concern, however the large reflective panels on the bags were really re-assuring.
Additionally, the back panels of the bags are rigid and well supported, meaning that the bags hold their shape well. This meant that even if the contents of the bag moved around slightly, the bag remained in shape and the rolled down top remained secure and tight, preventing any water getting in when riding.
Finally, although it's only a small thing, the bags did look really good. The fabric design of the Back Roller and Sport Roller 'Plus' models looks really smart, and worked well on the bike.
To summarise, it wasn't hard to choose Ortlieb, given their great reputation, 5 year warranty and the vast number of positive reviews out there for the bags. The choice of styles and colours meant that we really could get the perfect bag for us at the right price - and that matched the bike!
Although my expectations were already high for these bags, Ortlieb managed to exceed these expectations, and the bags were secure, high quality, really easy to use, completely waterproof and look great too. I would definitely recommend the Ortlieb range, especially the back roller and sport roller to anyone looking for high quality cycle luggage. These bags are the only bags you will ever need, whether you're commuting, crossing South America or even just heading to the shops.
- Completely waterproof
- Secure, stable fixtures
- Easy to access and remove
- Massive choice of styles and colours
Ortlieb Back Roller Plus Pannier Pair 40L
The Ortlieb Back-Roller is a icon, not just within the Ortlieb range but also in the world of cycle luggage and touring. The Ortlieb Back Roller is a top quality touring pannier that is designed to endure all of the rigors of cycle touring.
- Height - 42 cm
- Upper Width - 32 cm
- Bottom Width - 23 cm
- Depth - 17 cm
- Weight- 1680g
- Volume - 40L
Ortlieb Sport Roller Plus 25L pannier Pair
The Ortlieb Sports Roller plus is sturdy and tough designed to withstand tough and rough conditions. The abrasion resistant cordura is designed for low rider pannier racks and perfect for children bikes. The roll down closures makes the pannier bag fully waterproof, and has plenty of room for all your belongings. Easy to fit thanks to the QL2.1 System fixing.
- Height- 30cm
- Width - 25cm
- Depth- 14cm
- Weight- 1440g
- Volume- 25L
- Fabric- PS36C
Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store
You can browse the entire Ortlieb range online, or you can get your hands on it in your nearest Rutland Cycling store.
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