Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ortlieb Front Roller Classic Panniers Review

I have always wanted to carry more things on my bike! By having greater load capacity, this allows me to ride further and longer, as I can bring along supplies. It is also great for commuting, as you will not have to worry about whether the bike can contain your work clothes, work shoes, showering stuff and other barang-barang. Personally, I don't like to carry a bag when I cycle, as it makes me sweat more, and can even cause backaches if you carry too much on your back while cycling. As Mr Brown once said, "Why lug it on your sweaty back when you have this metal thing with wheels to lug it for you?" Read about his excellent guide to bicycle commuting here!

Even before I added the rear rack, I already have the Biologic Tour Bag, which mounts on the front of the bike. It is a rainproof bag, which has a waterproof layer and has an overlapping cover that prevents rain from entering the bag. Not waterproof, as water can still enter if the water comes from the bottom (highly unlikely, unless you submerge the bike!) The capacity of the Biologic Tour Bag is about 7 litres.

Biologic Tour Bag

The Biologic Arclite Rack which I had bought previously has already proven itself to be very useful. Read about the rack here. However, in order to maximise the capacity of the rack, the best way is to add bags to it! I had thought about just getting a rack top bag, so that I can place things on top of the rack. Only when I started searching for rack top bags did I find that it is hard to actually get a good waterproof rack top bag.

Biologic Arclite Rack

In any case, a rack top bag such as those from Topeak does not have a large capacity. Although they have rain covers, it is very troublesome to have to stop and put on the rain cover when it starts raining. If you always put a rain cover on as a preventive measure, it is also troublesome when you want to get items from the bag. I would much prefer a rainproof bag where a separate rain cover is not needed.

Of course, no other company makes waterproof outdoor gear like Ortlieb! Ortlieb is a highly respected manufacturer of waterproof outdoor gear, and they also make panniers for bikes. By the way, panniers mean basket in French!

I was initially hesitant to get panniers, as I was afraid that it may cause heel strike when I put it on my bike. However, I know that many folding bike riders actually use Ortlieb panniers with no problems. The trick is to get the smaller Front Panniers, instead of the larger Rear Panniers. Together with the highly adjustable clips on the panniers, the bags should clear the heels when pedaling.

Shall let the pictures do the talking!

New Panniers! Arrived via Air Mail, cardboard box is a little dented, but no problem!

Grey and black colour scheme matches my bike! 790 grams each including shoulder strap.

Adjustable hook will hook onto your rack, preventing it from swinging outwards. The large black piece of plastic prevents sharp parts of your bike, such as the QR from wearing out the fabric.

Conveniently hooks onto the flat portion on the rack, which is originally used to hook the ends of the elastic cord that comes with the rack.

Simple but secure clip system for fixing the pannier onto the rack. Can adjust forward or backward to prevent heel strike!

See how I adjusted the clips so that the bag is all the way at the rear. Also, I clipped the panniers as far back on the rack as possible. No heel strike!

Roll top closure is virtually waterproof! Doubles as a carrying strap

Can also use this strap to close the top, if the clips at the two ends are used to connect the shoulder strap

Connect your shoulder strap to the end of the clip!

Spacious interior. 25 liters total capacity for the pair of panniers. In practical terms, I can fit a 1.5L bottle plus a pair of running shoes into one pannier with space to spare!

Bringing the panniers out for a field test! A full first aid kit on one side, a bike tool kit with lots of spare tubes and a 1.5L bottle on the other side.

Wide vehicle passing through! Actually it is not much wider than the handlebars, but you got to be careful when squeezing through narrow gaps.

Fits pretty well with the overall colour scheme of my bike. With the additional weight, and because the pannier is located all the way at the rear, the bike now tilts to the rear instead of the front when I put down my Pletscher kickstand.
I love these new panniers! On Friday, I lugged these things back from work:

1 set of uniform
1 set of T-shirt and jeans
1 pair of cycling shoes
1 set of showering stuff, including towel
and lots of smaller items such as umbrella, water bottle etc.

There is still some space left, can probably put in another 2 sets of clothes! Note that I did not even have to use my Biologic Tour Bag. I no longer have to plan in detail what to bring on the bike when I commute to work, just put in whatever you need!

With the panniers on and fully loaded, riding the bike seems a bit more difficult, as it feels heavier and steering is a bit laggy. When getting off the bike, got to be careful not to let the bike tilt to one side! Best is if the panniers are balanced on both sides. When riding into a headwind you will feel more drag as there are 2 big bags hanging off the side catching the wind!

In any case, I can easily transform from a speedy bike to a touring bike, just by removing or adding the panniers. In fact, it is so useful and the capacity so ample that I might consider retiring the Biologic Tour Bag up front...


  1. congrats on ortliebs! Dun junk the tour bag front. Can use for cameras and stuff u access more often.

  2. Thanks! the only reason I want to remove the front box, is because the holding bracket for the front box will sometimes obstruct the cable for the front brake. this prevents the front wheel from turning more than 40 degrees to the left. trying to work out a solution.

  3. hi steve,

    where did you purchase this?


  4. Hello .. What type of system are you using to attach the water bottle?

  5. Hi! Doesn't the pannier hit the rear derailleur when mounted? Especially when the bike has to ride over a rough patch of road? I've been wanting to put more storage options for my Dahon, and this looks like a good option for me. :-)

    1. No the pannier does not cover the RD. It extends till the quick release lever, but does not go any lower. Even if the bike goes over rough roads the pannier is secure and does not jump. When the RD jumps it will not hit the pannier, it will hit the chainstay before anything else.

      Yup this is a really good option. With the panniers, I can really haul a lot of stuff. If possible, get the touring rack, which is higher than the standard rack that I am using. It will place the pannier higher, if you prefer that.

  6. I just bought a pair of these front roller classics, partly on the recommendation of this blog. I use the bags for commuting, 40 km a day, round trip, between work and home. I bought a yellow set, which are the most visible to drivers.

    Verdict: Excellent bags. Just the right size for commuting. I can fit a change of clothes, lunch, and a towel in one bag. When I need to take my laptop home, I commute with both bags. I use them on my rear panniers.

    Originally, I bought the Rear roller classics, but after doing a test load of my commuting gear, I found that they were way to BIG for communting purposes. The store allowed a return, and I bought the front rollers.

    Thank for this review - it helped me to make a good purchase decision.

    1. Yes these are really good panniers. I have used them for 2 years and the is no sign of wear and tear. They are very durable too.

  7. Hello... I've been looking at buying the Biologic Tour bag for my Dahon Mu Uno (i'm in the UK).
    Do you happen to know the dimensions of the bag? I'm hoping to carry my work laptop (13") in it, along with other bits and bobs. Thanks, Sam

    1. Not too sure the exact dimensions of the Biologic Tour Bag. However, I am quite sure the 13" laptop will not fit. Check out the pictures from this other page.

  8. Hi, is it possible to use the drop bar with a loaded Kanga Rack, or a bullhorn bar would be a better choice? I am still using stock dahon speed handlebar and currently looking for an upgrade.

    1. It depends on the height of the handlepost. A drop bar might interfere with the Kanga rack, and it would look quite weird.

  9. Noted, perhaps a bullhorn bar will look less wierd?

    1. I think either one of it will look weird. But if you like it and it functions as you want it, that's perfectly fine. Just concerned that it might not fit properly.

  10. hey. i m interested in the front roller panniers too. how much u bought it for and where can I get it in singapore

    1. I got it for about sgd 130 from evanscycles. Not sure where it is available in Singapore.

    2. wow. great.



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