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Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers Owner Review

I been using a set of Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers since I first got into bicycle touring in 2007. I have used these panniers on tours, on commutes when I need to take clothes etc into the office and on food shopping expeditions. I thought it was about time I wrote up my experience with these panniers which I am now passing on as they are being replaced with a pair of Ortlieb Sports-Packer Plus panniers. Hopefully they will continue to provide years of service to the future owner.

Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers

Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers

I purchased these panniers from the previous owner in 2007 for around $100. A bargain price at that time 🙂

Specifications

The Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers are the “base” front pannier option in the Ortlieb range of panniers. They are made of two materials: PS 490, a PVC coated polyester fabric which is used on the sides of the pannier and PD 620, which is also a PVC coated polyester fabric which is used on the front and back of the pannier. The material is rated for 100,000 folds. I think that can equate to a lifetime of folds :). The Front-Roller Classic panniers use the QL1 mounting system which requires a 3 mm Allen key to facilitate adjustment. The new versions of the QL1 mounting system will fit racks with a diameter in the range, five mm to 16 mm. My panniers are of an earlier design which are really not suitable for 16 mm racks.

The capacity of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers are 25 litres (pair) and they have a reported weight of 1,590 grams (pair).

Other features of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers include:

  • Roll-top closure;
  • My panniers don’t have an inner pocket but the current version does;
  • 3M Scotchlite reflectors;
  • Shoulder straps for carrying the panniers off the bike;
  • Suitable for pannier racks up to 16 mm in diameter (latest version);
  • 8 mm and 10 mm reduction insert are provided to allow for mounting to racks smaller in diameter;
  • Can easily clean the inside of the panniers.

Performance of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic

As mentioned above I have been using the panniers since 2007 and hence my comments below reflect that experience.

Ortlieb QL 1 Bar

Ortlieb QL 1 Bar as fitted to a pair of Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers

Ortlieb QL 1 Rail

Ortlieb QL 1 Rail as fitted to a pair of early model Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers

Fitting the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers: As the front rack on my Surly Long Haul Trucker is a Tubus Lowrider Tara which is a 16mm diameter rack I didn’t need to fit the reduction inserts. Once I had adjusted the top bar positions that part of the panniers fitted without dramas. However, my Ortlieb Front-Roller Classics have the older style hook rail which is not designed to fit 16 mm diameter racks. They do fit but really it stresses the rail. It is possible to purchase a rail that will fit 16 mm racks such as the Tubus Lowrider Tara from the likes of Saint John Street Cycles. Despite my little fitting issue, the panniers still worked okay on the bike and no rattle where noticeable.

Ortlieb E110 Rail for the QL 1 Mounting System (16 mm Racks)

Ortlieb E110 Rail for the QL 1 Mounting System (16 mm Racks)

The adjustability of the QL1 bar is not as easy as with the QL2 mounting system as it requires the use of an Allen key but once the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic pannier is setup properly there is really no need for further adjustment. Overall the adjustment process is not difficult at all. Ortlieb have a rather cool flash video if one wants to see how it is all done.

[hana-flv-player video=”http://www.ortlieb.de/img/video/QL1.flv” width=”550″ height=”412″ description=”Ortlieb QL 1 Mounting System” player=”4″ autoload=”true” autoplay=”false” loop=”false” autorewind=”true” /]

Loading up the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers: A pair of Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers have a capacity of 25 litres. On my tours I have tended to use one front pannier for carrying my sleeping gear (quilt, my sleeping mat, an Exped Synmat UL 7 S and pillow) and the other one for carrying my clothes. This worked well even though the bulk of the quilt tended to push the limits of the pannier I was always able to roll the closure sufficiently to ensure it was waterproof.

IMG 2776

Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers fitted and Ready to Roll

That said, with a roll-top closure system there is less “give” in the amount of gear one can loaded into the panniers and still get a good waterproof closure. It is not a big hassle but something to be aware of.

Waterproofness of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classics: The key question I suspect. Four years of use, with all my touring in winter (too hot here in summer generally) and commuting year round I have never had any issues with the panniers leaking. It is important but to remember to not overfill them and to ensure that a couple of rolls take place to ensure a good closure.

Other features Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic: The panniers have a few other neat little features.

The first of these are the reflectors. These are made of 3M Scotchlite material and from what I observed wandering around camp using my headlamp, they are quite effective.

The Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers also come with shoulder straps but as I haven’t used these I cannot comment further.

Durability of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers

I have used my pair of Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers four year of commuting and touring including some touring on the Munda Biddi Trail, which include single-track. The panniers have handled all this with aplomb. I have had no holes in the panniers, no rips or other significant damage. All that has occurred is that the material has been marked a couple of places; black marks possibly from my hands after touching the chain and the back plate on both pannier has a indentation. That is it after four years of use. Oh they have stayed waterproof throughout this time with no further waterproof treatment being applied.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers

The Good

  • The QL1 mounting system secures the Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic panniers to the rack well;
  • Easy to pack;
  • Good capacity at 25 litres;
  • Reflectors;
  • Simple but effective design;
  • Durability;
  • Waterproof!

The Bad

  • No give in the roll-top closure so have to be careful to not overfill the pannier;
  • Not sure of the value of the shoulder straps;
  • My version of the panniers not designed for 16 mm racks.

The Ugly

  • Nothing.

Conclusion

These are great panniers. They fit well, they travel well on the racks and they are waterproof. They have worked well for me over four years of touring and commuting and have lots of years use left in them.

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4 Responses to Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic Panniers Owner Review

  1. Dell Wilson January 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM #

    I’ve had the back rollers for three years… love them!

    • Aushiker January 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM #

      They are good panniers aren’t they. I have just decided to “upgrade” to the Plus models and go with a lid over the roll-top closure. Getting old and lazy in my packing 🙂

  2. Brad Paik June 1, 2012 at 2:21 AM #

    I’m really curious as to the amount of groceries one might be able to fit. I’d primarily be using the panniers for grocery shopping, not heavy duty touring. Do you know what would fit? A gallon of milk? Couple pounds of chicken? I’m thinking of getting a trunk bag for these grocery excursions, but will definitely need a set of panniers for it all. Any info would help!

    Thanks!

    • Aushiker June 6, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

      Thanks for the interesting question Brad. I have used my rear panniers for shopping not my front ones so cannot give you a definitive answer, but I would work on getting at least a shopping bag of items into the pannier. Hope that helps.

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