Best Bicycle Pannier Bags for Commuting

As someone that has commuted for years with pannier bags and cycling backpacks, I can confidently say no option is better than the other and it ultimately comes down to preference. 

Have you ever wondered what makes a bike pannier bag better than a backpack? You're in luck! This post provides the details with the pro's and con's of using bike pannier bags and helps you find the best panniers for commuting to work.

In case you don't have the time to read this post in full, our favourite pannier bag for commuting is the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R available at Amazon for $140.65.


Buy on Amazon


Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Red-Black Panniers 2016
Ortlieb (orutori-bu) Office Bag QL3 X 1 °F70730 PD620 BK or – f70730 Black
Aero Wedge Pack, w/ Fixer F25, Small
GORE Wear Men's Waterproof Bike Gloves, GORE Wear C5 GORE-TEX Gloves, Size: L, Color: black, 100263
Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag DX with Fixer 8
Rhinowalk Bike Bag Waterproof Bike Pannier Bag 27L,(for Bicycle Cargo Rack Saddle Bag Shoulder Bag Laptop Pannier Rack Bicycle Bag Professional Cycling Accessories)
Name
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R
Ortlieb Office Bag
Topeak Aero Wedge Pack
Ortlieb Rack Pack
Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag
Rhinowalk Pannier Bag
Type of Bag
Pannier Bag
Pannier Bag
Saddle Bag
Rack Bag
Handle Bar Bag
Pannier Bag
Storage Space
20 litres per bag
13 litres per bag
2 litres (in large size)
31 litres
7.7 litres
25-27 litres (per bag)
Waterproof
Price
$140.65
$208.00
$19.00
$79.99
$85.55
$58.99
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Red-Black Panniers 2016
Name
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R
Type of Bag
Pannier Bag
Storage Space
20 litres per bag
Waterproof
Price
$140.65
Ortlieb (orutori-bu) Office Bag QL3 X 1 °F70730 PD620 BK or – f70730 Black
Name
Ortlieb Office Bag
Type of Bag
Pannier Bag
Storage Space
13 litres per bag
Waterproof
Price
$208.00
Aero Wedge Pack, w/ Fixer F25, Small
Name
Topeak Aero Wedge Pack
Type of Bag
Saddle Bag
Storage Space
2 litres (in large size)
Waterproof
Price
$19.00
GORE Wear Men's Waterproof Bike Gloves, GORE Wear C5 GORE-TEX Gloves, Size: L, Color: black, 100263
Name
Ortlieb Rack Pack
Type of Bag
Rack Bag
Storage Space
31 litres
Waterproof
Price
$79.99
Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag DX with Fixer 8
Name
Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag
Type of Bag
Handle Bar Bag
Storage Space
7.7 litres
Waterproof
Price
$85.55
Rhinowalk Bike Bag Waterproof Bike Pannier Bag 27L,(for Bicycle Cargo Rack Saddle Bag Shoulder Bag Laptop Pannier Rack Bicycle Bag Professional Cycling Accessories)
Name
Rhinowalk Pannier Bag
Type of Bag
Pannier Bag
Storage Space
25-27 litres (per bag)
Waterproof
Price
$58.99

Why Invest in Bike Pannier Bags Instead of a Backpack?

One thing that drives me nuts about riding with a cycling backpack is the sweat build up and sore shoulders that come with carrying a bag on your back in summer. Panniers are a great option for anyone that is trying to avoid this. Sure, there are back packs on the market now that help try reduce the build up of sweat like some of the backpacks we previously reviewed in our article on the best cycling backpacks.

Do you find that when you're commuting if you had more room in your backpack, you'd easily fill it with more stuff? Riding with bike pannier bags provides the luxury of being able to travel with more gear whether that's clothes for when you get to work, a spare rain coat if the weather turns or even accessories in case you need to change your tyre.

Sure, you could carry a replacement shirt, additional riding clothes, lunch and equipment in a backpack but will it be comfortable? From our experience no with the weight being better served on the bike rather than your back.


What are the Pro's and Con's of Using Panniers for Commuting to Work?

Like cycling backpacks, using panniers isn't necessarily the perfect approach that will fix everyones problems. We've tried to document all the positives and negatives that we could think of including:

Positives:

  • No need to worry about developing a sweaty back or sore shoulders from carrying a bag
  • Panniers allow you to carry more gear than a backpack
  • Improved distribution of weight is on the bike which feels more balanced than riding with a top heavy backpack
  • Generally more comfortable on longer commutes

Negatives:

  • A lot of hassle to put the bags on/off which might not be worth the effort for people on smaller commutes
  • Carrying more gear will make you slower and you will feel it when riding up hills
  • More effort to pedal the bike due to the additional weight
  • Bike isn't as stable when stationary due to the weight on either side of the bike

What's the Difference Between Saddle Bag, Rack Bags and Handlebar Bags?

Before we look at the pannier different bags on the market, it's important to call out the difference in bags that you may come across. We've put this quick guide together to help you:

  • Saddle bags attach to the back of your seat an are generally best suited for a small amount of equipment such as your phone, multi-tool, spare tube and keys. We find these are best suited for carrying your bike repair accessories.
  • Pannier bags attach to either side of your rear wheel. We recommend pannier bags for anyone that needs to a carry a lot of gear as part of their commute.
  • Rack bags attaches to the top of your bicycle rack above your rear wheel. Generally, not all bikes have this option so you may find this won't work for you. They generally have a bit more storage space than a saddle bag but less storage space than a pannier bag. These are a great option for anyone that doesn't need to carry a lot of gear on their commute.
  • Handlebar bags as the name suggests attaches to your handle bars. We find these bars are best suited for people who are either doing long commutes or adventures on their bikes where they need certain items up front and available (e.g. GPS, food, etc). Again, these are also a good option for people who commute to work light.  

Best Bike Pannier Bag

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Red-Black Panniers 2016
Our Rating:
Current Price: $140.65
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: This bag is called a classic for a reason. Great bag and value for money.
What we liked:
  • Attractive
  • Plenty of space
  • Waterproof
  • Plus Circle
    Lightweight
  • Plus Circle
    Rugged
What we disliked:
  • Expensive

Arguably some of the best bike pannier bags on the market. The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R bags have been around a long time and are called a classic for a reason. We highly recommend these for anyone that is looking to get panniers for commuting.

Featuring a full waterproof and durable material, the Ortlieb bike pannier bags also include internal zip pockets and divided sections which are great if you're like me and carry your lunch and a change of clothes and don't want the two intermingling!

The Ortlieb Back Roller Classic R comes with 20 litres of capacity per bag which should be plenty for most of you.


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $140.65.


Buy on Amazon

Best Pannier and Shoulder Combination Bag

Ortlieb Office Bag

Ortlieb (orutori-bu) Office Bag QL3 X 1 °F70730 PD620 BK or – f70730 Black
Our Rating:
Current Price: $208.00
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: Looking for a bag that works as both a pannier and shoulder bag? The Ortlieb Office Bag has you covered.
What we liked:
  • Durable
  • Plenty of storage
  • Attractive
What we disliked:
  • Bulky
  • Some may find the fit awkward
  • Expensive

Ortlieb have mixed things up with this pannier bag with a look inspired by shoulder messenger bags. The Ortlieb Office Bag is capable of being used as a pannier bag or over the shoulder but we think the pannier clips on the inside of the bag might be a bit uncomfortable for most.

The Ortlieb Office Bag uses a waterproof material and comes with 13 litres of storage in each bag. Slightly less than the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic bag we previously reviewed which may actually suit some people better!

A good option for anyone looking for attractive lightweight pannier bags.


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $208.00.


Buy on Amazon

Best Saddle Bag

Topeak Aero Wedge Pack

Aero Wedge Pack, w/ Fixer F25, Small
Our Rating:
Current Price: $19.00
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: Small saddle bag designed to carry the basic essentials for your commute to work.
What we liked:
  • Cheap and good value
  • Durable bag to survive the elements of commuting
  • Easily adjustable
What we disliked:
  • Not waterproof
  • Limited colour options

Topeak's Aero Wedge Bag is a great durable saddlebag that uses a velcro strap and buckle attachment to help with taking the bag on and off your bike. If you're like us and like to attach a rear bike light to the bag, you're in luck! Also included is an attachment for a rear light.

Saddle bags are perfect for any commuters that either want to travel with only a couple of items (mobile phone and keys) or perhaps they want a specific bag to carry their bike maintenance kit (tyre levers and spare tube). Fortunately the Topeak Aero Wedge bag comes in a variety of sizes including small, medium and large which means you shouldn't have too many issues trying to find a bag that will carry everything you need.


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $19.00.


Buy on Amazon

Best 2 in 1 - Pannier and Backpack

Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Plus+

Two Wheel Gear - Pannier Backpack Plus+ (Large) - 2 in 1 - Bike Commuting and Travel Bag
Our Rating:
Current Price: Price not available
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: An awesome and big bag (30 litres) for anyone that is looking for a pannier that also doubles up as a backpack
What we liked:
  • 2 in 1 (Pannier and Backpack)
  • Waterproof material
  • Seperate laptop pocket
  • Plus Circle
    30 litre storage per bag
What we disliked:
  • Backpack straps are held together by a zipper which may have durability issues over time
  • Rain cover can be awkward to put on
  • Minimal reflective stripes

The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Plus+ is a 30 litre bag designed using waterproof materials. Inside the bag includes a laptop pocket, phone pocket, storage for your bike lock and internal mesh pockets.

One thing we really liked about the bag was the two-in-one function where the bag works as a pannier and also as a backpack. Perfect for those of us that don't want to have to worry about awkwardly carrying the pannier when they get off the bike.

One down side to the bag is the internal laptop compartment has no padding in the bottom of the bag so you may want to consider an additional sleeve for your laptop to protect it from shocks during your commute.


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for Price not available.


Buy on Amazon

Best Rack Bag

Ortlieb Rack Pack

GORE Wear Men's Waterproof Bike Gloves, GORE Wear C5 GORE-TEX Gloves, Size: L, Color: black, 100263
Our Rating:
Current Price: $253.97
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: Designed for on and off the bag for the serious commuter and adventurer. 
What we liked:
  • High quality
  • Durable
  • List Element
What we disliked:
  • Expensive
  • Limited colour options

Built using the same durable and waterproof materials which you see with Ortlieb pannier bags. Whether it be strapped on top of your bike rack above your pannier bags or over your shoulder, the Ortlieb Rack Pack is a great bag for on and off the bike.

We generally recommend this bag for anyone that is doing bike adventures (think multiple days and overnight stays) or simply has a long commute and a need to carry a lot of gear. 

As mentioned, the Ortlieb Rack Pack is a waterproof bag that is essentially a dry bag that will be guaranteed to keep your gear dry even in the harshest of conditions. 


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $253.97.


Buy on Amazon

Best Handle Bar Bag

Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag

Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag DX with Fixer 8
Our Rating:
Current Price: $85.55
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: Great handlebar bag that works well for overnight adventures and commuting
What we liked:
  • Durable
  • Good fit to handle bars
  • Affordable
  • Plus Circle
    Raincover
What we disliked:
  • Limited storage space

Although the Topeak TourGuide Handle Bar Bag is mostly designed for overnight adventures to store your GPS and other essentials, we think it's a great bag for commuting to work. Why? This bag is perfect for anyone that commutes lightweight without much gear.

The Topeak TourGuide bag is designed with a divided main pocket, two side pockets and a clear map section on top hence being designed for overnight adventures. Also included is a click attachment which helps to easily take on and take off the bag from your handlebars with ease.

What makes this bag well suited for commuting to work is that it comes with a rain cover for when the weather turns. 


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $85.55.


Buy on Amazon

Best Affordable Pannier Bag

Rhinowalk Pannier Bag

Rhinowalk Bike Bag Waterproof Bike Pannier Bag 27L,(for Bicycle Cargo Rack Saddle Bag Shoulder Bag Laptop Pannier Rack Bicycle Bag Professional Cycling Accessories)
Our Rating:
Current Price: $58.99
Available at Amazon

Buy on Amazon
Fun Facts: Great budget option for anyone looking to get pannier bags
What we liked:
  • Waterproof
  • Large capacity (25 litres)
  • Shoulder straps
  • Plus Circle
    Multiple pockets and compartments
  • Plus Circle
    Fits laptops
What we disliked:
  • Possibly not as durable as other more expensive brands
  • Heavy (900 grams per bag) 
  • Only sold as 1 bag and not as the pair

Rhinowalk have released a great budget friendly pannier bag for anyone that is looking to get into pannier bags on a budget. The bag is designed using a durable and fully waterproof material which will help protect your gear on those wet commutes. Inside the bag includes multiple pockets and compartments with enough room to store a laptop (14-15" maximum).

The Rhinowalk panniers come with 25-27 litres of storage in each bag which should be plenty for most commuters.

One thing we really liked about the Rhinowalk bags was the shoulder straps which can be installed for when you're carrying the bags once you're off your bike. 


Looking to Buy?
Currently available on Amazon for $58.99.


Buy on Amazon

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.