A good set of panniers can be an investment that sets you up for many years of happy load hauling. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll see plenty of Ortlieb's Back Rollers on both commuters and grizzled tourists. There's a reason for their ubiquity - they're bloody good.
The Back Roller Classics (please someone, start a band. It's such a great name) take their name from the way they close. They roll up, with a single clip and strap holding them shut. It's basic, but it works very well, the roll prevents water from getting through while allowing enough slack to accomodate larger loads. Total capacity for the pair is 40 litres, which is about as much as you'd want to be carrying.
Where they really score is in the ease of use. The top hooks open and close when you lift the carry handle, which makes attaching and removing them a doddle. The retaining hook at the bottom is easily moved on an elliptical track to suit your rack, as are the top hooks. It's simple and pleasant to use, unlike the (much cheaper) Canyon panniers I tested earlier this year which were a fiddly pain, despite having an almost identical body.
Internally you get a couple of large pockets, one of them zipped, to hold important stuff like keys, wallets and food. There's no external pocket, not unusual for a waterproof pannier, but Ortlieb being thorough and German do make an external pocket which is available as an optional extra. Oh and the reinforced bottom has fixings for their back pack system. This isn't just a pannier, it's part of a fully integrated bicycle cycling luggage system.
On a recent tour they were a faultless companion, although the bright yellow and black colour scheme proved irresistible to an impressive array of insects. Less entymologically attractive colourways are also available.
Classic panniers. Been around for a while but a well thought out design and well worth the money.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Back Roller Classic
Size tested: Yellow/Black
Ortlieb say - "From Oslo to Cape Town, ORTLIEB Back and Front-Rollers have long since been classics among waterproof bike panniers. Outdoor specialists swear by the functional and strong system of front and rear bag loading on both sides. And since every ounce is crucial for long distance bike touring, the Rollers' main advantage is their little net weight.
No matter whether you bike forest tracks or desert roads, cross canyons or rivers, the extremely durable outer fabric has proven its strength in numerous real tests. These are not the only reasons why the all weather solution was awarded several times by the bicycle press: hermetical roll closures, shoulder straps and the ORTLIEB QL System ensure that food and equipment are not only protected 100% but also accessible at any time."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Classical rear pannier (pair) with roll closure
QL1 mounting system
Sides of PS 490 nylon material, front and back of PD 620
Including integrated inner pocket and shoulder strap
Pannier can be easily mounted to racks with a diameter up to 16 mm, reduction pieces for 8 mm
and 11 mm rack diameters included
Top QL hooks and lower sliding hook adjustable with Allen key no. 3
Can be used individually (e.g. for shopping, sports, picknick)
Can be combined with the ORTLIEB Rack-Pack
Comfortable to carry with shoulder strap (can be taken off)
Highly reflective Scotchlite reflector
Simultaneous use of ORTLIEB Travel-Biker, Bike-Box or Shuttle possible
Can be easily cleaned inside
Optional accessories: ORTLIEB carrying system,outer pocket/s size S, mesh pocket, bottle cage
Panniers come as a pair with shoulder strap (length appr. 75cm)
Not cheap, but can be found online for less than the rrp. Great quality though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent. I'd happily take these on a long tour and they'll be a regular commuting companion for years to come.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tough, waterproof and easy to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....86kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides