Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review after 5.000+km experience!

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We’ve cycled over 5,000km with our trusted Ortlieb back panniers. In our opinion, these are the best back panniers money can buy and we’d never go on a cycle trip without them. Why? Read on in this Ortlieb Back Roller Classic review to find out more about why we think these are simply the best. 

Verdict on the Ortlieb Back Roller Classics after cycling more than 5.000 km

We haven’t regret it for a second to spend a bit more money than average for a good pair of bike pannies. The Ortlieb Back Roller Classics are so practical, convenient and super handy at the same time.

When cycling through the tough conditions Icelandic nature was throwing at us, we were so happy with the easy system these panniers are equipped with. In just a matter of seconds, we could get our belongings on and off our bikes, which saved us plenty of valuable time in the morning.

And when we crossed glacier rivers, together with ourselves, the panniers were soaked into the ice cold water. With our laptops and cameras inside the bags, we couldn’t afford a drop of water in there. You can probably already guess the outcome: our belongings were bone dry.

Furthermore, it’s great that Ortlieb offers more than just the back panniers. It simply looks fantastic when the back panniers, front panniers, handlebar bag, and rackpack are from the same series.

Pros

  • 100% waterproof (tried and tested ourselves)
  • Very durable
  • Spacious
  • Ridiculously easy system to attach them on your bike and take them off again
  • Compatible with other Ortlieb cycling packs

Cons

  • Each pannier weighing 950 grams doesn’t make them a very lightweight option
  • With a price tag of $190 (€150) per pair, they aren’t your cheapest option

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic – Advantages

Waterproofing

You can measure the quality of cycling gear by how well it stands up to the elements. On our cycling trip through Iceland, we needed to keep our belongings safe and dry on the road. Our Ortlieb Back Roller Classic review is that this pannier is 100% waterproof! 

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic is made from a durable PVC-coated polyester that is super long-lasting. The design is fixed together with welded seams, no stitching, which offers double security that no moisture is getting in. Even when we put our panniers down on the ice or they got soaked during a rainstorm, they stayed completely dry inside. 

To make this back pannier 100% waterproof, you must make sure it is properly closed. The Ortlieb roller system is simple but so effective. All you need to do is roll the top of the bag down tight and clip it into place. Two tight rolls and your bag will have an unbeatable waterproof seal. amazing!

Other serious cyclists we know consider Ortlieb back panniers to be the best back panniers for waterproofing. Long cycle rides can get very wet but also very muddy. Even caked in mud, these back panniers keep our belongings clean and dry and all the mounting fixings worked just fine. 

Storage

It’s amazing how much you can fit into these back panniers! The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic specifications are as follows:

  • Volume: 20l each bag (40l/2400cubic inches total)
  • Height: 42cm
  • Lower width: 23cm
  • Depth: 17cm

So, how big is this in practice? 

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic is very spacious! This is one of the largest panniers on the market and is ideal for storing big and bulky luggage. On our most recent cycling trip to Switzerland in summer, we stored our laptops, camera, clothes, and an extra pair of shoes in the Ortlieb Back Roller Classics. In Iceland we needed a bit of extra space for winter jackets and warmer sleeping bags, so we carried a backpack on top of the panniers.

You don’t need to worry about the weight these panniers can hold, either. On a long-distance cycling trip in hot weather, you need to know you have enough water to stay hydrated. You can load large water bottles in these back panniers without worrying about it being too heavy.  

The design of the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic is very simple. The only storage feature is an internal zippered pocket on each side of the pannier. The whole storage space is waterproof so it doesn’t matter how you pack your things but the small inside pocket is useful for small valuables. You can, for example, slide your wallet or camera in here to always know exactly where it is. 

Durability

All good-quality cycle gear has to be durable. Even if you only take gentle bike rides through the city, the impact of the weather will gradually damage cheaper panniers. 

Ortlieb designed the Back Roller Classic to withstand very harsh conditions over a long period. The waterproof polyester material seems impossible to tear and doesn’t show signs of wear, even when scraped along the ground. We do recommend choosing a solid color as the printed ones can show scuff marks pretty quickly. These back panniers also feature a protective strip of plastic on the rear. Most importantly the panniers have welded seams which means they will never split, even when packed full. 

Extremely sturdy, after all these kilometers, our Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers still look almost brand new. 

Compatibility 

On cycling trips where we need a bit more gear, we also carry an Ortlieb Attrack bag. The great thing about Ortlieb bags is that they’re compatible. The straps on the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic click into the fixings on the straps of the Ortlieb Attrack bag and the Ortlieb Rack-Pack. When everything clips together securely you don’t need to fuss with extra straps and clips. We were a bit concerned about the bumpy terrain we were facing, so we did use extra bungee cords as a precaution. Afterall it turned out it was absolutely unnecessary to use these extra straps. Anway, they can always come in handy!

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review – Disadvantages

We haven’t experienced many disadvantages with the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic pannier. However, not everyone is looking for the exact same thing from their adventure gear so here are a few things to consider. 

Weight

Completely empty, the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic weighs almost 950g (33.5 oz) per side. That’s almost 2kg of weight before you’ve put anything in them! For us, the weight of the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic is worth it. There are more lightweight panniers available but this means they give in on other features, like waterproofing. The Back Roller Classic is so effective at keeping our belongings dry and is so long-lasting that a bit of extra weight is an okay compromise!

Price

On the Ortlieb website, the Back Roller Classic is currently listed at $190 (€150). This is not the cheapest pannier on the market and the price may put some buyers off. As with all of our travel gear, we weigh up the initial cost with the effectiveness and durability of the product. We’ve already taken our Ortlieb back panniers on some epic cycle trips and intend to take them on many more in the future! So, we believe that these couple of extra initial bucks will save us some more bucks in the future.

No extra pockets

It’s always handy to have extra side pockets on bags to stay organized. The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic has only one small zippered pocket and that’s inside the bag, meaning you have to unclip and unroll the whole bag to get to it. A side pocket or two would be useful to store a water bottle, maps, snacks, or extra clothes you might want to get to quickly. 

An external pocket would be useful, but we actually prefer to store our smaller items in our handlebar bag. This way we always have a snack, our wallet, or our phone in reach if we need it.

Why trust our Ortlieb Back Roller Classic review? 

We’re serious about making sure we have the right gear for our adventures. All our gear reviews feature products we have actually used and loved. Ortlieb did not pay us to write this review and neither did they give us the panniers for free (sadly)!

So why are we writing about Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers? Because we love to recommend great products to our readers! We used our Ortlieb back panniers during an epic 3-month bike trip around Iceland. On that trip, we had to cross several glacial rivers in freezing conditions with all our clothes and valuables inside our Ortlieb back panniers. This included our laptops and our camera and – of course – everything survived! We also used these Ortlieb back panniers during a month-long cycling trip in Switzerland in the summer of 2020. Again, these great panniers never let us down!

More about the Ortlieb Back Roller Classics

Ready to purchase your Ortlieb back roller classic pannier set, you might be wondering how they really work. We’ve got you covered in this section of the article where we explain you how to close them and how to attach them to your bike.

How do I close the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic?

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic follows almost the same design as a kayaking dry-bag but with extra fixings to attach to your bike. The back pannier is made from flexible polyester-based material so that once it’s filled, you can roll the top over. Ideally you want to roll the top three or four times. When your pannier is very full you may only be able to roll twice but don’t worry, the bag will still be waterproof. You then pull a strap tightly over the roll and clip it down.

The roller design of this back pannier’s closure is convenient for storing different amounts of luggage. If you need to fill your bags to the top, you can leave the center strap loose and still close the bag using the shoulder straps. If you have less luggage, you can roll out excess air, cinch the center buckle as tight as it will go, and clip the outer buckles together to make a nice, small package. 

How do you attach Ortlieb Panniers? 

When you’re cycling for long distances over difficult terrain, you need to know your back pannier is safe and secure! Ortlieb’s QuickLock 2.1 system is the most important feature of the Back Roller Classic. 

How to attach the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic to your bike:

  • Pick up the pannier using the handle. The latches will open. 
  • Place the latches onto your rack and release the handle. The latches will close. 
  • The spring-loaded latches have now locked the pannier securely in place. 
  • To further secure your pannier, use the extra fixing point on the back that slides against the rack and ensures the pannier doesn’t move. 

How to remove the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic to your bike:

  • Pick up the pannier by its handle again. The latches will open.
  • Lift the pannier off the bike rack. 

The whole QL2.1 system is adjustable. There are three adaptor brackets included with your purchase. Clip these inside the upper mounting hooks to perfectly match the latches to the diameter of your bike rack. 

You can slide the latch system up and down your bike rack to get it in the best position. You can also rotate the lower latch in a full circle and if you need to, move the position of the upper mounting track. These adjustments can be made without tools. 

Having the option of different mounting positions is SO useful. Everyone’s bike is different. Making small adjustments to your pannier position can make a huge difference to the comfort of your ride. You don’t want your back panniers bumping against your wheels the whole ride!

For us, it’s this mounting system that makes the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic the best back pannier money can buy. Put these panniers on your rack properly, and they will NOT fall off!

What are the best panniers for touring?

We prefer back panniers to front panniers when touring. For us, they just feel better and have more storage space. 

Besides having an unbeatable mounting system, the best back panniers for touring must be reliable. When you’re out touring far from your home base, you need to know that your back panniers will keep your belongings safe and dry. The best back panniers must be completely waterproof and perform well in dry but dirty conditions. A good caking of mud shouldn’t ruin your panniers. Once cleaned, it should look as good as new! 

The best panniers must also be long-lasting and durable. Ortlieb’s panniers are favorites among serious cyclists because they’re completely reliable and so secure you forget you’re carrying them at all. 

What is the difference between Ortlieb Classic and Ortlieb City?

The Ortlieb Classic and Ortlieb City panniers are the same size and hold the same volume (40 liters). Both panniers are made from the same super-durable PVC-coated polyester and have welded seams. 

The main difference between Ortlieb Classic and Ortlieb City panniers is the closing system which does have an impact on storage capacity.

The Ortlieb City pannier does not have a central strap closure system. This means you cannot securely attach the Ortlieb City pannier to an Ortlieb Rack Pack without extra cords which are nowhere near as secure. It also means you can’t pack as much into the Ortlieb City panniers as you can’t leave the outer clips open and use the center strap to clip the bag closed. The Ortlieb City pannier also doesn’t have shoulder straps which makes the bags less versatile. 

These missing features do mean that the Ortlieb City model is cheaper than the Ortlieb Classic and also a little lighter. In our opinion, the extra secure and versatile closure system is worth the extra money. 

Are Ortlieb bags worth it?

In our opinion – yes! Ortlieb set the industry standard in waterproof cycling bags. These bags might be expensive to buy, but when you consider how many years you will use them, the cost is well worth it. Ortlieb bags are designed to last many years under very harsh cycling conditions. And with their fantastic QL mounting system, you’re guaranteed a comfortable ride with no luggage problems! 

We’re so confident that Ortlieb makes the best back panniers that we recommend the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic to all our adventure cycling friends.

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