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Best Bike Panniers For Commuting

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Many cyclists who commute to work use panniers to carry their work gear. For some, switching to panniers is a revelation after years of lugging stuff on their back.

A commuter’s “work gear” might include anything from a change of clothes to laptops, stationery, or specialist tools. It could include a packed lunch.

Bike panniers vary significantly in their design and cost. It’s possible to assess their suitability for different purposes and budgets objectively.

This article will help you choose the best commuting bike pannier for you. It might even improve your working week.

Top Picks:

Top 11 Best Bike Panniers For Commuters

1: Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers (best overall)

CHECK PRICE AT REI

If you’re seeking the best of the best in commuter bike panniers, the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic leads the way. These panniers will make a noticeable dent in your wallet or purse, but they still represent excellent value for money.

Ruggedly constructed from PVC-coated polyester, the bags are waterproof and durable. They offer a generous capacity and lots of visibility. Reflective patches and a choice of bright colors help keep you safe.

An included shoulder strap makes the Ortlieb panniers easy to carry off the bike. They can be used individually if desired.

An easy-to-use, sturdy mounting system allows the Back Roller Classics to fit securely to any bike rack with a tube diameter up to 16mm. Adapters are included for smaller sizes.

What we like:

  • Weatherproof – roll closure provides robust resistance to water and dust.
  • Rugged – coated polyester extremely durable and abrasion resistant.
  • Roomy – generous capacity of 20 liters per bag.
  • Safe – fix securely to any bike rack.

What we don’t like:

  • Organizing – lack of pockets and dividers for separating contents.

2: Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier (overall runner up)

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  • Size: 12.2″ x 14.6″ x 4.7″
  • Capacity: 30 liters
  • Weight: 2 lb.14 oz. (1315 g)

Ortlieb panniers are hard to beat for top place, but the Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier achieves a worthy runner-up spot. It has a classic and eminently suitable design for commuters.

The Tandem pannier is made from durable, water-resistant material and has a streamlined messenger bag appearance. Off the bike, the panniers don’t detach, but they join via a magnet so you can carry them as one bag.

You can carry the Timbuk2 Tandem panniers using the removable shoulder strap or transport them tote-style via the grab handles. There are internal stretch pockets for a 15” laptop (both sides) as well as plenty of room for clothes, food and a U-lock.

Other features of the Tandem panniers include several pockets for small items, exterior front zip pockets for quick access to valuables or snacks and light loops.

What we like:

  • Water resistance – not 100% impermeable, but keeps rain out for hours.
  • Durable – rugged 600D polyester construction resists wear and tear.
  • Tech – dedicated space for two laptops, albeit not padded.
  • Portability – easy to carry off the bike with shoulder strap and magnet clasps.

What we don’t like:

  • Security – Velcro attachment not the most secure on some racks.

3: Altura Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier (best waterproof bag)

CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Size: 15.7 x 13.4 x 5.9 inches (40 x 34 x 15 cm)
  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Weight:  1lb. 14 oz. (850 g)

If you need robust weatherproofing in a bike bag, the Altura Thunderstorm City 20 Pannier is for you. An IPX6 rating means it could resist powerful jets of water. Rain cannot penetrate the polyester material with TPU coating and welded seam construction.

There are many other features to commend this pannier. These include excellent KLICKfix universal rail fittings, roll-top closure, 360° reflective details, and light attachment points.

The KLICKfix fitting attaches to any bicycle rack and is removable in seconds. You will not be delayed by fiddly straps – just attach/detach and go!

This is another pannier that accommodates a 15” laptop with its interior organizer sleeve. Also inside is a convenient zip pocket and key loop.

What we like:

  • Rainproof – the strongest downpour won’t penetrate this bag.
  • Universal – fixes quickly and easily to any rack.
  • Laptop – provides space for a 15” laptop.
  • Lightweight – lighter than many rival products.

What we don’t like:

  • Cost – On the expensive side, but it is well made.

4: Tourbon Double Pannier Insulated Lunch Cooler (best for food)

CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Size: 13.38” x 5.9” x 11.8 inches (34 x 15 x 30 cm)
  • Weight:  2lb. 5 oz. (1056 g)

Not many panniers are designed to carry food, but the stylish Tourbon Double Pannier Insulated Lunch Cooler is an exception. It is ideal for taking a packed lunch to work. You can also use it to buy fresh groceries on the way home.

The insulated interior of this pannier will keep food either warm or cold. You could even ride out at lunchtime and pick up a takeaway to eat at your desk.

Made from rain-resistant nylon, this insulated food pannier attaches to a bike frame via two high-quality nylon hooks. It has a zippered closure and features reflective strips at the sides for visibility in poor light.

Inside, the bag is lined with insulation foil and includes cutlery holders. The bag can be separated into two, and it harmonizes with a tote-style pannier in the same Tourbon range.

What we like:

  • Manufacturing – made from robust nylon material.
  • Stylish – stands out among typical bike panniers.
  • Harmonizing – a matching tote pannier is available in the same style.
  • Adaptable – you can divide the two panniers and use only one.

What we don’t like:

  • Mounting – tight clips may not fit racks with thicker poles.

5: Hikenture Rear Rack Bicycle Pannier (best for capacity)

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If you really need big capacity, a cargo bag/double-pannier combo usually delivers. But the Hikenture Rear Rack Bicycle Pannier is a great choice of conventional pannier with a plentiful 27-liter capacity.

This pannier is great for commuters who need to carry a change of clothes and a laptop. Or you can fit a load of cycling items (rainproof jacket, helmet, tools) as well as a few work bits.

There aren’t many organizers. You get an internal zippered mesh pocket and an external quick-access pocket for small items. This is all fine in a large-capacity bag where you primarily want space and not dividers.

The Hikenture bag is easy to attach and remove with its quick-release clips, so there’s no faffing if you’re running late for work. You can also use this large bag for shopping. It’s made from durable 500D nylon and TPU and is 100% waterproof.

What we like:

  • Durable – made from robust materials with strong straps.
  • Weatherproof – 100% waterproof and easy to clean.
  • Portable – removes easily and carriable by shoulder or hand.
  • Versatile – also usable for shopping and touring.

What we don’t like:

  • Installation – not adaptable to all bike racks, particularly lower lock.

6: Gonex Upgrade Bicycle Panniers (best value)

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  • Size: 14.9 (rolled size) x 18.8 x 3.1 inches (60 x 46.5 x 25 cm)
  • Capacity: 27 liters
  • Weight:  2lb. 9 oz. (1162 g)

The most respected pannier brand in the world is Ortlieb, but the Gonex Upgrade Bicycle Panniers offer comparable quality for less money. There’s not much to dislike about that.

Well manufactured from rugged 900D PVC with welded seams, this pannier is waterproof, dustproof, wear-resistant, and durable. It uses a triangular mounting system with two movable top buckles and a 360° rotating lower bracket.

A bright yellow color helps commuters to be seen by day, whilst reflective strips on the sides of these panniers help with night visibility. There is an interior mesh compartment for holding small items as well as an exterior zippered pocket.

In terms of its portability, the Gonex includes a removable shoulder strap for carrying the bag across the body. You also have the option of using the short, reinforced handle.

What we like:

  • Quality – a high standard of manufacturing for a reasonable price.
  • Rainproof – contents will stay dry.
  • Portable – removable shoulder strap and hand strap choices.
  • Capacity – holds lots of stuff whether you’re commuting or shopping.

What we don’t like:

  • Fixedness – some users report movement in top clasps.

7: Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible (best mobile office)

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The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is great for commuters who need to work on the go as well as at the office. Maybe you stop a lot in coffee shops to catch up on tasks? Perhaps you ride to a train station and work on the train?

This is a pannier that converts to a backpack in seconds. Thanks to its minimalistic mounting system, it’s comfy on the back, too.

What really makes this pannier a mobile office, though, is its organizing interior. It has a padded laptop pocket for typical 15.6-inch work laptops. A multitude of other pockets, holders and compartments lets you arrange office supplies.

The pannier is made from robust TPE Waterproof Backed 600D Polyester. It fits securely to all standard 6 to16mm racks. Other features include a light loop, outer bottle pockets, and a high-vis rain cover.

With its Modular Attachment System (M.A.S.) you can easily attach other bags or a helmet to the Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible.

What we like:

  • Versatile – changes functionality in no time from pannier to backpack.
  • Durable – robustly made from high-quality materials.
  • Thoughtful – thoughtfully designed and versatile.
  • Organization – lots of pockets and protectors for office and cycling gear.

What we don’t like:

  • Shoulder straps – too long for some users.
  • Laptop protection – lacks padding at the base.

8: Tourbon Canvas Bicycle Laptop Pannier Backpack (easiest to carry)

CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Size: 11.81 x 5.51 x 16.93 inches (30 x 14 x 43 cm)
  • Capacity: 18 liters
  • Weight: 2 lb. 4 oz. (1010 g)

Panniers are not always easy to carry with their mounting clips, large pieces of rigid plastic, or shoulder straps that are too long. There’s none of that with the Tourbon Canvas Bicycle Laptop Pannier Backpack.

This pannier uses two sturdy clips for attachment to your bike rack and converts into a backpack. It’s made of a high-quality, rain-resistant canvas material with a cotton lining. Cotton webbing handles let you carry the bag by hand or over your shoulders.

Storage in this stylish pannier includes several internal pockets. You can fit clothes in it, shoes, bike tools, a U-lock or even a small laptop like a MacBook, though there’s no dedicated compartment for the latter.

An unusual extra with this pannier is an exterior USB charging port, which you can connect to your own charging bank (not supplied) stowed inside the bag. Thus, you can charge your phone up when out and about without needing to open the bag.

What we like:

  • Stylish – an unusually good-looking pannier with unisex appeal.
  • Durable – very well made from high-quality materials.
  • Extras – design touches like USB port, side pocket for drinks, reflectors.
  • Roll-top – non-zip closure is secure and highly rain-resistant.

What we don’t like:

  • Tech – no compartment for laptops (might be a plus point for some.)

9: Vaude Aqua Front Pannier (best front-loading)

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You might want a front-loading pannier if you ride to work on a fast bike with lightweight wheels. The Vaude Aqua Front Pannier performs well in this role, but it can also be used at the rear of the bike if you prefer.

A front-loading pannier offloads some of the strain from the rear of the bike, which already carries the greater proportion of rider weight. As long as it doesn’t carry excessive weight, it should have no detrimental effect on steering.

With the Vaude Aqua pannier you’re buying high-quality German manufacturing. The bags feature roomy main compartments, a waterproof fabric, top and side roll closure, reflective logos, and an interior pocket.

For easy portability, the Vaude Aqua also comes with a removable shoulder strap. The Quick Mount Release (QMR) is lockable (lock not provided), so you can leave the panniers on your bike with peace of mind.

What we like:

  • German – upholds German reputation for quality manufacturing.
  • Security – lockable mount lets you leave the pannier on the bike.
  • Environment – water-repellent Eco Finish avoids use of harmful PFCs.
  • Customizable – roll closure lets you adjust size of bag.

What we don’t like:

  • Shoulder strap – overly long and must be retrieved from inside before use.

10: Thule Shield Bike Pannier Bag (best for laptops)

CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

As is the case with backpacks, it’s best to have a dedicated padded compartment if you want to carry a laptop in a pannier. The Thule Shield Bike Pannier Bag offers just that. It protects 14” PC laptops or 15” MacBooks against knocks and scrapes.

This top-branded pannier also includes padded storage for a 10.5” tablet, so it’s ideal for commuters carrying tech to work. The IPX4 rating means it’s rainproof. There should be no ingress of water if you commute in a deluge.

Other features of the Thule Shield Bike Pannier Bag include a handy exterior pocket for keys and valuables, light attachment loops, reflective panels, and a removable shoulder strap.

Stylish and durable, this pannier fixes to and detaches from 8-16mm racks with ease, and it doesn’t use adapters to achieve this. This is a relatively expensive product, but you do get high-quality construction and padded protection for your money.

What we like:

  • Tech – a great way to carry typical work-sized laptops and tablets.
  • Stylish – exudes quality and looks good on the bike.
  • Downpour – IPX4 rating means no rain will permeate.
  • Easy – attachment and removal quick and easy.

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive – you do pay a premium price for the quality and brand.

11: Roswheel 14892 3-in-1 Expedition Touring Cam Pannier (best budget)

CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

Equally good for commuting or touring, the Roswheel 14892 3-in-1 Expedition Touring Cam Pannier gives you a lot for your money. The total capacity is bigger than the biggest single panniers, partly because it carries some stuff atop the rack.

The top bag is detachable from the side-mounted panniers, so you can leave that at home on days when you need less gear. Thanks to their angled design, you don’t catch your heels on the rear-mounted side bags when pedaling.

Built-in PE boards help the side panniers to hold their shape and protect the contents. The panniers fit to the rack using buckled straps and Velcro straps. The top bag uses 4 buckled straps.

Made from 1000D reinforced polyester with a PU coating, the bags are water resistant rather than waterproof. Pockets are plentiful, and there are handy drink carriers on the sides. The top bag is roomy enough to hold a large 17” laptop.

What we like:

  • Versatile – detachable top bag can be used as a shoulder bag with strap.
  • Robust – made from durable 1000D polyester with a PU coating.
  • Roomy – lots of space for clothes and work gear – even a laptop.
  • Easy to fit – installation is straightforward with buckles and Velcro straps.

What we don’t like:

  • Not rainproof – you need a separate cover if you want 100% waterproofing.
  • Movement – top bag tends to shift, particularly when not full.

Buying Advice

The above panniers all have different strengths and weaknesses, with some inevitable overlap. There are pannier qualities you should always consider whatever your needs, so we’ll look at those now.

Materials

What are you looking for in a pannier material? The most important two elements are durability and resistance to water. We’ll look at water resistance first.

Water Resistant vs Waterproof

Often, a water-resistant pannier can fend off regular rainfall for a good hour or two. Only an extreme downpour is likely to test the material. But this varies, so you should study reviews to get a better idea of water resistance in each product.

A waterproof material should not let water in at all. However, be a little wary of product descriptions that are lost in translation. Some panniers that drop “waterproof” into the marketing text are only water resistant.

Sometimes, you’ll see panniers with IP ratings, though these are more common in electrical products. A rating of IPX3 or above is going to resist average rainfall, though IPX4 adds resistance to splashes from multiple angles.

The above two IP figures are sufficient for weatherproofing. Anything higher would mean you could jet-clean or even submerge your panniers, depending on the number.

Material Examples & Durability

Among the materials commonly used for panniers are these:

  • 400D Nylon – softer and thinner than higher dernier (D) materials.
  • 600D Polyester – very frequently used to make panniers, this material offers a balanced combination of light weight and abrasion resistance.
  • 900D Polyester – less common than 600D, this higher denier polyester is more abrasion resistant than 600D but at the cost of more weight.
  • 1000D Polyester – more abrasion resistant than lower dernier polyesters.
  • Ripstop Nylon – uses interwoven reinforcement threads in crosshatch formation to prevent tearing (various dernier).
  • Ballistic Nylon – thick, robust material developed during WW2 for flak jackets.
  • Cordura Nylon – stronger than regular nylon or polyester for the same weight.
  • PU coated (polyurethane coated) – can apply to polyesters or nylons for waterproofing.

Please note: Nylon is a stronger material than polyester, so different dernier counts are only comparable between the same materials. A 500D nylon is stronger than a 600D polyester, for instance.

Dernier defines the thickness of threads or filaments used in the creation of fabrics and textiles.

Although nylon is stronger at comparable weights, polyester is an eminently suitable material for outdoor clothing and gear. It doesn’t absorb water or stretch as much as nylon, but nylon is extremely abrasion resistant and durable (more than polyester).

Polyester is easier to clean than nylon owing to its smoother surface.

Mounting System

It’s crucial you understand the fastening mechanisms on various panniers before you buy them.

Bike racks are made up of railings or tubes of varying thicknesses (6mm to16mm). Some panniers are designed to accommodate the largest of these and come with adapters or shims for smaller diameters.

Other panniers have universal clips that, in reality, are quite hard to attach to racks with wider tubes but work well with smaller tubes.

Some panniers use a series of Velcro straps and buckles, which work with varying degrees of success. They’re often sufficiently secure, but some movement may be possible.

Proprietary or third-party clips and mounting systems tend to bump the cost up, but they may well make the pannier faster and easier to mount and unmount. Rixen & Kaul hooks are an example.

Size & Capacity

Always consider the size of the bag compared to what you intend to carry. Bigger equals heavier, bulkier and more expensive, at least in comparable products.

Closure

Panniers are sealed in one of three ways:

  • Roll-top – reduces the possibility of rain ingress and often allows more customization in terms of bag size.
  • Zippered – convenient, often cheaper, but you must pay heed to zip quality.
  • Strapped – quick and easy to open and close but may be less waterproof.

Organization

Panniers vary hugely in the way they’re divided up. Sleeves, pockets, and compartments are ideal if you want a mobile office, but they might only be obstructions if you want to carry bundles of clothes.

Many panniers advertise an ability to carry laptops. In some cases, this only means they’re large enough for a laptop. A dedicated laptop sleeve with all-round padding is the ideal (including the base of the bag.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ortlieb The Best Pannier Brand?

Ortlieb is considered by most veteran pannier users as being the best brand for its unerring use of high-quality materials and manufacturing.

What Materials Are Panniers Made From?

Panniers are normally made from either nylon or polyester, both of which possess useful qualities for this purpose.

Are panniers secure?

Panniers are as secure as the mounting system allows, which is sometimes contingent on the bike rack and the thickness of its tubes.

Are they really waterproof?

Some panniers do not allow rain to permeate at all, so they are effectively waterproof. “Water resistant” panniers offer varying degrees of resistance – often enough to keep contents bone dry during a rainy commute.

Is It Safe To Ride With Heavy Panniers?

It’s safe as long as you keep heavy panniers at the rear of the bike and don’t exceed load limits in the wheels. Panniers with diagonal corners prevent your feet from catching them whilst pedaling.

Conclusion

Bike panniers and commuter cyclists are a marriage made in heaven. It’s so much easier to let the bike take the weight of work gear.

This article has showcased eleven different panniers and described some of the significant differences between products.

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic deserves special mention for its uncompromising manufacturing quality and fitness for purpose. It’s a well-known bag that other products aspire to.

In second spot, the Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier is a classy piece of bike gear with a well-thought-out design. The way the two bags join seamlessly together off the bike is more than handy for commuting.

Among the other excellent panniers, the Tourbon Canvas Bicycle Laptop Pannier Backpack stands out for its stylish unisex design. It’s a quality pannier with some unusual features, not least its exterior USB port and useful backpack conversion.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it useful in making your own pannier choice. Perhaps you have your own favorite?

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Bike Push - Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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