Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review – Lightweight and Tough Panniers

In this Ortlieb Back Roller Classic review, I explain what makes these rear bike bags the best panniers for bicycle touring. If you’re planning a long distance cycling trip around the world, or simply want to buy a set of bicycle panniers that last for years, this Ortlieb panniers review is for you!

ortlieb back roller classic panniers review

Ortlieb Back Roller Classics

When it comes to bicycle touring panniers, the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers range is the first and only choice for many cyclists.

This isn't because there are no other makes of bicycle panniers available, it's simply because they are the best.

I really mean that, and before anyone mentions it, no I have no affiliation with the company. (Although I wouldn't be adverse to Mr. or Mrs. Ortlieb getting in contact to arrange something!). Why do I think Ortlieb bike bags are so good? Read on

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers Review

As with all my bicycle touring tips, I've arrived at my conclusions by using these Ortlieb bike touring panniers myself over extended periods of time.

The last major long distance bike tour I used these panniers, was when cycling around Iceland in 2023. By that time, they were over 10 years old and had also survived  cycling from Greece to England and numerous smaller one month bicycle tours such as cycling in the Peloponnese of Greece.

As you can see from the photo taken in Iceland below, I also have an Ortlieb rack pack, front panniers, and handlebar bag. But, let’s stick to the back roller classic Ortlieb panniers for now!

ortlieb back-roller classic panniers

Ortlieb Back Roller Panniers


In my opinion, there are several factors that help make these bicycle panniers stand out from the crowd.

In short, these are the simplicity of the pannier design, quality of materials, quality of construction, and value for money. Get these things right in any product, and you are on to a winner, which Ortlieb clearly are here.


Ortlieb Pannier Bags Design

They have also avoided a fundamental error which many companies make, which is to fix something that isn't broken. By this, I mean that the design works the way it is. There is no need to keep changing it every year in the hope of getting more sales.

So, there are no massive differences in design from one year to the next. This is handy for me, in that this review will still be relevant in a few years time.

It's probably bad for Ortlieb though, in that the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers are well made, repeat custom is not exactly frequent. These Ortleib bicycle panniers are designed to be tough and endure the rigours of around the world cycling. They last for years!

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review - Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers for bicycle touring

Mounting System on the Orltieb Back Roller Panniers

I think for me, one of the things that elevates the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers above the rest, is the mounting system. Put these panniers on your bike racks properly, and they will NOT fall off!

Other manufacturers who have tried to copy the latch system (and will remain nameless for now), have made some abysmal attempts to emulate Ortlieb and failed.

This is probably due to the QL1 system which Ortlieb use, and I believe have patented. (There are also QL2 and even Ql3 mounting systems I understand).

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic QL1 Mounting System is simple to use

How to fix Ortlieb Panniers to the rack

From the photo above, you can make out the handle and the mounting points which are attached to the panniers.

By pulling the handle up, the mounts open, and they can then be placed onto the rack rails. The mounts close again when the handle is released.

On the back of the panniers, is another fixing point which slides behind the racks metal supports.

In fact, writing about how to attach these bicycle panniers to the bike rack properly is a great deal harder than doing it. It's the easiest thing in the world.

One note – make tightening the bolts on the back of the panniers with an allen key a reasonably regular thing. They do become loose over time with all the bumping around which goes part and parcel with bicycle touring!

The Ortlieb panniers are really waterproof

Of course, the big selling point of the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic bicycle panniers, is that they are incredibly waterproof. I've never actually thrown one in a river, but I have certainly cycled through torrential rain for hours on end to find everything inside nice and dry. I've even hosed my bike complete with panniers down in a car wash, and they have let no water in!

Sometimes, you buy something which says it's waterproof, only to be let down later. Believe me, this does what it says on the packet!

This is due to a combination of the material used, and the simplicity of the design. I'm not going to get into the technical details of the materials, but it is some form of PVC coated polyester.

As the name suggests, these Ortleib bags have a roll top closure, ensuring that water can not enter. Again, this is simple, but effective. A nice touch, is that the securing strap which helps keep the roll top closed also doubles as a carrying strap.

Bicycle touring in Albania can be challenging but incredibly rewarding. It's nice to carry all the gear I need in the Ortlieb classic panniers.

What I think about Ortlieb Back-Roller Panniers

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers come as a pair, and have a carrying capacity of 40L. They have a small inner zipped mesh pocket, attached to a larger inner pocket, which in my opinion is a bit useless.

That said, I always find something to put in them sooner or later when on tour! All versions of these panniers have reflective strips, which means they will show up well in car headlights in the dark.

They also come with extra inserts for the mounting system, because not all racks have the same diameter metal struts.

Why You Should Use Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Bicycle Panniers for Bicycle Touring. After cycling over 20,000 miles around the world, these are the only panniers for bicycle touring I would use. Read on to find out why...

Ortlieb Classic Panniers FAQ

Readers thinking to buy a new set of Ortlieb waterproof bike panniers often ask questions such as:

Are Ortlieb bags worth it?

Ortlieb offer a solidly designed and well manufactured bike touring pannier that stands the test of time. Although initially more expensive than other panniers for touring, Ortlieb bags repay themselves over the years of use you'll get out of them.

How do Ortlieb panniers attach?

The Ortlieb panniers attach to the racks of a bike by a clipping system. There is also a small hook which then slides against the rack which ensure that the pannier does not ‘flap' against the side of the rack.

What is the difference between Ortlieb Classic and City?

Although they look similar, the Classic designed panniers are able to hold more volume than the City panniers, although they do weigh a little more. The classic also has a shoulder strap, which in actual fact most cyclists use to hang clothes to dry from when cycling, whereas the City do not.

What are the best bike panniers?

Any good bike pannier will be waterproof, well made, long lasting, and reliable. Ortlieb have stood the test of time, and tens of thousands of people who travel by bike use their products.

Related Bicycle Touring Articles

If you found this guide to the Ortlieb back roller classics useful, you might also like thee other bikepacking guides:

Adventure cyclist Dave Briggs bike touring the PanAmerican HighwayDave Briggs
Dave has biked around much of the world on different long distance cycling trips, including from Alaska to Argentina, and England to South Africa. In addition to this Ortlieb pannier bag guide, he's written many other guides to bike touring.

Follow Dave on social media for travel, adventure and bike touring inspiration:



7 thoughts on “Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review – Lightweight and Tough Panniers”

  1. I have a BOB trailer; perfect for trips to the grocery store. Any trip longer than 1-2 days, panniers are the way to go.

    Just ordered the Back Roller Classics for off road use.

  2. The difference between QL1 and 2 are QL2 have tool-less adjusters, you don’t need an Allen key, also the bottom hook has an extra track so you can change the mounting for low riders. QL2 also can be locked to the rack with an optional steel security rope. QL3 is more for briefcases and office bags where the mounts stay on the rack instead of the bag so they look less like bike bags off the bike.

    Got a set of shop soiled Back Roller Plus panniers half price from Evans cycles as the adapter for the QL2 hooks were missing, replacement adapters only cost £4 but they don’t seem to be necessary with Tubus racks.

    If you shop at Tesco (UK) they have an offer where you can exchange your Clubcard vouchers for Evans vouchers doubling the value. Ended up getting the panniers and a front Tubus Tara rack for free effectively as I just used my Tesco vouchers to pay for them.

    Evans often have shop soiled/NQP Ortlieb panniers on clearance.

    Got a set of Edinburgh Cycle Coop water proof panniers, they are like a cross between an Ortlieb roller/packer with Rixen Kaul fittings which work well. Broke the locking part of the clips on one as I didn’t remove the adapters when using with a Tubus logo rack, but they held up for moths until I got replacement hooks. Going to use them as front panniers for my next camping trip.

  3. i went for the more traditional Carradice Super C panniers. They breathe to an extent, unlike the Ortlieb, but the faff to get them off made me recommend Ortliebs to my other half. Easy on an off is really important when you are struggling with a loaded tourer, and the Ortliebs are so much easier.

    • Totally agreed. The main selling point of the Ortlieb is the great fixing system. I sometimes wish they were more breathable, especially when cycling in hot climates, but am extremely thankful of their 100% waterproofness when it comes to cycling in the rain!

  4. Want to purchase a rear classic pannier for my son and his chosen color is yellow to go with other Ortlieb bags he has. Off touring in New Zealand as soon as his custom built trike is completed. We live in Tauranga.


Leave a Comment