Which bike pannier is best?

For daily cyclists, traveling with items can be an uncomfortable chore. The constant motion of pedaling makes it easy for backpack and messenger bag straps to rub against the shirt and skin to cause chafing and bike baskets just don’t have the capacity. Bike panniers are an excellent long-term solution, but you need to get the right panniers for your needs.

The best overall bike panniers are the Ortlieb Back-Roller City Rear Panniers. They’re completely waterproof and have plenty of room.

What to know before you buy a bike pannier

Bike pannier types

There are two main types of bike panniers — touring and commuting.

  • Touring panniers are the most common. They’re designed for biking long distances over many days. As such, they tend to be the most spacious and have the highest durability and weather protection. They’re also usually as light as possible but can be the most expensive. They usually attach to the rear wheels.
  • Commuting panniers are typically smaller, as they’re meant for hauling a few items with you to work or school. They also tend to have less durability and weather protection but have much easier off-bike carrying methods in exchange. They can attach anywhere on your bike and are usually more affordable.

Placement

Bike panniers are placed in one of three locations.

  • Rear-wheel panniers are the most common and the largest. They can also make biking more stable.
  • Front-wheel panniers are smaller and more commonly the commuting type. They are best for those who like the ability to access their things without dismounting.
  • Handlebar panniers are special, tiny bags that go right underneath the handlebars. Think of them like fanny packs for your bike. They’re best for holding your bike lock, phone and other small items. They are excellent supplements to rear-wheel touring panniers.

What to look for in a quality bike pannier

Material

Bike panniers are typically made from polyester or vinyl.

  • Polyester is most commonly found in commuter panniers, as it’s durable, water-resistant and affordable.
  • Vinyl is most commonly found in touring panniers, as it’s fully waterproof. However, it’s more expensive.

Closure 

Bike panniers commonly use zipper or roll-top closures.

  • Zipper closures are most commonly found on small, inexpensive panniers as they’re easier to use. However, they quickly become clogged up with all the dirt and grime of biking.
  • Roll-top closures are found on larger, better bags as they keep your items better protected. However, the straps and buckles used to seal them must be carefully secured and maintained and they can be difficult for some people to use.

How much you can expect to spend on a bike pannier

Bike panniers typically cost $10-$150. Basic panniers shouldn’t cost more than $25, while the best panniers cost $75 or more. Most cost $25-$75 but use caution when shopping — not all in this range are worth it.

Bike pannier FAQ

How do I attach bike panniers to my bike?

A. Technically, you don’t attach the panniers to the bike. Instead, panniers attach to cargo racks that are attached to your bike. Take note that cargo racks are rarely included with panniers, but most panniers are compatible with any rack. 

Double-check that both are compatible when purchasing them and prioritize steel racks for durability and aluminum racks for less weight.

Do bike panniers have weight limits?

A. Yes, though it’s difficult to reach it unless you’re stuffing your panniers with exclusively high-weight objects. 

There are two main signs that your panniers are too heavy — the simplest is that your bike is unbalanced and harder to pedal. The other is that the straps and bolts that attach the panniers to your rack are under high strain.

Can I buy a single bike pannier instead of buying a pair?

A. Yes, though most panniers are sold in pairs in the interest of evenly spreading weight to both sides of the bike. Single panniers are usually meant for tasks like basic grocery runs or traveling with little more than a laptop and a lunchbox.

What’s the best bike pannier to buy?

Top bike pannier 

Ortlieb Back-Roller City Rear Panniers

Ortlieb Back-Roller City Rear Panniers

What you need to know: These panniers are perfect for long-haul bikers on extended trips. 

What you’ll love: They have one large storage pocket and the exterior material is PVC-coated polyester for completely waterproof protection. They secure tightly to racks of 8, 11 and 16 millimeters and come in black, red and white.

What you should consider: It doesn’t have exterior storage. It’s hard to carry them when detached from your bike. A few consumers found opening and closing the bags to be difficult.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top bike pannier for the money

Banjo Brothers Grocery Bag Pannier

Banjo Brothers Grocery Bag Pannier

What you need to know: This budget pannier is perfect for quick runs to the store.

What you’ll love: It folds flat against the rack when not needed to cut down on drag and it has a shoulder strap and handles for easy off-bike transport. Its capacity is 1,100 cubic inches, and it has a small exterior pouch that’s perfect for keys and the like.

What you should consider: The top doesn’t close or seal, discouraging inclement weather travel. A few customers had issues with rusting. Others had issues with material stretching out.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers

Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers

What you need to know: The easy off-bike carrying methods make this a great set for commuters.

What you’ll love: The bags magnetically attach when off the rack, and you can carry them by their handles or with an included, removable shoulder strap. There’s a zip pocket on the front for small items and an internal stretch pocket for laptops.

What you should consider: A few purchasers had trouble mounting and dismounting them. Others noted the bags aren’t as waterproof as they’re marketed to be.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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