Which panniers?

I’m going on my first tour abroad in summer and would like advice on panniers. Do you think 40 litres (i.e. 2x20) will be enough space? I will not be camping. I am considering Ortlieb roll-top rear panniers, which nearly all reviewers say are good. Do you have any views?

Robin Alcock

Forty litres should be more than enough, but I would never be without a handlebar/shoulder bag on tour, for those valuable and often-wanted items, that I never leave on the bike.

Ortlieb are the best, but Rollers are less convenient than the drawstring-and-hood Bike-Packer design, which is quicker to access and close, especially when you slip off a jacket and simply stuff it under the hood – which also keeps the contents separate from the damp jacket.

Whilst it is true that a roll-top makes the bag utterly watertight, so you can throw it in a river and it’ll simply float, in all my tours I have never seen anyone do that! On a bike, water comes at a pannier mainly downwards and at worst horizontally; Bike-Packers will cope with that.

The one disadvantage of Ortlieb panniers is a lack of pockets for small things like tools you need in a hurry. I’ve added Ortlieb’s (rather expensive) accessory pockets to my panniers. It seems drastic to make holes for the fittings, but they work fine and seal up perfectly – just like the all the holes the bag already has for the rivets and screws securing the rack hooks etc. onto its back.

Chris Juden


This was first published in the April / May 2015 edition of Cycling UK's Cycle magazine.