West Biking 25 litres panniers overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Panniers are essential cycle touring pieces of kit, as well as extremely useful for commuting. Generally speaking, price tends to be an indicator of quality, and you get what you pay for. However, there are exceptions!
Around seven months ago, I decided it was time to replace my old panniers. At £10 each, from Lidl, they were an absolute bargain, but were far from perfect. I could live with their flaws, but they were starting to fall apart.
When you ask cyclists what panniers to get, they mostly tend to say one name: Ortlieb. Those are indeed very high quality panniers, but they also come with a very steep price tag. I wanted something that costs less.
There are no shortage of cheaper panniers available, but quality is questionable with so many of them. After all, there’s no point in buying new panniers that will only last six months.
West Biking is a Chinese brand. Often, the moment you mention “Chinese”, some people turn away, claiming it’ll be poor quality. Like with products from any country, you can get really good quality, and really poor quality. Country of origin, by itself, doesn’t indicate much. Besides, probably half the electronics in your life might be from China.
I decided to take a punt on a pair of West Biking panniers. It’s curious that the panniers I bought are only available via eBay, and not via their website, but that didn’t concern me much.
These panniers are well-made! Constructed from tough PVC, they’re not sewn together. Instead, they have welded seams, and the quality is obvious from the outset.
I wanted panniers that were 100% water-proof, and the easiest way to test that is to simply fill them with water, and see if they leak. These didn’t leak at all, which pleased me. However, any bit of kit can be fine when brand new, which is why I delayed doing a review of these panniers for seven months.
The mouth of each pannier has Velcro fasteners, so you can keep it closed, without fully rolling the top. This is useful at a campsite, where you may want to keep falling leaves, insects, and similar out of your panniers, but also want to be able to quickly access the contents.
At the bottom, on the outside of the pannier, nearest the wheel, there’s a tough plastic guard, onto which the bottom clip is secured. That guard goes slightly underneath the pannier, protecting it against scraps on the ground, when off the bike.
On the front and back of each pannier, there’s a sizeable retro-reflective patch, and the brand name is also printed in reflective writing. Each pannier comes with a shoulder strap that you can clip on, for easier carrying when off the bike. They also have an internal pocket that’s perfect for carrying a laptop in, on your commute.
In the seven months I had these panniers (I bought a set of two) they have continued to impress me. For starters, all the seams are as good now as they were when brand new. In fact, the panniers still look new.
Not only are these panniers still 100% waterproof, they’re actually air-tight. What this means in practice is that, when closing a pannier that’s not completely full, you need to ensure you first press down on it from the side, to deflate it. If you don’t do that, and simply start closing it (they’re roll-top panniers) the trapped air will make it impossible to fully close the pannier.
Though I’ve not gone cycle touring with these panniers yet, there are now veterans of numerous cycle commutes, in all sorts of weather. I’m not gentle with panniers, but these so far have handled everything I’ve thrown at them with ease.
The bad points
These panniers aren’t perfect. The clips that hold them onto the rack support racks of different thickness. This is done by using a plastic insert, to reduce the thickness of the rack it grabs onto. Those plastic inserts can and do come loose, and can easily be lost.
However, despite having lost all of those on my set of panniers, it hasn’t made any difference, and the panniers remain as securely attached as before.
The clips themselves are on a tough plastic rail, allowing for lateral adjustment. However, the pins holding them in place, preventing them from sliding sideways, can unclip. This is a minor annoyance, at worst.
The guard underneath the panniers doesn’t extend the full width of the pannier, and the bottom edge furthest from the wheel is unprotected. So far that hasn’t led to any harm to my set of panniers though.
If you’re after a tough, totally water-proof set of panniers, for a price that’s extremely reasonable, then these West Biking panniers are what you want. You can get a set of two for less than the price of a single Ortlieb pannier!
You can get these panniers from here.