GROUPTEST: Rear Panniers


Whether you're commuting or touring, panniers are a fantastic bike accessory for a few reasons. Besides keeping the weight (and sweat) off your back, they offer a larger capacity than a backpack and are built to withstand the toughest conditions.

The LCC team tests some rear panniers that we think you can get behind: 

ALPKIT Toliari20 £35 (each)
Capacity: 20-litres (each)
Weight: 800g (each)
Other options: 5-litre or 12-litre, plus ‘clipless’ versions

Alpkit says its Toliari 20s are designed for racks with 10mm tubing and it worked perfectly with our Tubus Logo. Mounting hooks slide along a rail into your optimum position; there’s about 40mm of range with each hook which is plenty. The hooks clip onto the rack, though there’s no ‘locking’ system — not an issue for city commuting but on rougher terrain it’s worth checking the clips fit your chosen rack well. Alpkit does supply a bungee to clip to the lower rack for added stability, but we found this too short to be useful and didn’t use it. At 20-litres the Toliari’s in the same bracket as the Altura and Ortlieb products tested here, though Alpkit’s are longer and slimmer, meaning they stick out less and sit slightly closer to the ground. One bag easily swallowed our work gear (laptop, waterproofs, jumper, tools, tube), but you need to think about packing more as the streamlined design limits rummaging room. The rolltop closure is quick and simple, the welded seams have helped keep our kit bone dry, plus there’s tabs aplenty for LEDs or other equipment. RE

ALTURA Sonic 40 £99.99 (pair)
Capacity: 40-litres (pair)
Weight: 2060g (pair)
Other options: from 15-litres (single) to 56-litres (pairs)

The Sonic 40s set out to do one job above all else: keep your kit dry. And subjected to several summer soakings we found that they did that job very well indeed. No pockets means fewer seams and less chance of water ingress, and the waterproof fabric has even proven tough enough for hard off-road abuse. The rolltop closure clips neatly to each side of the bag, but left open we had room to transport cricket bats and tennis rackets for a day out in the park.We found the Klickfix system effective in stopping the bag from popping off the rack when hitting potholes; the hooks can be positioned to suit your rack and a large red button releases the bag. There’s a bottom rail with a horizontal clip to hold the bag to the lower part of a rack too. The carrying handle was slightly narrow for our hands, but there’s attachment points for a shoulder strap. Good reflective detailing on all sides and LED loops. There’s four colour options and 15-litre/25-litre singles also available. AS

ORTLIEB Back-Roller Classic £110 (pair)
Capacity: 40-litres (pair)
Weight: 1900g (pair)
Other options: 30 designs, from 12-litres to 42-litres

If any brand’s synonymous with panniers it’s Ortlieb — and the Back-Roller is as close as you’ll come to a benchmark product. To get the best from them you need to take a bit of time to set them up properly. Firstly, the top mounting hooks are adjustable; they slide along the rail and click into the ideal position for your rack. You get different plugs for use with thinner- tubed racks, while a lower hook is adjustable by hand, sliding along a lower rail and rotating through 360 degrees. A clever mounting system means the top hooks open when you lift the carrying handle — and close, locking to the rack, when you release it. The rolltop closure is a hassle-free affair and one bag held our daily commuting gear, lunch and bike spares comfortably.The internal sleeve held our 13in laptop and the inner mesh stasher is ideal for tubes and mini-pump. The coated fabric and welded seams make extreme waterproofing perhaps the main selling point for these bags though — the way they stave off torrential downpours is stunning. Five colour choices. RE

CARRADICE Super C £120 (pair)
Capacity: 54-litres (pair)
Weight: 2236g (pair)
Other options: 15 designs, from from 15-litres to 58-litres

Carradice has been making bags since 1932 and the Super Cs offer that traditional look and feel. Made from cotton duck, a type of waterproofed, heavy duty canvas that means they should last a lifetime if cared for properly.The huge capacity means it’s possible for us to squeeze our two-man tent, poles, pegs and sleeping bag into one bag alone. External pockets are great for holding a waterproof or snack, but it means the left and right bags aren’t inter-changeable. The main compartment closes via drawstring and clipped, foldover lid. The mounting system is very solid too, rattle-free and adjustable for different racks. Once the hooks are screwed into your chosen position, bag mounting/removal is quick and easy; the lower clip can be positioned through 360 degrees and tightened in place with a hex key. For longer trips we paired with Super C front panniers — equally as handsome and dependable. RE

REVIEWS: Rob Eves, Ashok Sinha. All bags tested using Tubus racks.