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Ortlieb pannier bags and racks buyers guide

Ortlieb, like many German brands, is famous for its well-engineered products that last. Their bicycle luggage is tough and, should you need, there is a huge range of spares so you can keep your bags going.

Ortlieb's world famous for their Ortlieb Back Roller Pannier Bag, Ortlieb Ultimate Six Handlebar Bag and Quick Rack, which have been part of touring cyclist go to equipment for decades. Ortlieb has a number of different options for the Back Roller as well as bike-packing and commuting collections too.  

Brief History of Ortlieb

Original Ortlieb bags

Ortlieb was dreamt up by a German student,Hartmut Ortlieb, who was touring around Britain during a particularly wet summer in 1981. He was fed up with his wax canvas pannier bags letting in water and therefore his clothes and sleeping bag never staying dry.

As he is riding he sees a truck pass with a tarpaulin cover protecting the goods from getting wet. On his return to Germany, Hartmut Ortlieb started to make his own pannier bags using truck tarpaulin. He made his bags at home and, through word of mouth, cyclists from all over Germany wrote him asking to make them a bag.

Fully Waterproof Construction

All Ortlieb bags are fully waterproof. Ortlieb pioneered high-frequency welding (HFW), which is not just tough but also waterproof to 100,000 mm column of water. Many other bags are only weather-resistant or water-resistant. If you submerged an Ortlieb product in water the contents would stay dry for hours. Instead of applying heat from the outside, HFW involves the application of high frequency voltage to the objects that need to be welded. The voltage causes the molecules within the various materials to vibrate and, essentially, to generate heat.

IP64 Rated

This is a certification that is often applied to electronics. It means the product is designed to be protected from total dust ingress and water from any direction. Ortlieb bags are certified to this level.

Made in Germany

Ortlieb has always been made in Germany — although no longer in the bedroom of the founder. 70% of materials used at the Heilsbronn factory are locally sourced from Germany. Ortlieb bags have a much smaller carbon footprint than their competitors, as well as a traceable supply chain.

Sustainability since 1990s

Ortlieb has been shouting about sustainability since the nineties, which is why they want to increase their locally-sourced materials to 100% in the next few years, as well as become energy independent by 2030.

Five Year Warranty

Ortlieb provides a five-year warranty on all their products, so there is no need to replace an Ortlieb bag; it is designed to be repaired and keep going.

Ortlieb Repair Service

Ortlieb has repair partners across the globe and a repair HQ in the UK. They aim to repair any bag, even if it's been through years of abuse. They carry out 18,000 repairs globally every year.

Multitude of Spares Ortlieb

offers spare parts that make the bags repairable at home rather than needing to send them off. The design of the bags uses replaceable parts so that riders can make a quick upgrade rather than compromise or throw the bag away.

Four Ortlieb Ranges You Need To Know

Back-Roller Pannier Bags

The Back-Roller range is synonymous with touring, commuting and cycling with riders all over the world. The bag is made from a thick polyester fabric that is difficult and almost impossible to tear, but that does make it heavier than most weather-resistant canvas. The bag has a roll top closure, making it ideal for awkward shaped cargo. The bag clicks onto the rails of your pannier rack using a self locking system, so there’s no need to fiddle with velcro or buckle straps. The mechanism, known as QL2.1, is designed to detach via a quick release handle and, of course, all the elements of the mechanism can be replaced.

Six variations
Within the range are Core, Free, Plus and Hi Viz models. It is the same shape and fixing but with different fabrics or construction. 

  • The Plus version have an external side bag for extra capacity and a Cordura fabric finish.
  • The Hi-Viz option of the Back-Roller has a reflective yarn stitched into the fabric to make it visible from all angles.
  • The Core is a single pannier bag and doesn’t feature the internal zipped pocket.
  • Back-Roller Free is made without using PVC in the fabric.

Ortlieb Back-Roller bags don’t have internal flaps or pockets, which gives riders lots of flexibility in what they carry and how they pack, but should you want to ‘feng shui’ your kit there are internal compartment cubes available.

If you want to leave the bags on your bike whilst at a cafe or shop, fit the anti-theft cable to keep the bag secure.

Entry-level options
The little sister version of the Back-Roller, the Sport-Roller is a cost-effective entry into touring, great for smaller bicycle frames with a closure by a shaped semi-rigid flap.

A smaller bag, it can be fitted as a front pannier. Sport-Roller is also available in Core, Plus, Hi-Viz and Free options.

Bike-Packing Bags

The range of compact bags fit into spaces around the frame rather than clipping onto racks and supports. They are ideal for riders who cannot fit racks on their bicycles, or prefer lighter weight options.

The difference between Ortlieb bike-packing bags and other brands is that Ortlieb bags are fully waterproof. The bags attach using large, wide velcro straps.

Quick release options

There is also the QR bike-packing range. The Seat-Pack,  Handlebar-Pack, Fork Pack clip into a bracket clamped onto your bike.
They are removed by pulling on a toggle, rather than needing to undo the straps when you go on a detour by foot. The clamp removes any sway or shaking when riding out of the saddle, especially when the bags are fully loaded. The downside is it's heavier compared to the velcro attachment.

Bag Options

  • Seat Pack 
  • Handlebar Pack
  • Fork Pack
  • Frame Pack - in three sizes
  • Fuel Pack
  • Accessory Pack

Touring Bags

Ultimate Six handlebar bags and Saddlebag Two are traditional bags that are ideal for leisure riding and short touring. The bags are structured, giving them a semi-rigid shape and are fitted via brackets. These are great for keeping sandwiches, a light rain coat and spares within easy reach.

Ultimate Six comes with a carry strap so it can be used like a shoulder bag off the bike. There is also an accessory map that can be clipped onto the bag.


There are four backpack models to choose from. All the bags include integrated loops for fitting lights or reflective strips.

Velocity is a large capacity, waterproof rucksack for community. Made with the same tough fabric as the Back Roller, there are welded foam supports to provide padding and airflow across your back.
The large Velocity backpack is available with a woven reflective fabric.

The Messenger pack is one of our bestsellers it has a rigid back and waist strap and is ideal for carrying heavier and bulky loads. which is why it is often sported by bicycle couriers. The bag has an IP64 rating.

The Packman Pro has a matte finish and PVC free. Designed for on and off bike, there is an integrated pocket should you want to fit a hydration bladder. The shoulder and waist straps are padded for improved comfort on all day use.

Top Picks

Ortlieb Quick Rack

A lightweight rear rack with a lever-release mechanism and seatpost strap that make it easy to remove or install from almost any bike and ideal for frames without rack mounts.


Ortlieb Fork Pack

Introduced as part of the Ortlieb's expanding bike-packing range. The Fork Pack is deal for riders who don't want to have a large front pannier, prefer to ride off road on on gravel where a compact bag won't catch on narrow bramble lined trails.


Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Plus Handlebar Bag

A classic design and shape with a PVC-nylon free fabric. The traditional map holder slot has been replaced with a smartphone window.


How should you pack pannier bags?

The heaviest stuff needs to go at the bottom of your front packs to keep a low centre of gravity. Spreading weight over the front wheel also improves stability and handling, and will help the lifespan of your back wheel.

On a tour, kit you need every day, such as a camera and stove, should go at the top of the front packs. Keep you waterproof jacket and puncture repair kit at the top too. Roll, rather than fold, clothes to save space.

Be organised: split things up according to function and label what’s in each bag. For example, put food and cooking gear in one bag and bike tools and spares in another.

It's also a good idea to leave some space to collect things along the way.

To protect expensive commuting items, such as laptops and tablets, consider putting them in a padded case or wrapping them in a layer of bubble wrap.

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