If you understand how Ortlieb has named their different panniers and handlebar bags, you will find it easier to tell them apart. Here are some basic facts about the Ortlieb panniers that will help you make your choices. Below the Panniers and Handlebar Bag info you will also find a Frequently Asked Questions section. Once you have read this page, please go back to the Ortlieb Packs Home Page and click on the individual photos and links for more thorough descriptions of each model.
Ortlieb makes two basic pannier styles – Packers and Rollers. The names Packer and Roller refer to the methods used to close the panniers.
Roller panniers have extra fabric at the top of the bag. To close the Roller panniers, simply squeeze the two sides of the top of the bag together, roll them down a couple of turns and buckle the ends to the shoulder strap. The shoulder strap attaches in a “V” to a hook near the bottom on the front of the pannier. A front strap can be routed over the top and fastened to the top back of the bag. You can also close them without using the shoulder strap. There is a male buckle half at one end of the roll and a female end at the other. Roll the two sides of the fabric down together, loop the two ends toward each other, and the buckle halves will click together. The top of the bag will then be closed in more-or-less of a circle. They sound a bit complicated to close, but with a very little bit of practice, you will find it quite easy to close a roller pannier.
Packer panniers have a double drawstring collar at the top of the bag – and a lid. To close the pannier, tighten the drawstrings, pull the lid over the top of the bag, and then buckle the lid to the vertical front straps. The Bike Packer Plus also has horizontal compression straps that close the lid of the outside pocket and compress the load in the main compartment. These horizontal compression straps are only on the Bike Packer Plus panniers, not the Sport Packer Plus or any of the other Ortlieb panniers.
The larger Bike Packer and Back Roller panniers are generally used as rear panniers. The Bike Packer Classic and all Back Roller panniers (Classic and Plus) have the same rated volume, 40 liters (2451 cubic inches). The Bike Packer Plus panniers are rated at 50 liters after the addition of outside waterproof pouch pockets – not on any of their other panniers. Some tandem cyclists will use Bike Packer or Back Roller panniers as large front panniers, because they need to carry gear for two riders but only have one bike.
The smaller Sport Packer and Front Roller panniers are generally used as front panniers, but also work perfectly as smaller rear panniers. Sport Packers are rated at 30 liters (1831 cubic inches), and Front Rollers are a bit smaller at 25 liters (1526 cubic inches).
All Classic panniers are made of the Classic PVC fabric that looks and feels like the slick and shiny fabric on a river raft, or a rafters “dry bag.”
All Plus panniers are made of the Plus “Cordura” fabric that has a more cloth-like appearance. It is a laminated fabric with a highly waterproof inner layer that adds strength to the Cordura. The Plus fabric is a bit lighter in weight than the Classic fabric, but easily as waterproof, and equal in durability. Most tourists think it looks a little better than the classic fabric. Hey! Looks are important!
- All Classic panniers use the original QL-1 upper mounting system. QL-1 top hooks can be adjusted with an allen wrench. They move from side to side on the top of the panniers to help you find the perfect hook position on your rack’s top rails. The top hooks grasp the top rails on your rack, similar to the way you might place your four fingers over — and opposable thumbs under a chin-up bar.
- All Plus panniers use the updated, more adjustable QL-2 upper mounting system. The QL-2 top hooks can be adjusted without using any tools. QL-2 Top Hooks are especially nice if you have racks on more than one bicycle, and are often swapping your bags from one bike to another. You can quickly move the hooks from one set of positions to another. Like the QL-1 hooks, QL-2 top hooks grasp the top rails on your rack, so they will never fall off of your rack while riding.
- Both QL-2 and QL-1 Top-hooks are 16mm in diameter to fit 16mm diameter tubes. Both top-hook systems include 8mm and 11mm hook inserts to step the diameter down to fit the most common rack top-rail diameters. Note: most racks are made from 10mm diameter aluminum rods or steel tubes. Add an almost 1/2mm thick layer of paint or powder coating, and those racks have approximately 11mm top-rails.
- All Plus and Classic panniers use QL-2 Lower Hooks. QL-2 Lower Hooks can be adjusted without tools by means of a knob that can be turned with your fingers. The QL-2 lower hooks can be pointed right or left – or down. They slide along one of two elliptical rails, and provide many more mounting positions than the old QL-1 hooks, and will fit a wider variety of racks.
- All Ortlieb panniers are made with waterproof construction. High Frequency Welded seams and highly waterproof fabrics make them watertight and dustproof — so watertight that some tourists have been known to do their laundry in their Ortlieb panniers!
The Roller pannier design provides the ultimate in waterproofing. The rolled closure may keep a mountain biker’s gear dry, even if the packs get momentarily submerged during stream crossings. Roller panniers might be the best choice for someone who will be riding off-road or through the rainy season in the tropics. And if they fit your budget, Roller panniers are a great choice for any bicycle tour.
- Packer panniers are effectively waterproof in rain, and for splash from passing vehicles — in other words, they are equal to the rollers in any situation other than submerging your panniers! Water could get in under the lids if the bags were submerged, but otherwise, your gear will stay dry. The lidded design is easier to load and unload, and should provide easier access to your gear during your ride.
- Anti-Theft Devices work ONLY with PLUS panniers with QL-2 top-rails. These light weight cables with a loop on the end can be nested behind the QL-2 top rails. Pull them out, loop them around the rack rails, and lock your panniers to your bike rack with mini padlocks . . . padlocks not included.
- Knowing the above facts should help you recognize each pair of panniers from its name. For example, I know from the name Bike Packer Plus that they are large rear panniers with lidded closures over drawstring tops. The have QL-2 hooks and the Plus Cordura fabric. Bike Packer Classic panniers are the same basic design as the Bike Packer Plus, but have the Classic QL-1 Top Hooks and the PVC Classic fabric. Remember that the Bike Packer Plus panniers are larger at 50 liters volume than the Bike Packer Classic panniers at 40 liters capacity.
Here is an important additional fact about all Ortlieb panniers. The laterally adjustable top hooks can help provide additional heel clearance for folks who need it. If you adjust the pannier top-hooks toward the rider on the pannier top-rail, and then place the hooks toward the back of the rack, you have just moved the panniers away from the rider’s heels. Let me know if you need a more detailed explanation about this feature.
All Plus Panniers have another great feature that can help if you have heel clearance issues. You will find instructions with your Plus panniers that will explain how to tilt the top-hook mounting rails. When the top-rails are mounted at an angle on the back of the panniers, and the panniers are placed on the rack with the pannier top-rails parallel to the rack top-rails, the panniers ride at an angle that holds the bottom of the packs away from the rider’s heels. This adjustment is not on Classic panniers.
Information courtesy of The Touring Store