Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier.  My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike.  The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.

The pannier is waterproof.  This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent.  Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.

The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system.  This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.

The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate.  Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.

Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close.  I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move.  Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not.  Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted.  They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.

The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper.  There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily.  I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.

The pannier comes in several different colors.  I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far.  (Other options include neon green and black.)  I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive.  I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment.  I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.

I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting.  As in – women do it, too!  Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed.  Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps.  For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice.  But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.

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15 thoughts on “Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

  1. David P says:

    Dottie,

    You may not have gotten a tube of zipper lubricant with your bag, since it was a loaner. Applying it tothe zipper when new and every few months or ao makea it aubstantially easier to open and close, even if its never really low-effort. For the strap, the easest thing to do is to pull the outer strap aroun the sides of the bag, leaving the hamdle to sort of rest on tje edge of the rack an out of the way.

    Ive used one of these almost every day for four years or so and have found it a very well-spent $100. It’s huge and keeps everything dry no matter what, and i can easily carry it herever. I agree that its not the prettiest thing around, though.

  2. Charlie Sobel says:

     Wow! That’s really cool! Kind of expensive but really worth! Can’t wait to buy for my

    bike!

  3. Vicki says:

    Dottie, you can use a candle to make the zipper work better. Rud the candle along the teeth of the zipper and then try zipping it, this works for most stubborn zippers I have found.

    • Vicki says:

      That is “rub”

    • LGRAB says:

      Thanks, Vicki! That’s a good tip to know. The zipper on this pannier does not have teeth, per se, it’s more like a ziplock bag, but the trick still might work.

    • Trisha says:

      I have used soap or deodorant similarly in the past…never thought about a candle! But it seems like you shouldn’t have to do that with a nice bag like this…it’s usually a trick I reserve for thrift-store items. :)

  4. steve_a_dfw says:

    If my Ortlieb Travel Biker is any guide, the stiffness of the zipper also potentially leads to zipper failure if you are not very careful. As in it rips sideways in preference to along the zip, just as ziplocks in packaged foods sometimes do.

  5. The mounting system looks great, and waterproof is awesome.  But – I do not think it is attractive…which is a definite drawback.  

  6. Old Knotty Buoy says:

    From reviews on REI.com:
     http://www.rei.com/search?cat=4500848&jxBrand=Ortlieb&hist=cat%2C4500848%3APanniers%5EjxBrand%2COrtlieb

    …”the other feature of the Shopper is a ziplock feature”….
    ====
    …”the shopper has a high quality ziplock seal at the top of each bag”…
    …”I can only seal the zip with great effort.”
    ====
    “The zipper has been smooth and tight since applying the goop which came with the bag.”
    ====
    “The zipper is pretty tough/stiff at first, but it either got smoother with time or I got used to it. The bag comes with lubricant for the zipper, which helps, but is very messy.”
    ====
    “The waterproof zipper, while a little stiff, does the job. The lubricant that came with it is supposed to make the zipper slide more easily, but I haven’t tried it. All of the instructions for the zipper are in German, and there were some clips that came with the lubricant, along with a diagram that made it look like there should be a handle on the zipper which might make it easier to use.”
    ====
    “My only complaint is that after a year of use, the zipper began to tear apart from itself.”
    ====
    ====

    The classic roll up panniers are 2 for $126.00 and they are larger to boot.

    Ride well and be safe out there,

    OKB

  7. [...] her review of the Ortlieb bike shopper, Let’s Go Ride a Bike writes: “I would like to see Ortlieb [...]

  8. Olivia says:

    I’m glad I found your site! I really dislike it when companies only use men in advertisements, so I’ll be skipping this brand. Off to search for other pannier reviews.

  9. Zeitoneh says:

    Hey Dottie thanks for this review! I am just curious what are the other options that you would recommend?

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