Panniers are essential for comfortably carrying things on bikes, they attach straight to bike itself so sparing your back and shoulders and can come in volumes exceeding 56 Litres. Below I’ve shortlisted some of the panniers that I’ve seen and liked or had good experiences with.
Most types of panniers will fit either side of the front or back wheel on a bike, the ones at the back tend to be larger and are often used alone unlike the ones at the front that usually act to add extra capacity once the rear panniers are full. Good capacities I think are about 40L for a pair of rear and about 25-30L combined capacity for a front pair. Panniers should be, in my opinion; waterproof, light in weight, resistant against sun damage, thorns, scratches, grazes and general abuse. They should crucially have a simple design so that you can make good use of the capacity and even more important than all of the above; they should have a robust and diverse mounting system so that they can attach to any type of cycle rack and stay there.
The selection of panniers is very good online, but I haven’t seen many local bike shops with a good range, perhaps because most cyclists only need a basic set for shuttling stuff to and from work or shopping and so ther’s little demand for the high end products. Here’s a few of the most suitable pannies for long distance cycle-touring, the kind not typically found in bike shops.
Carradice make panniers for the Royal Mail and Ambulance service in the UK and have some pretty sturdy options for touring, not a great deal of their products are fully waterproof with the notable exception of the CaraDry Panniers, which come in a front and rear option. There not pretty in my own opinion and their not light, but they are large and very durable.
Altura have some very robust panniers, they are a little on the heavy side, and some need rain-covers, but they have some pretty good mid price offerings such as the waterproof Altura Dryline 56 (56L per pair) for about £80. For rear panniers 56L is pretty large too, I’m not sure you would want anything greater than 56L.
Ortlieb make a wide range of cycle panniers, popular models are the ‘roller classic’ and ‘roller plus’ which both come in back and front varieties. They have good mounting systems are waterproof and strong They actually have all of the good features a pannier should have as mentioned above, with the addition of a roll-top enclosure which is light weight, durable and offers great ease of use and waterproofing, but they are very expensive.
Deuter have been making good backpacks for just over 100 years and have since developed a range of bike accessories including some quite impressive panniers. The new kids on the block are the Deuter DS Rack Panniers, the ‘DS’ stands for Dry Shield waterproofing. The DS Rack Panniers also use a type of Ortlieb mounting system called Quick Lock, but are not as diverse as Ortliebs Quick Lock 2 found on their Roller Plus Line.