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Oxford's ever-expanding range of bicycle bags and panniers builds on the company's years of experience with creating reliable motorcycling luggage. The Oxford Aqua V20 Single QR Pannier Bag is affordable, easy to use and adjust, and utterly bombproof and protective. Only the weight and the stiffness of the roll-down top stop it from being pretty much perfect.
One of the first things you notice about the Aqua V20 is how robustly built it is. This is no ultralight pared-down carrier, it's a solidly made, indestructible-feeling bag designed to keep its contents safe and dry no matter what's going on outside.
The fabric is tough and fully waterproof, with a roll-top closure ensuring it stays that way. It's a single compartment design, with a zipped exterior pocket and lots of reflective accents. The rear panel of the bag is stiffened and there's a toughened hard plastic bumper at the base of the bag.
The attachment mechanism is one of the best I've used. The position of the clips and the lower securing bar are easily adjusted with a hex key, simply sliding along a track to the desired location. Most impressive though is the quick and easy clip-fastening, where the bag actually clips onto the rack, to keep the hooks from bouncing off and coming unattached on rough ground.
When you want to remove it, there's a loop attached to the fastening clips that detaches the bag from the rack with one simple tug. This ability to clip on and off easily and quickly makes it really useful even for short stop-start journeys. There's also a loop for grabbing and carrying the pannier.
Thanks to the design of the clip mechanism, the bag attaches to a variety of racks with little faffing apart from fine-tuning the position of the clips and security bar at the bottom. Once clipped on, it feels secure and safe.
In the absence of any meaningful touring opportunities this year, I used the bag for shopping and commutes, and it's extremely capable. The waterproof fabric keeps the contents dry and safe even in the most horrendous weather, whether in the main body or in the zipped front pocket (with waterproof zip). The 20 litre capacity is plenty for a few days' groceries or work kit for a day, and a pair would easily cater for a decent length tour if packing light.
The reflective accents are numerous and distributed all over the bag, providing good extra visibility. (The bag is also available in black.)
Although far from being light, the Aqua V20 is built to last and be protective, and that it delivers in spades. The only hiccup really is the roll-top closure. The stiffness of the heavy duty fabric makes rolling the top closed a bit of an effort, and certainly tricky to do neatly and with the bag already fitted to the rack. Its pliability has increased with use, but after a month or so of testing it remains pretty stiff.
While not an insurmountable problem (the bag still rolls shut and the contents stay dry), it's a little irritating and makes closing the bag while fitted to the bike unduly fiddly. One solution would be the approach taken by some other manufacturers of using a slightly lighter density fabric in the upper roll-top area of the bag, perhaps even only on one side, making it easier to secure.
Making up for any niggles, though, is the price. At £39.99 it's incredibly good value for something so rugged and protective. It's not as finely tuned for performance as the likes of the Vaude Aqua Back Panniers, but they're £70 each (if slightly larger volume at 24 litres), and it's also a lot cheaper than Altura's Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier at £74.99. It's even a fiver less than LifeLine's Adventure Waterproof Pannier Bag, though you get 22 litres of space for your £44.99.
That roll-top might not be perfect, but for the price this is a solid purchase. Rugged and protective, the Oxford Aqua V20 pannier is very well made and great value for money.
Durable, protective and excellent value for money, just a shame the roll-top closure is so stiff
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Aqua V20 Single QR Pannier Bag
Size tested: 20L
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a tough, waterproof pannier designed for any sort of cargo carrying – commuting, touring, shopping.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Zipped front pocket with waterproof zip
Quick release fitting system
20 litre capacity
Excellent quality tough, waterproof fabric with well-sealed seams and bombproof construction.
Easy to use, easy to fit/remove, only let down slightly by the stiffness of the roll-top closure.
Early days, but nothing to suggest this is going anywhere in a hurry.
It's not the lightest pannier, but it's designed for durability and to provide waterproof protection rather than low weight.
Compared with other options out there, for the quality of the fabric and construction, it is excellent value for money.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Rugged, cost effective, waterproof, easy to use secure rack mounting.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Stiff roll-top closure, not the lightest.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's at the lower end of the pannier market, and very good value for something so rugged and protective. The Vaude Aqua Back Pannier is £70, though it has a slightly larger 24-litre volume, while Altura's Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier is £74.99. LifeLine's Adventure Waterproof Pannier Bag is a fiver more, albeit offering 2L more space.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good: well made and extremely durable and protective, at a great price. The only issue I have with this bag is that stiff roll-top closure.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
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, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.