Gear issues – Ortlieb panniers


Ortlieb panniers on the front and rear, Ortlieb trunk bag and Ortlieb handlebar bag...we have them all!

Ortlieb panniers, Ortlieb handlebar bag, Ortlieb trunk bag…

When we started this bike shop, we wanted to sell the waterproof and durable Ortlieb gear. We were like just about every other cycle tourist from every part of the globe who (it seemed anyway) knew the brand and either used the products, or wished they could!

Considering our love affair with every piece of Ortlieb gear we own, imagine our surprise when we had an issue with our High-Vis rear panniers during our recent cycle touring trip over Easter!

We were only a few kilometres along the gravel road on day two of the trip when we noticed that the top corner of our front pannier had become unattached from the mounting bracket! How could this be?!

The screw was missing so we tied some nylon cord around the pannier to keep it on the rack and continued on riding. We were so rattled by this unexpected betrayal of our equipment that we didn’t even think of taking a photo.

Cable tie replacing the screw on an Ortlieb pannier

That evening we noticed that another pannier had lost a screw from exactly the same position. The luggage situation was not going well. The old cycle touring standard repair item of cable ties came in handy for the rest of the trip (remarkably well actually!).

It wasn’t until we got home and did some internet research that we discovered lots of people complaining about this same issue with Ortlieb panniers. The main piece of advice was to ‘CHECK YOUR SCREWS!’.

We had never paid attention to the Ortlieb screw setup before, but now we know that the newer Ortlieb panniers have self-tapping screws with a plastic washer/nut combination inside the bag. Some reviews comment that this is a cost cutting exercise by Ortlieb, and we are inclined to agree. Why would you tamper with such a fabulous product by using cheap crappy parts to hold it together?


Ortlieb’s small black screw and plastic washer/nut combo

Along with other internet reviews, we agree that the current setup probably works fine for riding on your average tar road without too many lumps and bumps. As soon as you start riding on dirt or rough roads with a fully loaded pannier however, you’re more likely to encounter an issue as the panniers get constantly jostled about and the screws work their way loose or just break off!

We don’t want to be having to check our screws every single day when we’re out touring. We understand that all gear requires regular checking and maintenance, but we paid good money for these panniers and we want them to work well without that much attention.

This was our answer…

M5 nyloc nut, M5 flat washer, 3/16 x 1-1/4 fender washer, M5 x 16 panhead screw

Here is how they went on…

Three new (and waaay better screws along the mounting bracket) on the top rear of the pannier.

Three new (and waaay better screws along the mounting bracket) on the top rear of the pannier.

And the internals…

Inside the pannier - big metal washers and nylon nuts

We still think Ortlieb products are very good compared with other cycle touring luggage options. We are always keeping an eye out for other brands that provide an alternative, but other brands are either even more expensive, or just not as good.

It will be interesting to hear from you about other brands you feel can match or better Ortlieb’s performance and price range. There is so much gear out there! Likewise, if you have come up with an Ortlieb ‘hack’ that made an improvement or saved the day, let us know!



10 responses to “Gear issues – Ortlieb panniers

  1. Nice. Hack.
    Hack #2.
    When you are sick of replacing the plastic clips in the mounting clamp, you can simply throw them away. Go to Bunnings and purchase a small length of reinforced clear tubing. Slit it, place it over your rack bars and cable tie in place.

    Problem solved.
    Sorry no photo’s 😦


    • We just found out about the tubing hack and think it’s a brilliant idea. Have you done it to your racks? Hopefully we’ll get it done before next weekend’s trip – looping out behind Paluma for a couple of days.


      • Not me just yet. However when Peter and Nataila (Poland) came through, they were having issues with panniers falling off. We found the missing spacers and went searching for a solution. This worked very well.


  2. After this I’ll check mine (but they may be old enough to not have these fittings). Another option would be Locktite (or failing that some nail varnish) on the threads and then do them up again (using this approach allows the screws to be undone again if this is ever needed)


  3. We’ve had exactly the same problem with the crappy plastic threads and metal screws. Terrible design ortlieb. We now have our panniers tied by string… We’re on a tandem so we need bigger volume bags than ortlieb can offer so we have the 54L Alltura panniers on the back and the large Arkel handlebar bag. Both are completely watertight and we’re very happy. Alpkit also offer a good selection of small frame bags which have held up well.


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  6. Same issue with my 2015 Ortlieb rear panniers; previous vintage never had an issue, so something’s sadly changed. Fixed mine with spare Tubus rack bolts and nuts – thankfully same diameter – been holding fine for about 5000km so far (fingers crossed). Long water bottle bolts may do the job too…


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