Best Bike Panniers : Top Picks for Commuter Cyclists in 2021

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Looking for a good way to carry stuff on your bike but aren’t interested in shoulder bags or backpacks? 

So, what options are out there, and which panniers will work best for your needs? 

What features to look out for? 

Single vs dual-sided panniers?

What size panniers do I need?

Everyone has different needs when it comes to bike panniers. Some use it to commute to work while some use them to commute to the grocery stores.

I’ll discuss the important things to consider in a bike pannier and also share some of the popular models available today.

A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Bike Panniers

Pannier ModelDimensionCapacity
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic16" x 12" x 6"2 x 20L
Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier14" x 14" x 4"23.5L
Thule Shield15.7" x 8" x 14.5"17L
Brooks Brick Lane14.2" x 13.8" x 4.7"2 x 15L
Ibera PakRak15.7" x 11.8 x 5.9"2 x 15L
Arkel Commuter17" x 12" x 6" 23L
Bushwhacker Omaha14" x 11.5" x 9"2 x 24L

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Bike Panniers Buying Guide & Tips

Bike panniers look surprisingly simple to most of us. After all, they’re just bags that you mount on your bike rack, right?

Now before you decide which pannier to buy, let me take you through some of the important features to know so that you can make a better-informed decision.

Here are 6 of the important things to know before buying bike panniers.

1. Single vs Dual Sided Panniers

With a dual-sided pannier, you’re going to get (obviously) twice as much storage space. 

There are, of course, downsides to double-sided panniers. Twice the gear means twice the weight. And, if you don’t plan on using the additional cargo space, why bother with a second pannier? 

Especially since two panniers will widen your bike’s profile, requiring you to pay more attention when passing objects and executing turns. 

While single-sided panniers may meet your capacity needs, they also create an obvious balance issue. The additional weight on one side will throw your balance off somewhat, which is an important factor to consider. 

That said, it should be noted that many cyclists report that it doesn’t actually create as big of a balance issue as you might think. 

2. Pannier Capacity

When it comes to capacity, expect to find a fairly broad range of sizes out there. 

Bike panniers’ capacity can range from as low as 20L and up to 50L for large sizes.

Larger sizes of above 30L are usually achieved through dual panniers. For example, the Bushwhacker Omaha Grocery Pannier has a 2 x 24L capacity, giving you a total of 48L.

On the other hand, single-sided panniers like the Thule Shield has only a 14L capacity for the small version and a 24L capacity for the large version.

Obviously, you want to get a pannier size that’s right for you. 

Too big and you’re just carrying extra bulk for no reason. Too small and the pannier you just invested in isn’t doing the job you bought it do. 

Panniers generally fit in four locations. On the sides of the rear wheels and on the sides of the front wheels. Due to the fact that your front wheel accounts for your steering and hence the ability to control the bike, you generally want to put smaller panniers at the fore of your bike while larger panniers go to its aft. 

3. Pockets

Panniers offer varying degrees of organizational ability. 

Some panniers such as the Arkel Commuter offer internal dividers to help you keep your gear organized. Many, including Ibera’s PakRak, also offer external pockets for smaller devices you want easy access to. 

These are all useful features, but keep in mind that pockets also tend to compromise the bag’s ability to resist water. 

Look for a pannier that suits your organizational needs while also offering the weatherproofing you demand. 

4. Bike Rack Compatibility

When considering which panniers to buy, make sure you look at their compatibility. 

Some bike racks are compatible with all rack brands, while others are specific to one brand. 

Thule’s Shield, for example, will work with most bike racks; however, they’re designed to work best with Thule racks. 

Obviously, if you’re buying a rack and panniers, go for a matching set.

5. Pannier Materials

There once was a time when waterproofing your panniers meant putting the gear you planned on carrying in it in plastic bags. 

Things have changed since then. 

You can now find completely waterproof panniers. 

Look for bags such as Ortlieb’s Back-Roller Classic that feature roll-top enclosures, waterproof material, welded seams, and covered zippers. 

Durability is also a factor when it comes to panniers.

Fabric such as Denier and Cordura makes rugged bags that resist wearing.

Of course, style is also a factor. Panniers such as the Arkel Commuter and Brooks Brick Lane bring a more refined and less utilitarian look to panniers.

6. Versatility

Some panniers offer a range of versatility, such as doubling up as a shoulder bag or backpack.

Oftentimes your bike won’t pull right up to your final destination. You’ll need to park your bike and hoof it the rest of the way to your office, that coffee shop, or wherever it is your head. 

In these cases, it’s helpful to have panniers that transform into backpacks, allowing for easy transfer from cycling to walking. Panniers such as TimBuk2’s Tandem quickly converts from pannier to pack. 

You may not always need your panniers. On those days that you’re not hauling gear or groceries, you’d rather not bounce along with empty panniers. 

Panniers such as the Brook’s Brick Lane and Bushwacker’s Omaha allow you to fold or roll up those empty panniers until they’re needed. 

Our Favorite Bike Panniers

Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic

Ortlieb Back-Roller City Rear Pannier
Photo Credit : Ortlieb

The PVC-coated polyester fabric makes the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers one of the most waterproof panniers you can find. 

Dating back to 1982 when founder Hartmut Ortlieb began looking for ways to keep his gear dry during long cycling tours, Ortlieb has been obsessed with designing bags that are watertight. 

Ortlieb is so serious about waterproofing that it chooses to forego external pockets, which though convenient, often serve as entry points for water. The company’s collection of panniers is no exception. 

The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic is compatible with racks with tube diameters up to 16mm. It uses the Ortlieb QL1 mounting system, which allows for easy removal and attachment of the panniers.  

Available colors include black, red, and white. With its rugged durability, spacious storage, and waterproof construction the Back-Roller Classic is an excellent option for touring. 

Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers

Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier
Photo Credit : Timbuk2

The Timbuk 2 Tandem Panniers transforms from a dual saddlebag pannier into a shoulder bag off the bike, with the two bags coming together with the help of powerful magnets. 

This roomy bag offers two internal sleeves for 15” laptops. Multiple internal and external pockets offer plenty of places to store phones, keys, a wallet, and a smartphone.  

Though not a completely waterproof bag, water repellant tarpaulin makes this bag very water-resistant. The Tandem Pannier drapes over your bike’s rack and is secured by two velcro straps. While this method is secure enough to make the Tandem a great option for commuting, it’s not recommended for hardcore touring. 

Thule Shield Panniers

Thule Shield Panniers
Photo Credit : Thule

The Thule Shield bike pannier is a very high quality, weatherproof bike pannier. And for that, it comes with a premium price tag too.

It’s designed to take on the harsh elements while keeping your gears dry. Thermally welded nylon makes this one of the best waterproof panniers you can find. It’s also versatile, by including a detachable shoulder strap for off-the-bike transport.

Thule also has safety in mind with this pannier. The neon green bag is easily visible to drivers and features several attachment points for bike lights. This pannier comes in sets of two; a small that offers 14L and a large that boasts 24L of storage. 

Interior pockets help keep small items organized. It works best with Thule bike racks but is compatible with most bike racks.

Brooks Brick Lane Roll Up Panniers

Brooks Brick Lane Roll-Up Bicycle Panniers
Photo Credit : Brooks

Brooks is well-known for its beautiful leather bike saddles, offers one of the coolest designs in panniers you’ll find. 

The Brick Lane, a set of panniers based on cyclist’s holdalls from the late 19th century, can be rolled up onto the rack when not in use. That means no more empty panniers bouncing around on your ride. 

This dual pannier system offers 28L of space and fits racks with a width between 10 and 15cm. Crossed elastic straps on the top of the panniers allow for additional storage. 

With water-resistant cotton and leather finishing, the Brick Lane panniers are some of the most beautiful you’ll find out there. It’s a perfect complement to your Brooks saddle

Style doesn’t come cheap though. Be prepared to pay more for this stylish set of panniers.

Ibera PakRak Bike Panniers

Ibera Bicycle Bag PakRak Panniers
Photo Credit : Ibera

The Ibera PakRak is the best bike panniers for those on a budget, at roughly half the other panniers’ price.

A three-point connection ensures the PakRak is well secured to your bike without any side swing. These dual panniers feature a quick release clip-on system for easy attachment and detachment from your bike. Multiple compartments in each 15L bag offer organization, including two large internal pockets for smaller items and a drawstring pouch for loose items. 

The PakRak is also ready to take on the weather. Each pannier is made of 600D nylon and includes a waterproof rain cover. The PakRak can carry up to 20 lbs and is compatible with most bike racks. 

Arkel Bike Commuter Bag

Arkel Commuter Urban Pannier Bag
Photo Credit : Arkel

The Arkel Commuter bag is a great option for commuters looking for a bag that will function both as a pannier and satchel. 

This pannier attaches to your bike rack using Arkel’s Cam-Lock system. Once you arrive at your destination, quickly detach the pannier, attach the shoulder strap and head off on foot. 

1000 Denier Cordura nylon makes this pannier weather resistant while the inside is lined with a waterproof fabric. A rigid backplate protects from shocks while both on and off the bike. 

It has 23L of storage and includes an internal compartment large enough to hold a 15” laptop. Two external pockets provide storage for keys, a wallet, and a smartphone.

Bushwhacker Omaha Grocery Panniers

Bushwhacker Omaha Bike Panniers
Photo Credit : Bushwhacker

If you’re looking for panniers to help you make that run to the grocery store, then check out Bushwhacker Omaha’s bicycle grocery pannier. 

Utah-based Bushwhacker specializes in an eclectic variety of accessories including bike bags, dog barriers, police bags, and golf cart accessories.  

These dual basket-style panniers allow you to haul two full-sized grocery bags. They’re mounted separately, so if you aren’t planning on carrying a full load, you can leave one at home. A three-point mounting system securely attaches each pannier to your bike. 

Each pannier attaches to the top of the rack with two metal hooks and the bottom of the rack or frame with a bungee. The Omaha can be detached quickly when not in use. And for the ride to the market, the baskets fold flat for storage.