Bicycle touring panniers are
some of the most important
pieces of gear we own. These saddle bags need to remain securely on
our bikes while keeping our
expensive gear safe and dry on the roughest of roads and in the most extreme
weather conditions. If a pannier fails it endangers all of the contents in
the bag and can even cause a dangerous crash. In addition to the
average camping gear, personal items, and clothing most other bike tourists
carry with them but we also have additional delicate electronic equipment
required to produce our web site
and write our series of books. This high tech gear includes a notebook
computer and digital video and still camera. This fragile gear requires
exceptional performance from our panniers to keep it dry and off the pavement.
If our panniers fail our equipment can be damaged
and our trip would end.
During our fist two years of our trip we used three
different brands of bicycle panniers including
Ortlieb. They all seemed like top of the line bike panniers and are all
well recognized in at the professional international bicycle touring
circles. At first all three brands of bicycle touring bags looked to
be of equal quality and clever design but
time, sun, dust, rain, accidental drops, and tragic crashes exposed the differences
in the bags and
produced a clear superior product line. Please remember that the
pannier failures described below are personal experiences and we understand that readers
may have different experiences. Failures that we experienced with our
bicycle panniers came in several
areas which are described below:
Bicycle Pannier Failures We Experienced
When I originally started shopping for bike panniers I
concentrated on the bag design and overlooked the attachment system.
Now, with more than two years of experience with three manufacturesI found out that while the bag design is
important the mounting system is critical.
Cindie's set of Vaude bags had a poor mounting system.
From reading industry news publications I believe that Vaude tried to
copy Ortlieb's excellent mounting system but were prevented because of
international patent laws and were forced to come up with their own design.
Cindie used this brand of bags and mounting system and they slowly but
developed several major problems on the road.
The first problem she had with her Vaude panniers was
before we left. One of her bags mounting systems cracked and broke in cold
weather. Vaude did warrantee this defective part but we were forced to
carry bulky spare mounting hardware for when this problem would
reoccurred. It is
very frustrating to haul spare parts in the bottom of bags
for equipment that should not require this precaution. The other brands
of bags that we carried did not require us to carry spare parts.
On two different steep dangerous descents in Ecuador and Peru
Cindie's rear Vaude panniers repeatedly fell completely off. This
caused all of the gear strapped to her rear rack to detach and skid across
the road. This
created a very dangerous situation. Cindie was in front of me during
one episode. She was cornering and one of her rear bags and gear suddenly slide
across the road and
the sudden weight change on her bike caused her to loose control of her
bike. I locked up my brakes and skid around her expensive
Vaude pannier and our sleeping bags on the road. When everything
finally came to a stop we would had to search through the ditches for the
gear that came off her rack. Next we had to dig through my load
for tools that are required to fix her faulty mounting bracket. After
the attachment mechanism was pushed back into place we remounted everything
to her bike, swore a lot, and tried to salvage the rest of the days
irritated me to no end because it happened several times for almost an
entire year while we toured in some of the more remote parts of South
We tried everything to prevent her panniers from falling
off. We replaced the mounting system with a new one that we had
been carrying for months. This did not solve the problem. Even
the new mounting system could not hold the bag on. I think it is
simply a bad design. We vowed to replace this line of bags as soon as
A close up of the
attachment system that opened too much which caused her bag to fall of on
fast descents. This required a lengthy stop to remove everything on her
rear rack and an agonizing effort to push it back into place.
Tim's rear cloth Cordura bags were not waterproof, but in their
defense, they never claimed to be. I initially thought that this was
not important but several days of wet weather in Honduras, Ecuador, and
later in Chile caused several key pieces of gear, including our
shortwave radio to get wet. Fortunately our notebook computer is always kept in a
rubber dry bag but I think that this caused our shortwave radio to quit
working. I will never tour with anything but water proof cycling bags
Time and continuous use cause the workmanship and material
selection flaws to surface. I was surprised at how durable these bags
seemed when we bought them and how quickly things went wrong. When
someone tells you that their panniers are "bulletproof" ask them if they
would still think that after we borrowed them for a couple years.
All of Cindie's Vaude bags did the strangest thing. They
bowed around the mounting system which grew worse as the months rolled by.
We warrantee it but the new one did the same. This may have cause them
to detach during descents.
Cindie's rear Vaude bags developed rips in the seams of the
external pockets. This required
constant gluing and re-gluing when they fell apart again. We
originally warranted her Vaude bags but the new ones had the same flaw.
We forced to carry the messy glue along which added to our load. This
battle with the pockets continued for months in South America until we ran
out of glue and left the pockets in a trash can. What a sad
development for an expensive and important piece of equipment.
My cloth Cordura Panniers developed several rips and loose stitching.
This required frequent repairs and
Cindie had to use our emergency sewing kit to piece back the failing seams.
If we would have continued using these bags I believe they would have
completely fell apart.
Tim's cloth Cordura rear pannier developed faulty stitching that required
constant field repairs.
Cindie sewing the many broken and separated stitches on Tim's rear cloth
Tim's rear cloth Cordura bags hung too close to the ground and made frequent contact
with the pavement which cause rips and holes to develop.
Cindie's Vaude pannier in the bottom of this picture (left hand side of
bike) is bowing out and had to be warrantee during a visit to the USA
Convenient of use,
service, and access to gear Customer Service:
Most companies in the business of selling high end sports
equipment are very competitive and have similar customer service.
Cindie warrantee her Vaude bags with no problem and cloth Cordura was always
pleasant to deal with. We never experienced any problems with our
Ortlieb bags so we never needed to request service. To me, building a
quality product that does not require service is the best service of all.
One irritating occurrence in customer service was with my DeTour
(formally Vaude) handle bar bag map case. During our first two years,
from Arizona to Argentina, my map case developed several rips. I
called and tried to buy a new map case. They told me that I would have
to buy an entire new US$100 handlebar bag to receive a new map case.
It does not seem right that a handlebar bag only lasts as long as the
fragile map case.
Bike Bags that had Superior Performance
Cleaning up and looking our best for Chinese immigration officials.
With waterproof Ortlieb Panniers there is no need to remove them during a
bike wash. - Vietnam/China border
Only one brand of bags exceeded our needs and performed
beyond our expectations:. I am much harder on equipment than Cindie.
I am larger and just less delicate or careful then her. Usually my
equipment suffers more from damage than hers but the opposite was true with
our panniers. My Ortlieb panniers were the only set of bags that did
not fail at some point. I am still using them years later and believe
that they may last for many more years to come. Thank You Ortlieb for making
something that I never have to worry about as we bike around the world.
It's not surprising that these bags are made
in Germany. The Germans are at the forefront of
international travel and the bicycle touring equipment industry. It
must be a very popular sport among it's citizens. More than half of
all the international traveling cyclists we meet are from Germany.
Below are the bags that Cindie and I own, use, and depend on for the
remainder of our tour which includes some of the more rugged places on
waterproof, rugged, light weight, and durable bicycle
Cindie's front Panniers:
Ortlieb Front Roller
Waterproof panniers with a unique roll-top closure. Symmetrical shape allows
more leg room. Not only ideal for use on long cycle tours; they are also
suitable for everyday use as a shopping bag or shoulder bag. Can be used with
the carrying system as a daypack.
High specification design rear pannier made of Cordura fabric with spacious
lid closure and QL2 mounting system. Even fully loaded; the pannier can be
closed and is therefore particularly suited for extended tours. Outer mesh
pocket with zipper (not waterproof) increases packing volume.
Tim's front and Cindie's rear Panniers: Ortlieb Backroller
have two sets with different colors)
Waterproof panniers with a unique roll-top closure and constructed of an
exclusive Cordura material that is completely watertight and welded. Utilizes
Ortlieb's QL 2 Mounting System. Its symmetrical shape allows more leg room.
Not only ideal for use on long cycle tours; they are also suitable for
everyday use as a shopping bag or shoulder bag. Can be used with the carrying
system as a daypack.
Made of durable Cordura(R) nylon with polyester; coated
with PVC for water resistance
With 3D welded seams, these panniers will keep your gear dry
on rainy rides. Constructed with welded seams for strength. Designed with an
easy access, roll-top closure. Replaceable, adjustable, quick-release
security catches mount panniers quickly and easily on racks--also removed
easily. Lifting on pannier carrying strap automatically releases the QL1
system security catches, while releasing the strap causes latches to lock in
place. Please note: This item is sold as a pair.
Constructed with welded seams for strength
Designed with an easy access, roll-top closure
Replaceable, adjustable, quick-release security catches
mount panniers quickly and easily on racks--also removed easily
Lifting on pannier carrying strap automatically
releases the QLR-system security catches, while releasing the strap causes
latches to lock in place
The Saddle-Bag Micro from Ortleib is an ultra
lightweight, waterproof seat bag with a roll-up closure. This size is an
excellent fit for road or mountain racing applications.
* Roll-up closure with elastic bands lets you
cinch down the bag, and offers a tight hold * Polyurethane-coated nylon
waterproof fabric * Simple click mount attaches with 2 screws to seat rails;
mount remains on bike and allows 1-handed removal of saddle bag * Reflective
highlight improves nighttime profile * Protects against dust penetration and
water splash from all directions
Highly water-resistant, with durable welded seams. Lid has
inner stiffener and is easy to open and close with one hand. Lockable
mounting fits up to 31.8mm handlebars. Reflective logo. This versatile
handlebar bag features a rigid lid, a removable shoulder strap, and a
Features 3M Scotchlite™ reflectors to increase your visibility in poor
light. Made to mount on low-rider front racks or rear racks, these feature
snug-fitting lids that allow for higher load capacity. Outer mesh pockets
are spacious and feature zippers to hold contents secure. QL2 suspension
system holds bags secure and is easy to load and unload. Surrounding
compression straps allow size of panniers to be altered. These panniers are
the perfect size for your daily commute, or to strap on to children's bikes.
Finally a waterproof briefcase that mounts on your bike--and
looks smart at the office and on campus! Polyurethane-coated, heavy-duty
Cordura® nylon and Roll'n'Snap closure system keep contents of bag completely
dry. Features Ortlieb's QLR2 diagonal mounting system that gives more legroom
while cycling. Padded handle and detachable, anatomically curved shoulder strap
give you plenty of comfortable carrying options off the bike. Studded feet
protect bottom of bag from wear and tear when you put it on the ground. May be
mounted on either the left or right side of the rack, thanks to the reversible
mounting rail. Two sub-divided inner compartments help keep contents organized.
Two 3M® Scotchlite™ reflectors increase your visibility to others
Comes with a combination adjustable shoulder strap/carry
handle made of strong nylon webbing; just take the bag off the rack and
start shopping. Includes fore and aft reflector patches and a tube of
lubricant to keep the quick-seal closure working smoothly. Large-volume bag
goes on and off your rack quickly, freeing you of the need to dangle your
grocery bags precariously off the handlebars. Or let it work as a commuter
bag, carrying your change of clothes for work, including shoes. Pack closes
tight and secure with a locking slider--think of it as an industrial-size
and -strength food baggie. Removable, zippered, interior pocket keeps small
items handy. Sells as a single bag. The waterproof Ortlieb Bike Shopper bag
mounts to your rear rack like a single pannier yet comes off for your
shopping convenience! Welded seams and coated fabric further ensure your
valuables stay dry in a rainfall.
This messenger-style daypack features a roll-closure top for
complete waterproofness. Tough, polyurethane-coated Cordura® nylon is windproof
and waterproof. Features a zippered removable inner pocket, padded foam back
anatomically shaped shoulder straps with sternum strap and a waist strap. Makes
a great school backpack.