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.